Unionist Pacts: More engagement is required in order to maximise the vote

Mike Nesbitt somewhat overshadowed the UUP Party Conference with his call for a UUP-DUP Pact.

At the DUP Party Conference Alderman Gavin Robinson was unveiled as their candidate for East Belfast in the General Election.

And Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness attempted to derail the SDLP Party Conference with his call for a ‘pro-agreement’ pact with the SDLP which was rejected.

Everyone has their own opinion on the use of political pacts, and within internal political party discourse there is inevitably debate, often heated. While not unique to Northern Ireland, the mere suggestion of electoral pacts dominates the media and political focus, sometimes distracting or detracting from other crises.

After conference season, all eyes now turn to the General Election in May. A regular call come election time is for greater ‘cooperation’ between the unionist parties. Therefore I thought it would be a good topic to cover.

In PR elections like Local Government, Assembly, and Europe presenting the electorate with a range of choice does not preclude the later transfer of votes through elimination or surplus within or across the respective blocs, or to others.  Some argue that choice increases turnout, and that the single transferable vote allows the voter’s intention to find expression so long as an intention is expressed down an order of preferences.

In simple plurality however, blocs find imperatives coming to the fore other than presenting electors with a choice of candidate or policies, as in Northern Ireland, a Sinn Fein victory in a Westminster constituency deprives the entire constituency of representation in Parliament.

This is the unionist contention behind electoral pact discussions. That to fulfil a parliamentary role an MP returned at election ought to swear allegiance to the crown, take their seat, and work with government and opposition in the decisions facing the UK and represent constituent interests in Parliament.

In effect, the unionist position is a choice of representation or no representation, and that, in a run-off, is choice enough.

Discussions of pacts arises most frequently when we examine constituencies finely balanced between total nationalist and unionist electorates, with or without Alliance/Independent candidates factoring.  North Belfast, Fermanagh and South Tyrone and South Belfast are all marginal seats where all unionists need to cooperate.

The message is clear to unionist parties from their members and supporters – we want to see unity where it is practical and where it will benefit unionism. I agree with that sentiment. I also want Northern Ireland to get to a point in the future where we will not have to consider pacts, where democrats can slug it out in the knowledge the successful candidate will take their place and represent constituents in Westminster and influence the government of the day.

Speculation abounds leading up to the election next year, and much of it concerning what agreement if any the DUP and UUP will reach.  A strong DUP view would be to press for uncontested candidature in East and North Belfast, with the anticipated outcome holding North Belfast and taking East. This would be an optimum result for the DUP, but to get there something would need to be offered to the UUP if they were minded to stand aside in either or both constituencies.

In this scenario, what would most likely emerge is the ceding of FST and South Belfast to the UUP, which in my opinion, would result in the UUP potentially gaining neither.  Much depends on what the UUP want out of the election and how they see themselves achieving that.  I reckon that they would be happy with a gain, any gain, but where might that best come from? Currently, without pacts, they are only really well placed in Upper Bann.

If a UUP decision is based on numbers, much of the outcome of DUP/UUP talks depends on whether the UUP think that a consolidated bloc vote in FST or South Belfast will yield a seat, for if not, then the incentive to enter a pact for pacts sake greatly diminishes and might potentially harm party and candidate votes for upcoming Assembly elections.

If the rationale for electoral pacts is the difference between providing constituents with representation in Parliament or an abstentionist MP taking the seat, the use of independent unionist candidates cannot be overlooked.  This of course was the case in FST and Mid-Ulster last time round without success.  But if loyalty and the offer of representation are the issues at stake, the matter of individual party interest must be set aside for greater communal ends.

This is perhaps the basis for inter-unionist party talks and contributions ought to be welcomed and encouraged on the basis of wrestling seats away from Irish nationalism and abstentionism.  Seats like FST, North and South Belfast are precariously balanced, and coordinated unionist action holds a promise to improve the quality of representation for all constituents in a given area.

Therefore, there needs to be engagement by all unionist parties who are active in the marginal constituencies to identify and back an agreed candidate; this will then have buy in by those parties. If that happens then the unionist vote can be maximised. However, what should be avoided is the imposition of a candidate by any party. That will only reduce buy in, ergo reducing the possibility of maximising unionist turnout.

As much as the unionist electorate wants to see reasonable cooperation between the parties, the bigger parties themselves need to actually engage and not dictate. No one unionist party can claim to speak for the majority of unionism, and it be remiss of me not to remind them of that.

 

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  • Morpheus

    Hahaha…yes John, that’s him

  • Robin Keogh

    According to the latest lucid talk poll 40% say they would like a UI within he next twenty years

  • John Gorman

    Its not a case of whether I like or dis-like the figures. What I dont like are stats being mis-represented. I could equally say only around 26% of the electorate voted for Unionist parties, only 28% described themselves as Unionist in the 2012 NILT survey and only 40% described themselves as British only in the 2011 census. All are factually correct but likewise they dont really mean anything. You cant pick and choose some figures but then ignore others something I was trying to explain to MU earlier.

  • Zeno1

    So, what are you saying? There is a huge popular demand for a United Ireland? But they don’t vote for Nationalist Parties, describe themselves as Irish, describe themselves as Nationalist or show up in the Polls and Surveys for some mysterious reason? That does seem a bit unlikely.

    All I am saying is there is no evidence that demand exceeds 26% of the Population, and if there is I would like to see it.

  • sk

    “The Other Lot hurt me, so I want nothing to do with them”

    How very enlightened. Unionists cling to this kind of silly attitude without realising that this kind of perpetual animosity towards the “other lot” hurts their own cause more than ours.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    That’s exactly the problem sk, Cue Bono is only willing to engage with his Irishness (over 400 years in the country and still claimimg immigrant status!) through a single definition Irish=Republican. I keep asking for some empathy across the divides, the only thing that will ensure any long term continuity for the position CB takes. Not an inch at this time is a hiding to nowhere!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Interesting, CB, that your penchant for narrowing cues extends well beyond a refusal to involve yourself in the wider historical culture you encounter in your community and seems to have ensured that you have become so reductionist as to attempt to limit the concept of the universal experience of personal freedom and identity to a few reified politically situated simplifications.

    It might just help your understanding of the concept of political “nationalism” and how it radically differs from “culture” if you were to read Ernest Gellner’s work, as flagged above in what you replied to. Cultural identity and the concept of Nationalism are not only different things, but are frequently antagonistic to each other. Gellner shows clearly how political nationalism is a centralising modernising concept that developed in the late eighteenth century. It employed the concept of cultural identity to attract support, but once in power naturally began to homogenise that culture into a centralised sanitised version that smothers local variation in a single State sponsored version. Pretty much what England was doing to Ireland and Irish culture during the nineteenth century, that very process that has robbed your ancestors of their natural irish identity, howbeit the local Scots hybrid of the wee six. Hardly what I am commending to you.

    Terms such as “Nationalism” and “Irish history” when they are bandied about in their simplistic popular sense where the user seemingly shows no awareness of the more precise meaning of the concepts they use are simply blind obscuration that serves to cloud the waters of arguement.

    Your reductionism ensures that you seem to mechenically lump everything Irish into a box called “Irish Republicanism” and then close the lid. It’s called “predictive thinking” or “mindblock” and employes the same techniques for an early prediction of meaning that predictive texting does! It needs constant re-thinking and correction if you are to avoid loosing track of any real, earthed meaning when you assemble your thoughts. A bit more cultural sensitivity and discrimination please!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Proves my point, the polls are simply a momentary “take” and the final proof of anything lies in its practical end result. I imagine that the question asked was framed quite differently to the question that gave a lower result. Polls are, for politicians, about point scoring.My own experience of advertising and marketing had shown me that when real money is at stake, real profitability, then those assessing these polls are less likely to take them at face value.

    The reality is that Ireland is developing a serious economy while the UK is trapped in the dead end of “financial services” that they entered under That Woman. The long term future of the wee six, if they are ever to break out of a culture of dependency, will be with the rest of Ireland rather than being handcuffed to the decline of an overspecialised economy with nothing to offer even its own regions. Scotland is begining to realise this, we will too in time, and the polls of today are a complete irrelevance when this reality is properly understood.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Zeno, I have no faith in polls, any more than I have in politicians. Four polls saying the same thing (actually, not quite) have about as much credibility as four politicians saying the same thing. The only poll that counts is a country wide vote honestly counted, and even that I’m leery of, after seeing posters announcing the result (not a guess, the result!) of the GFA refferendum as I passed through Mongahan before the polls closed.

    My grandfather, who was an officer in WWI (107th Trench mortars) used to say that no matter what statistics used to plan a battle, no matter how certain the high command were of victory, the only proof was the battle itself. The more certain the high command was, the more he felt he had to be additionally careful with the lives of those he commanded.

    I think that a United Ireland is economically inevitable, myself. This does not change by one jot my distrust of any elected professional politician whether they sit on the Hill, in Dublin or London or anywhere else.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Zeno! No one sane votes here because they have noticed what the politicians are actually doing (or not doing). The issues are only a portion of this, and no claims can be made about figures and issues without a final hard all person vote!

    And it will be less a matter of what local people demand than what the British administration is planning as a long term solution. They want shot of their expensive and troublesome “hobby” statelet, so in time the outcome will not be union, but rejection.

    I have every sympathy with those who honestly feel powerful cultural iinks with the union, many of my own family are in that catagory. I’ve asked, over on the “More Unionist Posters” thread for strong and sensible postings in support of the union, and on isssues around this, so the real differences between positiions may be aired and we can strive together to evaluate these things rationally and not simply sink into point scoring. If anything is to survive of the particularities of the Plantation culture as it has effceted Irish culture, then such serious attempts at mutual understanding are seminal.

    The one thing that will not happen is Viscount Brookborough or Craigavon rising from the dead to save Ulster from themuns……

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I’ve spent most of my professional life filling in the gaps left by statistics and answering questions you can’t get statistical answers to. But the statisticians at the big agencies generally know their stuff, they go through machinations that would make your head spin to get the sample and weighting right etc – and words the questions in such a way that you reduce misunderstanding. I’ve done cognitive testing of questionnaires myself. As a freelancer I’ve worked with Ipsos MORI, who did the 2013 poll – they have amazing expertise on polling and called the GE 2010 spot on. There is abundant incontrovertible proof they know what they’re about.

    I’m also pretty sceptical about some of the use of research in areas like film marketing. I work a bit on advertising creative development, where there are parallels, and it’s certainly wrong to make big creative judgments based on quant feedback alone, though many companies do. Hence the sh** advertising we see so much of. Audience research is useful in working out what kind of things a brand should be talking about though, before the creative process starts – anyway, that’s another issue.

    I’m no statistician but what we’ve seen with United Ireland statistics is very consistent, poll after poll. The Census data, though not covering that question directly, which obviously has a much bigger sample, does detail the general shape and strength of felt identity in Northern Ireland and shows why we perhaps shouldn’t be surprised by the poll findings.

    It’s tempting to take the people we know and imagine they are typical of the population – but they probably aren’t. That’s why we go to research agencies to get careful sampling and weighting and a clearer view across society. If you’re surprised by the unpopularity of the united Ireland, it may be you’ve been too tuned into a certain political discourse and not enough to a real spread of people on the ground (including people who aren’t much interested in political discourse – most people that is).

    Most people just want to get on with their lives above all. So the Irish Nationalist Project has its work cut out convincing them to upset the applecart. A more uncertain future, anyone?

  • Zeno1

    To be fair Seaan. I gave 4 different examples. The Election results. The NILT Survey. The Census and The Poll Result that showed the most support. Four different sources say the same thing.
    If you think that it is impossible to predict an outcome based on the examination of the relevant evidence. I have to disagree, since that is the business I am in.
    If you think it is economically inevitable then you must have reasons for thinking that and I would like to hear them.

  • Zeno1

    “no claims can be made about figures and issues without a final hard all person vote!”

    Why not? Given the information it is possible to predict the outcome of most future events.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Bankers? 2007? Zeno, it’s really easy to “predict” retrospectivly, but considerably harder to do it the other way in practice. At least when you can evaluate this in hard cash, as in prediction in marketing.

    But as I’ve said above the real issue is that the senior partner in the Westminster/Stormont deal has they own ideas about the eventual outcome of everything, or so my friends at Mayfair and Chelsea parties tell me. In this context, its the piper who will call the tune, and will suffer the inconvenience and expense of the wee six only as long as they have to. Then the polls will reflect that, rather than any other statistic.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Is this the one? Read again Robin, taking the rose-tinted spectacles off. It’s 30 per cent.
    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/northern-ireland-says-yes-to-a-border-poll-but-a-firm-no-to-united-ireland-30622987.html
    Ipsos MORI had 26 per cent last year, same ballpark. Big majority against it.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Ah, Zeno1, on this I think we will, with every respect, just have to differ. The four examples can be buckled together but are not actually referring to the same thing except in a very general sense. And I’d questioned the use of statistics as evidence. they are indicators of probability, not hard evidence, but that may just be the way I use words.

    The inevitability of a united Ireland is to a degree economic I feel, I think that the dynamism of the Irish economy certainly offers a better hope for a revitalisation of our economy than the slightly hysterical clinging on to a dependency culture subsidised by Westminster. To unpack this would need a lot of time and space, far far more than even I’d test Slugger’s patience with. But the decisive factor to me is the real attitude of the British government. Although short term they may look to people such as Robinson for support at Westminster, in the long run they want to be shot of the wee six and all it implies. Even self interest in the camp supporting the union should dictate that some understanding of this inevitability should be attempted. The one thing that is certain is that the future will not fit into the old categories we have all lived with in the past. I do not see a future United Ireland as the child of SF, nor do I see the retreat into the Craigavan/Brookborough redoubt that the more unscrupulous DUPers dupe their supporters with as in any way a valid strategy for Unionists. Something has to be forged out of some reconciliation of our perceived differences, and will not simply vanish when confronted with fantasies about the impossible happening and the possibility of the inevitable United Ireland simply going away if we hide under the comfort blanket of statistics.

  • Zeno1

    Are you saying no one predicted the Banking Crash? Or no one predicted the property bubble bursting? You know neither is true. The truth is all the signs were there but no one wanted to believe them. It’s the same with United Ireland. The people who want it don’t want to believe the data. The Polls are all wrong is the cry. But when the Polls predict something they like, they grasp them to their bosoms. (The Polls say SF are going to be the biggest party in ROI, The stats say, the unionist population is falling).

  • SeaanUiNeill

    And I predicted the collapse of the USSR in the 1970s, from observation in Eastern Europe, as my wife keeps telling everyone, but most people did not. Check out a few of my other postings! I’m saying that statistics along witn other data can imply probability, what I’m criticising is their use as “proof”. As far as I’m concerned wrong is less the term than uncertain.

    And I’m coming from my first hand experience about the use of statistical data in marketing, which has led me to question all statistical certainty. Its always a gamble using statistics, some more certain some considerably less so. As companies do not usually loose as much money with political data everyone is much more cavalier about using it as “proof”,

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I see a pattern forming: when the facts stack up against your argument, just say “let’s agree to differ.” It’s kind of running away, no? It doesn’t change the facts I’m afraid 🙂

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I read it, it was less than 30 per cent. You guys really do have an issue with stats …
    This doesn’t involve anything to do with assumptions about people voting unionist, non-voters or anything. All the polls use a very direct question on this.

  • barnshee

    They only way the prod vote will come out in strength and/or unite is for a referendum.

    The MLA charade at Stormont is a side show to keep the largely unemployable off the streets and satisfy the desire for self agrandissment of the ” I`m an important person I know what best, whats good for you” element in society.
    They are immaterial they have no real power –voting for them other than a protest at the enormous cost of the charade is an irrelevance.

    Give us a real referendums( Segregated Education,Water charges ,a UI vote would be start) Let the people speak

  • MainlandUlsterman

    all those stats mean something John, whether flattering for unionism or otherwise.

    But on the united Ireland question, the range of possible meanings is vanishingly small. I can see that’s hard to accept. But don’t blame the data.

    When I first trained in social and market research, the trainer put up a slide of cartoons depicting the various ways research is used by the wider world. The big one was a lamppost (to p*** against). We’re used to it. People have their own reasons to dismiss research findings when they’re inconvenient. Fine, but they should then be honest from then that their thinking is based on their own personal (unproven) hunches, not evidence. Don’t shoot the messenger.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I’m also coming from first hand experience about the use of statistical data in marketing – as a former big agency research director – and your idea that big successful organisations don’t make a lot of successful use of good statistical data couldn’t be wider of the mark. But share your anti-research views with the MRS – http://www.mrs.org.uk – I’m sure they’ll be interested.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    It’s simply, MU, that I see that nothing I’m going to say will shift the absolute certainty with which others are holding an at best very shaky opinion. And, as I’ve said before, statistics are not “facts” simply probabilities.

    In the final analysis what we need in discussing these things is the examination of ideas and opinions, not conscious or unconscious distortions such as the mendacious use of the word “fact”, normally meaning “something that actually exists; reality; truth” loosely put in place of the more accurate word “probability”. The employment of statistical material by all those posting in favour of the union case shows a very marked tendency to carefully select and interpret only that data that is entirely favorable to the presenter. This is the first cardinal sin of all serious statistical analysis. The inaccurate use of the word “fact” instead of “probability” in postings is a perfectly clear marker of this.

    This is all perfectly human, and great propaganda if that’s all you are seeking to present, but it is not debating the real issues honestly. Its the smothering of that debate, something entirely unproductive. And. even more significantly, it offers no serious answer to the unwillingness of the British administrations to indulge Unionist policies built on wishful thinking, a certain marker of the inevitability of a united Ireland at some point.

  • Morpheus

    I can’t speak for John but when he said:

    “Likewise if you bothered to check my link above even the dubious latest BT poll had a UI in 20 years wanted by over 40% of those who had an opinion”

    I think he is looking at this chart:

    http://cdn2.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/incoming/article30623898.ece/a92e2/ALTERNATES/h342/p1_webgraphic2.jpg

    “The people of Northern Ireland want a border poll referendum (left) – but there is still no significant appetite for a united Ireland (right). *Total excludes no opinion/no vote”

    So he is right in what he is saying

    All this is of course meaningless until such times as those taking part can do so from a position of knowledge as opposed to ignorance. Give everyone the facts about a UI and THEN ask them…then the polls can be taken seriously.

  • Robin Keogh

    I think its u that needs the glasses. 7.7 % say they want it now while a further 32.5 % say they they want it in the next twenty years. Combined that makes 41 %. U shoulda gone to specsavers?

  • Morpheus

    Why is Ipsos MORI shoddy MU?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    No, read it again. You’ve confused the figures saying they would support having a vote at all with the figures for those who said they would vote for a UI if there were a vote.

    An apology would be nice.

  • Morpheus

    As a “former big agency research director” maybe you can help with something that has always bugged me. Why do massive cosmetic companies use miniscule sample sizes when advertising their products?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    MU, “as a former big agency research director”, any experience of the likes of Saachi or my very favourite BBH? Certainly the adults in the business use statistical data to assess probabilities, and attempt to measure the effectiveness of their work but to regard it as hard incontrovertible “fact”……

    It’s a really cheap shot I know, but I just can’t resist it. You did say former…….

    I’d be more interested in a real discussion of the virtues AND faults of statistical data, rather than this sterile attempt to ignore its contingent nature. You surely are not claiming that research data collected from a “representative” sample can be used for anything more than the careful assessment of probability?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Somehow I did not get alerted to this posting, MU, by my email. Most of what you are saying is similar to my own experience and makes a lot of sense to me. I also agree that quite a portion of the population is entirely indifferent to these issues, but I still think that categorically stating anything as fact and not simply as very very strong probability is mendacious. I’m all too aware that those such as AMORR68 are misusing statistics selectively to claim that such polls “prove” something to be verifiably true in some objective sense. This is misleading in the extreme. “Events, dear boy” alter things suddenly and all a poll, no matter how accurate or thorough, can actually prove, is that that was pubic opinion at a moment in time.

    I think that the real issue is still the British governments attitude to NI, not what any portion of the population think they think at any moment in time. As Scotland’s referendum has clearly shown us, a concerted campaign with enough threat can pretty much sell anything to a timorous population.

    And as I’ve said elsewhere, that accusation of partiality to a particular interpretation of the evidence cuts both ways. Can you claim Olympian objectivity for yourself?

  • Robin Keogh

    I cant seem to find those comments where we were disputing the poll findings? Anyway, the link you sent me showed two pie charts both with public opinion after dont knows and undecideds were excluded. The chart on the right showed 7.7% of folk want a UI now while 32.5% want it within 20 years, a total of 40% so i gues i was not confusing things after all…no need for an apology.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Good grief, this thread is becoming very, very convoluted, but yes, Morpheus, “All this is of course meaningless until such times as those taking part can do so from a position of knowledge as opposed to ignorance.”

    Asking people cold what they think about something that has been very ill defined in the question usually illicits a “whatever”. I’m never sure myself if this is “yes” or “no”…….

  • Morpheus

    “Mr UiNeill, I would like your opinion on my new brand of [insert product] I won’t be telling you anything about it but be warned, if you say you want it then you will have to use it for the rest of your life. Watcha say?”

  • MainlandUlsterman

    the research agencies and universities involved cannot be accused of being ‘propagandists’. Desperate stuff.

    And they are facts, not probabilities. The statistics report people’s actual answers to actual questions, not conjecture.

    Your view that facts and evidence don’t really matter is telling.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    No it didn’t actually show that, you need to read the framing of the chart. It doesn’t show, for example, that 32.5 per cent want it in 20 years, that’s the percentage excluding the 25 per cent of the population who didn’t answer. You have to read the caption below the chart. If you scroll down, you can see the full pie-chart on that question. It shows only 30 per cent support for a united Ireland even within 20 years – http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/northern-ireland-says-yes-to-a-border-poll-but-a-firm-no-to-united-ireland-30622987.html

    It also shows less than half of the Catholic population said it wanted a united Ireland even in 20 years’ time.

    But you have a point, on a putative future border poll there is a chance – no more than that – of a united Ireland getting 40 per cent of those voting. Much depends on the quite large number of don’t knows. But it’s clear nationalism is only convincing 30 per cent of people now that it is the way to go, if you go with these figures; 26 per cent on the 2013 Ipsos MORI figures. So currently it’s not inspiring people.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    because they are misusing research

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The data is factual – it’s not contingent. What inferences you draw from the data are contingent and involve judgment. That’s the distinction. When you look at any data like this you look very carefully at sample, how question was asked etc. My point on the united Ireland data is that the same results come out over and over. That kind of data is not some kind of outlier we need to find an explanation for, it seems to be the actual picture.

    I do understand your point about surveys representing a wider public etc – that’s not in dispute. But they are facts – and deal with them as you will. Being led by surveys is rarely a good idea in business or in politics. But it doesn’t mean they have it wrong.

  • Morpheus

    In what way?

  • Tacapall

    Yet here I am in West Belfast where the overwhelming majority of voters vote for pro united Ireland parties, a place where the overwhelming majority wouldn’t bother to accept a copy of a Belfast telegraph even if given for nothing never mind partaking in Belfast telegraph sponsored surveys.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I wonder, MU, if you have ever encountered the term “postmodernism”. For anyone not mired in the old nineteenth century scientific world paradim you appear to subscribe to, all claim to absolute “objectivity” may be fairly considered as a power discourse, and after Freud, F.S.L. Lyons has told us, the entire concept of objective truth is seriously open to question. And “facts” commonly refer to things that can be verifiable, while statistical data is simply a collection of opinions, their assessment and evaluation simply a snapshot of a period of time. Nothing there that is beyond rapid change or challenge! Anyone with even a smidgen of Irish history in their heads can look at your “facts” and shake their heads while thinking of Ireland before 1916, and after 1922.

    But I suppose that if you make your living from peddling objective results…….

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The data, MU, may be factual but only as a collection of opinions that are themselves fugative. What you have is a snapshot of impressions fixed in time. As such they may be wrong or right, but this may alter. They are not certainties fixed for all time, so although they may offer a take, based on particular questions, about what people think they think at a given moment, this is simply a guide to possible action, not a cast iron assurance of outcome. Accordingly, “contingent”, or related to other things. My beef is that they are being presented as hard proof, this is not on, and even when statistics repeat results the only final proof is in the end event, not in its prediction!

