The small matter of a Belfast West by-election #belw11 … and two questions

It’s difficult to get excited about the Westminster by-election. Polling stations have been open again across West Belfast for the second time in five weeks. This time, it’s a simple one-ballot first past the post election to see who will replace Gerry Adams TD in Westminster. The count will start soon after 10pm in the Kings Hall, with boxes verified as they start to arrive from across the constituency.

It struck me this morning that where else in the UK could the Prime Minster visit a city on the day it was holding a by-election today? If UCUNF hadn’t fallen apart it would be electioneering! But in this case, it’s not.

Some predictions …

  • The turnout will be lower than May 2011 (57.90%) or May 2010 (54.91%).
  • The winner will be a man (six out of six chance) … called Paul Maskey.

Selected candidates:

  • SDLP stuck to Alex Atwood who has consistently appeared on the ballot paper since the 2005 Westminster election.
  • People Before Profit stuck with Gerry Carroll who polled 1661 votes for the party in the 2011 Assembly election.
  • Brian Kingston was on the DUP’s Assembly ticket in May 2011, but William Humphrey stood for Westminster in May 2010, and before that Diane Dodds was their candidate.
  • The UUP have been fielding Bill Manwaring since 2010 Westminster’s election, but before that used Chris McGimpsey in 2005 Westminster and Louis West in 2007 Assembly elections.
  • Alliance are quite inconsistent, not running anyone in 2005 (Westminster), running Dan McGuinness in 2007 and 2011 (Assembly) and Maire Hendron in 2010 Westminster. This time, they’ve plunked for Aaron McIntyre.
  • (Paul Maskey replaced long-standing Sinn Fein candidate Gerry Adams at the 2011 Assembly election.)

Disappointingly – for me – no party found someone with the surname of Adams to run! In fact, if two or more parties had fielded ‘Adams’ candidates, the count would have been cripplingly slow … something EONI would be keen to avoid.

So Slugger readers – two questions to answer before the result is announced later tonight …

  • What’s the turnout going to be?
  • At what time will the result be declared?

, , ,

  • Mr Crumlin

    I think a really low turnout – 40-45%.

    I’ll stick my neck on the line and say Maskey will win! PBP to get more than the last time.

  • Big Boss

    Turn out will be between 20-30%

    Posters all over west Belfast, but i don’t think anyone really cares and the run out will be very low

    Attwood or Carroll to win, The shinner vote wont come out because really whats the point! lol

  • Remember, ther second question was

    > At what time will the result be declared?

  • RyanAdams

    Turnout: 35% (Maybe one election where turnout might actually be higher in the Shankill??)

    Count will be done with by 1am I reckon but earlier is a possibility

  • lamhdearg

    Counting to start soon after 10pm, so thats some time tomorrow then, IF it starts at ten we should see paul on some (ex) pira guys shoulders waving a Eire flag by midnight. turnout under 50%. silly unionists running two when with a low turnout a shankill/suffoke vote for alex could have given S.F. a scare.

  • RyanAdams

    Anybody hasty enough to guess SF share? I’m thinking 60%.

    I was suprised eirigi didn’t contest this.

  • Little James

    The Shinners are not doing their usual rapping on the doors “have you voted yet” routine. I suppose there is no vote management here but you would think they would want a strong showing.

  • RyanAdams

    Little James,

    I would have thought that too, the West Belfast assembly result and council elections showed something was not well within the camp.

  • Come to think of it, the time of the announcement is about the only thing here Mike Smithson could have found to bet on.

    Wild stab: 2:30, unless there a re-count. Actually, since anyone can ask for a re-count, and it might save your deposit, that’s not impossible.

  • West Sider


    I voted and put my X at ***** *******.

    I thought we needed to send a message, and to make it fresh.

  • lamhdearg

    West Sider
    Do tell. And dont wait for result and claim you backed the winner.

  • lamhdearg

    ohh ***** *******, only one candi with that many letters in his name

  • Only visited one polling station … but turnout wasn’t topping 30%

  • Anyone looked at the BBC NI web-page, to see what priority they’re giving this?

    Hint: currently, it’s not the top item.

