No surprises in Mid Ulster as Molloy wins; turnout dips down from 91.5% in 1969 by-election to just 55.7%

Some quick figures from tonight’s Mid Ulster Westminster by-election result. I’m sure Gerry will post something over the next few days that will look at the figures in more detail and give some anecdotal evidence of the spread of turnout (using the tally samples) across the constituency.

Eric Bullick (Alliance) 487 (1.3%)
Nigel Lutton (Independent) 12,781 (34.2%)
Patsy McGlone (SDLP) 6,478 (17.3%)
Francie Molloy (Sinn Féin) 17,462 (46.7%)

Turnout 37208; Spoilt 223 (0.6%); result declared around 1.15am

There was never any doubt that Francie Molloy would be elected as MP for Mid Ulster. The question was going to be how the Sinn Féin vote would hold up versus the SDLP’s Patsy McGlone, and how the agreed Unionist candidate Nigel Lutton would fare against previous DUP/UUP/TUV polling at the previous couple of elections.

First observation is that turnout has slipped from the an amazing peak of 91.5% in the 1969 by-election that first sent Bernadette Devlin to Westminster. In the 1970 Westminster general election, the Mid Ulster constituency had the highest turnout in the UK with 91.4%; and again topped the UK rankings with 86% in 1997. However, since then there has been a steady decline, on top of the traditional by-election dip in voter interest.

On one hand: how the mighty have fallen. On the other, the Eastleigh by-election turnout last week was 52.7%, down from 69.3% at the 2010 general election.

Mid Ulster turnout new

While Francie Molloy won the seat with 46.9% of the votes cast, just over a quarter of the eligible people in the constituency voted for him.

Eric Bullick (Alliance) 487 (0.7% of elegible voters)
Nigel Lutton (Independent) 12,781 (19.0% of eligible voters)
Patsy McGlone (SDLP) 6,478 (9.6% of eligible voters)
Francie Molloy (Sinn Féin) 17,462 (26.0% of eligible voters)
Did not vote 29,766 (44.3% of eligible voters)

Sinn Féin’s percentage of the vote is down on the 2011 Assembly election’s 49.2%, and far down on the 2010 Westminster 52%. It will be an unremarkable but safe win for the party: they kept the seat, and that’s what mattered.

Mid Ulster SF and SDLP unionist voting new

The SDLP will be pleased to have recovered to their 2005-2007 level, though it hang on to their gains from Sinn Féin at the next multi-seat Assembly election.

Similarly, the unionist parties will be pleased that their united strategy recovered their percentage of the vote back to the 2005 Westminster level. However, while Nigel Lutton won 12,781 votes, this is the lowest number of unionists votes cast in a Westminster or Assembly election in at least the last 15 years. It is clear that only a unity candidate combining unionism and the SDLP could defeat Sinn Féin.

Ulster Unionists will surely question whether gaining a couple of percentage points – and an actual drop in votes – was worth the internal party upheaval. Perhaps a rumoured promise from the DUP not to stand a second candidate in the European elections next June would sweeten the blow.

After the result was announced, the Unionist unity agreed Unionist Independent candidate (according to the ballot papers and electoral rules) Nigel Lutton described himself as “the undertaker that resurrected Unionism“. Not the remark of a candidate who plans to slip into the background. Which party will he join? At which election will he next run?

Alliance will also be pleased with their modest – yet perhaps, sustainable – increase in the percentage vote from 1.0% in 2010 Westminster to 1.3% this year.

(Historic polling statistics from ARK and Wikipedia.)

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  • Charlie Sheens PR guru

    Interesting how the nationalist areas around east tyrone etc. showed a low turnout.

    Could it be that the number of republicans disillusioned with SF has grown. Especially given they are now threatening him over his condemnation over the mortars in Derry. That’s on top of the queen handshake etc.. Then again, it could be that it was just a foregone conclusion and people stayed at home.

    Very interesting repercussions if this is the start of joint unionist candidates as the norm… that said, unionists cannot expect this kind of low turnout at a general election…

  • What is interesting is that if the unionist minded vote was kept at 86% (assuming it was that previously) and the Nationalist minded vote stayed where it actually was, Lutton would have won. Were the local poll watchers sure of what the turnover would be on all sides from local “fingers in the wind”?

  • Barry the Blender

    By my sums: SDLP probably the biggest winners, net increase in votes and back to the familiar figure of 17 per cent.

    Sinn Fein, acceptable slippage.

    Those with strong views on agreed unionist candidates: get to have it both ways up in percentage, down in numbers.

    Alliance increase their poll by 30 percent from 1 to 1.3!

    Mister Joe, that’s correct, although I’ve never been convinced that inmid Ulster of all places, that historically the numbers of votes and numbers of people voting were one and the same.

  • Barry,
    I have my own experience of that. The first time I voted, I saw that on the list that my brother, who came behind me on the list, had his name lined out as having voted. That was awfully strange since he was currently living in Zambia and there was no remote voting at that time. I reported it but can’t imagine anything resulted.

  • Kevsterino

    I think that just like anywhere else, if the election looks like a runaway result, people can’t be too excited about making it out to vote. Unless some new trend emerges, it looks like participation there is going to keep going down.

  • aquifer

    A candidate that refuses TV interviews deserved fewer votes than that, especially where the BBC takes everyone else off as well. An affront to democracy.

  • aquifier,

    It was mentioned on another thread that if a candidate refuses to engage in a discussion, then the BBC cannot allow the others to do so. That doesn’t seem right to me and obviously you too. It is an affront to democracy.

  • GEF

    In a newsletter article the ‘UUP leader Mike Nesbitt has hailed the success of agreed candidate Nigel Lutton, who increased the unionist vote in Mid Ulster.’

    The percentage result Mr Nesbitt is getting all hot under the collar about is because out of an electorate of 67,192; the turnout of 37,208 is down (55.38%, -7.85%) since 2010. The Unionist Unity candidate may have received 12,781 but compared to 2010 the joint votes of McCrea (DUP) 5,876 Overend (UCUNF) 4,509 Millar (TUV) 2,995 was 13,380. Mr Lutton’s votes were actually down by 599 votes compared to the vote of 2010. I cannot figure out for the love of me all the puffed up false glorification for Mr Lutton from Mr Nesbitt over this election. Unless the UUP leader is symbolically reacting the part played by the violinst who played his fiddle when Rome burned. The purpose of all elections is to win not come 2nd, and joint Unionists have less chance of winning Mid Ulster come 2015 under present circumstances than Joint Unionist councillors have of flying the Union flag again for 365 days on the top of Belfast City Hall.

  • Questions, questions.
    1. What was the weather like in Tyrone today?
    2. Do N.I. people suffer from cabin fever? (I can’t remember but if a bye-election were held in Canada today I don’t think 60% would turn out to vote).
    3. If either the DUP or UUP had put up a serious contender (one only) would the result have been different?
    4. Is Mike Nesbitt a leader who could lead the UUP to overtake the DUP as the main unionist party (given the total disarray in the DUP with even their leader trying to diss the PSNI ) or is he just a stupid patsy?
    5. Since I suffer from cabin fever myself, I can’t even remember the date – is today April 1?

