NI21 launch a diverse squad of 47 council candidates – will any get elected?

NI21 launched their council candidates in The MAC this morning.

ni21 and mark h durkanJust before 10am, a lost-looking Mark H Durkan walked through the MAC’s downstairs foyer. He hadn’t come to throw his lot behind Tina McKenzie, but was instead early for his appointment with Alex Attwood at the Electoral Office around the corner!

Chatting to NI21 candidates, it was clear that this was their first foray into politics. Most I spoke to were driven by a frustration and a desire for political change in Northern Ireland.

After a warm up by deputy leader John McCallister, leader Basil McCrea spoke for 15 minutes on the challenges ahead. He answered some questions that he suspected candidates would face on the doorstep.

Why does NI12 exist? … Because the other parties are utterly, utterly, useless.

ni21 council candidatesWhile in one breath he lauded the gather audience for being the “most impressive bunch of candidates” he’d seen in any party, he also warned that NI21 “will not sweep to victory”.

Covering 8 of the new councils, the vast majority are running east of the Bann. Declan Someone obviously didn’t make it through into the final list of 47 candidates!

Of the 47,  a third of NI21’s candidates are women (7 out of 13 in Belfast). They were also diverse in terms of age, occupation, disability, ethnic background. Both keen and perturbed by the next four weeks of campaigning and political activity, some seemed eager to get out and knock doors while others were more reluctant about that kind of campaigning.

Four candidates addressed the audience: Pete Wray (Lisnasharragh), Jayne Olorunda (Ormiston), Jonathan McCarthy (Lisburn North) and Eileen Chan-Hu (Botanic).

You can also listen to five Lisburn & Castlereagh candidates talking to me later: Colin McCord & Jonathan McCarthy (Lisburn North), Christina Dobson & Glenn Wilson (Downshire East), and Elizabeth McCord (Castlereagh South).

Euro candidate (and council candidate for Balmoral) Tina McKenzie also spoke.

ni21 council candidate launchIt is clear that organisationally running 47 candidates on top of a Euro candidate is a stretch for the party which is less than a year old. Candidates will spend time fundraising as well as canvassing for votes over coming weeks.

Few stand any realistic chance of winning a seat, though there could be some interesting races. Could David Honeyford and his twin appeal to GAA and rugby club votes in Killultagh squeeze into the last seat?

There is certainly a realism within NI21 that getting no council candidate’s elected is more than a mere possibility. But the party candidates hold a hope that the electorate – both those used to voting and those who are out of practice – will translate anecdotal support and opinion polling into results. We’ll know if they’re right in a month’s time

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  • IJP

    Congratulations to all those running.

    They are doing the most important thing you can do – participating in democracy. Sure, it’s imperfect, but it’s a lot better than what we had before.

    What is more they are doing what you are supposed to do – putting their views to the electorate and seeking support. There are others full of mouth who are not prepared to do that.

    My one word of advice is: enjoy it! It’s a privilege to participate. If you get elected, great; if you don’t, there’s always next time.

    If I may make one semi-partisan point – if hardline Unionists have a pact to transfer to each other (even to UKIP), Progressives should also make a point of transferring to each other in response. That is what I will be doing and advocating.

  • IJP

    (“Enjoy” was the one word, for pedants among you! 🙂 )

  • GoldenFleece

    It is encouraging to see so many youngsters running for election. I hope if NI21 doesn’t work out they will not abandon participating in some fashion in politics. Goodness knows we need different opinions to the stagnant old.

    I just can’t get around what they were thinking running 2 candidates in places. Did they do some private polling or something?

  • Golden Fleece – it both tests out candidates and as long as both aren’t eliminated first, it widens appeal (assuming the votes transfer between them)

  • GoldenFleece

    Yeah, the bold part is the problem Alan.

    Also running two candidates in a transfer election require some co-ordination. Does NI21 have the manpower and the money for this?

    Ah we’ll shall see in a month anyway.

  • Barnshee

    Should tie up with this lot

  • Drumlins Rock

    IJP, would I be right in saying most of their candidates are standing in areas where Alliance are also strongest? Not sure what that implies!

    Portadown and a third of Coleraine are the only areas geographically west of the Bann represented, 80% of candidates are with the Belfast Metropolitan areas.

    You are right it is good to see young people getting involved in politics, I hope they take the electorate but not themselves seriously! The reluctance to knock doors doesn’t suggest either, but we shall see!

  • IJP


    Sort of but not really. I cannot begin to think what the “strategy” is. For example Alliance’s strongest area, traditionally, is actually Carrickfergus where both Dickson and Neeson have stood down – yet there’s no NI21 candidate.

    Like I say, there’s not much point in speculating on here what will happen – we’ll find out soon enough. As you say, actually getting elected is hard work and involves some hard knocks (literally or otherwise). But if you put in the hard work, you never regret the outcome (and if you don’t get elected at least you’ve sure as hell earned the right to complain about those who do…!)

  • RyanAdams


    NI21 Candidates in Black Mountain & Collin where Alliance have abandoned. Won’t do Alliance any harm to have someone competing with them for the liberal unionist / centre ground votes. Lord knows the UUP hasn’t a shot in hell of attracting those votes.

  • Gopher

    Thankfully there is a candidate standing where I live sorry I can register my protest, though I’m disappointed that they could not find anyone to stand for them in Derry.

  • Floreat Ultonia

    Thanks Alan. I’m interested both as a NI exile and as a Green activist in urban England.

    As an illustration: my local Council is similarly sized to Belfast, at least before expansion. We founded only in 2009 and since 2012 have contested every seat (a third of the Council is elected each year). As others say above, it’s down to newsletters, door knocking and the casework that follows.

    @Ryan- weren’t there husband and wife Alliance councillors in Upper Falls back in the day?

