Does the Bell toll for Unionist unity in Belfast?

A bit of a surprise announcement tonight from the DUP

Bell who represents the Strangford constituency has been nominated to either focus the UUPs mind that time is really running out or have they possibly made the calculation that they might be able to unseat McDonnell without a unity candidate?

Regardless the response from the UUP was swift

We note that in trying to justify his selection of Jonathan Bell MLA as the DUP candidate for South Belfast in May’s General Election, Peter Robinson claimed it was because the Ulster Unionist Party had already selected a candidate for the constituency. For the record, and as he well knows, this is not true

End of unionist unity for 2015?

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  • Osward Mulberry

    Jonathan Bell=end of unionism’s chances in SB

  • Gingray

    You sure? Turnout is everything and in last year’s locals nationalist vote was down.

    In 2011 assembly in south Belfast dup topped poll with 24.3%, SDLP 23.9%, Alliance 19.8%, UUP 13.6% and SF 12.5%. At 2010 Westminster Alasdair McDonnell (SDLP) 41.0%, Jimmy Spratt (DUP) 23.7%,
    Paula Bradshaw (UCUNF) 17.3% and
    Anna Lo (Alliance) 15.0%.

    So unionists have 38- 40%, nationalist 36-41% and alliance 15-20%. With 5 candidates and in particular sinn fein possessing a creíblet nominee it could get interesting

    Game on!

  • Gingray

    John, you strike me as an optimistic SDLP voter? Simply put, nationalist vote was down, while unionist up in last year’s election, with sinn fein putting up an excellent candidate for south Belfast, and the soft unionist alliance voters drifting back to UUP or dup.

    I think al will win, but just about, sinn fein to poll strongly in mid teens, and the two unionist parties even. But if a unity candidate appears SDLP are fecked

  • Kevin Breslin

    Jeff Dudgeon is standing for the UUP

  • Kevin Breslin

    Since Bradshaw is an open unionist are we going to see a 3rd nationalist candidate into the mix? Surprise Fianna Fáil candidate?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Maybe the DUP Bell is ringing to bring on Lynda Nesbitt as the agreed Unionist Candidate ? I wonder if Lynda would espouse to the same opinions on Abortion as Big Al does ? Now this would certainly rattle up the old dreary South Belfast Constituency and we would have a decent scrap !

  • Guest

    It seems the DUP read The Fireman’s post regarding the UUP’s possible choice of candidate for South Belfast and forced the UUP’s hand by parachuting in their own particular brand of Caleban flat-earther. I was going to ask if his brand would be well received in leafy south Belfast but at this stage does it matter?

  • chrisjones2

    If I were a unionist in south belfast would I vote for a man who believes that the earth is only 6000 years old and that dinosaurs never existed?

    Only if I wanted the DUP to be seen at Westminster as a laughing stock

  • Catcher in the Rye

    There is evidence that in 2010 Alliance voters switched tactically to Al. They are likely to do so in even greater numbers if there is a prospect of the DUP winning the seat on the back of a split nationalist vote.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    I can’t help feeling that this is an effort to try to push the UUP to hurry up with their decision, and I’m sure it was motivated by the UUP nominating their East Belfast candidate today.

    Unionist unity in SB isn’t going to happen if the candidate is Jeffrey Dudgeon, unless we can all visualize the DUP backing a gay rights activist.

    Sounds like both Big Al and Naomi Long will be able to sleep a little more soundly ..

  • Gingray

    Catcher
    Alliance vote in 2005 (W) was 6%, 2007 (A) 13%, 2010 (W) 15%, 20% (A) in 2011. In 2005 SDLP and SF got 41%. In 2010 SDLP got 41%.

    Can you point me in the direction of the evidence which shows alliance voters switching tactically to Al in 2010?

    John
    O Muileoir is definitely not everyones cup of tea, but for many of the Conal McDevitt supporters in South Belfast, he is more appealing than McDonnell. Can see Greens taking votes from liberal nationalists who dont like Sinn Fein or Al. Bradshaw is the former Unionist/Conservative aye? Alliance may suffer if catholic letsgetalongerists cant disassociate her former colours, while protestant letsgetalongerists may opt to vote for an official unionist over an unofficial one.

    G

  • Dan

    Imagine that smug grinning buffoon in the Commons…..

  • Kevin Breslin

    I have to give the DUP credit for once not being like the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Democratic Republic of Korea and giving up the despotism, I know it must really hurt them.

    And the UUP credit for not jumping off the cliff when the DUP ask them. Jeff Dudgeon, Jo Anne Dobson, Danny Kinnihan these are all progressive candidates, that can attract unaligned maybe even cross-community votes. Unity candidates don’t just keep the nationalists out, they keep the UUP down, and the DUP as Masters of Unionism.

    Fair play to the unionists, a “them and us” contest would have been a great propaganda victory for Sinn Féin, pining to be Masters of Nationalism. They are the ones who are left with egg on their face from all of this, this really shows up their pact negotiations failures with the SDLP. Unionism has a moral victory over Sinn Féin’s Six Pact strategy. Win or lose they got that.

    I would like to see South Belfast be the competive issues based election it deserves to be, I would want to see the 6 or 7 candidate debate for this constituency ahead of any leader’s debate of the party leaders of NI, ROI or UK.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The UUP candidate and the APNI candidate might support relaxing the abortion laws to foetal abnormalities, the SF candidate won’t show up nor touch the issue in his constituency work.
    South Belfast would be less of a scrap with a unionist unity candidate, that situation you are talking about suits Alasdair McDonnell even more.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Alliance voters switched was because the unionist parties seriously considered entering a pact.