    I know perfectly well what you are saying, but you can only offer betting odds in this real world we are living in, not the final result of the race until its over!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Disqus does not seem to want me to cut a comment entirely, MU, so I’ve re-written it here, but I do agree that problems may arise in the wee six with any breech of privacy. And, as you know from other postings, the reality of anything out there is highly questionable to a neo-Idealist such as myself.

  • Zeno1

    There are only 90,000 people in West Belfast. The Population is over 1.8 million.
    The Electorate is 61,000…………… 27,000 voted for Nationalist Parties.

  • Zeno1

    ” The four examples can be buckled together but are not actually referring to the same thing except in a very general sense.”

    Oh I don’t know about that Seaan. I’d imagine that people who want a UI would maybe describe themselves as Irish or Nationalist. They might even vote for Nationalist Parties and they might make an appearance in the Polls.

  • John Gorman

    Posted here earlier but I saw you have already answered a similar query with Robin further down so I deleted post to avoid repetition

  • Cue Bono

    I am well aware that there are many different types of Irish person out there. After all I am one of them. It is Irish republicans who like to lump everything Irish into a block called “Irish republicanism”. If you aren’t in that box then you are a “west Brit”, a “black Protestant” or simply a “traitor”. They are the people who have polluted the Irish identity with brutality, murder and horror. Little wonder that unionists nowadays recoil from it, but they didn’t always.

  • Cue Bono

    Er, that is the CNR position in a nutshell. We don’t want to be in the union because of famine, bloody Sunday, the Protestant wind etc, etc, etc. Is it hurting your cause?

  • Cue Bono

    You keep asking for empathy across the divides Seann. I don’t see you demonstrating much empathy yourself. Unionists to you after all are ‘plain dumb’.

  • John Gorman

    Ok surely the people with no opinion have been excluded because non voters dont end up having a say in elections or referendums and therefore this simplifies the figures. If your argument is how can we second guess the no opinion crowd then fair enough but if that is the case then back to the original argument if you say support for a United Ireland within 20 years is only 30% then with the same logic you are also saying support for NI remaining in the UK is only 44% ie a minority. Damn stats eh?

  • Zeno1

    If 44% is a minority then 30% is an even smaller minority.

    To make it clearer 44% is 480,000 people out of an electorate of 1.2 million (I’m just using round figures). Just that NO Vote alone is enough to win any Referendum with up to an 80% Turnout. And that is without picking up a single vote from those that expressed no opinion. Call me a guesser but I’d reckon people who express no opinion are more likely to be content with the status quo and highly unlikely to vote for a radical change.

  • LucidTalk

    ‘Unionists United’ could lose as many votes with Pacts as they may gain. The only seat where a pact may make a difference is East Belfast – and then it could be a detrimental difference, rather than an advantage. All the other 17 seats are pretty much slam-dunks!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Cue Bono, read what I’m actually saying, don’t just react without thinking! If you check back I explained this all to you two days ago! I’m not saying that those supporting the union are “dumb”, I’m saying that AMORR68 on a posting of his, made a “plain dumb” comment. If YOU wish to apply my words to the entire community (perhaps your inner Gael?) I can do nothing to stop you, other than point out that that was not my intention.

    You obviously have not read the various postings across some years where I’ve attacked SF and the SDLP when I’ve felt they merited hard criticism, especially over the issue of GA’s record on woman’s issues. I personally have considerable respect for Joe_Hoggs and Alan-Newtownards who always talks sense. Also, though I’m at variance with him on this thread, Zeno1 is alawys sharp and perceptive and does not simply stoop to abuse. Turgon, though at times rather silly, talks good sense usually. And as a an example, Joe_Hogg’s long carefully thought out statement over on the “More Unionist Posters” thread is a model of how to intellegently argue points when presenting the case for union. Also I’m a constant fan of the sane, utterly necessary self-criticism of his Unionist roots by Am Gobsmacht. But where I see someone commenting on an Irish history they willfully misrepresent or clearly do not understand, I react; “Unhappy I, who can’t be silent and who will not lie.” And I’ve had a lot of practice over the last half century, most of my extended family continue to be unionist with a small “u” and just love trying to tell me where I’ve got it all wrong (they always fail).

    Long term the union is on a hiding to nowhere. NI has shifted over the last 50 years into becoming almost entirely dependant on the British excehquer for jobs and income, a dependency culture. Despite being presented as one of our sucess stories, a sizable proportion of farm income is actually derived from farm payments. In a world rapidly using up its natural resources, this state of affairs is not in any way sustainable, and on every London trip I make, I hear complaints from those members of the British elite whom I meet in the evenings about the sillyness of the DUP and a total lack of comprehension about what is actually happening at Stormont. All the talk is about how soon Britian can be rid of this albatross strung round their neck, how quickly a United Ireland can be managed. I note that in one of the interviews in his final year Lord Bannside “excused” his going into power with SF with the claim that the UK government threatened him with a fast track United Ireland if he remained obtruse. Only the DUP seem not to have noticed this, but there is a limit to how much unreality any community can actually take.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Back in the late 1960s, Cue Bono, I was in the NICRA and the PD. Always a pacifist, I was myself shocked and enraged at the development of serious violence, when peaceful action to create real fairness in our community was confronted with serious threat by Ian Paisley’s faction and this effectivly let PIRA in with other agendas.

    It took two to tango then, just as it will take two to pull us out of it again. The most important thing that anyone who honestly loves their Britishness can do is to get up out of the trenches and look for those points of contact. Anything else is a willful embrase of Thanatos, the death instinct, taking all you care about with you. Perhaps the most significant thing in this would be a serious reinterpretation of our mutual history, so many of those things we take for granted as truths historically are simply lies. Have a look at this for a start;

    http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674073098

    “By restoring the repealer movement to its rightful prominence, ‘Making Toleration’ also overturns traditional interpretations of King James II’s reign and the origins of the Glorious Revolution. Though often depicted as a despot who sought to impose his own Catholic faith on a Protestant people, James is revealed as a man ahead of his time, a king who pressed for religious toleration at the expense of his throne. The Glorious Revolution, Sowerby finds, was not primarily a crisis provoked by political repression. It was, in fact, a conservative counter-revolution against the movement for enlightened reform that James himself encouraged and sustained.”

