#LE14: Brief lessons from all the NI parties and none…

So, how was it for you? I’ll come back to a more thorough party by party analysis once we have all the European figures, and given this result they are not going be boring.

DUP – Bad, bad hair day. A tough finish for Diane Dodds rather than Jim Nicholson on the cards, after five years of workshopping EU funding opportunities around rural Northern Ireland. The UUP got the fleg bonus the DUP was looking for.

Essential lesson: When in government, leave street protests to people who aren’t.

UUP – Good hair day. I genuinely thought they might be dead in the water. But they are back in Belfast, and picking up bits and pieces across their strongholds in the south and west. Not every day Mike Nesbitt gets to toy with Ian Paisley Junior.

Essential lesson: Spilling an opponent’s political blood is good for party spirits.

Sinn Fein – A decent hold on a falling tide. SF’s local strategy is about the intensely slow picking of fruit. They are unrepresented in local seat with regard to their proportion of the vote because they pick their fights cautiously and carefully.

Essential lesson: When you have the ball just keep it and slow the game down.

SDLP – Second baddest hair day. Mostly through unforced errors. Vote management was poor, but they also failed to engage their own base and consequently suffered a proportionately bigger turnout drop than Sinn Fein.

Essential lesson: Spend less time on organisation and start looking for trouble.

Alliance – Stayed where they were in votes and seats. But that belies a subtle shift in the position of the party’s front door. Flags hit them hard, so they shifted a little to replace losses to Unionists with gains from Nationalists.

Essential lesson: Keep crunching the data and follow the voters.

TUV – Best day ever. 12 (29k first preferences) councillors may not sound like a lot, but these are big DEAs. Polling about the 1000 mark is now the entry level standard. TUV have gone to ten from nowhere. And seats get you seats.

Essential lesson: Opposition, focus and a drop of euroscepticism works.

Greens – Nice progress. They started by co-opting councillors from other parties, all the time deepening their tiny base. Three councillors in North Down, and nearly a first in Belfast. Big idea built on a shoestring.

Essential lesson: Know what you need to win, then beg, borrow, steal everything you don’t have.

Independents – Even though the overall proportion has not particularly changed it’s impressive in the sense the new DEAs are bigger than they were before, take more resources and longer campaigning than before.

Essential lesson – Anyone can play!!

NI21 – Whoops, nearly forgot. Sticking with the election, they proved a point. Catholics and Protestants will vote for a unionist party, even to the point of taking transfers from TUV and Sinn Fein. Recipe was right, but it foundered on rock of designation.

Essential lesson Heritage matters. Dealt with it early, and choose a proper name.

Sorry nothing on UKIP, there’s too little to go on yet…

  • Ulidian

    Is this Kieran McCarthy’s last term at Stormont? Alliance are really going to struggle without him – their Ards Peninsula vote collapsed in his absence.

  • MF[12.47] A goodsummary. In essence, the DUP know that their flags policy backfired seriously and their bete noir the UUP are back, but only thanks to their leaflet dropping antics. The genie is out of the bottle and can’t be put back in. The notion of Robinson as a safe pair of hands is now in freefall chez DUP. He miscalculated the effect of the leaflets strategy of getting Long out of EB and now his party has got the message. Alliance are unharmed by that stunt and his party knows it. The high water mark of DUP dominance of unionism has passed and will not be revived.

  • Dewi

    Belfast is looking fascinating. Might finish counting sometime this month.

  • Mick Fealty

    They’re done now Dewi. UUP topped poll in Ormiston, DUP failed to make quota. First Green in Belfast (they’re popping up again all over the place down south too) with another now very competitive in Botanic!

  • Charles_Gould

    Some belfast centric thinking here – the flags protest isn’t *that* important outside belfast, guys.

    I think the UUP’s sucess is more to do with the more united and disciplined approach that it has taken, and its positioning at the median unionist voter. It seems to be acting as an opposition party should, and those people unhappy with DUP were in many cases former UUP voters.

    It has added some great candidates such as Doug Beattie and quite a lot of young councillors.

    I’d say that in Upper Bann for example, where they got the biggest vote and where they have quite a lot of strong councillors, such as Beattie, they can put up a serious fight for Westminster now.

    Regarding the SDLP, the judgement here is too harsh. The decline in SDLP vote was not as bad as in previous years. The SDLP have done well in the Newry/Down and in the South Belfast areas – and only lost councillors in Derry because of new candidates coming through that didn’t have the name of the retiring people. As Seamas De Faoite pointed out the total vote share was not that different in Derry between SDLP and SF and so the game is very much on for next time.

  • Charles_Gould

    Greens have some lessons for NI21: they did not get to todays success through overnight success, but through a process of work and consistent efforts. A while back they had no councillors or just one, the position NI21 is in today.

    Greens picked up Ross Brown as a candidate more than a year ago and he has been aiming for exactly what he achieved today. They are a very young party (in terms of the age of the candidates) and NI21 are too.

  • Charles_Gould

    To compare party performances it is interesting to compare the seats won by each party with Nicholas Whytes projections, which are based on the 2011 vote applied to the new boundaries. The figure in brackets is the difference between outcome and prediction, so -11 for SF means they got 11 fewer councillors than the projection based on the 2011 vote.

    We see that DUP and SF are the biggest under performers in terms of damage done, with SDLP holding steady and UUP and TUV increasing. The small unionist parties did well and the Greens did well. Alliance held steady.

    A bad election for the big two.

    DUP projected 145. outcome: 130. (-15)
    SF projected 115. outcome: 105. (-10)

    SDLP projected 67. outcome: 66 (-1)
    UUP projected 77. outcome: 88. (+11)

    TUV projected 3 outcome 13 (+10)
    PUP projected 1 outcome 3 (+2)
    UKIP projected 1 outcome 3 (+2)
    NI21 projected 0 outcome 1 (+1)

    Alliance projected 34. outcome 32 (-2)
    Green projected 1 outcome 4 (+3)

    Combined Nationalist: 11 lower than projected
    Combined Unionist: 16 more than projected

    Nick’s projections apply the 2011 vote to the new boundaries, and can be seen here:


  • Charles_Gould
  • Morpheus

    Absolutely cuffed to bits that the disgusting tactics of the DUP/UUP coupled with the cowardly actions of the drug dealing neanderthals didn’t win in Belfast. They should poach the best of the NI21 talent, including Tina McKenzie and push on from there.

    The Shinners will be partying hard tonight with their performances North and South of the border.

  • Excellent post (8.48am) Mr Gould.
    With the obvious exception of UUP, the results for the five main parties has been patchy.
    All will obviously have lessons to learn for 2015 and even 2016.
    To that extent I consider the Election to be projections.
    In terms of SDLP, bad news in Foyle (recoverable under Durkan) and good news in Fermanagh-South Tyrone.
    Good news for Alliance in South and East Belfast and not so good in South Antrim.
    And so on.

  • RegisterForThisSite

    @Charles @FJH

    As a SF supporter I can’t help but agree, it’s been a mega disaster North and South for SF.

    In the North SF can now claim to be the biggest party getting more votes than anyone else, and although they lost less % share than their main rivals the DUP (x6) and SDLP (x2) this all pales against the utter incompetence in managing the vote.

    Everyone knows Nic Whytes pedigree in this sort of stuff, no-one knows how to handle a Crystal Ball and a calculator like him and churn out guesses that people can grasp onto as scientific fact. He is 100% correct and the leadership screwed up

    But the disaster continues in the South, SF should have run loads more candidates to hover up all the surplus quotas they got.

    Once that count is over and the EU count is done where SF may only end up with 4 MEPs the party really needs to sack all the leaders and promote some keen and eager 18 year olds to lead, maybe try to headhunt some of the go getters from NI21.

    We’ve had an easy ride up to now, todays editorial in the Sunday Indo (Sluggers fav paper) lays it out in black and white as to how we’ve managed to terrorise and scare people from speaking out about what SF is really all about. But sooner or later Slugger and the Indo and RTE and the British media will get the message out and then we’ll be in trouble….

    Gentlemen I leave you with a quote from todays Indo

    “…On today’s result, the major parties are in danger of being swept aside by Sinn Fein’s seizure of the high moral ground. So far, all parties have left the heavy lifting on exposing Sinn Fein to the INM group. But we cannot continue to roll a rock up a hill alone while being subjected to the sneers of a Coalition which confines itself to cheap jibes at Sinn Fein instead of subjecting it to sustained close scrutiny as we have done for the past 30 years. In that regard, RTE needs a reality check….”.

  • RDME


    That’s a very odd definition of ‘mega disaster’. They’ve held the line in the number of seats in the north, proportionally losing only 4. That’s marginal and can be chalked up to the boundary reshuffle; there are 2-4 seats in Belfast alone that they’ll be able to pick up next time now that the landscape of the new councils has been revealed.