  • Framer

    Unionists have managed to increase the percentage pro-union vote. That is quite an achievement given the barrage of criticism from media, nationalism and of course the departing, soon to be forgotten, McUnionists.
    Nesbitt has been vindicated. The Unionist percentage has gone up, a rare moment in recent elections.
    The notion that the agreed Unionist candidate could increase the vote given an 8% drop in turnout is absurd and just part of the spinning that this article and so many posting here indulge in.
    I can’t get over this statement: “Alliance will also be pleased with their modest – yet perhaps, sustainable – increase in the percentage vote from 1.0% in 2010 Westminster to 1.3%”. So their flag policy is vindicated and they have made a breakthrough!
    And then Unionists are told by Alan only with an SDLP alliance can SF be unseated.
    Think Raymond McCreesh playpark.

  • boondock

    GEF
    I think Mike was probabaly very relieved in the end. Although the actual unionist vote is down the vote share is up 1%. When 90% of the boxes were tallied Lutton had only 29.5% of the vote and I think if that has been the final result old Mike would have looked very foolish to have gone through all that upheavel and losing mla’s for that so when the final result came in he was probably ecstatic even though the increase in % was negligible.
    The SF vote is down but I think that was to be expected as Molloy is no Marty.
    The big surprise for me is that the Alliance did not see any real improvement I would have thought they would have got votes over the fleg dispute and also protest votes from liberal unionists who didnt like the unity idea but it didnt happen

  • Mick Fealty

    Everyone had something to take out of this… SF most, Unionists next both of whom ran sub optimal candidates (for which suited both not to have an airwar).

    Despite Patsy will be slightly disappointed with a bump of just over two per cent. As pointed out here at the start, there were loan votes to be taken back, and it seems to me some of those simply didn’t vote.

    Although he exaggerates somewhat, Brian Feeney is right that the Opposition narrative is an unappealling one. And it happens that Brid’s intervention was the loudest thing the party said in the campaign.

    Of course the party cant control the media volume. But they do need a story…

  • Your headline is wrong – the 91% turnout was in 1970. The 86% turnout in 1997 was indeed remarkable for the modern era. All those figures were inflated by personation and postal vote fraud on an epic scale. The postal vote fraud only ended in the last few years.

    As for the result, I wouldn’t overanalyse minor swings too much. Pasty McGlone is a well good candidate, well dug in locally, whose.main opponent ran away from a TV debate and, for the first time in 20 odd years, wasn’t called Martin McGuinness. Nigel Lutton kept Unionist turnout from falling too badly, in part because a surprising number of Unionists, wrongly, seem to have thought a joint Unionist candidate could win. Alliance get the prize for epically bad spinning by claiming a tiny increase in a tiny vote as some sort of major victory. SF is claiming a massive victory when their vote stayed at home more than others’.

    In reality, there’s little to see here. The changes in share of the vote were minor and turnout was actually really very good for a mid-term by-election in a safe seat in a society that is no longer in a minor civil war and no longer turns a blind eye to postal vote fraud. Mid Ulster remains the constituency least likely to see a change in Assembly representation, and hadn’t since 1998. If anything, this by-election was remarkable for continuity, not change, after months of fleg wrangles.

    But that won’t stop overblown claims of an SDLP revival and Unionist Unity from climbing to the top of the political agenda.

  • GEF

    “The SF vote is down but I think that was to be expected as Molloy is no Marty.”

    Agreed boondock, this may also be due to complacency among mid ulster republican constituents having predicted
    Molloy was the winner anyhow. However if SF believe there was going to be a threat to their seat in 2015 they can turn up their election campaigning on to suit the situation.

    Was just listening to Mr Lutton on the news and he joked
    “Fellow Unionists are saying I am the undertaker who has resurrected the Unionist vote” Maybe Mr Nesbitt is hoping Mr Lutton might do something to resurrect the UUP.

  • In reality, there’s little to see here.

    Spot on Gerry. If any party wants to crow, that’s to be expected but they’ll have to wait for a general election to see anything that might be significant. The real message in this particular election is that both the DUP and the UUP ran away. Neither could take the embarrassment?

  • When and where is Mike Nesbitt going to try and show for a second time that he is really a leader worthy of being elected as an MP?

  • OneNI

    ‘When and where is Mike Nesbitt going to try and show for a second time that he is really a leader worthy of being elected as an MP?’
    When the DUP give him a free run in North Down at the next GE?

  • Framer

    Gerry

    Actually the Unionist turnout in percentage terms increased and did not fall as you say, while Alliance may have stayed on 1% but actually got extra votes, the McCrea ninety as it is known.
    Spoilt votes were significantly tiny.
    I agree the turnout was surprisingly good, being only 8% down.

  • FDM

    I think there is an awful lot of discussion there desperately trying to find some trend in what is, when you remove the noise, a flat line.

    Mid Ulster was only interesting in that “Unionism” again presented a so-called unity candidate.

    I don’t even think this was as an attempt to win the seat, because they can’t win it.

    All that we can learn from Mid-Ulster is that electorially the status-quo pervades and that “Unionism” is once again seen for what it really is, which is a sectarian degenerate form of protestestant nationalism.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I have to agree with Gerry, Alliance’s decision to present a handful of extra votes as a 23% increase just patronizes the electorate. People aren’t stupid. The party should have just thanked Eric for holding the line and giving people a choice, and talked of the need to keep working to expand its appeal across NI.

    Lutton did better than I expected but it seems clear that while unity candidates with terrible media skills are able to pull together UUP/DUP/TUV votes, they’re not able to encourage any newer unionist voters out. But there’s still a problem for Mike Nesbitt. Now that he has gone down the unity candidate black hole, how can he refuse to support a unity candidate in the future when the stakes are higher, such as in North or East Belfast ?

    OneNI:

    When the DUP give him a free run in North Down at the next GE?

    They might. But Mike would lose against Sylvia. She’d make mincemeat of him. That all assumes the UUP actually exists and Mike still leads it in 2015.

  • I am surprised that there is little being said about the fact that with an 8% lower turnout the SDLP actually increased its vote by 3% or 652 votes, a greater increase than Lutton achieved.
    I do recognise that McGlone has a high local profile and is generally well thought of.
    For me the questions are how many of those 3600 who didn’t vote since 2010 are nationalist voters? Did lutton manage to increase the turnout amongst unionist voters? (Yes as a percentage but not in actual terms surely?) and is there a residual nationalist electorate sympathetic to the dissident viewpoint who didn’t vote?

  • Mick Fealty

    Gerry,

    “a surprising number of Unionists, wrongly, seem to have thought a joint Unionist candidate could win.”

    One, I think this is #fleg related. There was not a pup’s chance in hell of a unionist taking that seat. And any unionist voter who thought there was needs to take a long rest and a lie down.

    Unity worked because the narrative was ‘we’re under attack, circle the wagons’ worked. Again I do agree we should not draw too much from so little but nicking 1% (where did the other 1% go?) of the vote share from Francie Molloy will not go unremarked upon in Orange Halls, not just in MU but in any other places where unionism is under stress.

    Two, I’d add to your analysis of Francie running from a ‘square go’ with Patsy on the TV and say that this is was not an election to Westminster, this was a combined retirement do and party fundraiser for SF. Not a great motivator. Though I note both Francie and Martin were on GMU blaming the media (whom they blatantly ignored) for not advertising it as a closer match than it actually was.

    Three, the SDLP rise of 3% is mildly disappointing. But it can take some comfort that it’s the only big party that actually put on votes rather than lost them (which even the Unity candidate did) in an election where the candidate was getting squeezed to buggery.

    This should be considered in the light of the fact that SF actually ran four candidates last time out and nearly lost Francie Molloy whose home base has been slowly wasting away under him (which is another reason why he’s been put out to grass).

    Putting things back to the way they were in 2007, is a pretty modest achievement for SDLP. But compare three per cent to up to three per cent down? Feel the difference? To a starving man that’s a timely reassurance that your leader’s tactics of shutting up and get on with renovating the machinery is having some effect.

    For a slow, sustainable comeback it may even suit party managers to undershoot targets than overshoot them.

    Take that squeeze out of the picture, and insert STV where cross party voting is more in evidence and a brand new SF MLA trying to revitalise the party in Coalisland post Francie and there could be some interesting play there 2 or 3 years hence.

    Certainly Francie’s election leaflet spent as much time selling party colleagues as it did Francie himself…

    Interesting times…

  • “I have to agree with Gerry, Alliance’s decision to present a handful of extra votes as a 23% increase just patronizes the electorate. People aren’t stupid. The party should have just thanked Eric for holding the line”

    CS, I listened to the candidates’ comments on Sky [via broadband] after the results were announced. Eric made the 23% claim; it was a joke 🙂

    How can patronize be the right word? Any feeling of superiority based on a 1% share of the vote is definitely misplaced 🙂

  • GEF

    “I do recognise that McGlone has a high local profile and is generally well thought of.”

    Exactly, Patsy McGlone (SDLP) 6,478 (17.41%, +3.15%)
    What would be more sensible in 2015 is to stand no Unionist candidates at all.

    Then the Unionist electorate could vote for SDLP. At least SF would be voted out of office and the SDLP candidate would earn his salary by taking his seat in the House of Commons to represent all the citizens of Mid Ulster.

  • Bye-elections are, putting the best gloss on it, mildly interesting. Something like an opinion poll – a momentary snapshot. What really counts is a general election. Not usually in N.I. of course. What would really count is a hung Parliament with N.I. MPs holding the balance, especially if S.F. bit the bullet and actually took their seats. That would be just another small step since they did away with their total abstentionist stance and moved from that to sitting on councils, the the Dail and now, of course, not only taking seats at Stormont but participating enthusiastically in governing (well, redistibuting British largesse).

  • Gerry – peril of changing the post title late at night – fixed.

  • “nicking 1% (where did the other 1% go?) of the vote share from Francie Molloy”

    Very witty, Mick 🙂

    Unicorn watchers might be interested in the correlation between stated religious affiliation and the unionist nationalist share. According to the ARK site it’s roughly Catholics 63%, Protestants 31% and Others 6%. cf Nationalists 64%, Unionists 34% and Others 1%. This would suggest that religious affiliation is a much superior indicator of voting intention than the figures produced in polls and NILT surveys.

    An SDLP dip is matched by a SF rise and vice-versa. Perhaps this can be put down to the public profile of the SDLP candidate(s).

    The steady decline in voter turnout could be partly due to a reduction in voter fraud and partly due to voter pessimism about the ability of politicians and politics to improve voters’ circumstances.

  • Nevin,
    “This would suggest that religious affiliation is a much superior indicator of voting intention than the figures produced in polls and NILT surveys.”
    Precisely the point of my blog 🙂 🙂

  • Bangordub, I don’t think voters are much influenced by charm offensives either by leaders of unionism or by leaders of nationalism; they probably apply the duck test 🙂

    As NI is in the UK, despite the input from Dublin, the war of attrition will continue to be waged by nationalists against unionists. In Mid Ulster the unity candidate provided a little bit of a comfort blanket for unionists but little else; the 34% looks a little bit better for them than, say, three 10% figures.

  • mjh

    A few by-election results are important because they influence voters’ perceptions of a party. They impact on a party’s credibility and momentum, or they play into a more general impression about the performance of a government or opposition.

    Mid Ulster is not one of those. The changes in party fortunes were just too small to make an impact on voters.

    However that does not mean that it is without political impact on party supporters, activists and leaders. In this respect Mid Ulster is important.

    SDLP supporters and activists will take heart from their increased share. The leaders will bang the drum inside the party. It will be great for party moral. And that could possibly impact positively on the party’s future performance. Which is all that matters politically.

    Paradoxically the reality is more banal. Martin McG’s personal vote can be seen in the transfers in the last Assembly Election. This shows that 1460 people voted him No 1 and then went SDLP No 2. 6.9% of SF’s total vote.

    If you subtract 6.9% of SF’s 2010 Westminster vote and add it to SDLP you get:
    SF 19,765
    SDLP 7,300

    Yesterday the actual SF vote was down 11.7% on that figure and the SDLP 11.3%. Neither drop is remarkable in a by election. But equally there is no strong evidence that the SDLP is eating back into SF. Or that SF is suffering from disaffection from dissident sympathisers.

    The increase in the Alliance share was roughly in line with that suggested by the three opinion polls in the last eight months.

    But the real winner is Mike Nesbitt, who had staked much on this by election. While N/R turnout was down 11.5% , Unionist dropped only 5.5%.

    1. This will quell any remaining doubts among UUP members on the wisdom of agreed Unionist candidates, and improve Nesbitt’s standing within the party. (Try imagining what would have happened if instead of a turnout 6 points better than the N/R, Unionists had been 6 points worse.)

    2. The momentum within Unionism for more unity agreements will now be almost unstoppable.
    a. It will be hard for the DUP to run a second candidate for Europe, which could have threatened the UUP seat.
    b. Nesbitt will have his shopping list for an agreement to share out Westminster candidates between the two parties. I expect it to include Belfast S, F&ST, N Down, S. Down and Strangford.

    3. There is no evidence for a Basil and John effect, either in Unionist abstentions or in the Alliance vote.

  • Greenflag

    So 24% of the electorate vote for a representative not to represent them at Westminster and also not to represent the other 76% of the electorate ?

    Can’t see any winners here .

  • “Had there not been a unionist unity candidate the SDLP might have hoped to pick up some small-u unionist votes, as they do in South Down for example. But most of the electoral evidence suggests that a section of the SDLP’s core vote will simply ‘lend’ their votes to Sinn Fein on this occasion—sending a not particularly subtle message to unionists that they don’t like this sort of sectarian headcount.” .. Alex Kane, Lucid Talk March 5, 2013

    Hmm. South Down is held by an SDLP MP, not a SF one, so that sets it apart from Mid-Ulster.

    The election result and the ‘sectarian headcount’ pretty well coincide in this result. I wouldn’t say that SF have ‘lent’ votes to the SDLP, rather that the SDLP, on this occasion, have chosen a candidate with a much higher public profile.

  • BarneyT

    I’ve seen claims in several quarters stating that SF ran away from the TV debate, however is it not more accurate to state that Lutton pulled out initially and SF withdrew as a consequence?

  • Viridiplantae

    FDM

    All that we can learn from Mid-Ulster is that electorially the status-quo pervades and that “Unionism” is once again seen for what it really is, which is a sectarian degenerate form of protestestant nationalism.

    I don’t see how you can draw that conclusion from two parties with scarcely any policy difference choosing one candidate to represent both.

    On the other hand that more than half of Catholics support the union and yet cannot bring themselves to vote for a Prod unionist candidate or even the Prod / Catholic / immigrant mixed, union ambivalent, Alliance party or Greens, it would seem that the shoe would much more easily fit the other way around, that the SDLP and Sinn Fein combined vote (if not the politicians necessarily) represents “a sectarian degenerate form of Catholic nationalism”. It certainly doesn’t represent those who support a united Ireland any more, if it ever did, while at least it is the case that 96% of Protestants really do support the union and virtually everyone who votes for a unionist party supports the union. In terms of assembly designations compared to voting intentions “nationalist” is a misnomer while “unionist” is not. If we were honest and accurate “nationalist” in the Assembly should really be relabelled “cultural Catholic” or “pro-Gael”, while “unionist” would only be inaccurate in the sense that it does not include all the unionists, even if everyone it does include is a unionist, but that’s hardly their fault that others mislabel themselves.

    A unionist voter can therefore say that they chose, as they would in Scotland, to vote, partly or wholly, on the constitutional question and don’t care about religion or the religion of the candidate. A pro-union or union ambivalent Catholic who not only passes over voting for a unionist party but also passes over the Alliance party to vote SDLP or Sinn Fein has no such cover that they are not being sectarian, in terms of choosing a candidate on the basis of religion or in terms of choosing a party on the basis that they will be pro-Catholics and anti-Protestants in policy or governance. Otherwise what are they voting for? A pro-Gaelic descent party? Is voting on the basis of race better than voting on the basis of religion? If anything it’s more dodgy, at least religion represents changeable beliefs.

    It is also the case that the Unionist vote is almost 20% higher than the Protestant proportion of the population while the Nationalist vote is almost identical to the Catholic proportion of the population. A much larger proportion of the unionist vote is irreligious than the nationalist vote, and a lot more of the votes of those who say they have no religion go to unionist parties than go to nationalist parties. Obviously this is largely because those who say they are non-religious are much more likely to have a unionist / British background but it still counters the concept that the unionist vote is somehow more of a sectarian entity than the nationalist vote.

    Of course sectarianism exists on both sides, and arguably unionist politicians are more likely to talk about the “Protestant people” than nationalist politicians are to talk about the “Catholic people” but actions speak loader than words. Half of nationalists are clearly voting for a candidate or a party merely because the candidate is Catholic or the party represents the interests of the “Catholic people”. Unionists may vote on such grounds too but none of them are voting merely on those grounds, never mind half of them.

  • FDM

    @Viridiplantae

    “more than half of Catholics support the union”

    I will concede that point completely if you can point me to ANY election in Ireland in the last 100 years where Catholics have voted pro-union. Off you go.

    “It is also the case that the Unionist vote is almost 20% higher than the Protestant proportion of the population while the Nationalist vote is almost identical to the Catholic proportion of the population”.

    So being scientific and all that. The nationalist vote holds its percentages. Unionist vote is Protestant population plus 20%. That is what you have said there.
    Now in that constituency I think Protestants and Catholics make up 90% plus of the population. So where did this extra 20% come from? Is it like on the telly when a football player says “I gave 120% out there on the pitch today”. Or like Brian Fantana in Anchorman when he says “60% of the time, it works every time.”

    The main point is all of your arguments are based on your initial false premise. You claim 50% of an electoral Catholic support for the union but can’t, by your own admission, evidence for any of them in any election anywhere. You can’t count on them seemingly?

    My premise however is this. Lets say for sake of argument that you were correct. Lets say 50% of Catholics supported the Union.

    Why do they not vote for the union? So out of that 50% NONE of them can actually find it in their hearts to place an ‘x’ beside DUP, UUP, TUV, Alliance, Green or Indie Unionists ALL because of religious bigotry? ALL of them? You think that? Really?

    Or is it that they see through all the “Unionist” guff and really understand that what these parties [at least the first 3 in the list] are about is about maintaining a sectarian protestant hegemony in this region.

    Robos outreach speech at the party conference was shown in all its laughable glory by his reaction to the #fleg dispute. Political nihilism. As long as protestant supremacy reigns the world can burn, literally.

    “Of course sectarianism exists on both sides, and arguably unionist politicians are more likely to talk about the ‘Protestant people'”

    And the other phrases “our people”, slogans like W.A.T.P., “We Are The People” are endemic to the PUL community. Where are the equivalents in the CNR?

    Catholics don’t vote “protestant nationalist”. Thats what the DUP, TUV, UUP, PUP and Indies are. They will not pick up Catholic voters. They never have and never will.

    I agree that there probably are Catholics that at the present time are in favour or maintaining a stable economic link to the UK in the present financial crisis. But given we aren’t going to vote for a UI tomorrow then they can vote SDLP and get similar politics as Alliance. Patsy had a good footprint in nationalist areas so probably mopped-up these votes quite easily. APNI simply can’t say they have the same base in CNR areas, hence no votes.

  • There’s not a lot to say here, and most of it has already been said. In particular I largely (and unusually) agree with Framer and mjh, and also (as is more usual) with Gerry.

    A minor point, Alan – your percentages are a shade down on mine. I think you are dividing by total vote rather than total valid vote.

    One wider point, though: while the case for Unionist unity candidates has certainly received a boost, it’s not clear to me that the UUP has strong grounds to demand more than a very few of those joint candidacies. Mike N may well ask for the Westminster nod in Belfast S, F&ST, N Down, S. Down and Strangford; the last of these is actually held by the DUP at the moment, and the DUP were ahead of the UUP in the Assembly election in all of the other four.

  • sonofstrongbow

    Indeed Alliance do not have much of a “base” in nationalist areas.

    That leaves ‘unionist’ areas the source for the cross-community vote. Which rather reinforces the position voiced by Viridiplantae.

  • FDM

    @sonofstrongbow

    “Indeed Alliance do not have much of a “base” in nationalist areas.”

    No they don’t because people can vote SDLP instead and have pretty much the same policies and also have the stated preference of favouring a UI.

    “That leaves ‘unionist’ areas the source for the cross-community vote.”

    What is a Unionist area? Didn’t VP say that he believed that 50% of catholics were unionists? That would mean that Unionist areas would include Catholic neighbourhoods as well.

    You have proved my point by mixing up your words.

    When YOU say Unionist you actually mean Protestant.

    In eight words there I have described why “Unionist” parties don’t attract Catholic voters.

    DC gave the game away here…

    http://sluggerotoole.com/2013/03/02/nobody-has-the-right-to-use-lamp-posts-telegraph-poles-like-a-dog-marking-out-territory-apc13/

    when he said the following…

    “Alliance is constitutionally unionist but absolutely not culturally unionist in any way at all. A faceless sort of unionism, a unionism without any heart or soul or passion, perhaps it’s actually a kind of 21st century big house unionism.”

    What in the Lords name does “culturally unionist” mean? Come on now we all know what it means. Orange order, parades, flegs, home-comings, protestant supremacism, Ulster Banner over Windsor Park, GSTQ droning out on every occassion possible yadda, yadda, yadda.

    Thats really attractive stuff for Patrick.

  • sonofstrongbow

    Not for the first time FDM illustrates that he is unable to get past his own sectarian mindset. He tells others what they mean, sees what he wants to see, all to allow him a conclusion that suits his fixed argument: ‘CNR’ on the side of the angels; ‘PUL’ the Devil’s spawn.

    His bigoted worldview is seemingly so ingrained that he is completely unaware when he deploys sectarian arguments to, ahem, attack sectarianism.

    He reminds me of someone playing that old arcade game with the pop-up targets and the mallet. Soon as someone he perceives as a Protestant pops up he instinctively swings the mallet and we are treated to another repeat of his single transferable argument.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Alan, a quick footnote, the 91% was the record Bi-election turnout I beleive, being beat only by FST in a GE, however I think neither votes would stand up to much scrutiny! The stories I hear from that era are mind blowing, with both side equally at it, how we never hit 110% turnout I dont know, certainly an Undertaker would have been useful in those days!

    The other thing to note is less than 30% of the constituency is original, comparing apples and pears it has changed that much, the inclusion of 95% nationalist Coalsiland certainly made a difference.

  • ForkHandles

    “Exactly, Patsy McGlone (SDLP) 6,478 (17.41%, +3.15%)
    What would be more sensible in 2015 is to stand no Unionist candidates at all. ”

    That’s an interesting idea. I assume you mean that unionist and sdlp people would vote for the sdlp candidate and would get him elected. Has that sort of agreement ever been done in NI in an official way?
    The other half of the agreement would be for the sdlp to stand down somewhere else and get their voters to vote for the unionist candidate.
    That would be a win win win. sdlp and a unionist party would get elected and the people would be able to get rid of a few mad chuckies 🙂

  • vanhelsing

    “Alliance will also be pleased with their modest – yet perhaps, sustainable – increase in the percentage vote from 1.0% in 2010 Westminster to 1.3% this year.”

    In credible – if this is the best Alliance can do in terms of spin – they need Alistair Campbell to help them:)

  • Viridiplantae

    Nevin

    Unicorn watchers might be interested in the correlation between stated religious affiliation and the unionist nationalist share. According to the ARK site it’s roughly Catholics 63%, Protestants 31% and Others 6%. cf Nationalists 64%, Unionists 34% and Others 1%. This would suggest that religious affiliation is a much superior indicator of voting intention than the figures produced in polls and NILT surveys.

    The NILT survey does not measure voting intentions but rather asks which party most represents a person’s views, concerning itself with the total population and not just the 55% of it who turn up at polling stations.

    The days of using religion or religion brought up in as a simple proxy for political party support are well and truly over as at the 2011 census. They can be used for well informed guesswork after making adjustments but no longer as a simple direct proxy. Here’s why.

    In 2001 Nationalists had about 42% of the vote share and the population was 43.5% Catholic or brought up Catholic, while Unionists had about 51% of the vote share and the population was 53% Protestant or brought up Protestant.

    So in 2001
    The Nationalist vote share was 97% of the Catholic or brought up Catholic proportion of the population.
    The Unionist vote share was 96% of the Protestant or brought up Protestant proportion of the population.

    A very good proxy, once you allow for the fact of roughly equal amounts of people from both sides of the religious divide voting for Alliance etc. It has always been a good proxy in the past as well but that this changed dramatically at the 2011 census.

    In 2011 Nationalists had about 42% of the vote share and the population was 45% Catholic or brought up Catholic, while Unionists had about 49.5% of the vote share and the population was 48% Protestant or brought up Protestant.

    So in 2011
    The Nationalist vote share was 93% of the Catholic or brought up Catholic proportion of the population.
    The Unionist vote share was 103% of the Protestant or brought up Protestant proportion of the population.

    The divergence is even more visible when you use religion rather than the “we’ll assign you to a religion whether you like it or not” measure of religion or religion brought up in. Since the former is effectively bounded by the latter we can expect the divergence to continue and the 2021 census to be an even worse proxy for the unionist / nationalist vote share split than the 2011 census was.

    Reasons for the divergence.

    A) About 5% of people who were Catholic or brought up Catholic in 2011 were post 2001 immigrants who don’t speak English as their main language (or their offspring). In reality the 45% Catholic or brought up Catholic figure was actually 43% if we are trying to get a proxy for “descendants of Gaels” as used in the past and that’s what the ballot boxes have confirmed. The Polish / Lithuanian / Portuguese etc. Catholic or brought up Catholics who represent 2% of the total population either don’t vote, vote for Alliance, Greens etc. or are as likely to vote Unionist as Nationalist, or some combination of those three things that makes them neutral to the overall result. OK, in Westminster elections most of them actually can’t vote because they have not acquired British or Irish citizenship, but in that case the same comments apply, they are neutral to the overall result, even though they bump up the Catholic figure by about 2 percentage points in the average constituency.

    B) The secularisation process and it’s lopsidedness. Unionists presently get nearly 50% of the vote share from a population that is 42% Protestant (41% probably if Orthodox Christians were properly excluded) while Nationalists get 42% of the vote share from a population that is 41% Catholic. Yes, exclusion of under 18s from voting is part of those figures but by far the more important part of the explanation (about 80% of it) is differential secularisation.

  • Submariner

    “I don’t see how you can draw that conclusion from two parties with scarcely any policy difference choosing one candidate to represent both.”

    If your assumption that an agreed unionist candidate was due to little or no policy difference between the parties rather than the old unionist tactic of trying to keep the taigs out then it begs the question why is there not only one unionist party.

  • Comrade Stalin

    FDM:

    I will concede that point completely if you can point me to ANY election in Ireland in the last 100 years where Catholics have voted pro-union. Off you go.

    The crucial mistake is the assumption that Catholics (whatever the word “Catholic” means these days, because it increasingly does not refer to someone who regularly attends Mass) who vote for the SDLP or SF are likely to consistently vote for reunification in the event of a border poll.

    It would silly to pretend that huge numbers of Catholics are pro-union. But it would be equally silly for nationalists to count 100% of them for reunification – or even 90%.

  • Greenflag

    FDM ,

    ‘I agree that there probably are Catholics that at the present time are in favour or maintaining a stable economic link to the UK in the present financial crisis.’

    Full marks for the blee—-ing obvious .

    The broad nationalist /republican community in Northern Ireland have no problem distinguishing the ‘Union ‘ per se from political unionism as represented by local ‘unionist ‘ parties .The former they can live with or without if push ever comes to shove .The latter they simply don’t trust for reasons already alluded to above and for historical political reasons also . This state of affairs seems to suit ‘political ‘ unionism just fine -for now . Longer term it’s a losing hand .

  • mjh

    Nicholas Whyte says:
    “One wider point, though: while the case for Unionist unity candidates has certainly received a boost, it’s not clear to me that the UUP has strong grounds to demand more than a very few of those joint candidacies. Mike N may well ask for the Westminster nod in Belfast S, F&ST, N Down, S. Down and Strangford; the last of these is actually held by the DUP at the moment, and the DUP were ahead of the UUP in the Assembly election in all of the other four.”

    I entirely take your point Nicholas, but Mike Nesbitt will not be negotiating for these seats on the basis of a stronger vote in the Assembly Elections. On that basis the UUP would only get a free run in Newry and Armagh, with the DUP having everywhere else.

    I reckon Nesbitt’s position to Robinson will be:

    1. You want to retain North Belfast and regain East Belfast – we can help you to achieve those two.

    2. The Unionist electorate has shown it wants a united front, and we will make it very clear to unionists that the UUP wants that too. You don’t want to be seen to frustrate this.

    3. We cannot do this deal delivering you two seats unless
    a. we get at least one guaranteed win out of it. Therefore we want Strangford, where your man is of an age to retire.
    b. We get a minimum number of seats to fight. (He will ask for 9, but would almost certainly have to settle for fewer – provided they included Belfast S, F&ST and N Down, and probably N & Armagh and S Down.

  • Framer

    Aside from South Belfast and FST, I don’t see there being Agreed Unionists like Nigel Lutton elsewhere.
    What might happen in a number of trickier constituencies is that one or other party might stand aside, like SF did in S. Belfast in 2010.
    We are talking here about Westminster seats which don’t really effect the UUP/DUP divide locally, yet.
    The UUP’s need is to get a couple at least, one way or the other. North Down is Lady Hermon’s for life so it doesn’t count
    The DUP won’t release Strangford or Upper Bann so they will be fought over.
    The UUP have good potential candidates there and in South Antrim while East Belfast has to be a cooperative effort.
    All in all, the world has changed. It may be the somnolent 1950s once again but in an ethnic dispute – which London and Dublin say is all there is politically for us – you start by maximising your support.
    Liberal Unionists have a place as long as they don’t encourage or agree to deracination as the McUnionists have done in the flag and Mid-Ulster issue.

  • OK, OK. I realise you guys need a bone to fight over. Just get on with it. But don’t destroy the evidence.

    Here’s Alan in Belfast bewailing turn-out. Oh, yes, that’s straight out of the MSM, e.g. the ever-reliable BelTel:

    A lower turnout – down from 63.23% in 2010 to 55.38% – and the emergence of a unified unionist candidate were undoubted factors in the reduction.

    Trebles all round?

    Well, we’ve had a good run on by-election in this parliament, so far. Let’s consider turn-out (and I’ll accept corrections):
    Oldham E 48%
    Belfast W 37.4%
    Barnsley C 37%
    Leicester S 43.9%
    Inverclyde 45.4%
    Feltham & Heston 28.7%
    Bradford W 50.8%
    Corby 44.8%
    Croydon N 26.4%
    Middlesbrough 25.9%
    Cardiff S 60.2%
    Manchester C 44.8%
    Rotherham 33.8%
    Eastleigh 52.7%
    Mid-Ulster 55.4%

    Err … notice anything, anyone?

  • Charles_Gould

    mjh

    I don’t think strangford makes sense….the concept of cooperation only makes sense in seats where there is a low unionist-voting electorate. The deal might then involve N Belfast and FST but not places like N Down or Strangford where greater choice makes sense.

  • Charles_Gould,
    Agree with you on those constituencies but consider the wider picture. The majority of elections are PR, not FPP. Unity candidates only make sense in FPP elections. ie: Westminster. TV Mike is making a huge strategic mistake in throwing his hat into one circus ring only

  • Charles_Gould

    A unity candidate may make sense in WB in the STV Assembly election, if it encourages turnout and prevents leakage of transfers.

  • Charles_Gould

    I think the justification for unity candidates is to argue that there is a much larger political difference between a republican and unionist candidate than there is between two unionist candidates. If this is the case then in constituencies with relatively few unionist voters then a single candidate helps the unionist elecorate to return a unionist. In constituencies where there is no risk to whether or not a unionist candidate gets returned then more choice helps the electorate determine which brand of unionism has the greater influence. It seems in a sense perfectly rational.

  • Charlie Sheens PR guru

    “A unity candidate may make sense in WB in the STV Assembly election, if it encourages turnout and prevents leakage of transfers.”

    Charles Gould, let’s just say you’re right and the unity candidate does prevent enough transfer leakage etc.. to return a candidate. It seems a unionist obsession to eak out every last vote from the process to completely miss the politics. Its extremely naive to lecture the local unionist electorate on candidates considering an STV election gives them the right to vote 2nd, 3rd or not at all as they see fit. This eternal obsession with unity and pacts etc.. looks bad and ultimately results in a circling of the wagons that means that unionists end up effectively shoring up a smaller portion of the electorate. If unionists are currently getting 11.7% in WB, a unity candidate may shore up 11% for example.

    If it was actually good politics, nationalists would have done it by now in say, Strangford. But its not.

  • mjh

    “@markdevenport via Twitter
    On Inside Politics 6.05pm @mikenesbittni calls on the DUP to make it clear they will only run one candidate in European election”

    There now. That didn’t take long, did it?

  • FDM

    @Viridiplantae

    So you are correct that in a one hundred year time frame you can’t point to a single election result where Catholics voted for the union?

    Why not just concede the point rather than kill us with paragraph after paragraph over tangential disingenuous BS? Ego hit?

    @Comrade Stalin

    “The crucial mistake is the assumption that Catholics who vote for the SDLP or SF are likely to consistently vote for reunification in the event of a border poll.”

    I think people who vote SF will vote UI in a heartbeat. However I am quite happily looking forward to a sustained period of nationalist led politics in the North
    prior to a UI transition.

    “It would silly to pretend that huge numbers of Catholics are pro-union”

    Come on now thats altogether too critical of Nevin, Viridiplantae, sonofcider, DC and the rest of the protestant nationalist monologue on slugger. They are not stupid for holding views they can’t substantiate from any election in Irelands history. They aren’t waving, they are drowning. The intellectual equivalent of clinging to a flaccid rubber dinghy. “There was this survey”, “twelve guys in bar said…”

    @Greenflag

    “Full marks for the blee—-ing obvious .”
    And yet when do they concede the obvious on here?
    It is like any teaching, you have to say it ten times before it goes in.

    @sonofcider

    You do realise the object of football is actually to play the ball occassionally? You are fast becoming the slugger equivalent of Norman Bite-Your-Legs Hunter. Not a footballer at all really.

  • Charles_Gould

    Charlie Sheen PR

    I think you make a good point. It is good for there to be competition and good to offer unionists a choice.

    I have always been against pacts myself.

    I however can see the case in some limited circumstances. It depends a lot on whether you think there is a greater need for choice or a greater need for representation. Unionist voters, West of the Bann, apparently have called for less choice and more representation.

    And in West Belfast it would be good to have representation for a rather deprived community there.

  • Viridiplantae

    FDM

    So you are correct that in a one hundred year time frame you can’t point to a single election result where Catholics voted for the union?

    Why not just concede the point rather than kill us with paragraph after paragraph over tangential disingenuous BS? Ego hit?

    What point? I have never stated that a majority of Catholics have ever voted for the union in the last 100 years if that’s the strawman you want me to attack.

    If you believe that Queen’s University, University of Ulster, Ipsos-Mori and the various other polling organisations for the BelTel and others over the years are all infiltrated by MI5 to fake their results or some such then it is you that is making the extraordinary claim and so you need to produce extraordinary evidence, not me. Or do you want me to parrot off half a dozen polls that you’ve probably all already seen? Are you pretending you haven’t seen them?

    The only election in the past 100 years in which any Catholics have ever voted for the union was the one that took place on 8 March 1973. It is also the only election in the past 100 years in which Catholics have voted for a united Ireland. Less than 6,463 did so. As to whether more Catholics voted for or against the union on that day nobody knows and nobody ever will.

  • FDM

    @Viridiplantae

    The only election in the past 100 years in which any Catholics have ever voted for the union was the one that took place on 8 March 1973.”

    Errm that would be a referendum, not an election.

    It was also boycotted across the board by nationalists. Hence the neglible turn out by such.

    I understand that Saddam Hussein got 100% of the vote his last electoral outing.

  • Viridiplantae

    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/election

    election [ɪˈlɛkʃən]
    n
    1. (Law / Parliamentary Procedure) the selection by vote of a person or persons from among candidates for a position, esp a political office
    2. a public vote on an official proposition
    3. the act or an instance of choosing
    4. (Christianity / Protestantism) Christianity
    a. the doctrine of Calvin that God chooses certain individuals for salvation without reference to their faith or works
    b. the doctrine of Arminius and others that God chooses for salvation those who, by grace, persevere in faith and works

  • FDM

    @Viridiplantae

    WHO was elected then?

  • Charles_Gould

    In broad terms the word election means “choice”. A referendum is where people elect as between propositions (rather than persons or parties)

    I elected to post this contrubition, though I have also elected not to add any further contriubutions to it.

  • “Come on now thats altogether too critical of Nevin .. The intellectual equivalent of clinging to a flaccid rubber dinghy. “There was this survey”” .. FDM

    Oh, dear. F stands for flaccid, I suppose? Just the other day I was accused of misremembering when what I had done was linked to some material on NALIL and Scribd that was a cut and paste of official minutes and official responses to queries ie remembering didn’t come into it.

    Had three donkeys been candidates in the Mid-Ulster election we could have deduced that the one with the Irish tricolour would have picked up about 64% of the vote and that its owner was Catholic, that the one with the union flag would have picked up about 34% of the vote and that its owner was Protestant, and that the one with no flag would hardly have been noticed by about 99% of the voters.

  • mjh

    Charles_Gould: @10:42 pm
    mjh
    I don’t think strangford makes sense….the concept of cooperation only makes sense in seats where there is a low unionist-voting electorate. The deal might then involve N Belfast and FST but not places like N Down or Strangford where greater choice makes sense.

    I would agree with your point, Charles, if Nesbitt’s objective was simply to optimise the number of Unionist wins and minimise the number of Nationalist or Republican wins.

    But if that were the objective there would have been no point in putting up an agreed candidate in Mid Ulster, which Unionists never had the faintest chance of winning. Nor would there be any point in Nesbitt attempting to get the DUP to commit to running only one candidate for Europe, since there is no way that SF and the SDLP between them can win two seats in 2014 whether or not there is a second DUP candidate.

    But a second DUP candidate could take the seat off the UUP.

    And that is what agreed or unity candidates are about for Nesbitt. Saving the UUP.

    I believe that his objectives are;
    1. Safeguard the UUP’s Euro seat
    2. Get the UUP back into Westminster with at least one seat in 2015, with the prospects of more in 2020 if they are not won in 2015.
    3. Safeguard UUP Assembly seats by ensuring continued high transferring from DUP, on which many of his seats depend, and (if possible) restricting the number of DUP candidates to prevent losses to the DUP.
    4. He will have a similar objective for Council seats. Here with new councils and new District Electoral Areas an agreement on the number of candidates with the DUP would be especially helpful to him.

    While many believe that Nesbitt has been floundering around haplessly ever since he was elected I suggest that, after a few months of indecision and a flirtation with Basil McCrea’s concept of a more liberal UUP, he decided last summer that these were the objectives he must pursue and has followed a totally consistent strategy ever since.

    There are a number of reasons why he would want to have Strangford as one of the agreed Westminster free runs for the UUP:
    • He must have a safe majority unionist seat allocated to the UUP in order to ensure objective 2.
    • Realistically this will need to be one where the sitting DUP MP may be retiring at the next election.
    • Strangford is the seat which most at risk of a straight loss from the UUP to Basil and John’s new party. The Westminster and Assembly elections are due to be on the same day in 2015. It might help the UUP to fend the new party off if it is also fighting the Westminster seat to win. And would give the UUP a better position to fight to regain that Assembly seat if it were to lose it.
    • I don’t know if Mike fancies being an MP. If he did that could be another reason for wanting Strangford (and possibly an even better one for Robinson not to concede it.)

  • Comrade Stalin

    FDM, I agree that it is wise to be careful about opinion polls, but arguably elections here are effectively super opinion polls on the constitutional issue – people voting for SF or the SDLP at the moment are not actually voting for reunification in a referendum, and hence you might find out that there is a mismatch.

    I would imagine that for a small number of nationalists there will be a “cold light of day” effect when they find themselves in the polling booth with the slip of paper in front of them that will end a century of partition. Some of those nationalists will be civil servants or people who rely on the public sector; others will be businessmen/women concerned with losing their connection to the pound. Such people may well have utterly stupid and vacuous reasons for voting for the union, but they will nonetheless do so. As such I reckon a referendum on the border right now would be around 60% in favour of retaining the union.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Regarding Nesbitt and so on, I had assumed that the DUP and UUP had already agreed that the DUP would run only one candidate in the Euro elections.

    Mike’s apparent question to Robinson in public to clarify this issue proves this to be incorrect and suggests that no formal agreement exists. My first reaction to that is that it reveals that the man is a disaster at negotiating – a cannier operator would have extracted this commitment from the DUP long before a unity pact became public. It also reveals his frightened Mike is of a second DUP candidate and, rather stupidly, he is revealing his thinking and his fears in public which merely exposes a weakness that can be attacked.

    The DUP election boffins will have already done the maths here and my guess is that they probably ruled out the idea of of running a second candidate some time ago. But by allowing Nesbitt to believe that they are still seriously thinking about it they can wield significant control over him. Nesbitt is right to be afraid – the UUP are going to lose not only prestige but another source of income if they lose that seat. The only thing that could save him is the DUP’s risk averse nature when it comes to standing multiple candidates.

  • mjh

    “ My first reaction to that is that it reveals that the man is a disaster at negotiating – a cannier operator would have extracted this commitment from the DUP long before a unity pact became public”. – Comrade Stalin

    It pains me to be taking on the role of defending Mike Nesbitt as a political operator, but you may be overestimated the strength of Nesbitt’s negotiating position before the Mid Ulster election.

    At that point to progress his strategy Nesbitt had to get DUP agreement to an agreed candidate. If he had failed to do so his strategy could have been in tatters. The DUP on the other hand had no such pressing need to get an agreed candidate.

    Nesbitt could well have overplayed his hand had he insisted that a DUP concession on the Euros was a deal-breaker. The DUP could well have called his bluff.

    The result of the election has given him a better position from which to push for a DUP commitment to run only one candidate. And, in terms of negotiation tactics, he is absolute right to try and bounce the DUP into a commitment now, when it would cost the UUP nothing. Once the detailed negotiations on a Westminster seat carve up get under way the UUP would have to give the DUP something they want in order to get a Euro commitment.

  • Charles_Gould

    mjh what do you see as the best strategy for Basil and John? I think they would be wise not to be over-ambitious. Simply standing as a party in a few constituencies would seem enough at this stage -to test the water.

  • Comrade Stalin

    At that point to progress his strategy Nesbitt had to get DUP agreement to an agreed candidate. If he had failed to do so his strategy could have been in tatters. The DUP on the other hand had no such pressing need to get an agreed candidate.

    Interesting, but why are you so sure that the unity candidate idea was not the DUP’s one ? This whole unity thing serves the DUP by making the UUP seem to be redundant.

  • mjh

    Charles_Gould says:
    “what do you see as the best strategy for Basil and John?”

    That’s a bit of a stumper, Charles.

    You see I don’t see where their vote is coming from, well not in the numbers required to sustain a new party. By my calculations, based on the Assembly Elections, they would be likely to win just three seats, and one of those was East Londonderry. Now that McClarty is no longer with them that leaves just two, Lagan Valley and Strangford. If anything the Mid Ulster election suggest that Strangford might even be a stretch.

    They are both obviously men of high principle, unusually willing to put their beliefs before their political careers. But I would have expected them to have asked themselves the question you pose at least six months ago. However I see no evidence that they did. None of their actions immediately before or since leaving the UUP show any evidence of forward planning They give every impression of making it up as they go along. And this must be damaging their project.

    Personally I reckon that their best strategy now would be to negotiate with the Alliance Party. McCrea would be assured a seat if he got the Alliance nomination in Lagan Valley. And McCallister could try to win the nomination for Alliance Euro candidate. Slim though it would be, he would have more chance of winning a Euro seat for Alliance seat than retaining his Assembly seat in South Down.

    However, given that they are starting from here, what would be the best strategy for a new party? I don’t mean to sound facetious, but I would sum it up as “dig in and hope”. Unfortunately this is a very dull and unappealing strategy for members and also a very difficult one to sustain. Leaving aside the tactical details it would be:
    • Establish a clear and distinct identity which will continue to justify the existence of the party no matter how few votes it gets in any one set of elections
    • Set out a clear long-term political objective and why it is important
    • Develop a simple, compelling message and repeat it, and repeat it, and when everyone is getting bored find creative ways to repeat it again
    • Establish party structures and organisation capable of survival at times when there may be few people and little money
    • Acquire or develop guerrilla political skills – so that the party can punch above its weight
    • Specialise in identifying and exploiting your opponents weaknesses
    • Choose your issues and battles well. Concentrate on making a big impact on a very small number of issues. Avoid spreading yourself too thinly. Demonstrate concentrated strength in a restricted number of fields, rather than weakness in everything. Don’t attempt to be a two man opposition.
    • Manage expectations – potential members and supporters must understand that they are in for the very long haul. They must be prepared for disappointments – particularly to survive the disappointment of the first Assembly Elections
    • Dig deep roots in a few places, rather than shallow roots in many
    • Hope that something turns up which will offer the chance for growth

    As I said, nothing there to make the blood race. But if they are to avoid the fate of most new parties, I see little choice.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Alliance will not be nominating candidates who are not party members. Basil McCrea is more than welcome to become a member, of course.

    You have identified what’s quite a significant problem. The party still hasn’t got a name, and this reflects the fact that it is very hard to park an entirely new party in the gap between the UUP and Alliance.

  • mjh

    “why are you so sure that the unity candidate idea was not the DUP’s one ? This whole unity thing serves the DUP by making the UUP seem to be redundant.” – Comrade Stalin

    Unity candidates make both parties look equally redundant. Which is why I believe that Nesbitt is after a carve up of seats between the two parties.

    Clearly the DUP must have its own reasons for supporting a unity candidate in Mid Ulster. Showing UUP irrelevance is probably not one of them. After all they could have equally done that by standing against the UUP and defeating them soundly.

    Given the evidence of the vote it is likely that voter opinion was the most important factor. But equally it could suit the DUP to keep the negotiations going, rather than attempting to crush the UUP. The most important could be that they probably want agreement with the UUP on North and East Belfast.

    They may also want to take over the UUP slowly and gently so as minimise hard feelings and maximise the commitment from the new members. Or they may want to maintain the UUP as a junior partner, either because some factions in the DUP might not want to fully absorb the UUP influence into their own party, or because there might be an electoral advantage to unionism at some point from having two parties.

    Or they could simply be keeping their options open.

    But what is obvious is that Nesbitt has consistently, and with some skill, pursued this strategy since last summer. In the immediate term his need was greater than the DUP’s.

  • mjh

    Comrade, I did not mean to suggest that Alliance might nominate a non member as their Euro candidate, rather that the best option for McCallister now might be to join Alliance and seek nomination as their Euro candidate.

  • Charles_Gould

    CS: I think Alliance should really be targeting North Antrim as a constituency for growth. (Home area of the Alderdices!). It is demographically (in religious terms) similar to constituencies that Alliance do well in, but just a tad more rural. When they have had good personalities they have been able to get elected to council, but there seems not much effort to build for example on the current single councillor in Ballymena.

  • I’m surprised at the differences in the number of votes needed to get elected in Europe. For example, 75,000 German speaking Belgians have one representative, while Sardinia and Sicily have one seat for every 943,000 people.

  • Comrade Stalin

    MJH

    Unity candidates make both parties look equally redundant.

    I don’t see how you can say that both parties are on an equal footing. The DUP regards itself as the leading party of unionism and Robinson as “the leader of Unionism”. The candidate selected in mid Ulster was one close to the DUP, not the UUP.

    Which is why I believe that Nesbitt is after a carve up of seats between the two parties.

    Well, that’s about right. Nesbitt is conceding that he can’t beat the DUP at elections so he wants them to simply gift territory to him. He’s in for a shock, I suspect.

    Clearly the DUP must have its own reasons for supporting a unity candidate in Mid Ulster. Showing UUP irrelevance is probably not one of them.

    The DUP want to eliminate the UUP as a competitor and take complete control of unionism, so undermining the case for the UUP’s existence is crucial to their objectives. You won’t hear Robinson or anyone in the DUP saying that having two parties benefits unionism.

    The most important could be that they probably want agreement with the UUP on North and East Belfast.

    The UUP don’t have a choice as I see it. They know they cannot win these seats but if they run and the seats are lost to unionism they will take the blame. Now that they have set the precedent – twice – of standing aside in marginal constituencies how can they change tack ?

    But what is obvious is that Nesbitt has consistently, and with some skill, pursued this strategy since last summer. In the immediate term his need was greater than the DUP’s

    Sorry, I don’t see it. Robinson is clearly in control of Nesbitt and has been manipulating him all the way along. How else can you explain Nesbitt’s reversal on unionist unity ?

  • mjh

    Comrade, if I read you correctly you are not questioning the thesis that Nesbitt is now following a consistent strategy. But you are querying whether he is likely to have any success with it, which is a much more open question.

    You ask how I explain Nesbitt’s reversal on unionist unity. Quite simply I think he became convinced last summer that the UUP was continuing to lose support, and that the moment of truth could well come as early as the Euro elections if the DUP were to put up a second candidate. The loss of the UUP seat would send the party into a new, and probably steeper, downward spiral. He saw no prospect of gaining back the support that was drifting off to Alliance without increasing the loss of support that was drifting off to the DUP. He concluded that the electoral arithmetic and history both indicated that the DUP was a much greater and more immediate threat than Alliance and so decided to shore up his loyalist wing. Since then he has been totally consistent. He has left so little room between himself and Robinson on orange/green issues that you (or Robinson) could not slip the blade of a knife between them.

    I agree with you that the unionist electorate will blame anyone they see as responsible for the loss of North Belfast or the failure to regain East Belfast. But I don’t think it is reasonable to assume that they will automatically blame the UUP.

    Firstly, both the DUP and the UUP stood aside in the two examples to date. So both have set the precedent. Which means that the UUP do have a choice, if they can be seen to be the party that worked hardest to achieve agreement and the DUP the one that frustrated it.

    Secondly, I think it is rash to assume that the DUP would rather lose these two seats so that they could have the satisfaction of putting the boot into the UUP after the event.

    Those are the cards that Nesbitt has to play. Granted that his is the weaker hand, but I think we should recognise that he has played it well so far. And watching the rest of the game will be fascinating.

  • mr x

    I wonder how many Protestants voted for Devlin on the basis she was a non-sectarian breath of fresh air.