  • RyanAdams

    Floreat Ultonia,

    Yes there were – Last elected in 1985. They haven’t got a deposit back since then. Admittedly not likely an area for an NI21/Alliance gain but I’d be reasonably sure someone will challenge SF/SDLP and get elected sooner rather than later, be it at council or assembly level.

  • Charles_Gould

    SDLP hope to win gains in West Belfast, where the monopoly of SF is causing that party to rest too hard on its laurels.

  • there is no #freshpolitics
    if Tina wants to double job,
    in Balmoral and Europe

    #StalePolitics more likely
    same old Same Old

  • Charles_Gould

    Some very good candidates, I wish them all the best.

    However, in the eyes of the typical voter, I still think nobody has actually heard of NI21

  • RyanAdams


    Hasn’t got either job yet – bit premature to affix that label. In any event Tina’s not likely to win in Europe – the party surely has to contest regardless? Interested to know your thoughts.

  • RyanAdams,

    why do you think she will not win Europe?

    Dodds has offended many with her ‘better than Paisley claim’.

    And she is definitely no Ian Paisley

    Many Voters may give NI21 a Protest Vote

  • Red Lion

    Was somewhat surprised to see IJP being gracious about NI21 in the 1st post here!

    Then he gives the game away, he wants NI21 transfers.

    Great to see an array of candidates for NI21. In just a year they have done very well, nobody would have thought it possible that a new party could start up in NI

  • Red Lion

    …and have a right go at it. It is very commendable

  • Charles_Gould

    Red Lion

    How do you feel about the lack of candidates in Newry?

  • RyanAdams


    1. The sort of people who want to give a protest vote at Diane Dodds are more likely to give to Allister or Reilly. I think you’ll find those who obsess over Paisley and those who will vote NI21 in extremely different camps.

    2. I wasn’t aware this has caused any controversy, and I don’t think anyone cares enough about Ian Paisleys legacy to protest vote at it.

  • Ulidian

    I’d say there’s a pretty decent vote out there for them to garner, at least some of whom are currently parked with Alliance. Any ideas on which DEAs to focus on in particular?

  • Red Lion

    Bit off the wall that one Charles!!

    Any particular reason you singled out Newry?

    I’d like them to stand in as many places as possible. I think not having a candidate in the second city is disappointing, but all in, quite a good effort for just a year

  • Charles_Gould

    Red Lion

    Actually now you mention it, Newry, Armah and NI’s second city. In none of these three cities will people be able to vote NI21. Yet there are some places where people will have two candidates. Don’t you think that to be an odd approach?

  • RyanAdams


    I think Balmoral, Botanic, Ormiston, Titanic and Lisnasharragh will be their best chances of a breakthrough (Mainly South & East Belfast). As well as pretty much all of Lisburn and Castlereagh. Lisburn in particular as Alliance haven’t really grown at all here in the last decade, the DUP are perceived to be running a fiefdom and Basil will obviously have an interest for next year.

  • RyanAdams


    It’s not as simple as wanting to stand in Newry and going forth and doing it. You have to have a base.

    Under law you need someone connected to the area either through residency, land, work and then ten signatures (which are published).

  • They really needed a few better known people…defections, media or sports people just to make it more than Basil, John and Tina.
    But they seem to have a different attitude to “Diversity”.
    They seem more at ease with a “diverse” Norn Iron, while Alliance seems to prefer a homogenous Norn Iron.
    Fair play to NI21 if they can use that.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Running multiple untested candidates is idiocy for any party; for a brand new party that has not even faced the ballot box it signifies a death wish. The two names I recognize on the list above – Eileen Chan-Hu (who I believe runs the Chinese Welfare Agency?) and Tina herself are both on the ballot paper with someone else. This is just a waste of at least one deposit, and possibly two; by splitting the untested NI21 vote they significantly increase the probability of both candidates being excluded early in the count. Alan – the possibility that the two candidates will cannibalize each other’s vote to the extent that both will be excluded is high.

    Even the DUP and SF don’t run multiple candidates without hard evidence that there is a serious chance of securing a seat for each one. The UUP are the only other party I can think of who are stupid enough to run candidates who have no chance.

  • Red Lion

    Charles overall I think its a good effort, perhaps might have liked another candidate on the North Coast and as someone said, Carrickfergus.

    A candidate for Fermanagh, Derry City and Cookstown-Maherafelt area would have been nice it give it more of a NI-wide feel, but scant resources dictates. It always was going to be east of Bann centric in first instance.

    I am a little concerned about running 2 candidates in one DEA as CS says above. Although looks like it will be a straight NI21 1-2 for some voters

  • Ulidian

    Ormiston worth a look

    NI21 candidate for council had the microphone today from Basil and said that she would talk more about what brought her to here, including the Hass talks, But absolutely Nothing about Council.

    There was a very receptive interview with her recently by OffTheRecord, a very NI21 friendly ‘what ever it is’ so a captive audience that would not give her a rough time, and talked about everything apart from Council,

    Why she wanted to run for council – nothing
    Would she take the seat if elected – nothing
    Whats wrong with council she would like to fix – nothing
    Things she is passionate about she could raise in council – nothing
    A Candidate running for council who will not talk about council or council issues, gota be worth a look to see what the heck is going on.

    Only reason I can see she is running for council is member of NI21 with a story to tell. #FreshPolitics

    goto be worth keeping and eye on that, and if she gets the seat with a sympathy vote to see what she does with it.

  • Ulidian

    Comrade Stalin

    Perhaps they just want to give as many putative candidates a run as possible? It’s still (very) early days for the party.

  • oakleaf

    I’m sure Alliance are raging with NI21 over running two candidates in some DEA’s. Alliance, NI21 and UUP fighting over the same votes in the Greater Belfast area. Possible nationalist majority in BCC now.

  • Comrade Stalin

    It comes across to my (admittedly jaundiced) perspective as a desperate clutching of straws. If you can’t turn around to your party and say “look we can only run one candidate here, once the party is off the ground then naturally we will be able to run more” you’re going nowhere fast.

  • Comrade Stalin


    In the scenario you describe, NI21 running two candidates helps Alliance, as if their vote gets split they will be eliminated first and their transfers will go to the other moderate parties.

    If I was an Alliance Party or UUP mole joining NI21 undercover and trying to undermine it from within, I’d be running their election campaign exactly the way they are running it now.

  • oakleaf

    There is a chance a sizeable percentage of their vote might not transfer anywhere except to the other NI21 candidate. Votes will be lost.

  • Ulidian

    Red Lion

    Coleraine and Causeway are probably the only two DEAs they have even the slightest chance in. I wonder if they tried to recruit Claire Sugden, McClarty’s former researcher and replacement on Coleraine Borough Council – I believe she is standing for election to the new body.

  • Ulidian

    Before anyone jumps in, I’m talking specifically about Causeway Coast & Glens!

  • Comrade Stalin

    oakleaf, well that’s anyone’s guess.

  • gaygael

    I just can’t understand the logic of two candidate a in a single dea. Unless they two candidates have good local connections that they think can compliment each other across the whole dea. I warned against this months ago when the people i know in ni21 suggested it. I also advised paper candidates with a good spread and then focused ground campaigns where the reckon they have chances. Specific wards such as balmoral, ormiston, lisnasharrag and basil and johns turf.

    It all seems a bit disjointed, and that worries me. They seem to be pining huge hopes on getting some elements of the electorate to renegade and competing for alliance with soft unionist and centre ground voters. There also might be something in trying to appeal to transfers from those of cnr backgrounds. I will def transfer to them, both in euros and council, but it may not be high enough to mean anything.

    Now, I wonder are they hoping for significant splashes in the run up to these elections. Are they the go to protest vote? Are they trying to pitch the if you are fed up with stormont vote for us?

  • IJP

    Red Lion

    I have been nothing other than gracious about NI21 and consistent in my desire to see it do well.

    I have noted areas where I think it is making obvious strategic blunders. The biggest blunder is not listening to people who have been there, done that (and already made the odd blunder); another, noted above, is the over-nomination of candidates in Belfast and Lisburn.

    I do think there is a serious risk of over-expectation and young candidates being turned off politics altogether when electoral reality hits. That said, it seems to have been tempered somewhat.

    But to be very, very clear: I am a fan, and NI21 will receive my third preference at local level after the two Alliance candidates.

  • Gopher

    I think the electoral battlefields have changed somewhat since the last election and in Botanic and Balmoral it makes sense to run two candidates

  • I’ll post something about NI21’s council manifesto pledges at some point soon … maybe after gathering up some of the other party’s manifestos for council!

  • JH

    I wonder if they aren’t just trying to put a score on the board.

    It’s a ubiquitous strategy in internet startups to launch a practically unusable version of a new product onto the market as a first pass in order to start collecting data as soon as possible.

    It’s a painful process but extremely effective if you can keep your nerve because the feedback is so useful. In the case of NI21 they might consider it OK for every candidate to fail so long as they can collect data on why each one failed and a set of analytics for the next run.

    I don’t know if the analogy works, Comrade would know better right? But Tina hasn’t got a chance in Europe, nor most of the candidates at local level, so one must assume they’re not doing it for the good of their health.

    I hope this is the reason, because otherwise they’re just throwing everything they have at the wall to if anything sticks.

    And it’s not just the party and candidates that are brand new. The decentralised, better-judgement style of policy making is an experiment too.

    E.g. one of the council candidates has published their preference for a 75% rate of income tax for individuals earning over £200,000 per year. One wonders how that squares with the Party view of fiscal conservatism.

  • Gopher

    Thought the four newbies spoke very well, give me a choice of them or what has gone before its a no brainer

  • Red Lion

    lol IJP one man’s constructive criticism is another man’s ‘slagging off’.

  • Red Lion

    Yes Gopher, thought Pete Wray stood out well. Seemed like a bloke who could get things done at community level.

  • Comrade Stalin

    JH, I’m not an expert in software marketing (or marketing in general) but common sense would dictate that shipping a crap initial version of your first product would irreparably damage customer’s faith in your brand. If you produce something which which very obviously does not work, you will find it harder to get people to come back and give it another shot than you would if you had delayed the launch for a few weeks to iron out the worst of the issues.

    I don’t think the analogy applies here. There is no problem with NI21 running as many candidates as possible, but running several in one DEA like that is self-defeating in the fullest, literal sense of the word. This is the behaviour of a gambler staking the last of his bankroll. Not even the DUP would take the risk of running two candidates for the European seat even given that they have one of the best election machines there is and that they have an outside chance of taking two seats.

  • Gopher

    I think Basil was correct in stating any party would break your arm for those four candidates that spoke. I was actually impressed, pleasantly surprised. Certainly any party would love Tina.

  • RyanAdams


    Just as likely to happen to nationalist parties – If anything, I think SF/SDLP voters are more likely to have some degree of spite for the other than those on an NI21/Alliance axis. The UUP transfers will mostly roll up into the DUP.

  • JH

    Occam’s Razor… If a group of otherwise capable people do something that looks insane then there’s probably something else going on.

    Maybe it’s the case that having some data on performance is more valuable than the position they’re currently in – having none at all. Even if it means adopting a strategy that dooms your first run to failure.

    In fairness, they probably weren’t going to get anything anyway this time around.

    The open, public discourse on policy, the access to the ‘founders’, the high-availability on social media, the “we’re not sure what we are yet but you can be part of defining it” attitude, it’s all Lean Startup 101.

    Or maybe that’s just crediting them with too much sense. Who knows. It’s fun to speculate.

  • Politico68

    I wish them all the very best of luck. I am a Shinner but I like the idea of a Unionist party that is free from the shackles of Religious bigotry and against social exclusion.

  • Charles_Gould

    It is interesting that two of them had parents who were killed by Gerry Adams’ leadership group in the IRA.

  • mjh

    It is wrong to say that NI21 has made a mistake in running two candidates in the same Electoral Areas. In fact it could be electorally advantageous.

    Some commentators are mixing up the separate issues of vote management and transfer loss.

    If a party believes that it has, say, between 1.5 and 2 quotas in an Electoral Area it will need to persuade its supporters to divide their 1st preferences between them. Otherwise there is a risk that one candidate gets most of the party votes and the second candidate is eliminated before they can benefit from transfers from other parties. That is vote management. Obviously it is not easy – but it becomes nearly impossible to do it if the party runs more than two candidates. Hence the importance of running the correct number of candidates.

    NI21 is not running three candidates anywhere – so does not risk losing out on a second seat anywhere.

    Alan raises the risk that by splitting the vote between them both might be eliminated at the beginning. But that could only happen if the combined vote was so small that a single candidate would have been eliminated anyway. In other words no difference with one candidate or two.

    Others point out that when the first candidate is eliminated not all of their votes will transfer to the second candidate. The party will suffer transfer loss. Those lost party votes could cost it the seat.

    But this is a very “party-centric” view. The votes belong to the party – but if the party does not shepherd them carefully some of them will wander off!

    In fact the votes belong to the voters – and about 20% of them do not vote 1st preference for the party but for individuals. The party does not really loose those transfers – they never had them in the first place. If that candidate had not run those voters would have gone somewhere else.

    So NI21 should not be accused of making a naïve mistake.

    In fact there are good electoral reasons for it to do so.
    – there will be probably be more work put into the local campaign
    – the party will look stronger and more credible in the eyes of the voters (a very important issue for a new party)
    – the extra personal votes for the second candidate will make the party’s total look more respectable (which could be important for credibility for future elections)
    – the second candidate may well become more motivated to continue working for the party in future elections (also important for a new party)

  • oakleaf

    I disagree with the above. In some DEA’s you will have 2 Alliance, 2 NI21 and a UUP candidate fighting over the same votes. Votes will be lost all over the place.

    Regarding the EU vote you have the DUP, TV and UKIP fighting over the same vote and also the UUP, Alliance and NI21 fighting over the same vote. The SDLP in Belfast may lose some vote to Anna Lo but the rural vote should keep the SDLP ahead of Alliance and with a good shout of getting elected. I’m calling 1 SF, 1 DUP and 1 SDLP.

  • RyanAdams


    TUV transfers were retained at a 90% rate in the last EU election (2009) by the DUP and UUP. In 2004, Allister’s surplus under the DUP went 87% to the Nicholson, the only other contender in the race.

    There’s absolutely nothing to back up what you’re saying. The SDLP will have to get the seat off its own bat and up its vote by 1-2% to even be in with a chance. Unionist transferring didn’t facilitate it in 2009, it won’t do now either.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Oakleaf, lets pretend a bit here…

    say those likely voters totalled 5000, extra candidates could get the turnout up from say 2500 to 3000, even if 200 of them don’t transfer or transfer to other parties then it is likely to be a net gain for similar parties. Its only when transfer “leakage” goes up to say 600, ie. people only go 1,2, and no further, that multiple candidates becomes a disadvantage to the “party groupings”.

  • IJP

    I think he above few posts slightly miss the practical reality that, to get elected, a candidate has to be known (that’s how they get a share of that 20% “personal”). This is trickier if you’re splitting the identification.

    The SDLP West Tyrone example of 2007 stands out. By promoting a single candidate, Joe Byrne, in 2011, they were able to retrieve the seat comfortably (in an election in which they were otherwise losing seats, including in a neighbouring constituency). If they had done the same in 2007, there is little doubt he would have been elected then too.

    I don’t think it matters in this case. Things like vote splitting and transfers are like “away goals” in European ties – their importance is vastly over-stated versus the basic objective of attaining enough votes (scoring enough goals over the two legs) in the first place!

  • PaddyReilly

    By my calculations (soon to be confirmed or refuted) the Unionist camp will this year be around 5,000 votes ahead of the Nationalist.

    So for an SDLP man to be elected it will require an extra 5,000 Unionist votes to go astray in the transfer process. Will the hitherto unheard of intervention of NI21 and UKIP be sufficient to make this happen? I should doubt it. Unionist transferring is generally quite good. As for the quality of Nationalist transferring, I cannot say because it has never happened, to my knowledge.

    By English standards, 5,000 is a very small gap, but in Northern Ireland thing proceed at a snail’s pace. An SDLP win would be tantamount to the dissolution of the state. I think we should instead be looking at the final margin, and calculating how long it will take to close it.

  • oakleaf

    PaddyReilly while it is and outside possibility at 8/1 with Paddypower putting a tenner on Alex Attwood might be worth a splash.

    Depending on turnout it could be interesting.

  • Comrade Stalin


    Occam’s Razor… If a group of otherwise capable people do something that looks insane then there’s probably something else going on.

    I literally laughed out loud at this.

    Occam’s Razor says (simplified) that in the absence of evidence you pick the simplest possible explanation for the observed phenomena.

    The simplest explanation, and also the most likely one, for NI21’s selection decisions are that they don’t know anything about how to maximise the prospect of getting candidates elected in an STV poll. It’s fairly well understood that NI21 are not swimming in money (they have opted not to put up posters – probably for this reason) so they’re not in a position to fund market research in lots of different DEAs.

    In fairness, they probably weren’t going to get anything anyway this time around.

    Indeed, but then the idea is to see which names can actually pull a vote out and then work on building them up. I assuming that NI21 are hoping on some level to take seats.

    I mean, Jayne Olorunda should have been able to put out leaflets saying “hey everyone, I’m NI21’s person in Ormiston”. And I thought that’s what they were doing when they got the News Letter to run a profile of her. But by running another guy there they are wasting all that work. In fact, I suspect Dickson might come before Olorunda on the ballot paper!


    I’m sorry, but your last contribution reads like someone trying desperately to explain to everyone what the Emperor’s clothes look like.

    Running two candidates on the back of a previous vote of zero is stupid, stupid, stupid. Parties who know how to run elections, and have a track record of winning elections, do not do this. If you looked at election history here you would know this.

    And no, running two candidates does not make you look strong if you lose. Two candidates with the vote split evenly between them who then get excluded after the first count does not look strong, it looks like a weak and badly run campaign by amateurs. You seem to be starting off with an assumption that NI21 will poll so strongly that it will win two quotas in these DEAs, rather than worrying about the more likely possibility of a poor showing. This is like someone worrying about what they’re going to do when they win the lottery.

    I repeat once again, this is a serious and naive mistake and it illustrates NI21’s ineptitude and lack of organizational discipline; it does not illustrate strength or discipline.

  • Mudarris10

    Listening to these young people speak, I am encouraged. I would like to see more info on party policies on the economy, education and ethical issues but regarding flags, parades and the past this party is 99% in line with my thinking and already has preferences in the european and council votes. The issue is whether 1, 2 or 3. Basil is my MLA and he gives voice to my frustration with the stalemate sectarian politics that fails us. They present a real alternative to sectarian politics by people with the drive and commitment to build a better future. Will they get councillors elected? I don’t know, but if the Bele Tele poll is reflected they should get a few. It may depend on turnout but at least now people have much less of an excuse to say all NI politicians are a waste of time so why bother voting.

  • Gopher

    Dont see the problem with two candidates if your a transfer friendly party. The UUP have been been hit by the perfect storm of too many candidates queering the same hardline unionist pitch (TUV, DUP, UUP) , not enough first preference votes and limited transfers inside and outside hardline unionism. No one knows how many votes say Tina will get in Balmoral but she would look pretty silly if she makes quota and has no running mate a bit like Anna in South Belfast if we are looking for a precedent.

    If nobody votes for them in the first place it does not matter how many candidates you run.

  • mjh


    The West Tyrone facts are as you state. In 2007 the party ran 3 candidates who between them gained 1.0 quotas. But through the counts they lost more transfers than they gained and ended on just under 0.9 of a quota without a seat. In 2011 they ran one candidate ending up after transfers with just under a quota – and won a seat.

    It look like an open and shut case: running three candidates caused their failure in 2007 and running one in 2011 was the cause of their subsequent success.

    But the facts do not tell this simple story. Far from enabling them to corral all of their 2007 voters behind one candidate – all that cutting the number of candidates did for them was to cut their vote by 44%, compared to 17% everywhere else.

    The figures prove that the 6018 votes gained by the three candidates were not all SDLP votes – they were SDLP votes PLUS the personal votes of the three candidates. And the SDLP votes can be split into the core – who would have voted anyway – and the bonus that came from the activities of the extra two candidates. The question is how many personal and bonus votes did the second and third candidates bring to the total?

    Well when those two candidates were eliminated the SDLP lost 1322 votes. (It was almost certainly a few more than this – but we cannot know for certain because a Republican SF candidate was eliminated on the same stage as one of them.) This suggests that the two had around 1150 personal 1st preference votes. (Allowing for the probable presence of personal transfers from other parties.)

    We are also fortunate in that one of them, McMenamin, stood again in 2011 as an independent. He took 1096 personal votes – which is consistent with the above estimates.

    But what of those bonus votes? One SDLP candidate in 2011 took 3353 votes. Extrapolating backwards – if the SDLP decline in this constituency had been the same as the average elsewhere they would have recorded about 4050 in 2007. So their “over-performance” was about 1950. If around 1150 were personal it suggests the bonus votes were around 800. We cannot be completely precise about the balance – the personal votes could be a 100 or more greater – and the bonus votes would shrink accordingly.

    The ultimate question is, would 4050 1st preference votes have enabled the SDLP to overtake Dr Deeny, the Independent candidate? On the face of it yes – Deeny only had 3776 1st preferences. However we have to consider how many votes he would have gained without competition from the second and third SDLP candidates. Their 800 odd bonus voter would not have come to the polls. Not all of their 1150 personal voters would have shown up either. Let’s give that a high estimate – 20%. That gives over 900 additional votes split between SF, RSF and Dr Deeny. Deeny would have needed only around 320 to 350 of those to stay ahead of the SDLP candidate after the SF transfers had been distributed.

    If you have read this far – you have my sympathies. My point simply is that West Tyrone does not prove an iron rule for candidate numbers. Like all the many other choices that a party must face in a campaign the decision should be based on the best match with the party’s electoral strategy.

    And it certainly proves – in spades – the distinction between a party vote and a personal vote.

    So is there an alternative explanation for the SDLP’s gain in 2011? As it happens there is a very simple one. Before the 2003 election there were 4 nationalist and 2 unionist seats in the constituency. Although Deeny’s vote was cross-community he took his seat from the nationalists. When he retired in 2011 it reverted to the nationalists – and the SDLP was the next nationalist party in line.

  • mjh

    Comrade Stalin

    Calm down. Calm down.

    I’m only defending NI21’s decision on candidate numbers – not King Herod’s massacre of the innocents.

    Perhaps some reasoned argument might be a little more proportional.

    Anyway I’ve decided to take your advice and look at the history for those parties who you tell us know so much better than NI21 how these things should be done.

    The outcome might surprise you.

  • IJP

    I did my best to read all that mjh!

    We are actually debating two separate things. One is the maths – upon which I broadly agree with you. The other is the PR – where I agree with Comrade Stalin.