    So much else of what people have died for in our country for centuries is just as wrong headed. Don’t be taken in and simply perpetuate the problems. Dia dhuit ar maidin!

  • MainlandUlsterman

    That’s fair enough to take a look at what the vote shares would be today if we exclude the non-responses and there you get to the 40 per cent or so on that basis. However, in this particular poll you’ll notice there was a massive percentage of non-responses (which also seemed to happen last year with – not sure why) which makes it a much shakier assumption than usual that the 30 per cent wanting a united Ireland would become 40 per cent of people voting (though the same applies to the pro-union vote). But I can see that the poll gives you more hope than most other polls.

    The 2013 Ipsos MORI poll (they being for a lot of people the gold standard on political polling) had 65 per cent voting to stay in the UK, 17 per cent to leave and 17 per cent don’t knows. Lucid Talk seem to produce a huge number of ‘don’t knows’ by usual polling standards – we’d need to look at methodology there to discover why. What Ipsos MORI does to give a better view of the ‘hard’ vote is look at committed voters – and there the breakdown was 79/21 in favour of NI staying in the UK.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    see my comment on the dubious nature of taking a read from simply removing the ‘don’t know’s – in this poll, a whopping quarter-plus of those polled. It does raise problems for pollsters of course when you have this kind of figure. What Ipsos MORI sometimes do is look also at ‘committed voters’ to get a read of feeling among those very likely to vote. In their 2013 poll it came out as 79/21 in favour of staying in the UK.

    I wouldn’t be pushing for a border poll in the immediate future, if I were a nationalist, to put it simply.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “But I suppose that if you make your living from peddling objective results…….”

    You suppose wrong and you picked the wrong target there Seaan. I am what’s known as a qualitative researcher and our whole area of work was developed by psychologists and cultural theorists from the 60s onwards. We’re all about subjectivity, we embrace it. The polls come from the other part of the industry and I partner with the people who design and run the surveys. My job is often to weave the different information sources together into an overall picture. It’s based on the very observation that there are multiple truths out there and the key is what we call ‘sense-making’ – comparing and evaluating the different sources to come to an overall picture. So don’t talk to me about post-modernism!

    In fact, post-modernism, while it was an influence initially in qual research developing the ‘collage’ approaches to reporting we use, is really old hat these days. At a practical level, it doesn’t amount to much more than the observation that the devil is in the detail. Which we know. If you want to understand a piece of data you need to understand very carefully where it came from, how questions were framed etc. This is the bread and butter of researchers.

    We know what we are reporting is imperfect, exists in a particular time and place, carries the cultural baggage of the researchers etc. Many of us are versed in Levi-Strauss et al and have psychology or anthropology backgrounds – and we reject reliance on the’scientific paradigm’ of interpretation, just as you do – yet we also move beyond post-modernism’s rejection of any kind of sense of making. In qual, we use something called the ‘hermeneutic circle’, we triangulate etc etc. We think it is quite possible to draw strong conclusions from data, without us having to switch our brains off – in fact, with our brains very much switched on. We treat each source of data on its own merits and take it only so far as it goes.

    We are as sceptical about poll results as anyone. But scepticism means thinking hard about them, not blindly rejecting them as you and John Gorman seem to be doing. My problem with your approach is that it is anti-evidence; or worse, treats all types of evidence as somehow “the same”, so that you avoid having to do any overall sense-making at all. That’s very convenient when you have information coming through that jars with your worldview, such as the murder and bombing statistics of the Troubles for example. My advice is to embrace it, take it on board and reset your worldview in a way that takes account of the information out there.

  • Morpheus

    I agree, I wouldn’t be asking for one either for the simple fact that a mountain of work needs to be completed so the electorate can make an informed decision. When Scotland got their referendum the first YouGov poll in October 2012 had support for the Yes camp at 29% – that moved up to 45% when there was more meat put on the bones and that’s what needs to happen here. We, north and south of the border, need to know all the facts about what a UI entials then we can all make an informed decision about what’s best for us and our families. Until such times the polls, asking people to give an opinion on something they know nothing about, are meaningless.

    As for the polls then you are both right as far as I can see, if you take out the ‘don’t knows’ then 40% of what’s left favour a UI but if they are included then it’s 30%. Some will take the 40% figure and run with it, others will take the 30% figure and run with it. That’s the thing with polls, they can be bent and twisted to suit the reader.

    As for your 79/21 figure – asking that God awful moronic question “if there was a referendum tomorrow – then that’s just ‘committed voters’ and takes out the don’t knows, something you called ‘dubious’ a few lines above.

  • Zeno1

    The argument now seems bizarrely to have moved to, the “Yes Vote” will fail by 60/40 in 20 years time if none of the “Don’t knows” vote. 60% to 40% is a huge difference. On a Turnout of 1 million it is a difference of 200,000 votes.
    But 40%, even though it would be a huge defeat is being held up as a positive, simply because it sounds better than 30%. The phrase “in 20 years time” has been morphed into “within 20 years” by at least one supporter. There is a big difference though, but “within 20 years” sounds much more positive.

  • Morpheus

    “and there the breakdown was 79/21 in favour of NI staying in the UK.”

    …”if the referendum was held tomorrow” that should say. All that figure tells us is how they vote if an imaginary was held back in January 2013. It is not an indicator of how they would vote in 2020, 2030 or 2040, which I think is Seaan’s point.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I wasn’t saying, Morpheus, the 79/21 was the final word, just one of the ways you can look at it. Where I differ with some of the others on here – and perhaps this is due to working in research – is that the idea that a set of data can be interpreted ‘in any way you like’ is a convenient nonsense. There is a finite set of possible interpretations – it’s not OK to say it’s all mush, as some on here do, just because there are minor uncertainties (as there are in any piece of data). To take that approach is to abandon evidence-based thinking.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m partial to a bit of mysticism but I’m also aware that the whole cogito ergo sum, does anything real actually exist, isn’t really where even philosophy is at these days. There are only a few whackoes left who think the ‘objective’ world really is an illusion. However, in desperation to escape guilt for the Troubles and in this instance, inconvenient polling data, some people of a Republican bent seem to have hitched their star to that out-dated and out-thought wagon.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    and yes I agree with your overall point, nationalism has a lot of work to do to map out how a united Ireland would be better

  • Morpheus

    “If you want to understand a piece of data you need to understand very carefully where it came from, how questions were framed etc. This is the bread and butter of researchers.”