  • Greenflag

    West Belfast is in this respect very similar to Kensington & Chelsea . The candidate with the green badge will always win the former whereas the candidate with the blue badge always wins the latter.

    De ja vu does’nt even come close:)

  • Ah, West Sider @ 10:08 pm!

    You mean that ***** *******. Clearly you are a person of some principle.

    Was he on the ballot with that abbreviated forename?

  • Greenflag @ 10:38 pm:

    Added to which, one will be a total abstainer, and the other will frequent most cocktail parties near the Brompton Road.

    Hold on a minute … they’ve abolished the K&C seat! Considering two of its three MPs were Alan Clark and Michael Portillo (the odd one out was Malcolm Rifkind), I can see why. Oh, and in ’97 the Teddy Bear Alliance put up Edward Bear as its candidate (218 votes).

  • Greenflag

    @ malcolm redfellow ,

    Lest I forget many thanks for that recommendation re Simon Winder’s Germania . I just finished it and have already passed it on to another family member . It certainly brings out the 1200 years of German history in a way which standard histories don’t . His conjecture that the world might have been a better place had Great Britain remained neutral during WW1 and had the Germans won that war was coming from an English writer somewhat surprising . His commentary on the goings on of the innumerable minor German nobility and their marriage transfers to Russia , Britain , Romania etc etc just confirmed my worst suspicions re the possibilities of chaos ensuing under the aegis of unelected ruling monarchies .

    On the other hand as I look across a Europe beset by IMF and ECB machinations and the situation in the USA I sometimes see similarities between this decade and the 1910 -20 period . At least this time there is no Archduke of Austria whose assasination could trigger off WW3 ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Greenflag

    Winder’s Germania -how could I not have mentioned it is also belly achingly funny in parts in an almost Bill Bryson like manner .

  • PaulT

    is it true Sepp Blatter is a bit jealous

  • Greenflag

    @malcolm redfellow,
    There is a new seat Chelsea Fulham as well as the old Kensington which is still called Kensington Chelsea . I’m not sure about the electoral history of the Fulham (World’s End & Craven Cottage end )but Chelsea has elected Tories since the ice age ๐Ÿ™‚

    However amidst the constant unchanging results a frisson of change took place . The one time MP for the constituency Sir Ian MacTaggart ( a London property developer) had a daughter who now represents the Slough constituency for Labour or at least did so before this last election .

    I’m somewhat familar with this constituency as my grandmother lived around the corner from Flood St (Maggie Thatcher’s abode) and as a teenager I spent some pleasant summers in the area including the famous King’s Road and the never arriving 137 bus ๐Ÿ™‚

  • westernelk


    West Belfast is statistically the safest seat in the entire United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

  • Greenflag:

    As I recall I didn’t so much “recommend” Germania as suggest it wasn’t quite up to Graham Robb’s two on France and Paris. However, glad you enjoyed it.

    As a result of that hypothetical non-entry to WW1, I came up with an imagined “alternative history”. I recommend this as a recipe for insomnia.

    In this parallel universe, sanity prevailed. Britain stood aside while the Frogs, Huns, and others bashed all hell out of each other. Britain made one whole heap of filthy lucre selling stuff to the combatants, and incurred no war debts.

    Meanwhile, Home Rule came to Ireland, as promised by the 1914 Act. The Orangemen revolted; and their rebellion had to be suppressed by loyal “Specials” โ€” buoyos recruited from the Dublin Fusiliers and the Connaught Rangers… [I’ll leave others to complete the scenario.]

    Which would mean that today West Belfast would be electing a …

  • Framer

    I predict a shock Attwood surge on a 28% turnout. He is a minister and not an abstentionist which is so yesterday

  • hooferhead

    I go for 38% turnout and declaration to be made at 02:30. And the winner will be a man. I know I am copying Alan’s prediction but you never can be sure which of these 6 will be 1st past the post – could it be a photo finish ??

