Many will be aware of the Belfast Telegraph’s interesting take on East Belfast this week alongside the excellent work of Bill White and Lucid Talk. The results of this poll are not unexpected. Naomi won in 2010 by 1533 and according to today’s poll there is approximately 1500 votes between the two, meaning this seat is still a marginal.
Turning to the key battlegrounds, Gilnahirk/Cherryvalley/
Tullycarnet/Knock is 3 to 1 in support of Alliance over the DUP, with Ballyhackamore/Belmont/ Stormont 2 to 1 pro Alliance.
I see Dundonald as a key battleground, traditionally strong pro-DUP, yet according to the poll 42% won’t come out to vote. The DUP have a task on their hands to get these people out, nevermind vote for them.
I take issue with the Tele describing Dundonald as loyalist… there’s a lot more to Dundonald than the Ballybeen estate – I’d suggest it’s 50/50 between working class and middle class, on either side of the Upper Newtownards Road.
The key unknown in all of this is the Ulster Unionist Party. The WWMD – What Will Mike Do?
At this stage it’s anyone’s guess. Some soft Unionists may go to Alliance although they are clearly tarnished by their City Hall Union Flag debacle, whereas core Unionists will row in behind Gavin to secure Naomi’s swift Westminster exit.
However, it’s not all plain sailing for the UUP. Whilst acknowledging their excellent result in the Local Government election last year with Jim Rodgers topping the poll, a projected result of 5,400 this May, with 9% of the vote, is a 33% reduction from the 7,305 Trevor Ringland achieved in 2010.
In recognising the UUP aren’t going to win in East Belfast, Mike needs to realise that he could play the role of ‘Kingmaker’ and as such he needs to make his mind up quickly – He stated at his Party Conference that he wanted to make right decisions for the pro-union cause.
With this in mind, he should urgently sit down with Peter Robinson and extract a deal that is a win-win for political unionism.
For example, give Tom Elliott a free run in Fermanagh South Tyrone in exchange for a free run for the DUP in East Belfast. The demographics in South Belfast make it difficult in my view for any Unionist to win.
However you look at this: Mike Nesbitt and the Ulster Unionist Party, it’s make your mind up time…
Stephen is from East Belfast and has been involved in politics since 2003. Stephen served as Advisor to an MLA in the 2007-11 mandate of the Northern Ireland Assembly, has stood as an election candidate himself and has ran a number of election campaigns across Northern Ireland. His areas of specialism are the relationships between the 2 main Unionist Parties in Northern Ireland and American politics. Stephen is a Member of the Democratic Unionist Party. In his spare time, (whatever that is!) Stephen enjoys spending time with this family, playing golf and supporting his beloved Manchester United FC. Stephen can be followed on Twitter – @Stephen_Warke