    This reminds me of a conversation I had with a Belfast Telegraph reporter a little while back about the framing of questions in a BT survey a little while ago. One question asked:

    “Should the parade be allowed to return past Ardoyne shops?”

    The words ‘Ardoyne shops’ stuck in my throat because to me they had absolutely no place in an objective, impartial survey. The words industrialized the area in question, took the human/family element out of it – especially to participants who don’t know the area. Had the question contained the phrase ‘Ardoyne homes’ – or any one of a dozen non-leading variations of the question – then the participants would have given a different response so to me that was yet another example of the BT framing the questions to get the responses they wanted. I asked them if impartiality played a part in BT policy to which I was told that the BT is a ‘campaigning paper’

  • Morpheus

    I haven’t seen anyone argue that you can look at data “any way you like” rather that are multiple interpretations of data. People obviously said what they said when they said it and the researcher does his thing based on that, that’s the objective part, but then the subjective interpretations come into play.

    People will take what brings them comfort and ignore the rest. As an example, you will quite correctly say that in Jan 2013 21% of committed voters said they would not vote for a UI the following day, John can then correctly say that in a BT poll 40% of those who had an opinion favor the concept of a united Ireland, Seann can then quite correctly say that 40% of MLAs and local councillors are nationalist and God knows zeno[x] will rattle off his repertoire at the drop of a hat.

    As a researcher surely you can see the benefit of giving everyone the information they need to make an informed decision and THEN having an impartial survey to gauge the mood of the people? Up to now people have been asked their opinion from a position of ignorance and that’s simply wrong. Would you do it in your professional capacity?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Given the sometimes threatening nature of politics in NI though I’m very uneasy about your personal background research on me and publishing of the same – feels like a breach of privacy. I’d appreciate it if you remove that post please. I deliberately didn’t name any former employers on my Slugger profile and I think a lot of other posters on here probably don’t necessarily want employer / business names being used.

    Oh and it was irony Morpheus – they aren’t shoddy!

  • Morpheus

    Fair do’s, done.

    The irony didn’t come across

  • Zeno1

    “the idea that a set of data can be interpreted ‘in any way you like’ is a convenient nonsense.”

    The problem is it is an emotive subject. If you produced the same data as evidence that people didn’t want to eat cheese everyday for the rest of their lives, there would be no argument. But when it is a subject dear to your heart, then you will do everything possible to massage the figures. We have seen that on this thread.

  • Morpheus

    Haven’t we just

  • MainlandUlsterman

    thanks

  • MainlandUlsterman

    if you’re reply to Morpheus, he’s kindly taken that down. That was a breach of privacy, so if you saw it, please pretend you didn’t. We all have a right to put forward private views on here without employers past or present being named without our consent – as I think is accepted. I’m open on my own work blog about stuff like that but this is not the place.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you for a carefully argued posting MU. But it still appears to be riddled with contradictions from where I’m sitting. “We’re all about subjectivity, we embrace it. ” Then why is the last paragraph of your posting seemingly about just how factual you can be? “We think it is quite possible to draw strong conclusions from data.” But of course you would have no career if this was not possible. No one pays for the complexity and contradiction that the real world is actually made up of. But simply organising things into patterns simply speaks of the patterns that may be predicted for events. Until something actually occurs, its still simply a more mathematical version of Tarot cards.

    “In fact, post-modernism, while it was an influence initially in qual research developing the ‘collage’ approaches to reporting we use, is really old hat these days.” really says just about everything about how conventional your grasp of late 20th century thought is! A bit of Levi-Strauss and perhaps a smidgen of Foucault as a bit of colour on a paper at University, but no real appreciation of how the approach you subjectivly take will influence your “objective” conclusions! How compex the real world actually is, outside of mathematics!

    The very notion of realisable “fact” you’re using throughout the long posting above could be described as something of a power discourse, especially when you shift to the royal “we”. “We think it is quite possible to draw strong conclusions from data, without us having to switch our brains off – in fact, with our brains very much switched on. We treat each source of data on its own merits and take it only so far as it goes.” But have you noticed that you (using the first person plural) are still the source of the final definitive evaluation? I know, how could you answer otherwise, but that is precisely why I’m continuing to question the very concept of ‘fact” in all of this. In effect what you’re saying is “We are objective, We have reached the facts, you (on your own in this) are being entirely subjective in questioning our quantifiable conclusions.” Ho Humm…..

    I note that my point about the essencially fugative nature of the data you’re is using has still not quite been addressed. I used the image of the difference between the Ireland of 1915 and the Ireland of seven years later to suggest just how the apperance of fixed certaintes can change utterly in a short space of time. But perhaps we are talking at cross purposes in this. You are committed to the world view that trends can be predicted, I’m thinking as an historian who sees just how frequently strong trends just vanish when the unexpected occurs. I’m coming to the evaluation of statistics in the film and advertising world where they are used pretty unscrupuliously, something I’d think we probably agree on from your posting above. I repeat, my main complaint is the idea of something that has not yet happened being predicted as “fact.” primarily by other posters whom you came in is support of. I doubt if you will change my mind over this.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    That’s the problem in a nutshell Morpheus. Surveys are not final results, and weasel words may seriously direct the response. All my jawing on about “postmodernism” above is in a forlorn attempt to make any of those thinking entirely in terms of numbers perhaps start to realise that real human beings and their emotions are involved too, and that even something that looks as if it does not effect the objectivity of a response may still be manipulative in practice. I came across this all the time in my media career and constantly had to unpack the implications of what seemed perfectly bland questions for the others at the table blinded by figures. And its all sooo very manipulative when any ten people saying “yes” to any one question may mean ten quite different things with their response.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Oh my lord, this is hilarious will Sinn Féin stand down in Foyle, South Down and Newry and Armagh too to make it a straight five for five, or does Sinn Féin equality mean five equals two?