  • Greenflag

    In your alternative universe probably somebody like this poor sod who almost made it to Westminster for the Tories in Chelsea . Alas he fell at the last hurdle / kerbstone ๐Ÿ˜‰

    In the run-up to the 1997 election the nomination was initially won by Nicholas Scott, MP for the previous Chelsea constituency, but following allegations of alcoholism he was deselected. Tabloids reported that he was “found kissing the pavement”.

    I’ll have a go at Robb’s France and Paris later again thanks .

    In our non alternative universe sanity eventually prevails but there seems to be a universal law among all nations , peoples and states and kingdoms that it must be preceded by veritable oceans of insanities and unreason before the penny finally drops ๐Ÿ˜‰ Errare est humanum as the Gods might say if they could but say .

  • Declaration around 12.45am. Turnout was 37.53%. The winner … Paul Maskey.

  • Greenflag

    @ western elk ,

    ‘West Belfast is statistically the safest seat in the entire United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.’

    Thanks to unionism it may even be the safest seat in the entire EU .

  • Greenflag @ 11:48 am:

    Fabian Richter put up an item on the LSE site which claimed that even the safest seats, over a reasonable period of time, have proved not to be.

    Top of his list was one of local interest: South Antrim โ€” a UUP majority of 38,868 in 1979 (Jim Molyneaux on a sliver under 70% of the poll), and now a toss-up. Which caused me to pause, because had Richter taken a wider view, he would have seen Knox Cunningham had near 91% of the poll in that seat in 1955. Nicolae Ceauศ™escu achieved something of the same level of popular support, they say.

    As I learned by heart for Leaving Cert:
    All human things are subject to decay,
    And, when Fate summons, monarchs must obey …

  • lamhdearg

    “Thanks to unionism it may even be the safest seat in the entire EU .”
    what do you feel the unionists could do to get the people of west belfast to vote unionist.

  • @westernelk,

    Three Labour MPs were elected in 2010 with a higher percentage majority than Gerry Adams, and there are a number more who had a higher numerical majority.

    Malcolm Redfellow,

    You’re quite right of course; Gerry Adams actually lost this seat, on different boundaries admittedly, in 1992. Every one of Northern Ireland’s seats has changed hands at least once since the 1960s. Nothing lasts for ever!

  • Greenflag

    @malcolm redfellow ,

    Richter’s analysis is fair enough at least as a long term argument against reform of the FPTP system, but as you may have deduced from your LC piece above, in the long term fate summons and even non monarchs and politicians make their exits from this mortal coil . Our ex Finance Minister Mr Lenihan reminding us that Fortuna can be a heartless bitch on Friday and a comforting mother on Saturday .

    Richter’s analysis omits to mention the fall in voter turnout which may account for a lot of the formerly non marginal seats now being seen as marginal . While there was no surprise in the West Belfast result somebody made the point that SF’s Maskey was elected with just 26% of the votes of the electorate i.e 74% did’nt vote for him by mostly staying at home . Coincidentally I believe USA President Obama was also elected by 26 % of the USA electorate .

    It seems to me that all across the Anglosphere barring perhaps Australia people are not bothering to vote and this to me anyway should be a cause for concern -particularly because those who do bother to vote are increasingly being seen to take their politics from the extremes -the USA’s Tea Party faction being one example . Then there is a growing underlying recognition that our elected politicians are becoming ever more powerless in the face of corporate globalism and the huge faceless bureacracies behind international institutions such as the IMF/ECB etc.

    Knox Cunningham got his 91% probably because there was mass abstention by nationalists and there was just a single UP candidate . NI mercifully has moved on from the days one party tyranny of the majority to something while not satisfactory at least reduces the possibility of resorting to armalites as the main weapon of political discourse.

    It’s Friday so as an antidote to all talk of Fata and Fortuna and the vagaries of what might have been I’ll have a listen to Carl Orff’s Carmen Burana and re remind myself that even the harshest of lives in the middle ages found some form of release even if only in drunken profanery and wine induced blasphemy ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Greenflag


    ‘what do you feel the unionists could do to get the people of west belfast to vote unionist.’

    Barring a voluntary mass exchange of the West Belfast population with East Belfast not a whole lot . It’s a pity Horseman is no longer around to give his analysis of the viability of a Unionist seat at least in future Assembly elections .

    As time passes however even West Belfast nationalists will roll back from the high point of present support levels for SF . We must remember that the new Assembly is still relatively young and has a way to go before it can be safely said to be ‘permanent ‘ Eventually if for nothing else the SDLP may claw back some support and even a good unionist candidate might benefit from SDLP transfers to meet the quota at the next Assembly election . I’m no expert on the numbers though .

    Looked at from a constituen’t point of view it could be beneficial to have at least one Unionist and one SDLP Assembly member to have to go to for advice -just in case one has a falling out with your local SF MLA ?

  • Greenflag @ 2.15 pm:

    Either you are taxing the intellect of Sluggerdom beyond reasons, or your references to Fortuna can be a heartless bitch on Friday and a comforting mother on Saturday and Carmina Burana must be proof of Jungian collective unconscious.

    Take it more slowly for the less gifted:
    ยถ The wheel of fortune (a.k.a. Bhavacakra, rota Fortune) is the the motif of Carmina Burana: O Fortuna/ velut luna/ statu variabilis, /semper crescis/ aut decrescis….
    ยถ Tomorrow, (Saturday) 11th June, marks the Roman feast-day of Matralia โ€” Mother’s Day โ€” and (more relevant here) Fortuna Virginalis. In effect what is being celebrated are the passages of life โ€” those four milestones the rota Fortunae marks as “I will reign; I reign; I have reigned; I am without kingdom”.
    ยถ Not by coincidence, the Church superimposed the feast of St Barnabas on that date.
    ยถ Entirely by coincidence (except to catch the out-of-school US teeny market) it was the day in 1982 that ET was released. Hmmm … seriously off topic, I fear.

    I admit I, too, was hardly sold on Richter’s thesis. It came to mind because there was that account this week that the reduction to 600 MPs will not benefit the Tories as much as they hoped, not harm Labour as much as they feared. It does, of course, do the dirty on the LibDems. Heh, heh … snort. Nice people …

    As for Nicholas Whyte @ 1:23 pm: noted and agreed. Even so, in those Knox Cunningham clean-sweeps of the ’50s, the turnout was 60% or better. It crosses my mind that, along with ‘Derry and Armagh, the Antrim seats were the last to be uncontested at a general election. So Phelim O’Neill’s 1953 by-election in North Antrim was the end of “automatic succession”. I’m open to correction on that โ€” I know there was a general wish that Ian Gow’s Bournemouth seat should not be contested in 1990 (the LibDems forced a contest and won).

    Beyond that, I’d note that graffito of the late ’60s: “Vote T&G and cut out the middle man” seems to mark when the decline in turn-out really took effect.

    Sorry to gossip. My drunken profanery and wine induced blasphemy for this evening will have to wait until the curtain comes down tonight on the delicious Sienna Miller in terribly-naice Terence Rattigan’s Flare Path.

  • Greenflag

    @malcolm redfellow ,

    Out of respect for many of sluggerdom’s bloggers and commenters I’ll opt for your proofing of the Jungian collective unconciousness in this instance. Matralia indeed ๐Ÿ™‚

    The eh rota Fortunae passages of life could of course be adapted and rephrased for rain soaked sluggerites and for those non monarchically inclined as

    ‘It will rain , It rains , It has always rained, and it will never stop raining in westernand northwestern parts of the kingdom /islands . I’m reliably informed that those born in the rain belt from Donegal to Ross & Cromarty arrive on earth already equipped with wellies and southwesters .

    For those who have not come across the profane medieval 13th century tavernesque ribald songs resurrected by Carl Orff in Carmina Burana here’s a little intro complete with translation by the London Symphony Orchestra

    Back to the politics . The Lib Dems must be ruing the day they opted for coalition and with the FPTP still the voting system they can only be looking forward to another reversal when the time comes . They are uniquely in the awful position of being able to bring the house down and fall on their own electoral swords simultaneously ๐Ÿ™ Between a rock and a hard place sounds like a comfort zone in comparison.

    I trust Sienna Miller delivered a fine performance and the enjoyment of it moderated any profane urges etc etc ๐Ÿ˜‰