Tories to move West Belfast writ next week…

Yesterday the Andersonstown News revealed that there is likely to be a by election for West Belfast on the 9th June, and that the person who will run unopposed for for Sinn Fein is Paul Maskey, chair of the PAC in the last Assembly.

Slugger understands that it is the Tory Chief Whip Patrick McLoughlan who plans to move the writ on Monday. The precedent has usually related to independent MPs. For instance, Jim Molyneaux moved the writ for Fermanagh South Tyrone when Frank Maguire died, whilst Dafydd Elis-Thomas moved the subsequent writ on the death of Bobby Sands.

And for the record, Gerry Adams is no longer Royal Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    Given that SF asked Dafydd Ellis-Thomas to move the writ and Jim Molyneaux had an electoral interest it is interesting that a Tory should move this one.

    Surely a missed opportunity for one of the Unionist parties?

  • Chris Donnelly

    I have to say I don’t think this is a good move.

    Paul Maskey is a very good constituency worker, earning a reputation for graft at a local area level. He is also a veteran republican activist and one who commands respect locally for his lifelong commitment.

    But he’s a poor media performer, a pretty basic attribute required to hold office at Westminster level.

    Furthermore, I think the party has made a mistake in selecting a candidate only days after he stood for and won a seat to the Assembly.

    That smacks of a contempt for an electorate which is increasingly conscious of the desirability of an end to double-jobbing.

    Were Maskey to resign his Assembly seat upon securing election to Westminster (a mere formality in real terms) then that would smack of arrogance, leading people to rightly condemn the party for treating voters with contempt by co-opting a new MLA within weeks of the Assembly election.

    Personally, I can think of scores of prospective candidates in west Belfast who would have been more suitable and whose candidacy would have avoided many of these questions.

    On another note, the boundary changes due to come into play before the next Westminster election will likely increase the middle-class nationalist proportion of the west Belfast electorate due to the likelihood of the Balmoral area coming into the constituency.

    Whilst Gerry Adams would have had no difficulty in maintaining a strong electoral base within the new parliamentary constituency, I’d suggest Paul Maskey will find this considerably more difficult- in the longer term.

  • Mick Fealty

    Chris,

    It also begs a question there around the timing, and the degree of understanding between SF and the Conservatives.

    Sammy,

    For a man who’s just come back off a Red Card, you need to watch your tendency towards trolling. You are officially on a much shorter lease than heretofore.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    Mick,

    ???

    Unionists have constituents in West Belfast and they could have potentially embarassed SF by not only enfranchising their supporters but also SFs by moving the writ which SF cant do because they dont take their seats.

  • quality

    Double jobbing in Westminster doesn’t really apply to Sinn Féin – the west Belfast electorate are, by and large, voting for someone they don’t want to go to Westminster.

    He would never, in a million years, leave a Belfast-based Parliament to go sit in Westminster.

  • Mick Fealty

    Sammy

    The only embarrassing thing about West Belfast is the fact the Unionist parties can’t get a seat there, despite having a quota between them, not to mention SF having to take 5 seats to do it.

    Honestly, you’ll just get the card next time.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Chris,

    Not sure about that assessment. Every single SF MP is also an MLA and this is something their electorate clearly do not have a problem with. I think it is reasonably consistent with the abstention policy that being an MP isn’t the full time job that it might be if the party took its seats.

    Do you have reason to believe that Maskey may step down from the Assembly ?

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    Mick,

    Writs are normally moved by those who fancy there chances e.g. Doherty actually going to the High Court down South – in this instance SF cant move the writ because they dont take their seats.

    As fas as unionists are concerned West Belfast is as British as Finchley, they can fairly make the point that SF policy on abstentionism in this instance is disenfranchising the good (Unionist as well as Nationalist) people of West Belfast and that Unionists have to do their job for them.

    I suspect this is what the Tories will actually say in explaining their actions – wouldnt you agree?

  • HeinzGuderian

    Just wondering what it would take for the *good people* of West Belfast to take a hint from their counterparts in the East,and *make that change* ?

  • Dewi

    On a gloriously pedantic note it’s Elis-Thomas not Ellis – and on a personal note moving that writ wrecked his political life for months with Special Branch protection etc.

  • quality

    HeinzGuderian

    Realistically, no matter who the electorate choose they will have very little sway. DUP, SDLP, Alliance and Lady Sylvia make relatively miniscule headway in Westminster, are barely on any Committees and realistically the whole project is a vanity exercise/designed to keep more money in the party.

    Granted any representation would be better than an MP that doesn’t turn up, but not by a huge amount.

  • Dewi – fixed.

  • HeinzGuderian

    Quality

    Indeed. Hard to argue with that. You could argue the same point for the Southern Parliament though. Given that they are now in hock to their European Money Lenders.
    *Irish Sovereignty*,if there ever was such a thing,has been swallowed up by Brussels.
    When the Euro experiment goes tits up,a voice in the Mother of Parliaments will be something that every right thinking person will want……..surely ??

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    Dewi,

    I think SF checked out some of the normal suspects first(Labour left wingers) before approaching the boy Daf.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Chris,

    who in your opinion would have been better candidates?

  • Valenciano

    I agree with Chris. The whole co-options system is undemocratic nonsense and should be scrapped. It won’t be however, because all parties are abusing it equally. It’s hard to think of any other “democratic” system in the world where some of the representatives are replaced shortly after the election by another representative chosen by the central party. That’s the type of farce we’d expect in places like Zimbabwe or North Korea.

    It’s not beyond the realms of probability that some people voted for Maskey even though they disagreed with Sinn Fein policy because he’d sorted out some local issue for them. In fact 15% of his voters didn’t transfer to other SF candidates.

    Ideally candidates should select a couple of substitutes who’d replace them in the even of involuntary vacancies i.e. death. If elected reps step down for some other reason then a by-election should take place.

  • Valenciano

    “On another note, the boundary changes due to come into play before the next Westminster election will likely increase the middle-class nationalist proportion of the west Belfast electorate due to the likelihood of the Balmoral area coming into the constituency.”

    ==================
    We discussed this a few months back (thread was “my guess at the new 16”) and consensus was that it’s unlikely that all of Balmoral would come in, as that doesn’t work in the context of an overall scheme. There are really only two possibilities. The first is that West Belfast is abolished and divided between North and South – very good for SF who’d likely win 2 Belfast seats.

    The more likely prospect is that West gains Crumlin, Woodvale, Finaghy, Musgrave and the rest of Derriaghy, so not as many middle class nationalists as you’d think.

  • Chris Donnelly

    C Stalin
    I think republicans need to look more strategically at the issue of double jobbing as it hampers the development of the party, restricting the potential for new blood to reinvigorate what is becoming an ageing elite leadership.

    It is also the case that, given the low point reached by the SDLP, now would have been the time to do so as new candidates would likely have secured election and been given time to establish themselves ahead of any return to form of the SDLP.

    Pat
    I wouldn’t consider publicly mentioning prospective candidates who have never appeared on a Sinn Fein election ticket before, but suffice to say there are many from within the community and voluntary sector, as well as business community, in west Belfast who I think could have presented a fresh face for the party.

    Sinn Fein have five MLAs elected for West Belfast, yet not one could be realistically considered as possessing the attributes and skills required to hold ministerial office.

    That’s a problem, not least because there would be tremendous potential for a west Belfast based Minister to lobby from within the Executive for strategies to tackle the socio-economic needs of this constituency. I know Attwood would say he tried so doing, but Sinn Fein’s status as the largest nationalist party gives them much more scope in this regard.

    Personally, I think O’Muilleoir would have been the perfect candidate. In any case, he’s wasted in the Council and should be elevated to the Assembly as quickly as possible (presuming he can be persuaded to so do.)

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    I agree on O’Muilleoir and feel he won’t be in the council too long.

  • Munsterview

    Heinz…. : “Just wondering what it would take for the *good people* of West Belfast to take a hint from their counterparts in the East,and *make that change* ?……. ”

    Hell freezing over ?

  • Mick Fealty

    Chris,

    Good point. It’s a waste of a good public office whether or not you have an embarrassment of riches coming through. The DUP have partially embraced the double jobbing thing (and partially hacked off at the hypocrisy of the Tories making it an election issue then dropping it when they needed to do it themselves in Wales.

    I’ve still to do a profile on SF and DUP but i would say that the DUP are further ahead on their scenario planning and penetration of the middle class vote (if that was ever in the SF game I cannot say with any authority).

    Suffice to say that MPs will be almost invulnerable to the tides of opinion that will effect NI politics for some time to come.

  • sdelaneys

    quality;
    ‘ Double jobbing in Westminster doesn’t really apply to Sinn Féin – the west Belfast electorate are, by and large, voting for someone they don’t want to go to Westminster.’

    Interesting that we don’t hear the SF MPs saying, ‘ach, sure we’re only part time MPs, we don’t do much so we can do the old Assembly business too. aye, and be ministers as well’ Rather, they like to tell tell us about how hard they work as MPs on their constituents behalf.

  • “I think O’Muilleoir would have been the perfect candidate. In any case, he’s wasted in the Council”

    Chris, I was a bit surprised that such a high profile party figure would aim for a lowly post in council; perhaps a temporary lowering of the profile was a tactical move, in the circumstances.

  • liam charles

    Bill Manwaring has come up with an interesting campaign to get him elected in West Belfast…..

    If 25,000 voters in West Belfast each put £10 on me to win and then voted for me they win money and get someone who will work for them in Westminster – win win! Last year I was 1000/1 to win.

  • Mick Fealty

    Nevin,

    Unless you have something more substantial to add; that’s a tree.

  • PaddyReilly

    the fact the Unionist parties can’t get a seat there, despite having a quota between them

    This is a weird piece of folklore, which one hears repeated very often, though it isn’t true.

    In the 1998 Assembly elections four Unionist parties (DUP, UUP, PUP, UKU) achieved just under a quota of the vote (13.95%) between them but did not win a seat.

    In the 2001 Westminsters DUP and UUP got 12.6% between them.

    In the 2003 Assembly Elections 13.8% of the electorate voted for DUP, UUP and PUP and Diane Dodds managed to win a seat without achieving a quota.

    In the 2005 Westminsters the joint DUP + UUP score was 12.9%

    In the 2007 Assembly Election DUP + UUP scored 12.5% and Diane Dodds was out.

    In the 2010 Westminster Election UCUNF + DUP got 10.7% of the vote.

    In this last election UUP + DUP got 11.7% of the vote between them.

    A quota is 14.28% and the Unionist brigade doesn’t have one. Not this century. The best they can hope is that SF will fail to balance its candidates and they will sneak in under a quota.

    Interestingly the number of West Belfast residents who declared themselves to be Protestants on the 2011 census (13.32%) corresponds very closely to the Unionist vote.
    However, the censors have taken it upon themselves to add a number of people as “Community Protestant” and that bumps the figure up to over a quota.

    The possible reasons for this disparity are several. One is that the census is now out of date. But as there was no quota in 1998 either this cannot be the case. This means that there are probably 400 persons voting in West Belfast who were brought up as Protestants but are now voting for SF or SDLP. I would guess that these are people who have subsequently married Catholics and no longer identify with the creed of their upbringing. They may not even be from Northern Ireland.

  • Chris Donnelly

    PaddyReilly
    Don’t you mean 2001 census or have you access to the 2011 results already?!?

  • PaddyReilly

    You are right. I mean 2001. Finger slipped.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    Regarding the sorry 2012 sorry 2011 census – never mind the few days to count the Stormo votes which lets be honest added to the excitement of a fairly dull election (well done the Head of Elections for that) but a fecking year’s wait?

    Sounds like the Tories are want to scrap the census anyway becuase its too expensive and slow.

  • Blissett

    I think SF got it ass about face for the assembly elections actually. Sheehan would have been a good candidate for MP, articulate and with a solid republican pedrigree, and would still allow SF to do all that 30th Hblock stuff. (as against that he was the lowest polling MLA candidate)

    The assembly election was the time to put in a younger fresh face with a view to the future, no shortage of people who could have stood. That was the real missed opportunity, not this. The West Belfast MP seat is a prestige thing, its not worth much if you aren’t also an MLA

  • oracle

    I wouldn’t be too sure O’Muilleoir would be the wisest of choices he didn’t exactly garnish himself in glory with the West Belfast electorate when he jumped the politics ship to take the very lucrative Andersonstown News post.

    The 1400 he got in Balmoral when you consider Stiofan Long (stiofan who?) got 1200 there 7 years previous and the SDLP collapse year on year wasn’t exactly a blue ribboned performance either.

    But most damning of all how could O’Muilleoir claim that he would use the elected position to hold anyone and everyone to account….. when under his stewardship the Andersonstown News exonerated Freddie Scappatticc as an innocent man “a helluva guy” because they asked him the “hard question”

    A.T.N … Freddie are you guilty
    Freddy.. Nah
    A.T.N… Sound

  • Mick, I largely agree with Chris’s response to Pat. He introduced the Ó Muilleoir ‘tree’ so I considered it relevant to qualify his use of ‘perfect’. Ó Muilleoir, with his extensive connections, IMO stands head and shoulders above most SF elected representatives. Adams has been labelled as the international representative for West Belfast; perhaps Ó Muilleoir could be given the title of international representative for Sinn Fein.

  • Sinn Fein have five MLAs elected for West Belfast, yet not one could be realistically considered as possessing the attributes and skills required to hold ministerial office.

    Chris

    You sound like an English Tory who said something similar about Ernie Bevin. Tell me what are these attributes which are necessary for ministerial office, standing next to a police chief grinning like a monkey perhaps?

    More often than not high office either makes the incumbent or exposes them for what they are. Signing bits of paper and fawning to the boss is not that skilled a job, the trick is knowing this and understanding the power lays elsewhere.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Chris, I’m not trying to make a political point here but given the abstention policy, how can someone who is only an MP gain any kind of real political experience ? All you’re gaining is a salary and expenses to run a constituency office. If I were in SF and they told me to retire from the Assembly and go to Westminster it would almost feel like a demotion.