  • Kevin Breslin

    Also If the SDLP stood aside in Upper Bann, Jo Anne Dobson would win the seat and Sinn Féin would be third, I would tell you that.

  • Kevin Breslin

    And this is the point, Sinn Féin CAN’T beat Unionism, Sinn Féin CAN’T beat anti-IRAism, Sinn Féin CAN’T demand opposing views within Irish nationalism to concede. They’ll never come near to making nationalism respectful again and competitive again against unionism within Northern Ireland like the Scottish Nationalists have done in Scotland. They rely too much on tribalism and voter loyalty not voter emancipation up in The North for their success, and that means no swing votes from unionism, and no Six County majorities for Sinn Féin.

  • sk

    It’s amazing that you can live cheek to cheek with Irish nationalists yet still be so ignorant about how their minds work. They don’t want to be in the union, because they are not British. Simples.The famine, Bloody Sunday and that other wonderfully cliched stuff that pops into your head when you think of the fenians is neither here nor there.

    By all means, go about the rest of your life telling everyone who will listen that you’ve officially disowned any of your chromosomes that may have a green tint to them. There’s nothing warped or pathetic about that at all.

  • sk

    Blaming the IRA for anything and everything is a convenient means of avoiding any kind of introspection for unionists. It’s why they’re so stunted as a community.

    Better to point the finger elsewhere than take a good long look at yourself.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    As one time NICRA and PD back before the big canyon opened up under us, I have my own complaints against the IRA, but I really appreciate your point. I trained in Jungian psychology at one point, so “Better to point the finger elsewhere than take a good long look at yourself,” describes itself to me as a case of psychological projection, a process whereby the supporters of the union “defend themselves against unpleasant impulses by denying their existence in themselves, while attributing them to others” (Wikipedia). Taking responsibility for four hundred years of dispossession and bullying while offsetting this against their tendency to attribute all blame entirely onto the IRA might just be the start of some political maturity,

    For me Irishness is a multiplicity of possibilities, taking in the complexities of the entire Island, easily able to absorb and articulate the Scots flavour of our own broader community, something that seemed to be an entirely natural possibility to all the Irish Cultural Revivalists of the north before 1914. But the brutalisation of partition has embittered us all, something I hope we may all grow out of in time if a enough good will can be found ever.

  • alexbr

    They’ll decide the future of the SDLP. Their vote share has been shrinking the last ten years at every election. A pact with SInn Fein will reverse their fortunes with added transfers at the next assembly.

  • alexbr

    You really think no nationalist pact will gain unionist votes over a unionist unity candidate? Dream on. The point of unionist pacts is to win seats with a nationalist majority and keep the fenian out. The only way to counter this is a Sinn Fein SDLP agreement beating them at their own game.

  • alexbr

    Nonsense, why should Sinn Fein or SDLP stand aside in those seats?

  • alexbr

    The numbers from the last WM and assembly elections in Upper Bann suggest otherwise. Sinn fein is actually the largest party in UB with more than twice as many votes as the SDLP. Who would beat them into third? Without a unionist pact in E Derry John Dallat would have a decent chance of winning the seat from Campbell. Well worth it IMO what do SDLP voters think?

  • Kevin Breslin

    Maybe SDLP voters want to vote for the politician that’s trying to pass some life saving legislation rather than vote for a party who feels it’s entitled to their vote? Maybe SDLP voters don’t want to vote Sinn Fein under any circumstances.

    Maybe there won’t be a vote and instead we just count the number of Irish and British passports then just give the seat to Sinn Féin or the DUP on that basis.

  • alexbr

    And if the SDLP roll over again in the face of unionism as they did spad Sinn Fein should get the gloves off in S Belfast and finish McDonnell.
    Standing aside in E Derry making Campbell sweat is much more appetising than saving McDonnells bacon.

  • alexbr

    Politics here is sominated by orange and green. You’re living in fantasy land. Dobson is from the UUP a party steeped in sectarianism. Her party is at camp twaddle on an interface causing hatred to this day.

  • Kevin Breslin

    You are absolutely right I mean those who won’t vote for SInn Fein only do so on the basis they have other parties to vote for which discriminates against Sinn Féin.

  • alexbr

    There are many who have the same opinion of the SDLP but give me Dallat over Campbell or McDonnell over Patterson any day.

  • alexbr

    Ask Michelle Gildernew she wouldnt be an MP otherwise. Left the SDLP with no MLA. No pacts and F&ST will be replicated.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Sinn Féin voters don’t have to vote for the SDLP, and vice versa also applies but in the heads of Sinn Féin all nationalists must vote for their candidates under all circumstances. I wouldn’t vote Sinn Féin over a unionist if I had an IRA gun to my head because Sinn Féin are undeserving middle class careerists who have done little to unify communities up north and are the mirror image of the DUP who put the party first before the people. There is nothing nobel about trying to raise the profile and revenue of your party by asking competitors to stand aside, there is no solution to all the problems facing Ireland by ensuring Sinn Féin have more power and less scrutiny, people should not be forced to settle for Sinn Féin when they bring nothing to solve the current impass but their own careerist desire for power.

    It’s called Arrow’s Law, why are Sinn Féin entitled to votes that don’t belong to them? They’re not Sinn Féin or SDLP or nationalist or unionist votes they are people’s votes, respect that!

  • alexbr

    Ok you’re a critic. Politics here is a joke, thank partition for that but this is about how to deal with unionist pacts from a nationalist perspective. I’ll hold my nose and vote SDLP or vote for the unionist unity candidate if they roll over.
    For once the SDLP have an ace use it wisely Dr.

  • Kevin Breslin

    What is partition but a society divided into Them and Us? That is more critical than the issues around taxation and representation, the value in a nation is its capacity to be a home!

    Why not have an Ireland of the making of all the denizens within it to the making of their capacity, rather than dreaming of a Them land and an Us land?

    There is no Unionist Them land and there’s not going to be an Irish nationalist Us land either, we are stuck with each other, no point in tribalism.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Actually didn’t Michelle Gildernew become an MP three times when the SDLP and two unionist candidates were in the contest.

    2010 Gildernew, McKinney, Connor, Stevenson
    2000 Gildernew, Gallagher, Foster, Elliot
    2001 Gildernew, Gallagher, Cooper, Dixon