EXCLUSIVE: Slugger hivemind wrong-footed by dHondt

The Executive caught almost everyone on the hop by live tweeting the d’Hondt ministerial lottery. It has brought our predictions competition to an early close but we hold off on announcing a winner until it is all official on Monday.

I’ll pull out some of the main things predicted, the most obvious one being that very few Slugger readers were close to calling it right.

  • 1st pick DUP – 99% of people correctly predicted Finance
  • 2nd pick SF – 99% of people incorrectly predicted Enterprise with only one reader getting it right (well done, you’ll get your kudos on Monday)
  • 3rd pick DUP – 97% of people called it incorrectly with only two including the one that got the 2nd pick right being correct. Most thought it would be Education.
  • 4th pick only a quarter of readers called it right as Regional Development. This was the joint hightest prediction at this stage with Employment.
  • 5th again only 25% of Slugger readers called it right with over 50% expecting Social Development
  • 6th another miss for the Slugger collective with predictions going everywhere and only 15% correct – most popular was Agriculture
  • 7th another miss for Slugger only 10% right with 40% going for Environment
  • 8th 25% right – the most popular pick
  • 9th 10% right, largest prediction was 25% for Agriculture
  • 10th 30% of Slugger’s hivemind was right here

Given the terrible predictive abilities of Slugger anoraks it maybe isn’t worth noting our other expectations? But sure…..

They see a number of changes in SF Ministers, broadly expect Simon Hamilton in the Executive and the only thing most of them agreed on and that transpired was Health (the largest spending department and one of the most influential) would be seen as so toxic it would appear as a bottom pick.

Anyhow, here’s the Executive those that entered our predictions competition expected (yes, I know Agriculture appears twice – that’s because Health was never thought to be most likely at any stage):

  • DUP – Finance
  • SF – Enterprise
  • DUP – Education
  • UUP – Regional Dev
  • SF – Social Development
  • SDLP -Agriculture
  • DUP – Environment
  • SF – Culture
  • DUP – Agriculture
  • Alliance – Employment

(what Slugger’s cloud got right in bold)

So, the interesting question that arises as a result of the predictions and the actuals – why are top four parties so reluctant to deal with a big spending and impact Department such as Health? An indication that our system encourages keeping away from the normal areas seen as important in Governments? An attempt to ensure parties aren’t damaged over seeking to deliver change/improvement? A risk adverse Executive? The DUP finally selecting it for fear leaving it to Alliance as the wooden spoon would totally expose the Executive as reluctant to actually deal with bread and butter?

On a positive note we did correctly predict Alliance would be left with Employment and Learning as the dregs. What does that say?


  • Neil

    Good news all round. The staff of the Ulster Museum and Giant’s Causeway can sleep soundly this evening.

  • Crubeen

    Health is the poison chalice as the former Minister has declared that the health service is bankrupt. One wonders what he was doing during his years in charge.

    The Department above all, needs a reformer, somebody with a bit of imagination, who will look to the interests of patients and clients, who cultivates the real workers in the health service and is a hard-headed, hard-hitting s.o.b. prepared to crack skulls and kick arses.

  • Mark McGregor


    And it being 9th pick fills you full of hope they’ll be putting a ‘top’ man/woman in to fix things?

  • Blowinginthewind

    The new Health Minister needs to look at real change, not just tinkering at the edges but by cutting layers of beaurocratic resistance which have grown and grown. One example: consultants in NI are employed by the individual hospital, not the Trust. So if the Downe Hospital can’t find consultants to work there, they close 24 A&E. The Trust can’t compel consultants. In Scotland the consultants are employed by the Trust (or equivalent) and can be rotated to less appealing hospitals. Not everyone can work in Belfast all the time!
    The new broom should also look at procurement and driving down the cost of medicine by enforcing generic prescriptions, where possible.
    There are probably too many management layers as well and these don’t come cheap–higher management make more than top consultants….lots of room for a bright shiny new Minister to make his/her mark.

  • Mark McGregor


    9th pick from 10. You are expecting great things? A top person in the job?

  • Blowinginthewind

    Mark, let’s put it this way. Reluctance doesn’t equate incompetence. I may not want to clean my house but when I do, I do it properly. Or am I being overly naive?

