Well, we have lots of snapshot figures from yesterday but few comprehensive enough to draw clear conclusions from. The most comprehensive area we have figures for is Ormiston which is a roughly the old VIctoria DEA. It is also the heart of the East Belfast vote which replaced Peter Robinson with Naomi Long.
The pattern seems to be a levelling up between middle class and working class turnout in Protestant areas. Three years ago, Alliance took a third seat from the UUP (who ran three candidates and got one). I suspect that that seat is in some difficulty for them.
Turnout is up in other Unionist parts of the city too, with other places like Tonagh turning out as little as 30% at 9pm last night. If it was Belfast only, you’d think it might be a micro climate Belfast effect. But we’re seeing a movement up in and around Coleraine too.
My guess is that the flag issue has finally radicalised the protestant working class and brought more of them into vote. The PUP may benefit, keep an eye on John Kyle’s total for instance to gauge that), but the overall benefit of drawing in even in marginal numbers of first time voters should also filter up to the DUP.
That’s worrying for Alliance. I suspect they are going to be facing a lot of last seat dogfights today and tomorrow. It may not be helped by the party’s Euro candidate’s eccentric pitch for nationalist voters.
So what effect on the third Euro seat? I suspect (though I’m speculating wildly here) it will serve to hold up Jim Allister’s vote, depress Lo’s and power a near retirement Jim Nicholson over the line on other Unionist transfers.
Alex Attwood is getting good pull in south Belfast (70% in St Brides). But as our resident curmudgeon FJH notes, what south Belfast wants is not necessarily what wider nationalism wants. Turnout in more traditional SDLP areas like South Down are closer to 50%, close to the average but not near the top end.
Add to that that SF has been looking for revenge over the SpAd bill so that there may be limited help in some areas with regard to transfers from the much larger Sinn Fein vote (26% last time). Poor candidate selection too may mean they ship some embarrassing losses or second places to SF.
In particular keep an eye out for Mairtin O’Muilleoir’s performance in Balmoral. Timing is everything in politics. After a superlatively played year as Lord Mayor, he should reap the benefits today!!
But on the big set piece culture war play over flegs (triggered by the SDLP and Alliance), the bigger picture story is likely to be that the middle gets squeezed just a little bit more, and unionism consolidates a little bit more.
We’ll have to wait though to see how it actually plays out.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty