Challenges to Stormont from the TUV and UKIP will (sooner or later) require a response

Whilst Gerry uses his Slugger soapbox slot (and very welcome he is too) to call for an election in the Republic, Alex Kane has been casting his eye over Northern Ireland’s insurgent unionist parties, the TUV and UKIP..

At the 2011 Assembly election, for example, the UUP won 16 seats with 87,531 votes. At the Euro election in May they got 83,438 votes (although at the council elections on the same day they pushed the tally up to 101,385). What those figures tell me is that the UUP is pretty resilient at local level while remaining vulnerable to very specific attack.

When voters had the chance – as they did at the Euro election – to vote for the TUV and Ukip, then 100,390 voted for those parties. When the choice was limited – as it was at the council elections, where the TUV/Ukip fielded fewer candidates – those Euro voters either didn’t vote or switched to the UUP and DUP.

The problem for the UUP at the next Assembly election is that specific targeting of seats by the TUV and Ukip could hit them much harder than the DUP.

He concludes…

I was asked to address the TUV conference, giving my perspective as a columnist and commentator. What I told them was this: it’s not enough to rattle on and on about the flaws, you need a very clear strategy for delivering the changes you want. What’s your strategy for the reform and rewrite that will be required? What’s your fallback position if your first choice option isn’t possible?

And that’s the challenge for both the TUV and Ukip. Yep, the structures are dysfunctional. But can you actually fix them anytime soon?

I’m not sure that fixing things is the point of either party. As they would see it, stopping bad things from happening is the primary point, what happens after that they may hope may never be any of their concern.

Which in many respects shifts the question back onto the mainstream parties: what are going to do about the seeping of public confidence in the Stormont institutions?

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  • MainlandUlsterman

    In creative writing, you learn very quickly that the critical and the creative impulses are very different and need to be separated out. But you don’t finish a piece of work unless you’ve given both their head. As you say, TUV and UKIP are all critique and no creativity.

    In politics, you can get away with a lack of vision if you can offer competent management. But I’m not sure UKIP and TUV have anything to offer there either.

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    I think this harks back to that old lib dem joke once again. You can pledge free puppies for all on a manifesto if you know you won’t have to implement it. I think the TUV and UUP and even UKIP have valid points to steer the argument, but until their is institutional reform, they know they won’t have to stand up and ‘ve truly counted. Unless the opposition approach becomes a reality

  • Practically_Family

    Let’s give it a year and see how much of a challenge they actually raise in an election.

    I’ve a notion that voting will be more small ‘c’ conservative, both here and nationally, than many media sources and political commentators speculate.

    Let’s face it, the possibility of a proper protest vote gives them something to talk about, particularly when suggesting it may be in favour of a UKIP-ish fringe party rather than a Green-ish fringe party.

  • Not sure if you put all of NI UKIP in a room there would be a single policy, no matter that David McNarry is suddenly back in the public eye. For the TUV there seems to be a slow evolutionary change. To some extent it was TUV commentary on ‘opposition’ and ‘mandatory coalition’ that framed debate early this week. With none of the four major parties, nor Alliance, willing to step back from the trough, and the NIO et al talking of the need for consensus a more articulated alternative is not needed just at this point. Alex is right though. As the disaffection grows only a Party that can present a clear alternative will be able to benefit. TUV more likely of the two, but a way to go.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Surely if Alex Kane is to be consistent, both these parties should be even more politically irrelevant than the “minor” executive parties he criticizes for being irrelevant already.

  • ted hagan

    Ukip policy appears to be formed by a game of Chinese whispers

  • Robin Keogh

    The Westminster elections are the next test surely. What I am interested in is what will happen to the overall Unionist vote with so many parties in the mix. The TUV will surely contest North Antrim and if Jim’s popularity holds, could he be a real challenger to take that seat? Will the TUV stand against the DUP and/or UUP in any other constituencies? And what are UKIPs plans? Will they step aside and let the rest of the boys fight it out? I would love to hear what people think on this front. The only constituencies that Unionism does not have to worry about is Lagan Valley, North Down, East Belfast and the Antrim Strongholds but even North Antrim could fall if the Unionist vote split three ways. East Derry, Upper Bann and North Belfast are unlikely to stay in Unionist hands if the vote splits. Moreover,the confidence generated by the surge in Unionist turnout we saw for the Euros and Locals may take a beating if those voters stay at home next time out. Has there been any agreement on Unionist Unity for the elections? Looking at Upper Bann for example, DUP,UUP,TUV,UKIP,SF,SDLP,ALLIANCE, GREEN. – SF were ahead of the group slightly at the 2011 LA election. It could be interesting.

  • barnshee

    I wish you were right- in that it would mean a dilution of the orange /green divide in politics Unfortunately any minor success by fringe parties will produce a swing back to orange/green to prevent “themuns” getting in

    A possible except is the TUV who can dent the DUP in some areas should the put up candidates of a similar calibre to Allister

  • Richard Cairns

    Alex Kane went down very well at the TUV conference (I should have a recording of it soon enough) – and his points are valid, as are yours.

    The thrust of TUV is to get to a point where proper reform of the Assembly and its structures is the front page story (we are getting there) – because there is a belief that it cannot deliver tangible benefits to the people of Northern Ireland until it has solid foundations. Can this be fixed anytime soon? There needs to be political will to do it, and that will only materialise when the public start to see the Assembly for what it is and start agitating for change.

  • Gaygael

    I have enjoyed this sight for debating some constituencies.

  • Gaygael

    TUV will miss the trick that UKIP may play. Unionism with no sectarians pacts. Tuv will play the sectarian headcount game, along with most unionist parties. UKIP it seems may not! and that means they may benefit.

  • kensei

    Is it credible to believe that they’ll be the lead party of Unionism, thus requiring negotiations on change or collapse? Nope.

    Is it credible to believe they’ll pick up enough seats to get a minster and cause real mischief in government? Nope.

    Is it credible to believe they’ll spook unionism enough to result in any of the above? We maybe, but we are already about a dysfunctional as it gets without collapse.

    Is it credible to think they might be able to move the needle on a few issues? Sure, TUV in particular has done it before. But it’s rare, all being told and unlikely to be existential.

    Is it credible to believe either party could be blown away by events before any of the above happen? Yup.

    Looks a lot like later to me. There is a lot “must” going round these parts these days. People do not have to do anything. Parties have demonstrated they don’t have to do anything multiple times already. Parties can stay obstructionist for a lot longer than you can stay solvent. Until there is a credible alternative that means parties leak votes, the “seeping of confidence” has no impact. No one must do anything. Nothing is required. What mechanism causes change?

    Alex has at least thought this through with regards the UUP, and asks the smaller parties essentially the question above for the next step. The resulting article does not think it through. It’s just Sloppy Slugger.