  • Mark McGregor


    I’m an optimist too. I’m still hoping SF will be putting O’Dowd in as Education minister, when the picks make it pretty clear we are going to get that feckwit screwing up my children’s education for another 5 years!

  • andnowwhat

    So, this reveals that we are all wasting or time on here?

    At least that’s on thing we all knew.

  • Mark McGregor


    Yup, Slugger readers have no idea about politics. Proven!

  • otto

    Slugger readers may know nothing about politics but somebody clever at Alliance seems to have anticipated that they’d end up with this ministry. After “shared future” and finance it’s the first chapter of their mega manifesto.

    Looks like they’re not ready to be the coalitions mudguard on student fees either (Pg 58 of the assembly manifesto);

    “Alliance is opposed to unfair rises in tuition fees. Devolution is about being able to make different decisions on funding priorities. In England the increase in student fees is being taken for financial reasons, we must continue to invest in skills to support the growth of our economy. We will resist moves to increase student contributions to the levels in place in England. Cost should not be a barrier to participation and we must strive to maintain the highest participation rates in the UK. It is also vital that our universities compete to retain our young people; it is estimated that only 42% of local graduates who study outside of Northern Ireland return here to work.”

  • Blowinginthewind

    Otto, there are real decisions to be made in the E&L department. For one thing, even before they look at fees, they need to look at what university is for. Over the last number of years some university courses have not necessarily, shall we say politely, been academically challenging. Nor do they automatically provide skills & techical knowledge needed for industry.

    So one of first things is to decide how much can be delivered by less expensive colleges of FE and what really needs to be done at university. Then differential fees for locals and higher ones for GB students.

    Finally, while we need to encourage all young people to study there is philosophical issue around a poor young person with a high paying job paying back less than one from a richer background but with a less well paid job.

  • patio dev

    Agriculture is the north’s biggest industry and leaving the issue of subsidy aside; it’s a private sector employer and value could be added to our food exports. Yet Agriculture comes low down the Slugger picks and the picks of our politicians. Even Jim Allister doesn’t appear upset that the Shinners have their hands on it http://www.jimallister.org/default.asp?blogID=2344 Health, Education etc. needs fixed and funded and we don’t have the money.

  • iluvni

    Oh to enjoy Alliance come a cropper over tuition fees just like their sister party in England.

  • otto

    Doesn’t look like they plan to oblige you luvvie.

  • Whatever happened that Slugger / Stratagem Assembly prediction contest?

    I can’t remember seeing anything about who secured the laurels and who was left with the dunce’s cap, but it has been a pretty busy week, so apologies if I missed it.

  • My betting is on Donal Lyons by the way…

  • Mr Crumlin

    Mark – you dont think theyre going to put Catriona back in!! Say it aint so, say it aint so.

    I am a solid SF supporter but I am also a parent of three primary school kids – this cannot be allowed to continue.

    If its not O’Dowd I will be sorely disappointed.

  • iluvni

    Thats interesting…if it is the Ruanator and she continues to fail miserably affecting your 3 kids chances in life, will you remain a solid SF supporter?

  • Mick Fealty


    Good post, shame about the title. If you read Twitter you will find we were as far out as anyone else. I know people who wouldn’t do because they might jinx it.

    I think it demonstrates just how capriciously we choose our administrations. It’s fair, but rigourously mathematically fair in the way you picked a football team in the playground at school.

  • Mark McGregor


    As I said when we talked, the main thing that jumped out to me was just how wrong everyone connected to Slugger called it – sorry for putting that in the black and white and ripe language (you know by now how insufferable I am!)

  • Comrade Stalin

    Eamonn Mallie is tweeting that DUP sources are saying that they were wrong-footed by SF.

    Isn’t it the case that the decisions are not set in stone until the nominations occur on the Assembly floor on Monday ? What’s stopping anyone from changing their pick between now and then ?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Mr C – agreed, I’d like to see O’Dowd in the job.

  • Mark McGregor


    I had this exact conversation earlier but what purpose is there in bluffing your pick?

  • Comrade Stalin

    I still haven’t figured out the (related) question, which is what is the point in doing a dry run prior to doing it for real in the assembly on Monday ? What’s the benefit of knowing the pick ahead of time unless there is scope for it being changed ?