    It’s clear now that they’re on the way to becoming the biggest party, but where they get marked down is their failure to engage and turnout nationalist voters in unionist-dominated councils the way unionists turnout in droves in nationalist councils.

    In the south, as you say, their only mistake was that they didn’t run *enough* candidates. That’s a problem every other party on the island wishes it had, but it’s a similar story to the north: new boundaries, and a surge in support even in places they hadn’t run, left them in the dark. They’re now well-placed and informed for the next GE.

    On the SDLP: they’re dead in the water with the loss of Derry. They might have slowed their decline slightly, but the only hope they have of regaining ground is finding a party in the south to adopt them.

    On the unionist side, I don’t think the UUP should get overly confident. They’ve gained this time, but they have too many ‘last seats’ for it to be a sign of renewal and will be vulnerable to the DUP, Alliance, and unionist dissident parties next time. The DUP have a big problem with the dissidents (TUV, PUP, etc.) though. They aren’t going to out-loyalism them and should stop trying.

    As for Alliance, there doesn’t seem to be much evidence behind the claim that they shifted from unionists to nationalists. They lost a couple of seats proportionally, but that’s almost entirely due to the schizophrenic NI21 splitting the neutral vote. Perhaps if Alliance use more hashtags next time they can pull in the first-time voters NI21 caught this time.

  • DC

    The only party to have seen off the Alliance has been UKIP in core unionist areas, UKIP brought out the Unionist vote and choked off supply higher up the electoral food chain, coupled with the UUP performing well; but it wasn’t the DUP that supplied the magic, UKIP coming forward helped to bring new voters out – taken together it lifted the vote up and Alliance did get *outvoted* in Carrick, rather than what the DUP desired or foolishly hoped for – people/voters simply deserting the Alliance.

    Don’t be fooled, Alliance are sensitive around the edges, are worried about this and on twitter shamelessly courting failed NI21 candidates to gobble them up and see off any further competiton that could challenge their seats and power base.

    A strong UUP showing over the next while to recapture the more moderate vote should put Alliance on notice in places like Carrickfergus, if not in east Belfast where it has a lot of fat to eat into – which should help it through the tough times.

    I will know when Naomi Long is under true pressure when she loses her cool, but she is clearly breezing it and splatting the DUP all over the place at the moment.

  • RegisterForThisSite

    RDME, yeah I know, just thought I’d beat the slugger mob to spinning the silk purse into a sow’s ear. It was meant to be sarcastic….

    But not so sure now, Adams having led SF to be the biggest party in NI, near tripled the number of council seats in Ireland, and a probable 4 MEPs on the island this weekend has just been interviewed on RTE.

    He was asked if he was resigning….

    You can’t make it up

  • Mick Fealty

    I’m planning to do a longer analysis for each individual party once we know the results of #EP2014. But I am going to have another crack at this short form on the southern performance.

    It’s impossible to deny Sinn Fein the southern success. It could be utterly transformative for them. The above is an attempt to take a generous and sympathetic view of all parties to draw out some useful lessons..

  • Its often said that if you lay economists down in a line, they would not reach a conclusion.
    The same might be said of (amateur…including my own and professional) political analysis.
    Certainly none of the facts from two days of counting will get in the way of believing exactly what we want to believe.
    Thus….”with the loss of Derry” SDLP is finished is not an analysis with which I agree. I am of course biased.
    There are bigger problems for SDLP. Id worry more about not gaining a seat in Portadown than i would about losing two seats in Derry.

    There is also a Belfast problem. Whether in Short Strand or New Lodge, it is practically a no go zone.
    Its not just about Sinn Fein being working class as SF sees it.
    Or SDLP being the dreaded “middle class”….as SF also sees it.

    Its as much about the siege mentality that SF has invented. Culture, Music, Sport, Murals on walls, “community worker jobs”, festivals, its impossible to escape the overwhelming visibility of Sinn Fein.
    As I have said before, nationalism needs a sense of grievance.
    GOD knows that I have a list of grievances as long as my arm. And I love every single one of them.
    But SF preaches a nihilistic message to the disaffected.
    They do it in a way that no other party can do in Norn iron.
    The disaffected have accepted their disaffection.
    Policies are wasted.
    It only requires a flag and a slogan.

  • Comrade Stalin


    I’m not sure about your theory that UKIP saw off Alliance. If we accept, for a moment, your contention that a lot of voters will have been upset by what you see as Alliance abandoning Britishness, why would voters that have hitherto been voting for soft or liberal candidates suddenly switch to the hard right, dog whistle politics of UKIP ?

