It says something about how little parties in Northern Ireland spend talking to their voters that last night’s findings (full data here) seem to have knocked all of the parties back on their heels last night. It was a bit like an old fashioned Dimbleby election night show only one where every single party had to spin some form of bad news as good.
There were two facts that demonstrate that what we’ve been witnessing since early December is non political light show put on for the dazzlement of the good burghers of Belfast. One, there is NO THREAT to the Union from Catholics. Nor, I venture to guess, has there been since the establishment of the state.
A point eloquently laid out by Malachi O’Doherty this morning on Nolan:
His pointed observation of both Gerry Kelly‘s and Alex Maskey‘s body language is well made. Like some latter day General Haig, party president Gerry Adams is sending some of his best troops out to get shot to ribbons in the no man’s land of public opinion (this poll shreds most of the logic deployed by the party in the last two weeks, including the idea that North Irish means not British).
The other is that at the end of the flags crisis, the Alliance Party’s policy is the one that probably most accurately reflects the broadest single opinion on the a proportionate solution.
Danny Kennedy for instance refused to accept that despite all the Catholic good will towards the Union his party was unable to garner the support of even one Catholic respondent… Alex Attwood got caught on the ropes when Noel Thompson points out that if the SDLP (56% in favour of the Union) gets its way in Belfast there will be no Union flag flying over City Hall.
Arlene Foster of the DUP (97% self identifying as Protestant) starts on the whole business of consensual politics, but it all comes to an abrupt halt when she makes a sudden discovery of an already long and well established Alliance party policy (51% Protestant backing and 36% Catholic support) is to have designated days for the Union flag across Northern Ireland.
Gerry Kelly of Sinn Fein (23% in favour of the Union) tried to argue that it is the party mandate that is more ‘scientific’, which is in effect the same thing as stating that ‘this is not happening’…
The SDLP, it should also be noted can hardly be designated as having mixed support, but it is the most mixed of the parties inside the two main designations with an 8% Protestant support. But there is a little curio buried in the tail of the poll that defies common sense/common knowledge:
On basis of BBC poll:DUP 25.1SF 21.7SDLP 18.6UUP 13.2A 10.4Confirms two recent polls about UUP/All but seems generous to SDLP.
— Alex.Kane (@AlexKane221b) February 6, 2013
Most are where you would expect them to be, except Sinn Fein and the DUP. This may tell us nothing more that a face to face poll brings about a pronounced ‘shy Tory effect’. I suspect it is also something to do with the question which asked which “political party [are you] inclined to support”. That’s not who you DO, or HAVE supported, but inclined.
That to me suggests that there’s a little softness in the gap between the SDLP and SF that ought to give downward-looking stoops something to cheer themselves up with. Like the Alliance party, it’s of little or no use to them without the politics to go with it.
And lest I leave them out, the flags issue has not played well for Naomi Long, who may have won favour with the wider public at the expense of votes in her Unionist home…
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty