How the NI political landscape has changed since 2010

It could be argued that Westminster Elections are now very much of secondary importance and interest in Northern Ireland, compared to Stormont elections. However, this is shaping up to be a very peculiar election for the UK as a whole, and there is a very real possibility that the DUP could play a major power-broking role in the next parliament. Besides, first-past-the-post elections in a multi-party system are gloriously silly, given the prospect that you could “win” some seats with only 15% more of the vote than you need to win back your deposit. This makes them fun to analyze.

The interactive Tableau visualization above shows 2010 Westminster vote shares, performance at the 2011 Stormont election by number of first preference votes, and an estimate of Westminster constituency performance at the 2014 local elections.  Allocating these votes perfectly to Westminster seats is not possible as some council electoral areas straddle constituency borders, so I’ve built a model to allocate electoral areas to Westminster seats based on the number of wards. This is somewhat of an inexact science, so remember; it’s all just a bit of fun.

You can select which Constituency you want to view from the drop down menu under “Constituency Name”, or you can toggle through them.

East Belfast, on the face of it, would appear to be a very difficult ground for the Alliance Party to hold, although it’s certainly possible. Cheerier news for the Alliance Party is to be found in South Belfast, where the model puts them in second, 3% behind the DUP and one percentage point ahead of the SDLP. This is definitely a winnable seat for them.

In North Belfast, the model saw Sinn Féin pip the DUP by 0.1% in 2014. The simplified approach that I used for allocating electoral area results to Westminster seats may have played a part here, but it’s certainly tightening. Nigel Dodds could potentially wake up on 8 May 2015 to find that he has become one of the most powerful men in the UK, given that the DUP support could be vital to forming a new government. However, he has to win first, and this is by no means guaranteed.

I’d previously thought that SF might have been able to sneak through in Upper Bann, due to them getting the most first preference votes in the 2011 Assembly Election by a handful of votes, but I’ve changed my mind. It would require an absolutely perfect storm of an equal DUP and UUP vote, a strong TUV performance and a SDLP collapse. It’s possible, but highly unlikely.

Elsewhere, there has been a rebound in UUP support in East Antrim and East Londonderry, but probably not enough to pose a serious risk to the DUP incumbents. Sinn Féin support has fallen in Fermanagh & South Tyrone, whilst the SDLP’s stock has risen, so a single unionist candidate would have an excellent prospect of picking up the seat. In fact, the UUP have a reasonable shout at picking up the seat even if the DUP do stand, but it would be very hard.

Foyle looks like it could on its way to electing a Sinn Féin MP, whilst the SDLP appear to be holding on in South Down.

If I was forced to make predictions for the election, I would probably plump for the following. Italics denote a gain.

DUP (10): Belfast East, Belfast North, Belfast South, East Antrim, East Londonderry, Lagan Valley, North Antrim, South Antrim, Strangford, Upper Bann

Sinn Féin (6): Belfast West, Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Foyle, Mid Ulster, Newry and Armagh, West Tyrone

SDLP (1): South Down

Independent (1): North Down

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