    A much better theory is that Alliance didn’t get their vote out, and were for whatever reason not able to translate Sean Neeson’s personal vote into support for the newer candidates. That problem is fixable, even though it is against the background of widespread intimidation of the party in the area by elements linked with the UVF.

  • RegisterForThisSite


    “Its as much about the siege mentality that SF has invented. Culture, Music, Sport, Murals on walls, “community worker jobs””

    What like Féile an Phobail? Kaiser Chiefs are headlining this year

    I wouldn’t call it a ‘siege mentality’ but yes it has largely been invented by Sinn Fein, and it was invented to replace rioting, parades, bonfires, the wrong sort of murals and culture.

    The reward is to become the biggest party in NI

  • RegisterForThisSite

    Possibly UKIP could have been expected to perform better given that it has gotten a hell of a lot more publicity than any other party in NI thanks to Nigel Farage. Even SF’s slick election machine couldn’t get live debates with the deputy PM, despite having more MPs

  • carnmoney.guy

    Great to see that Irish Catholics took the advise of their bishops to heart, examine your consciences and vote

    Ok then

    Shinners stay the same, sdlp in free fall , amd a few curved balls, dissidents and socialists

    Ya couldn’t make it up

  • Reader

    RegisterForThisSite: Even SF’s slick election machine couldn’t get live debates with the deputy PM, despite having more MPs
    It’s a European election. You should have been counting MEPs, and SF only has one MEP in the UK. Anyway, Clegg’s mission was to defend the EU, and SF aren’t really as Eurosceptic as UKIP.

  • DC

    Comrade, put it like this had UKIP not been standing Gavin Norris was in for sure the last seat was his, not Cheryl Johnston’s – DUP.

    The UKIP intervention was unique and it did what the DUP wanted its voters to do but couldn’t manage to do – UKIP got its vote out. The DUP tanked and the UUP bounced. DUP didn’t do enough – standing back and marvelling at Alliance getting petrol bombed and assuming people would just come out and back the DUP because Alliance had taken the flag 18 months ago was lazy politics. The constituency just wasn’t worked in terms of it having some part to play in restoring unionist identity or whatever. So as it showed, grievances 18 months ago were not converted into votes because energies were never channelled locally. Maybe a wee leaflet throughout the town 3 months before the election notifying people of the merits of coming out and voting for the party might have helped to bump up the turnout somewhat 😉 (No point relying on election literature two weeks before the vote, as people are saturated with leaflets at that point.)

    However! What did work out was UKIP, UKIP’s own message got people out to vote, I think it would be fair to say such voters came out motivated for other reasons unconnected to flag politics and the fall out thereafter. If UKIP had fielded a candidate in the Knockagh Ward I think something similar would have happened there and it would have been the TUV sneaking home not Paul Sinclair of Alliance.

    Alliance on that showing and on same low turnout will definitely be back in next election but will not run two candidates, only problem is it is never easy deciding which one to run and all the infighting that goes with that.

    My only concern for you guys is that I know a bit about the candidate that got elected, I reckon he’s going to be a dead loss, he’s a quiet man, smart guy, but I’m not joking getting conversation out of him from my memory, blood out of a stone comes to mind. You guys wouldn’t dare have him resign and try to co-opt the Wingman back in – again?

    I think a proper working of the constituency by unionist parties should be enough to wipe out Alliance in the town now, given who is now left in for you. If I were Stewart Dickson, already renowned for being a bit of prat, regardless of flag politics, I would be worried.

  • Gopher

    What did we learn from the council elections?

    I. In General

    We learn that few parties are capable of drawing the correct conclusion from the set of results and applying them to move forward. Instead more of the same until 2015

    II/ Alliance

    Alliance survived, they made the tactical damage limitation decision for the election in good time allowing for voters to contemplate where the party now stands and vote with cooler heads. Alliance are now a bigger party than the SDLP in Belfast which is a considerable victory as the West of the Bann jibe now looks hollow east of it. The Westminster seat and two assembly seats in South Belfast now look on. The cost is an Assembly and Westminster seat loss in East Belfast and an assembly loss in the commuter belt

    The NI21 implosion also helped Alliance how much is open to debate but in a PR election one call only say it was a factor.

    Two more initial observations on Alliances defensive victory One being the other popular mantra of a seat turns Alliance before going nationalist has been shown to be nonsense. An Alliance vote is no longer seen as transient but a stated position. The second observation seems to have escaped everyone’s notice, Geraldine Rice topped the poll in Castlereagh South proving stated support for the union is not toxic, all with only 6 tweets and 11 followers on Twitter.

    III/ DUP

    The DUP were always going to suffer from a couple of things, first and foremost was Jim Allister standing in Europe no other party had a predator like Jim on their backs. Big personalities generate votes, Dodds though improved is poor so the party were carrying her rather than her adding anything to the party. Secondly the result in 2011 would be hard to replicate. I don’t go with the anti DUP bias that this election was a disaster considering everything that has passed and the loathing of the assembly it was a good performance. The DUP can thank their inherent strength of organization and SF for preventing a drastic decline.

    IV/ UUP

    “You lucky, lucky lucky b*******” Nobody will convince me that the UUP ran a successful campaign never mind a campaign. They merely closed their eyes and hoped for the best, when they opened them again not only were they still in existence they had 88 seats. With NI21 re-designating a couple of minutes before the election this gave people who were already minded to vote a place to stay put and move to from Alliance.

    V/ SF

    Poor election, once again the proletariat failed to storm the Winter Palace, just how long can this “success” spin be maintained? Republicans were like Liverpool supporters with three games to go before this election and like Liverpool supporters at the end of the season have nothing to show. The slack finally ran out of the SF system, nothing left to squeeze out of the SDLP and getting squeezed from a whole host of growing predators. Inflating the big orange bogeyman when everyone knows its extinct only keeps the DUP in office and people are getting wise to that now.

    SF made mistakes, biggest mistake was the same as the DUP. Even movements need a personality to pull in votes. The mayor was a no brainer for the Euros. Secondly using hyperbole rhetoric about “galvanising” does not match the reality, third the “North” is not the “South” the electorate live in the “North”.

    One observation overlooked is the tactical defeat SF had in Newry, Mourne and Down, the SDLP matched them ( Tactical voting ) in an area were largest party should have been a penalty kick

    VI/ SDLP

    Thesis time if I had the time. Alban Maginnis begging Gerry Adams for transfers sums up how pathetic the party have become. Unpopular Euro candidate, invisible Leader and no personalities. Dress it up however you want but the SDLP are a party of dull Catholic Conservatives with a fixation on the border faux support of gay marriage dont change it. Many years ago I asked my manager, a Catholic, who was hard as nails, intelligent and could point out every true injustice his community had suffered without embellishment why he did not vote SDLP or SF “Them eejits they would only go and do something with it” It seems now many voters are like my old manager and are happy with Alliance or not voting.

    The only success the SDLP had was in the Newry, Mourne and Down and this was down to tactical transferring from pig dog unionists. In Belfast Alliance are bigger which makes the SDLP look like parochial hicks more at home on Craggy Island. In the next assembly election the SDLP will lose seats in Belfast and face a defeat in Derry

    My solution is simple, the SDLP and Alliance party should merge and become the biggest party at subsequent elections.

    One observation from Balmoral the SDLP economic pro union candidate polled very well if he had of been Alliance, he would have got in

    VII/ TUV

    Jim Allister, thats all.


    Henry Reilly has personality they were helped by protest votes and NI21 implosion. ie not being any of the others

    IX/ NI21

    Re-designation was crass stupidity. Over eleven thousand votes and one seat!!! It was criminal of Basil and Tina, the whole Raison d’être of NI 21 was the constitutional position was settled and those two muppets bring it up before an election, doh! That being said John should have held fire until he seen the whites of their eyes instead of tossing a grenade about. I feel for the candidates they were excellent I hope they stick at it, I think I will join I like a challenge. If Basil was a man he would co-opt his seat to one of the candidates to make amends.

    I could not help but think of a couple of quotes for the candidates of NI21, the first is Straffords words on being abandoned to his fate by his King

    “Put not your faith in Princes for they are the sons of men”

    The second from the same era

    “I had rather have a plain, russet-coated Captain, that knows what he fights for, and loves what he knows, than that you call a Gentleman and is nothing else”

    Good luck going forward.

    X/ Odds, Sods and Fruitcakes

    Greens get 3 candidates on a falling vote which is pretty good going and a lesson to everyone not to be SF or the DUP and get transfers from everyone. SF has now predators it will be interesting to see if it is at the expense of the SDLP or if SF will lose. The PUP have a couple of seats and nowhere left to go. Paul Berry gets in again, that must really stick in the craw of the DUP

  • RegisterForThisSite

    “It’s a European election. You should have been counting MEPs, and SF only has one MEP in the UK. Anyway, Clegg’s mission was to defend the EU, and SF aren’t really as Eurosceptic as UKIP.”


    The debates wheren’t about the European Election, they where on the constitutional matter of been a member or not been a member of the EU, ergo SF having more elected MPs than UKIPs zero number were more entitled to be there.

    Also SF are Eurocritical not Eurosceptical, not against the EU, just the bad bits.

    Although must admit to giving UKIP my EU vote, just to annoy Dave and Nick, that’ll teach him for inviting the DUP around for bible reading and lemonade in number 10’s garden and not asking Martin (tho it might have gotten a bit tense later on)

  • Charles_Gould

    SF have fallen in two senses in this election.

    1. The share of the vote fell. This is the first time since the peace process for this to happen, and it is significant as it shows they are now not able to grow.

    2. The number of seats fell, way below the projections based on the 2011 vote to the new councils, which shows that they are as transfer friendly as ever. SF well behind DUP as lead party on this important measure.

    So I do think this shows a new era, an era of declining SF vote. An era that began in the 2009 Euro election when the SF vote also fell as a share.

  • latcheeco

    Only tribal issues matter in the North at election time not policy. Twas ever thus and ever thus will be.To increase their percentage of the vote all the Sinners have to do is invite ever obliging unionism to wind up nationalists. Emotional response -guaranteed to work every time and the numbers are now increasingly in their favour whenever they do need to call the votes in. On this occassion however,because of the simultaneous election down Mexico way, the North had to be kept quiet so as not to scare any Southern horses. Hold the line but no fireworks or fires to put out while the main battle is fought on the other flank. That will probably be the case now for a while. And at the minute power in the North just runs to bins and stuff so what odds. The SDLP are slowly wasting away. The dalliance party and Comber21 etc.are just irrelevant side shows for climbers, main-chancers and hobbyists. On the traditional unionist side-as opposed to those who pretend they’re not really- it’s just going to be more division infighting and factions over who is the Lundyest Lundy ever in the face of the inevitable.

  • MonkDeWallyDeHonk


    While SF will undoubtedly be disappointed in the North, their success in the South is, as Mick has pointed out, undeniable (although I guess you’ll do your best to deny it).

    If a 0.7% drop in the North is a disappointment for SF – how must your beloved SDLP feel after dropping 1.4%?
    SF still got the largest percentage of first preference votes in the North.

    It doesn’t say much for the “leadership” of McDonnell – much hyped by your good self.

    The interview with Mark Durkan was clearly a thinly veiled attack on him – if you can’t see that, you really are wearing blinkers.

    In the North – this may have been a disappointment for SF.

    However, you’d be better off looking at the obvious flaws in the SDLP and the disputes within its “leadership” as opposed to making disparaging comments about SF.

    The SF results are something the SDLP can only ever dream of emulating.

  • boondock

    Gopher regarding the SDLP in Newry, Mourne, Down I think you are overestimating unionist tactical voting – its not FPTP elections. Only the Newry DEA would unionists tactically vote SDLP if they even bothered to vote in every other DEA they had unionists or independents to vote for to try and get elected. Regarding Justin the economic unionist Cartwright, if the SDLP actually balanced their vote correctly then they would both have got in. Yes it can be difficult at times but when one candidate gets 75% of the vote and the other 25% in the leaders own backyard is quite frankly scandalous

  • Gopher

    Maybe so Boondock, but nearly 7% more of the vote and the same amount of seats, maybe the SF election co-ordinator should resign if something extraneous did not occur.

    The SDLP arnt a “team” they are the political equivalent of 16th Gaelic chieftains with all their petty rivalries. The problem is now is after each election on a falling vote the sitting candidate will only play lip service to vote balancing. They arnt going to risk missing a quota (and a wage) to balance. Lets face facts the SDLP ship is sinking and its a fight to remain on the last bit to go under.

  • RegisterForThisSite

    I hear the price of straw is rising sharply on the open market, apparently people all over the country are clutching at any straws they can find and there’s a big shortage now.

  • RegisterForThisSite

    Not sure Newry was that much of a disaster, thought SF were predicted to get 14/15 seats and got 14, was there a higher prediction?

    As an aside, week before election the SDLP were out in force in Rostrevor pretty much every evening, if it was that everywhere than fair play they put in a big effort, there was no sign of anyone else other than leaflets. Think they were also the only party with a car and loudspeaker out on polling day.

  • Comrade Stalin


    Comrade, put it like this had UKIP not been standing Gavin Norris was in for sure the last seat was his, not Cheryl Johnston’s – DUP.

    Er, no. If UKIP had not been standing it’s more likely that those votes would have gone to the DUP candidates at an earlier stage in the count.

  • Comrade Stalin


    That’s an analysis I can mostly agree with.

    Taking a slightly wider view, I think it’s fairly obvious that the executive parties, with the exception of the UUP, did not maximise their vote and therefore took a hit from the much smaller challengers to the establishment. In the case of four out of five of the executive parties, they lost seats they were expecting to win, and made some miscalculations around how their votes were split.

    I think Alliance can call sustaining their position in City Hall a good result and certainly a good response to those who predicted that the party was finished.

    I can’t take away NI21’s win of 11,000 votes in the teeth of what happened to them over the past week. Of course this is a vote that was highly distributed, rather than targeted precisely in areas where they stood a chance of winning. This is a group of people who might go somewhere, with better leadership.

    I also agree with you that the UUP vote gain is a fluke. Had the UUP offered something in terms of policy to differentiate itself from the DUP you could give them credit but they didn’t, as you said they closed their eyes and hoped for the best.

  • mjh


    Good analysis. I part company with you and the Comrade on one thing. Credit where credit is due to the UUP and its leader – it certainly was not down to luck.

    After a very shaky start he learnt quickly from his mistakes and followed a consistent strategy with a consistent message to the voters – something the party has not done for decades. You might not agree with the strategy – keep so close to the DUP that Peter Robinson cannot get the knife blade between you – but it worked. The party understood it and the target voters understood it. It even gave the UUP the opportunity to out-unionist the DUP on topics like the Maze.

    Secondly he pursued a consistent secondary strategy of seeking a deal on seat allocation. This scored a minor success in Mid Tyrone. It also sent a subtle message to his target voters that the UUP was more interested in unionist unity than was the DUP.

    Where the UUP did get lucky was that Robinson spurned Nesbitt’s advances for an agreement to run only 1 DUP candidate at a time when he would have paid almost any price to get it – only to be forced in the end to give it for nothing. (Now the talks are on again for future elections, but this time the UUP have nothing to lose in Westmister and no threat against them in the Assembly. So if anything their negotiating position is now stronger than the DUP’s.)

    Thirdly he anticipated McRea’s and McCallister’s resignations well in advance and moved in plenty of time to minimise the potential damage when it came – by dispensing with the post of Deputy Party Leader held by McCallister and distracting McCrea with a disciplinary hearing. And he had the courage to risk the criticism for losing two more Assembly seats in the short term knowing that the party would win them back at the next election.

    Where the UUP got lucky again was that although McCrea and McCallister initially positioned themselves as an alternative to the UUP (a target of about 15% of the electorate), by the time they got round to formally launching the party they had started to drift away from that objective into increasingly competing for the more unionist-leaning of the Alliance voters (a target of about 2% of the electorate.) This left Nesbitt effectively unchallenged on the more liberal wing of his electorate.

    Fourthly the party leader must take some of the credit for the party being in such good heart going in to the elections. I suspect that a lot of quality planning went into them. As evidence for this (apart from the result themselves) look at the very high proportion of sitting UUP councillors who stood again this year. Compared to the number of “notional” seats they took in 2011 – the number they were likely to have won had the new boundaries applied – 81% of their “notional” councillors elected in 2011 stood again at this election. This was the highest for any of the Executive parties and compares with 67% for the DUP. That speaks of a particularly high level of morale and motivation in the party as well giving the party an immediate advantage at the polls. An advantage which may have been greater than ever in a year of upheaval in many boundaries.

  • RegisterForThisSite


    it certainly was not down to luck………

    Sounds like a fantastic leader to have, curiously I’ve not heard of any of this before, can you point me to any media links pre-voting that explained or detail this brilliance

    Just curious really, yeah know, to learn more it’s just that at the time all these events took place none of it seem to have been foreseen or planned, the leader at times seemed lost and flustered, but you say he only pretended to appear clueless at times to fool the opposition but UUP voters knew all the time it was a big plan.

    Gosh bet the DUP are feeling silly today!

  • mjh


    OK you don’t like him. I’m not a fan of his strategy myself, quite the opposite. But you have to admit it worked – certainly much better than I predicted.

    But the strategy did not come out of the blue – it was in plain sight since late last summer. I posted a number of comments here at the time. So I’m not just making this up with the benefit of hindsight.