    But ultimately my point is it only goes to away goals if the scores are level…

  • Charles_Gould

    To any NI21 candidates reading this, I would like to say well done for putting yourselves forward. I looked at the website and its great to see so many candidates that are different from the usual ones who come forward. I hope that you stick with it – success may not come the first time but politics is the better for your active participation.

  • Charles_Gould

    I like so many of the candidates but Jonathan McCarthy is the wittiest and most eloquent. I was quite impressed by his contribution.

  • Floreat Ultonia

    IJP- you enjoy that double-legged football analogy, but actually away goals are important because low-scoring and thus keenly contested games are the norm at the elite stages.

    I’ll grant you the parallel is closer between the number of parties contesting the European elections and how many goals Crusaders are likely to concede against elite Norwegian or Swedish opposition.

  • mjh

    “Running two candidates on the back of a previous vote of zero is stupid, stupid, stupid. Parties who know how to run elections, and have a track record of winning elections, do not do this. If you looked at election history here you would know this.” – Comrade Stalin

    Hi Comrade
    I know that the three parties you rate in terms of election tactics are SF, DUP and Alliance. This is what I found:

    First election contested (in modern times) Assembly 1982
    Constituencies contested: 7 out of 12
    Number of constituencies with only 1 candidate: 2
    Number of constituencies with “too many” candidates: 2. Each had 2 candidates for only 1.1 quotas.
    Additional constituencies with surplus unnecessary candidates: 1 which had 2 candidates for 1.4 quotas.
    Proportion of contested constituencies with the correct number of candidates: 57%

    First election contested as DUP (formerly Protestant Unionist): Local Government 1973
    District Electoral Areas contested: 26 out of 98
    Number of DEA’s with only 1 candidate: 14
    Number of DEA’s with “too many” candidates: 8 Including 1 DEA with 2 candidates sharing 0.3 quota, another where 2 shared 0.4, and a third where 2 shared 0.6. More seriously there was 1 where 2 shared 0.9, and 1 where 2 shared 1. The worst case was Craigavon D where 4 candidates shared 1.5 quotas.
    Number of DEA’s with too few candidates: 1 or 2 depending on how you judge it.. In 1 there were only 2 candidates for 2.7 quotas. In the other 1 candidate for 1.5 quotas.
    Proportion of contested DEA’s with the correct number of candidates: 62%

    There was also an obvious failure to contest winnable DEA’s. The worst example being the North Antrim constituency where Ian Paisley had been the MP since 1970. The party put up no candidates in 11 DEA’s in the constituency. They contested only 1 of the 3 Ballymoney DEA’s, and none at all in Carrick, Larne or Moyle.

    First election contested: Local Government 1973
    DEA’s contested: 97 out of 98
    Number of DEA’s with only 1 candidate: 35
    Number with 1 “too many”: 29
    Number with 2 “too many”: 23
    Number with 3 “too many”: 9
    Number with 4 “too many”: 1
    Proportion of DEA’s contested with the correct number of candidates: 36
    Number of seats obviously lost due to this excess: Nil
    Share of the vote: 2nd best in Alliance history

  • Granni Trixie


    The genesis of the APNI lies in the New Ulster Movement which was a kind of ginger group including people who went on to form a new political party and those who wanted to be a non political entity.
    The NUM started off with demonstrations of public support – 10k signatures of support,organisation of massive rallies and a Plea for Sanity campaign. I believe that Alliance support at the polls in its seminal phase was due to this groundswell of support for th new party. Another difference with the situation of NI21 is that through NUM which had groups in every constituency in NI, people who came to Alliance from NUM brought organisational skills to the table,resources which NI21 seem to lack.

    I think it is useful also to note that although the Woman’s Coalition was successful for a time, it did not sustain, APNI has (note to sel:.expect FJH to make something negative out of that achievement as usual).

  • mjh

    Thank you Granni

    It is generally underestimated just how long it takes to establish a political party. As you say Alliance had an embryonic structure inherited from the NUM, and still took three years of hard graft to prepare for its first elections.

    The DUP had the Protestant Unionist Party and the Free Presbyterian Church – plus nearly three years.

    And the SDLP had the various strands of the NDP, bits of the Republican Labour Party, and the Civil Rights movement, plus the social structures around the church, sports and the schools system where people of similar views were easily met. Plus two and a half years. Even then the SDLP was not sufficiently organised to fight at least 9 DEA’s where it should have taken seats.

    Frankly it is asking too much for a party to contest elections within a year of formation. NI21 should have avoided the Council elections at least, and focused everything on the Assembly.

  • Charles_Gould


    Don’t you think that the council elections are useful “practice” and “road testing” opportunities?

  • Granni Trixie

    I hope for them it is a calculated risk regarding the benefits of ‘practice’ .I suspect however that fielding so many people first time out demonstrates inexperience. I say this because what is to be lost is credibility for the next time round as if they don’t do well through beng over ambitious/unrealistic, they will be labelled “a wasted vote” ( something which alliance had to deal with in the past). They also need time for policy development unless they retain a top down approach.

    People vote for a candidate for varied reasons: because they can relate to or feel they know the candidate,through loyalty to party,because they attract positive media attention and most of all because they impress people with their constituency work. A party also has to show itself to be relevant to people’s needs or it withers on the vine. An uphill task.

  • Gopher

    Nope it’s important to show “fight” as early as possible especially when outside SF the vote is split all over the place. When people stop voting it has not been tested how hard it is to get them back.

  • Charles_Gould


    The SDLP vote isn’t split – SDLP is standing for the Party of European Socialists and have a clear labour positioning on economics. Tina McKenzie was asked about NI21’s links to the centre-right group that FG is in and I get the impression then that NI21 is right of centre on economics. So I don’t see the SDLP vote as being split as there are no other parties standing on a clear social democratic platform with labour values.

  • Drumlins Rock

    why is Tina listed as “Aspire to Better” rather than NI21 on the European nominations?

  • Charles_Gould

    To Granni and Mjh:

    I think elections are a great way for parties to advertise their positions and ideas and to familiarise the electorate with their positioning and people.

    It takes repetition to get a message across.

    NI21 in my view could not afford to miss this “advertising” opportunity.

    I thought – by the way – that Tina McKenzie handled her first “big time” interview with Mark Davenport pretty well. Its all good practice. He may not be the hardest interviewer, but she looks to be generally quite capable of expressing a point of view in an easy-to-relate-to manner. She talks “human” quite well.

    Standing in these elections allows NI21 to find and test potential candidates for the next electon..

    Of the 47 candidates, some will not like politics, others will like it, and from those there may be a few who are good at it. Its quite hard to tell how well people will do at this until they do it in practice. So I think they were right to stand people, and Tina is a good choice as the MEP candidate.

  • Gopher

    Charles I think the SDLP vote has nearly bottomed out it will still lose votes to SF and now has Alliance casting a hungry eye on it. I don’t think the SDLP vote is split per se I think there is a leeching going on something that does not effect SF. Will the SDLP transfers go to SF or Alliance , Greens and N121 or a mixture of both? If both by definition, the SDLP vote is split

  • Granni Trixie

    Surely there are SDLP internal splits?

  • mjh

    “Don’t you think that the council elections are useful “practice” and “road testing” opportunities?” – Charles Gould

    No. A party only gets one shot at its first election. And that sets its course for the next decade or more. In the case of most parties that course is extinction.

    It can’t afford to road test or practice. It’s time to fly, however high, or to crash and burn. No in-betweens.

  • I dont think that second preference votes going to two different parties is any evidence of a “split”
    Presumably in all Parties, second preference votes go to two three or four Parties.
    So….all parties are “split”????

  • Gopher

    In recent times the UUP vote “split” the first preference followed the second preference in subsequent elections. In other words people who previously transferred to Alliance and the DUP ended up giving them their first preference. I believe it is a symptom of parties that lose relevance. The glue holding the SDLP together so far and something the UUP did not have is the conservative religious nature. Whilst that has stabilised things it will not strengthen the party and erosion will take place

  • Comrade Stalin


    I’m confused now. Why are you telling me about polls in the 1970s, and how exactly does this refute my points that (a) SF, the DUP, SDLP and Alliance know a lot about running elections and their strategy should be observed by anyone wanting to learn the craft and (b) NI21 are stupid for running multiple candidates in seats where in all likelihood they will perform poorly ?

    (can’t believe I’m having to explain this) unlike the parties in the 1970s who were founded in a political landscape which until that point had no experience of STV – except for a brief period early in the state’s existence – I would expect at least one or two of NI21’s membership to know something about how to run an STV election.

    Unless I am misinterpreting you, you seem to be trying to explain that NI21 are a new party and therefore don’t know anything about STV elections. Which is my point – they don’t. And that’s not a good position to be in. It tells me that they have either failed to attract any election strategists from other parties; or that the party leadership are simply ignoring their advice; and that they are incapable of learning from the experience of others in the field. None of that is good.

    The Women’s Coalition lasted for a single election in 1998 and pretty much lost everything in 2003. That happened because they were a flash in the pan, did not organize and did not campaign. I’m getting the same vibe from NI21 who similarly seem to place all their focus on initiatives and PR and none on identifying tangible objectives and how they can be reached electorally.

    Frankly it is asking too much for a party to contest elections within a year of formation. NI21 should have avoided the Council elections at least, and focused everything on the Assembly.

    Had NI21 avoided either of these two elections they would have been in danger of losing their momentum and been accused by their opponents of running away from the electorate, which would have been damaging for NI21’s two existing MLAs. No, NI21 had no choice but to stand.


    Dont see the problem with two candidates if your a transfer friendly party.

    The problem, as I have tried to explain several times now, is that it is likely that NI21 will poll near the bottom, and accordingly even with one candidate they are likely to be eliminated first before there is any opportunity for them to benefit from transfers. With fewer candidates, you have a greater chance of staying in the race longer and benefiting from transfers coming from those eliminated before you.

    That is why Alliance doesn’t run six candidates in places like East Belfast or North Down. You are talking as if there is no cost to running more candidates than you are likely to elect, when in fact there is.

    In fact there are some benefits (from some points of view) to having one candidate who overwhelmingly tops the poll. The DUP used to do this a lot, in some cases throwing away seats because they wanted the big name in the constituency to come top of the poll. Sinn Féin did it in Louth when Gerry Adams was elected because they wanted him to score an overwhelming result to show that he was a major player in the RoI.

    Pride comes before a fall, and this one is going to be even harsher as a result of this silly electoral hubris. You guys can stick your fingers in your ear and say “la la la, this is new politics and we’re just starting out, you’re just jealous nasty Alliance types who feel threatened by Basil’s magnificence” – your prerogative. But please don’t come on here whining if/when it all comes to a sticky end.

  • Dont be brushing off NI21 just because it doesn’t have experience in running elections, Young Kirk McCambly had little or no business experience , It didn’t stop him winning awards,

    Its all about the help one gets

    Two important factors in NI21. The strategic Thinker and the String Puller

    And neither is Basil McCrea.

    The voting public like the consumer public can be swayed by Charisma and fancy presentation , so NI21 is pretty much an unknown

    we shall see

  • Granni Trixie


    Have to disagree with your analysis of The demise if the WC though I think it is useful to focus on their relative initial success for comparison purposes (to NI21).

    Setting WC in context explains a lot namely that the Forum Elections of 1996 galvanised many women active in politics with a small p (vol/community groups etc) who were pissed off as crucial decisions about the future of Ni were to be made with little input from women, most of the key players being men. First off they organised a series of meetings in Ulster Peoples College,inviting reps from all political parties to talk to them with the aim of lobbying them to remedy the situation. The exercise proved to be futile – an almost laughable experience as the politicians tended to patronise and not get it (the nature of the problem). Only then did the women decide to set up their own party (at which point I left to remain in APNI, a good decision as it turns out).

    So a crucial factor in the early achievements of the WC is that individuals brought many resources to the table gained from activism at local level (of campaigning and organising). You underestimate this reality in saying their focus was on PR.
    Behind the scenes there was a rapid learning curve gong on at all levels plus although well educated came to be known as the leaders the WC set out to have a be non
    hierarchical, organising local meetings to discuss policy,strategy etc.

    Another crucial point of comparison is that the WC was tapping into a sort of moral cause borne of a grievance Ie the absence of women in decision making at a particular point in history. Their novelty value helped them harness media attention but for a limited time only.

    Why the WC did not sustain is for another day (though read Kate Fearons book if you are interested in follow up)

  • mjh

    Comrade Stalin

    “Why are you telling me about polls in the 1970s…?”
    It was your idea. Remember? And it was a good one.

    “…and how exactly does this refute my points that (a) SF, the DUP, SDLP and Alliance know a lot about running elections and their strategy should be observed by anyone wanting to learn the craft…”
    Because it’s a mountain of factual evidence there for the electoral debut of successful parties. It shows (a) they had no iron rule of 1 candidate per Electoral Area – far from it and (b) that running multiple candidates in many DEA’s did them no harm at all. The record shows some debut parties suffered from under-ambition – none from over-ambition.

    “…and (b) NI21 are stupid for running multiple candidates in seats where in all likelihood they will perform poorly ?”
    Because the only reason you have given for terming NI21’s decision “stupid” is that the DUP, SF and Alliance did not do it – when the fact is that they did.

    “Unless I am misinterpreting you, you seem to be trying to explain that NI21 are a new party and therefore don’t know anything about STV elections.”
    You’re misinterpreting me.

  • IJP


    That’s really interesting.

    To some extent, NI21 could have built a similar movement from youth exclusion.

    However, I have long argued that sometimes those movements are best, if they wish to achieve things socially and not just maintain political careers for the sake of it, remaining movements rather than explicit parties.

    As movements, they could gain influence by offering their support to the party closest to their objectives at any given election (this negating the need for practical experience of actually running elections).

    Those movements are wise to retain the implicit threat of becoming actual parties standing for election, as a political tool.

    The Women’s Coalition’s two seats are now held in effect by Anna Lo and Stephen Agnew. I doubt anyone who was in the room back in 1996 would have any difficulty with that electoral outcome!

  • Comrade Stalin

    It was your idea. Remember? And it was a good one.

    At no point did I invite comparison between the current elections and NI21’s role in them, and the first elections faced by All/SDLP/SF/DUP in the 1970s.

    I said “look at election history” which means all of it, not the first poll. I thought it went without saying that it would make most sense to look at election history from the past 15 years or so if you are interested in understanding how these parties managed their vote, in the case of the DUP and SF, to assume leading positions.

    Because it’s a mountain of factual evidence there for the electoral debut of successful parties.

    No it isn’t. You are comparing parties who were facing STV for the first time, with a new party who were founded in a period within which STV is well-understood both by the electorate and by electoral organizers in political parties.

    It shows (a) they had no iron rule of 1 candidate per Electoral Area – far from it

    Yeah, but they do now, now that they understand how best to run PR/STV elections.

    Because the only reason you have given for terming NI21’s decision “stupid” is that the DUP, SF and Alliance did not do it – when the fact is that they did.


    Once again. I am saying NI21’s decision is stupid because a casual glance over the past few decades of PR/STV elections shows exactly what happens when parties run multiple candidates when they are unlikely to poll strongly.

    “Unless I am misinterpreting you, you seem to be trying to explain that NI21 are a new party and therefore don’t know anything about STV elections.”

    You’re misinterpreting me.

    Actually, I’m not. Your justification for the party running too many candidates is that it is their electoral debut.

  • mjh

    Comrade Stalin

    Let’s try and disentangle this.

    At no point did I suggest that NI21’s decision to run two candidates in some DEA’s was due to them not understanding STV. That’s just putting words in my mouth.

    I did say that their decision can be understood as perfectly rational given the potential advantages for them as a party fighting their first election to gain a higher total of votes than they would with one candidate, and for other reasons which I set out.

    STV had been used for several elections when SF adopted the same tactic at their debut in 1982. And I can assure you that Alliance also well understood what they were doing when they ran so many candidates in 1973.

    You appear to be saying that it is “stupid” because it is bad practise in all circumstances, citing as proof the fact that SF, DUP and Alliance do not do so today. Dire consequences will be the result of this stupidity. But you have not said what these consequences will be – other than that the party will look weak if it polls badly and we see both candidates eliminated early on.

    That is a risk. But it should not concern NI21. If their vote turns out to be that low they will face much greater, probably terminal, problems anyway.

    The reason that SF, DUP and Alliance do not do the same today is because their situations are different from NI21’s. Partly, as established parties, there are not the same potential benefits available to them as there may be to NI21. But it is mainly that in the majority of constituencies SF and DUP are seeking to hold or gain multiple seats – and for this vote management is essential. While Alliance went into deep-retrenchment mode as a survival tactic early in the last decade.

    Incidentally Alliance may have suffered from being too restrictive in its candidate policy more recently. Arguably there should have been 2 candidates in East Belfast in 2007, and South Belfast in 2011 for example. Although the bolder decision to run two in East Antrim in an attempt to turn 2007’s 1.1 quotas into 2 seats in 2011, and the larger number of council candidates announced this month suggest that thinking is changing.