To whom is a unity candidate accountable?

To whom is a unionist unity candidate (or any other brand of unity candidate) accountable?

Obviously to the voters, though the opportunity to pull the big red handle and eject them from office only comes around once every four years.

In-between elections, what party structure will hold them to their manifesto or campaign commitments?

Not that Nigel Lutton stands much chance of winning in Mid-Ulster, but let’s pretend that he did.

Would he take one whip? Two whips? Is that even possible?

Or do unity candidates end up as glorified independents, outside of a formal party structure, with no undated resignation envelope lodged with their party leader, and free to vote as their conscience leads them and their opinion changes?


  • brian2013

    Isn’t it obvious? He or she will be accountable to Peter – he/she will pretend to be independent for a while and then join the DUP.

  • BarneyT

    Given that Robinson has Nesbitt in a trance…or as some might say, by the short and curlies…I have no doubt that Lutton will be “controlled” by the DUP and thus be accountable to the First Minister.

  • JoeHas

    I expect him to be DUP-led, but find it hard to imagine a circumstance where it would matter whether he was accountable to DUP or UUP (ignoring TUV for the minute). The two are, for most purposes, ideologically identical. When do the DUP and UUP take different stances on any important social policy/economic issues? The only major differences between the two parties occur because of personal likes/dislike and a desire to be in control.

  • Kevsterino

    Is there a precedent of a Unity candidate winning an election?

  • Voice of Reason

    Yes, several;

    Dr Alasdair McDonnell won in South Belfast as the sole nationalist in 2010.

    In the Mid-Ulster context, John Dunlop and subsequently Willie McCrea won the seat as the sole Unionist candidates between Feb 1974 and 1992, with the exception of the 1983 GE. Bernadette Devlin, as she then was, won the seat as the sole Nationalist in the 1969 by-election and again at the 1970 GE.

    There are a number of others, I’m sure.

  • Like any other candidate, he’s ultimately accountable to the electorate. It’s also something of a moot point as he isn’t going to win.

    The McDonnell situation is somewhat different as SF withdrew of their own accord (largely to put pressure on the SDLP in Fermanagh-South Tyrone, which they succeeded in doing). Similarly the post-Anglo-Irish Agreement Unionist candidates weren’t strictly speaking Unity candidates. But other than that, there are lots of examples of Unity candidates winning Westminster seats in NI, some of which are mentioned by VoR – Frank Maguire is probably the most significant of those he doesn’t mention.

  • Framer

    Another such candidate would be Bobby Sands who won because the SDLP stood down in favour of an agreed nationalist with a conviction for violence.

    Given that the UUP’s last MP chose to go her own way regardless of the electorate, I would suggest that Nigel Lutton MP would, in that honourable tradition, be accountable to himself.

    All elections here are on the border question anyway, so it only really matters if an MP switches from or to an Irish unity position.

  • All elections here are on the border question anyway, so it only really matters if an MP switches from or to an Irish unity position.

    Actually, neither part of that sentence is true.

    Elections in NI are largely, but not entirely, about communal representation. A candidate’s position on the border is a useful cue for which part of the electorate they feel closest to representing, but it should be considered as effect rather than cause.

    And empirically, an MP’s position on the border doesn’t really matter at all, or at last no more than any other voter’s; any future decision on sovereignty will be taken by referendum rather than by head-count of elected representatives, still less of members of the House of Commons from NI.

  • Comrade Stalin

    To whom would a former employee of a DUP MP, and a person who signed a DUP MP’s nomination papers, take his marching orders from ? Tough question, that.

    quite aside from the obvious, doesn’t the unionist forum and unionist unity these days mean that everyone is taking their marching orders from Robbo ?

  • In countries with a first-past-the-post franchise the representative is responsible to the constituents or at least to those who voted for him or her. In countries with a PR system the representative is responsible to the party that nominated him or her. So in NI it depends on which office the candidate is running for. As Lutton is running for Westminster he would be responsible to the unionist voters. But it is a purely hypothetical question as he won’t be elected.

    Now if Lutton were running in Fermanagh–South Tyrone it might be more than a hypothetical question.

  • FDM

    As MP for the mid-Ulster constituency Francie will take his orders from the SF executive.

    Dusts hands and walks into the distance.

  • GEF

    If Nigel Lutton was to pull off the mid ulster by- election 10,000/1 win of the century he will sit on the House of Commons independent bench. Then after all back clapping is over he will declare he is transferring to the DUP.

  • Gopher

    So far the only politics on display in this by-election is discussing the chances of a 10,000/1 shot. Christ on a bike nationalists politics are dull. If it were not for the voyeurism at unionism there would not be a single post at all. Even a North Down by election would have went to 200 posts by now. Are nationalists scare to have actual policies?

  • @Gopher,

    Nationalists are no less capable than unionists–who after all, are merely pro-British, anti-Irish nationalists–of having actual policies. But most of the voters who are actually interested in that sort of thing–policies rather than rioting and flag waving–vote for Alliance.

  • Gopher

    Was not talking about nationalists as individuals I was talking about the two nationalist parties who don’t actually have any policies outside the public purse and the destruction of the NHS. I find I have to amend that as SF actually have came out against the ridiculous abortion amendment put forward by the DUP and SDLP so credit were credit is due, well done SF. You see I don’t mind good policy from wherever it comes unlike it seems the majority on this board. I’m not sure Sylvia Hermon is a “Pro British anti Irish Nationalist” in the sense you mean neither now are 3 MLA’s who will hopefully increase in number. If that is to the detriment to a party that I formally voted for that is ambivalent on the NHS then so be it. What is Alliances position on the abortion amendment again?