  • Alias

    At least the DUP picked health whereas the two supposedly left of centre parties in the regional administration – the SDLP and PSP – skipped right over the department that they should have been most concerned about. After all, it is half the budget and is going to be most vulnerable to cuts from central government. Clearly neither of them give a toss about the sick or of fighting in their corner against the cuts.

  • joeCanuck

    As Mick said to me recently on another thread, It’s politics. Doesn’t have to make sense.

  • oracle

    Joe have you been a bad boy? how did you manage to get yourself nicely jaundiced

  • iluvni

    Must ask, is Eamonn Mallie on the DUP payroll?
    Look at his latest ‘tweet’ ..

    DUP’s decision opting for Health is a courageous one. Proves this is a party serious about government. Hard to win in that Department.
    about 1 hour ago · reply · retweet · favorite

    Whats courageous about taking Health at pick 9 in the process, with only Universities left in the bowl?
    Their credibility was on the line.

  • Mr Crumlin. [10.03]
    I don’t think you need worry about a return for Ruane, she’s history, as O’Dowd was given a job over her head so if that wasn’t a hint by her party, about her future, I don’t know what is. O’dowd will be the boss this time, but over at regional development, I fear the a5 has gone for a burton as they say. DUP have that job, so no Derry -Dublin motorway then, for at least four years.

  • Droagh

    Hopefully the DUP will be honest with the people of NI about health. McGimpsey was a disaster thinking he knew what he was talking about after a few weeks in the job. He messed up the RPA reorganisation – which will come back to bite the new minister. Jim Wells has also proved himself equally incapable of understanding what goes on in the H&SS Dept.

    Medicine is now high tech. You can’t have all the services in every town. 10 years ago, if you had a heart attack, you were put in bed for a week to recover. Now, you are given drugs to dissolve the clot, taken to a cath lab, given an angiogram and the blocked artery stented. The choice for NI will be – do you want modern treatment in fewer hospitals or do you want multiple sites giving outdated treatment.

    As for the Downe Hospital – building it was a political decision. It doesn’t have a long term future. They would have got better value by upgrading the road to Belfast.

  • wilderness

    In the spirit of that timeless TV show, it’s time for….

    * Committee’ll Fix It *

    Dear Executive Committee,

    Please can you fix it for me so that:

    * the tax and other money I so ostentatiously part with is spent prudently and yet in a well-informed manner, avoiding the pursuit of sexy new media-friendly notions and the perpetuation of poverty for people who just can’t, and/or won’t, make the shift out of it

    * our country’s schools and Universities don’t get dumbed down any further, and the needs of kids are met by placing them in suitable learning environments rather than chaos-riddled, jam-packed sterile rooms with one poorly-equipped human in charge of teaching at least 2 lessons at once

    * the standards of service in our restaurants, shops and tourist stops are knocked into order so that tourists (and locals) don’t get grunted at, told “No” and patronised for a solitary day longer…and while you’re at it, can you tell the National Trust, various banks, churches and oil companies that we’ve had enough of exploitation?

    * Ballymoney is prevented from becoming a dustbowl that smells of lignite, and take a serious. look. at. the. railways.

    * the couch culchies, smoke-scented yuppies, hard-drinking teens and flying millies start looking after themselves so that we don’t need to keep converting every other terraced house into an NGO or an A&E

    * our food is celebrated, regionally specialised (well it would keep things more interesting for internal holidays), detoxed, handled with care and freed from the smothering it gets in its zillion forms of packaging…and can we manage locally sourced and distributed too?

    * we all paint ourselves a little green and harvest the rain, wind and all those delightful things that get thrown at us, rather than reeking of oil and expelling our hysteria at the price of it from our blackened lungs

    * we speak in honest and informed terms about the things we just have to change: the permissive, the nepotic, the chav-tastic, the ill legal, the bureaucratic, and the sectarian. We need a NI of professional, contemporary thought tempered by the wisdom of years to drive decisions and not allow the mistakes of the past and the mistakes of our near neighbours to occur here. I am not willing to be a political football.

    Thank you for reading out my letter.


    You’ve Got More Than 4 Years Really