Assembly transfer rates: SDLP most transfer friendly in 2011…

This excellent wee paper from the Assembly, reminds me I still have to write a post election profile for the DUP and the Greens… In the meantime it seems the SDLP is the largest recipient of other peoples’ transfers, but it is SDLP voters who are most resistant to voting away from home

  • The SDLP received the highest number of transfer votes from other parties;
  • Sinn Féin received the lowest number of transfer votes from other parties;
  • The highest number of transfers to other parties were from UUP candidates;
  • The lowest number of transfers to other parties were from SDLP candidates

It also happens that Unionist parties attract fewer cross community transfers than nationalism in the other direction. In fact, there seems to be a drop in intra-unionist transferring from 2007 to 2011… with the Alliance and the SDLP being the apparent beneficiaries…

Sinn Fein keep similar levels of intra-nationalist transfers from four years ago, but Sinn Fein voters seem to be going off the SDLP…

And that’s even before looking at the constituencies…


  • Big Boss

    This is just further evidence of the election the SDLP could have had if they had sorted themselves out!

  • Charminator

    This is instead further evidence that, in the highly politicised environment of the North, the SDLP fail to conjure up any clear sense of what they are for or against. Of course a party which tries to be all to everyone will attract transfers (7th preference, 8th preference etc), but what would be better solid second preferences from SF or Mickey Mouse transfers from the Alliance et al.

    Let’s be serious about things: if the SDLP want to progress anywhere it won’t be on the strength of “least disliked” or “at least not SF” style transfers. That’s a sure way to remain irrelevant.

  • pippakin

    Does it not also show that the SDLP have not quite ‘gone away’ it may be that if they get their act together and SF continue to bow to their lesser halves, the SDLP could improve their position significantly.

  • Indeed Pippakin is right.
    The SDLP are not actually dead and buried and if they take drastic and ruthless action they can gain back some votes.
    Before the Election they were tweeting about the great reception on the doorsteps.
    After the Election they were candidly admitting that Ritchie was an issue.
    They know it. I know it. We all know it. She cost them votes.
    Time she realised it.

    That they are the most transfer-friendly party is a good sign and its too easy to forget they were actually THIRD not fifth in the popular vote….For the record the Alliance Party were fifth in the popular vote (not that youd know that from their own self-congratulation).
    It certainly appears that people voted #2 SDLP when previously they voted #1SDLP and its a given that SDLP lost votes to both Alliance and Sinn Féin….their rivals for the “Catholic” lets get alongerism vote and the nationalist vote.
    Its entirely logical that they would pick up transfers from both.

    The fact that SDLP was the Party least likely to transfer is probably evidence that their current vote is just about the hard core.
    Fair play to them for all that “outreach stuff” that they love. They might even have got a few transfers because of it. But they lost some of their own vote.
    And as Ive been saying for a long time they are over-concerned with the opinions of people who wouldnt give them a vote at any price.

  • Kevin Barry

    No Pip, it doesn’t. Sorry to break it to you

  • Cahir O’Doherty

    Got to agree Pippakin and FJH, the SDLP could become a very successful party if they ditched Ritchie. However, a quick glance at today’s Irish News suggests that Ritchie will fight tooth and nail to retain the leadership at their conference in the Autumn which will no doubt do even more damage to the party as it splits.

    Surely it must be time for #TrandyPalitics to shine through!?

  • aquifer

    Credit to SDLP voters who cannot bring themselves to vote for the apologists for a sectarian gun gang.

    Is it the case that the PRSTV count system nevertheless assumes that because a few transfers go to Sinn Fein, that Sinn Fein should also get a proportion of the votes that deliberately expressed no preference for Sinn Fein?

  • andnowwhat

    Can anyone tell me in 4 or 5 points what today’s SDLP stand for, anti SF rhetoric aside?

  • Lionel Hutz

    As much as I would like to agree with the sentiments above, is it not the case that the main reason that the SDLP were so transfer was because they were the seventh place candidate so often. North Antrim, Newry Armagh, FST etc. The SDLP certainly didn’t transfer to other parties as much because they didn’t have as many transfers, being the last candidate to drop out.

    I suppose there is a chicken and egg argument there though.

  • Cahir O’Doherty,
    “Got to agree Pippakin and FJH, the SDLP could become a very successful party if they ditched Ritchie”.