    As to it being brilliant. No it wasn’t that. It was a perfectly obvious safety-first strategy but followed consistently and competently. I think a lot of commentators did not see past his dreadful first few months. Much better had been expected from him – and once he had been put in their “laughing-stock” box most were content to leave him there.

    It wasn’t a brave strategy. It wasn’t the modern unionism, shed of the errors of the past and reaching out to all communities for an inclusive future that he seemed to be trying to signal at the beginning. But it worked for his party and I guess they will be grateful.

  • Comrade Stalin


    I’ve no idea what UUP strategy you are talking about. Can you point to some evidence ? What does the deal on seat allocation got to do with the council elections ?

  • mjh


    You want evidence that Mike Robinson positioned the UUP so close to the DUP that there was no room left for Robinson to use the usual attacks – and then made sure it stayed there? Really?

    Well just off the top of my head:
    • UUP co-operation with the DUP on the anti-Alliance leaflets
    • UUP enthusiasm for the unionist Forum
    • UUP refusal to condemn the illegal fleg demonstrations
    • UUP mealy-mouthedness when Alliance offices and councillors’ homes were attacked
    • Nesbitt’s presence on the Carrick? flag demo along with prominent loyalists
    • UUP enthusiasm for agreed unionist candidates
    • UUP backtracking on initial suggestions that they might back the final Haass proposals once the DUP made it clear that they were not buying it…………

  • Comrade Stalin

    No, I wanted evidence that there was some sort of a consistent strategy. You correctly point out that they have been snuggling up close to the DUP; on the other hand, though, they’ve been attacking the DUP over the Maze, and trying to spin themselves as a bunch of liberal progressives.

    The European election results have put paid to the notion that there is any kind of success here. The BBC are reporting on twitter that Nicholson is about 20,000 votes further behind in the first count than he was in 2009 and there’s even a panic going on that Jim Allister could squeeze ahead of him. The Green, NI21 and Conservative redistributed votes are more likely to help Nicholson than Alister, but a lot of them could go to Attwood which might not improve Nicholson’s position at all.

  • Morpheus
  • Sp12

    “Has anyone been reading the Facebook messages from the idiot just elected onto Belfast City Council for the TUV???”

    She’s a lovely person isn’t she, we need more young people in politics, the oul wans are too bitter to move on.

  • Gopher

    After the first preference in Euros anyone want to argue the UUP actually had a strategy? I stand by my analysis the UUP got very very lucky with the NI21 implosion in the locals

  • mjh


    Right, we are agreed that the UUP have kept close to the DUP – I argue that this was the UUP strategy and that it was designed to prevent the DUP from being able to accuse them of being ineffective or unwilling defenders of unionism as the DUP had done ever since the days that they were called the Protestant Unionist Party. I think we can agree that for the first time in nearly 50 years the DUP were unable to play that card.

    I dealt with the UUP attacks on the DUP over the Maze in my first posting when I said, “It even gave the UUP the opportunity to out-unionist the DUP on topics like the Maze.” To be clear the strategy was not simply to keep close to the DUP, it was to give the DUP no room to attack the UUP’s unionist credentials. The Maze attack enabled the UUP to appear more reliable unionist defenders than the DUP. It is noteworthy that the DUP counter-attacks gained no traction.

    As for the Euro election results – let’s await the outcome. It looks like Nicholson will retain his seat. And that would be job done as far as the UUP are concerned.

    In a few weeks’ time no-one but us political anoraks will remember the percentages each party gained. But if Nicholson comes through tomorrow for the next five years the UUP will still have a Euro MP and an even higher proportion of councillors than before.

  • Gopher


    Dodds did not lose a single vote to Allister, UKIP or UUP and that my friend though I hate to admit it is the result of these elections. The other parties really need to up their game

  • Comrade Stalin

    mjh, all I’m saying is that this approach by the UUP is so simplistic it is more like a default than something deserving of the word “strategy”. Nesbitt is all over the place and the result in the European election shows that the UUP vote is drifting.

  • neutralist

    At this stage I think there is a need for a Southern political crusade: save the SDLP. It is obvious that major surgery is required: FF and FG combining (a reincarnation of the *original* Sinn Féin) — they will probably be in coalition after the next election in any case — followed by a subsequent merger with the SDLP allowing them to match SF’s powerful ‘all-Ireland’ card. A long shot admittedly.

  • mjh


    I’ll not argue with “simple”.

    The best strategies normally are. It makes them easier to communicate, understand and implement.

    Compare and contrast the SDLP. I defy anyone to define their strategy in a couple of sentences.

    And NI21 shows what happens when you have no consistent strategy at all.