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.
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?