    I would not go so far as to say “very”. I think Ritchie cost votes and those votes were critical, certainly in Fermanagh-South Tyrone and perhaps FST was a seat loss waiting to happen. I would not “blame” Fearghal McKinney. Indeed I think he might have held the seat.
    But the choice of Tommy Gallagher looked like a backward step and the SDLP has had historic difficulties in FST deferring to Unity candidates in 1970s and the Sands/Carron thing.
    They were always on the back foot. On a personal level I was disappointed to see so many old SDLP warhorses competing at Council level. Sometimes an election poster can radiate “experience” and sometimes it just radiates “tiredness”.
    The SDLP can claim with a certain amount of justification that demographics as much as anything cost the North and South Antrim seats….but that doesnt explain the East Antrim (where they lost ground to SF) or Strangford losing ground to AP).
    But I think the key is the mixed message of nationalism and “lets get alongerism”. Simply put Sinn Féin dont do mixed messages. Neither do Alliance.
    And SDLP directed too much firepower at SF.

  • Lionel Hutz

    And SDLP directed too much firepower at SF.

    That’s true. It’s not that they attack. I don’t see it that much. But any criticism of Sinn Fein comes across as whinging.

    Newry/Armagh was an example of how to do things well. Thomas O’Hanlon sent round election leaflets saying that so in2007 many thousands of nationalists didn’t vote and the DUP got a seat by a few hundred votes. It is a pro-nationalist campaign and even though the SDLP would only have got a second seat at the Sinn Fein, it was still quite effective. They increased their vote and O’Hanlon very nearly caused what would have been one of the biggest surprises in the election. More of that and they could be successful next time.

    The fact is that for the SDLP, a marginal increase in energising the vote could make the difference between increasing by five or six seats or losing a couple more. It’s very marginal and dumping Ritchie would bridge the gap.

  • Lionel,

    I think that is right. The SDLP had no less than seven candidates finishing as runners up, and no other party had more than three; conversely their candidates who were eliminated tended to get knocked out at an early stage of the count before they had accumulated many votes. It’s partly chicken and egg but partly also the luck of the draw.


    To East Antrim and Strangford, I would add South Down, where the demographic wind was in the SDLP’s sails but the sails were not really unfurled.

  • As has been pointed out, the SDLP had some near misses but nobody will remember that. The SDLP are a party which is down. That is the mantle they carry over the next four years and it will be very hard to shift the vision of a declining party in people’s minds.

    2015 is a long way away. Anything could happen but if Ritchie is going to go, who is the successor that will turn things around? They need somebody with a “larger than life” personality and a commanding political presence. There is nobody coming near that level of talent amongst their current crop of MLAs.

  • Big Boss

    Ritchie needs to go, that much is clear.

    Who ever takes over as leader will have 3 years to whip the party into shape. Since She wont go on her own accord (which is clear from the Irish News) that means a leadership challenege.

    That puts McDevitt out the running because he wont make a move against the hand that feeds. McDonnell I dont think is too interested in leadership anymore.

    None of the new Foyle MLAs im sure would be challenging this early, they have their own battle with SF to take care of over the next few years.

    That only leave one “big hitter” in McGlone. If he does go for it i would expect him to win the vote but he has to know that in 3 years it will be make or break for him and the SDLP as a whole.

  • vanhelsing

    I agree with Fitz and pip. It frustrates me that the sdlp can’t get their act together and Ritchie is a liability. On the nationlist side sf have maxed their vote but we all know their are lots of undecided voters out there. We know the sdlp are transfer friendly; and actually friendly:) mcdevitt is not the answer. For what it’s worth I’d go with fact I think if they were to get a head of steam they’d get some votes back from sf. I, for one, would rejoice at that:)

  • Lionel Hutz,
    The SDLP did well in Newry-Armagh. Dominic Bradley is an excellent MLA and Thomas O’Hanlon would have been.
    Both campaigns were “nationalist” rather than “get alongerism”. It might be added that Patsy McGlone also held up well, I think in part because he was perceived as nationalist. And Declan O’Loan narrowly missed out but was more overtly nationalist.
    I wouldnt read as much into South Down as the tactical voting in 2010 distorts the picture slightly.
    But here its true to say that Margaret Ritchie is a “lets get alonger”. Likewise there was a reversal in South Belfast where Conall McDevitt is identified with the “lets get alongerism” wing of the Party..albeit witha leftist slant.

    But the “Islington on the Lisburn Road” certainly has an undue influence on SDLP. To some extent Queens University Branch distorts the picture giving it a more professional and younger look and indeed it can claim some credit in sending “home” some keen activists.
    As far as I can work out 18 candidates stood for 14 places on the SDLP Executive and at least five were from South Belfast while some others were Dublin based or had a recent QUB connexion.
    Additionally Fearghal McKinney (Vice Chair) is East Belfast based and Claire Hanna (International Secretary) is South Belfast based.

    Now that might indicate a disconnect between the Modernisers/Metropolitans and the traditional traditionalists/Rural vote.
    That might well be an issue that SDLP members might want to address as much as the narrow issue of Ritchies lack of leadership.
    The SDLP has simply gone too far along the “lets get alongerism” road and it manifestly has not paid off.
    I dont know the SDLP well enough to know whether its Executive which presumably controlled its central message during the recent Election had a hard job selling it to places like Newry-Armagh which obviously called their local situation much better than Ormeau Road did.
    The other side to that is the inability of places like Fermanagh-South Tyrone to deliver.

    Margaret Ritchies leadership is clearly doomed.
    But there will be a circling of wagons because the fate of many others within the party is linked to Ritchies.

  • qwerty12345

    On the day the SDLP knocked my door I answered in my smoking jacket. It was around 1 pm and with several days of stubble on my face and slippers on the candidate made a fatal error.

    She looked me up and down and immediately launched into some spiel about job creation.

    I thought, right, no vote for you you presumptive twit.

    As she departed I looked outside to see an elderly group of people who I at first thought were members of the local St Vincent De Paul society.

    There was nothing youthful or excited or even capable looking about the lot of them. I also noticed that not a lot of doors opened.

  • Van Helsing,
    With respect…there is an elephant in the room here.
    The object of the exercise for nationalism is to win the ideological war with unionism.
    The object of the exercise for unionism is to defeat nationalism.
    All of course in the nicest way possible. We are merely mirror images of each other.
    It is not in the interests of nationalism for unionism to be fully effective. Nor is effective nationalism in the interests of unionisms.

    Now when you say that youd rejoice at an upturn in SDLP fortunes, I think this might be influenced by the fact that not only do you (quite properly) see them as people who have not brought destruction to you and yours as their SF rivals have clearly done)…….but there must also be the very human unionist thought that the SDLP is not just “nicer” but less effective in the ideological battle.
    Its almost 1am and Ive not worded this post at all well……I have made a few attempts…….but I mean this in the best possible spirit.

  • aquifer

    Don’t suppose anybody wants to be Fianna Fail at the moment, though that is where the SDLP is headed.

  • Fianna Fáil is a red or perhaps “green” herring.
    If the SDLP was to split…and thats not likely (yet!!) it would be three way…….most would be of a “nationalist” disposition but in Belfast/Derry there would be a “socialist” element and in the Belfast suburbs a “lets get alongerism” dimension.

    The nationalist element……and to some extent we have had this before thirty years ago ……with the short-lived Irish Independence Party…..might seek a working relationship with Fianna Fáil but whether or not actual SDLP MLAs, councillors and members join FF or just drift out of politics….the reality is that most of the votes would be picked up by Sinn Féin and within two election cycles it wouldnt exist.

  • ayeYerMa

    lol FJH, no other party cements the Union better than Sinn Fein! Every time a Sinner opens their mout any chances of the wider population wanting any separatist Ireland go further and further down the drain.

  • ayeYerMa

    … Sinn Fein is despised primarily because they are either murdering scumbags or associates of murdering scumbags with 19/29 of Sinn Fein MLAs as ex-prisoners.

  • Well rather obviously Sinn Féin is not “despised” by the people who actually vote for them. And those that do dont seem to care about their former status.
    If Sinn Féin is actually cementing the Union surely youd be voting for them or giving them a transfer? No?
    so maybe not cementing the Union at all then.

    I dont suppose many nationalists actually believe anyone will deliver a united Ireland within 25 years but the point is that we must always tease out the maximum (peaceful) inconvenience to unionism……whether its having Orange Parades re-routed, Irish language, GAA on TV, opting to play for Republic rather than our wee country.
    Its not about “winning” its about “not losing”.

  • Comrade Stalin


    Got to agree Pippakin and FJH, the SDLP could become a very successful party if they ditched Ritchie.

    There are two different things here :

    – Ritchie being an electoral liability

    – the SDLP not being terribly appealing to voters

    Both are related but they are not the same thing.

    UUP and SDLP members and followers both seem to have their heads in the sand with this constant obsession with magic bullets, believing that simply switching leaders, or forging an alliance, or some other stunt will automatically translate into defeat for their electoral rivals.

    To explore this properly you have to understand why Ritchie became leader in the first place. The only other realistic candidate for the post is Alistair McDonnell, and when you bear in mind the that Durkan appears to have deliberately resigned ahead of time to practically push Ritchie into the leadership role to short-circuit McDonnell’s own leadership ambitions, you have to wonder what kind of state the SDLP is in internally when so many of its senior players move mountains to stop another senior figure taking on the leadership.

    I don’t think the SDLP will do better by talking up its “nationalist” credentials. This is basically a move into firmly sectarian territory (and it’s another plain old magic bullet theory). The UUP tried this and it did not work because the larger rival party is simply much better at doing sectarian politics. Sinn Féin can’t be defeated on their own ground. I have no doubt that Dominic Bradley is a fine MLA, I met him once. But I don’t think he was voted in purely by waving a tricolour and speaking a few words in Irish.

    Alliance’s gains have been small and the party faces significant challenges expanding its appeal beyond Belfast’s hinterlands (although the success of Kieran Deeney getting re-elected twice, despite his arm’s length links with Alliance, imply that it is possible to break out of the sectarian mould) but perhaps the party’s vigour comes from the fact that it is familiar with being small and that it is content with steady, incremental changes rather than rushing around the place talking about rapidly defeating all the big parties. Perhaps the SDLP need to do the same; accept that they are on the path to decline; focus on stopping that decline and stabilizing the vote first. It took Alliance several election cycles and many years to complete this process. There were no stunts, no magic bullet initiatives, no musical chairs up top.

  • Comrade Stalin


    How can a unionist lecture anyone about associating with murderers when unionist politicians did, and do, exactly this ?

  • 241934 john brennan

    Margaret Ritchie leads from the front. She is a winner and poll topper. Of course media luvvies, misogynists, and those with inflated egos (including some within SDLP), persist in trying to put a reverse spin on real evidence and objectivity. 18 months ago she was democratically selected as leader, by a sizeable majority of party members, including MLA’s and Councillors. Their judgement was based on her proven performance, record and delivery.

    Here are some ‘media’ ignored facts – that contradict some of the above posts:

    In the recent Assembly elections in South Down, the SDLP share of the vote, compared to 2007, was up +4.3%. The Sinn Fein vote stalled; up +0.1%.

    That the SDLP did not gain a third seat is due to simple arithmetic – not as alleged, bad vote management. The combined Unionist vote (DUP, UUP, UKIP) exceeded 2 quotas, ergo 2 unionist seats.

    SDLP = 2.7 quotas = 2 seats
    SF = 2.2 quotas = 2 seats
    Unionists =2.1 quotas = 2 seats

    The 57% South Down turnout, for the assembly elections, was the fifth highest in the North. However, the SDLP target of 3 seats can only be achieved by increasing that turnout (i.e. targeting voter apathy) thus reducing the probability of either Unionists or Sinn Fein getting 2 quotas.

    It was in her home town area of Downpatrick that Margaret Ritchie got such a huge majority of first preference votes. Her success and popularity spilled over into the Local Government elections. In this electoral area, 6 SDLP candidates gained 57.4% share of the vote (+6.7% from 2005), with 3 SF candidates getting 27.45% (down – 4.8%). From an SDLP point of view, it is a pity that there is not a Margaret Ritchie in every constituency.

    From the 1998 Agreement, the SDLP (and other ‘moderate’ parties’) share of the vote declined. The two ‘warring tribes’ opted for an end to violence – and so a war weary people opted to support their uneasy truce.

    However, with time passing, no decrease in sectarianism, no delivery on constitutional matters, continuing economic cuts and declining economic prospects, the time has come to take a fresh look at SDLP policies, for uniting people and building prosperity.

    The SDLP vision presented on doorsteps (especially in South Down) at recent elections was: “Becoming one people, one island, proudly Northern, proudly Irish, and proudly European”.

    The SDLP agenda finally won the peace. By demonstrating it can now deliver its own ultimate vision, objectives and ideals, many more people will rally to its banner.

  • Sean Og

    If Margaret really cares about the SDLP, and I think she does, she will look into her heart and do the right thing for the party. With her out in front they face decline without her they have a chance to rebuild and move forward.

    McGlone may do it but I think Attwood would be better.

  • john brennan.
    Are you perhaps related to Margaret Ritchie?

  • Charminator

    241934 john brennan — I think I can honestly say I haven’t read such utter tripe on here in a very very long time.

    Aside from the South Down-centric analysis which you present, there’s absolutely no indication that the SDLP is turning a corner. Indeed, even in South Down did not one of the party’s former councillors call for Ritchie to go? Hardly a sign that even in her stronghold all is well.

    And your jibe regarding the media: one of the main Nationalist media organs in the North, the Irish News, has former SDLP Communication Directors writing weekly columns and other SDLP-inclined friends, as though it were some dispassionate analysis.

    But, it’s clear you’ve made your bed, so good luck with it. I’d hazard to say hell will freeze, before the SDLP take a third seat in South Down, I’d far sooner bet on them dropping one in Foyle. Interesting in your analysis you never mentioned Fermanagh-South Tyrone, or no West Belfast (what of Joe Hendron?) either?

    The party is on the long road to nowhere. They have jobs for the boys secured and frankly, for many of them (what of Eamon O’Neill too?), I suspect that’s all they’re interested in.

    And, on an historical point, the SDLP agenda did not “win” any peace. If you think the complex tapestry of the peace process can be distilled down to some “peace not war” equation then you’re a very simple and naive man. The role of the British Govt (Labour, not Tory), of the Irish Govt, of an amenable UUP leadership, and of a British military analysis and Provo analysis that “winning” was not possible, was as much a contribution as any SDLP input. I’m assuming SDLP in this context means Hume, not Lord Fitt, by the way.

  • Comrade Stalin

    John has proved everything I was saying about the SDLP tendency to put their head in the sand. They have been doing it for the past 15 years.

  • ayeYerMa

    FJH- you asked why Unionists don’t like Sinn Fein – I told you exactly why Unionists despise them. Sinn Fein cement the union by being a negative and highly divisive extremist party that are so obnoxious that simply make Unionists more Unionist, and non-political Nationalists less Nationalist. Unionists would be more likely to listen and cooperate with the SDLP than Sinn Fein.

    Comrade Stalin, utter nonsense. Please stop being a misguided do-gooding terrorist apologist. No widely supported Unionist party includes the same likes of terrorists, murders, crime-ridden mafia, marxist nutters and paramilitary gangmasters such as Sinn Fein with their 19/29 former prisoner MLAs – you are a fool for encouraging the Sinn Fein propaganda that a much more extreme party like SF are somehow equivalent to the DUP.

    The Unionist equivalent to Sinn Fein would be for a Loyalist party with Johnny Adair for First Minister. How about Gusty Spence for Minister of Education? Maybe Michael Stone would make a good Minister for Culture given his interest in “performance art”? How would Nationalists feel if this was the case? You bet we wouldn’t hear the end of it!

  • Lionel Hutz

    I don’t think the SDLP will do better by talking up its “nationalist” credentials. This is basically a move into firmly sectarian territory (and it’s another plain old magic bullet theory). The UUP tried this and it did not work because the larger rival party is simply much better at doing sectarian politics. Sinn Féin can’t be defeated on their own ground. I have no doubt that Dominic Bradley is a fine MLA, I met him once. But I don’t think he was voted in purely by waving a tricolour and speaking a few words in Irish.

    I have never been comfortable with the term Nationalist. I want a United Ireland and would only vote for a party that also wants a United Ireland. But I am not strongly nationalist in the traidtional sense of the word. I think the SDLP need to stop using the term nationalist. Simply describing themselves Irish would be enough and wanting to see and work for a United Ireland.

    There is nothing sectarian about that and I can guarantee you that most of their voters and most of their target voters will respond better to party that is proudly Irish

  • First up Dominic Bradleys Autism Bill had little to do with nationalism or unionism and everything to do with decency.
    I dont think that nationalism for me is some kind of weird philosophy. Its a mere extension of being “Irish”.
    I dont really think that ANY nationality is something that is something to be proud of …..I am not for example “proud” of having blue eyes. Nor am I ashamed of not having brown eyes.
    I dont think “proudly northern, proudly Irish and proudly European” works because it comes across as a check list.
    Click any two of three and youd vote for us kinda thing.
    I daresay the SDLP Executive Committee is working on a form of words that is just about customised for every voter.
    “Resonably proud of being Irish, being northern is as irrelevant as being western, eastern or southern and dont even use the word Europe within fifty feet of me”… thats a philosophy I can live with.