  • Practically_Family

    If you were you might feel that that being a laughing stock was persecution and that a Christian should revel in it in the lord’s name…. That’s in Peter, somewhere.
    Or you might just feel that it’ll really annoy the taigs.

    I’m not by any means saying he’ll take the seat, but I doubt that consideration such as you have outlined will figure in most voters thinking. The bulk will vote for the “tribal” candidate they feel has the most chance of winning. Progressive or conservative and with little regard for actual party policy.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Don’t agree Kevin. A straight one-to-one dog fight over Al’s Abortion Policy by an only agreed one unionist standing Lynda on a UUP ticket would be a close call

  • Kevin Breslin

    You are assuming two things 1) Lynda Bryan’s position on abortion would be different from Jonathan Bell or Alasdair McDonnell, she probably doesn’t 2) The vast majority of DUP voters would back a less pro-life candidate in favour of McDonnell if the election reduces that to bottom line campaigning.

    Only Paula Bradshaw has come out openly against McDonnell’s views, it’s been silence from the other parties. If you want someone to dog fight the issue, you probably should vote for her.

  • Ernekid

    If Bell wants to represent South Belfast I hope he’ll visit the cultural gem of the constituency The Ulster Museum. I hope he would have a very informative time looking at exhibits on evolution and life sciences

  • Robin Keogh

    I think it is difficult to predict on the basis of previous elections simply because of the demographic shifts and also because the the Westie election would be regarded as more crucial for Nationalists in terms of turnout. I might be wrong here but I reckon you will most likely see an increase in the Nationalist turnout in May compared to the recent Euro/ Local contest.

  • Robin Keogh

    The rise in the Unionist vote last time could be associated with the surge in Loyalist voters in all eastern constituencies in the wake of the fleg controversy. If the numbers hold and their is no reason to suggest they wont, Nationalists will have to turn out in good numbers to secure the seat for Al. I think he will do it.

  • Gingray

    But Kevin they DID NOT SWITCH!
    Alliance vote rose in 2010, Nationalist stayed the exact same. Why propogate a myth that Alliance saved Al in 2010 when it didnt happen?

  • Robin Keogh

    I dont see the egg on SF here. Unionists in the DUP have been calling for a pact/agreed candidates in Westie elections forever. They stepped up that call in the last two years. It makes sense for nationalists to respond. I prefer all parties contesting all seats as it gives voters a broader spectrum of choice and is more likely to bring out the middle ground voters on election day. However, I am in no mood for Unionists pacts being unchallenged by Nationalists.

  • Gingray

    Robin, over the age of 18 Belfast South is 48% Protestant, 42% Catholic, 10% other. Over the age of 40, its 58% Protestant, 34% Catholic, 8% Other.

    The implication is that SDLP/SF getting around 40% is the large chunk of Catholics voting for them, with the Unionists and Alliance picking up Protestants and Others.

    For Al to win he needs:
    a.) Turnout to be at least equal across all voting blocks
    b.) The soft unionist vote in alliance to stay in alliance
    c.) SF not to do well
    d.) Unionists not to have a unity candidate

  • Robin Keogh

    According to the 2011 census the over 18 age group in SB was 43% Catholic and 46% Protestant. Calculating four years later (2015) including the yearly Death Rate and those who turn 18 and become eligable to vote, the percentages now are 44.5% each in the voting age category. You are correct to state that in the over 40 age category the gap is much wider however it must also be remembered that voters exit that category every year due to natural demise at a ratio of 4/1. This means the Protestant voter pool is declining quite rapidly. Each year they gain approx 1400 potential new voters while they lose 2,600. Catholics gain approx 2500 new voters and lose around 870. In short, it means that going forward this seat will soon become a pretty safe Nationalist seat.

  • Gingray

    Robin – thats the same info I used and we got slightly different numbers 🙂

    You are right that this seat will be a safe nationalist seat in the future, but not for 10 years I reckon. The nationalist vote share has remained fairly static despite increasing population around 41% (prob due to higher rate of decreasing turnout among catholics and a small number of alliance switchers).

    Which is why this seat is so interesting this election, multiple factors could see it go SDLP or to a Unionist candidate

  • Kevin Breslin

    I would not dismiss the fact the Alliance support went up to account for Lo’s increase which is a fact, but it is not impossible some more for a tactical transfer, as Anna Lo’s vote was down from the Assembly contest as Westminister was in a lower turnout was it not?. Some SF supporters transferred to Lo with Maskey out of the contest. The only indication of tactical voting intentions comes from Assembly transfers, and that is untrustworthy, Anna Lo transfers preferred Conall McDevit to Ruth Patterson.

    However contests like these are as much determined by who’s voters don’t show up as who tactically votes.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I don’t get O Muilinieor, I would actually prefer Alex Maskey given the choice between the two. But that’s just my personal taste.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Turns out I am wrong Chris McGimpsey is instead. It’s an interesting choice, I’d wish to correct all my previous assertions Jeff would be taking the seat.

  • Kevin Breslin

    SF and the DUP are the ones calling for pacts for their own partisan needs, it’s really nothing to do with unionism or nationalism. If any of the 5 Sinn Féin MPs or 8 DUP MP’s have done anything for Irish unity or the Union respectively in their role as MP I’d be very surprised. This is all about controlling a community, not emancipating a community or maximizing their capacity to work together.

    The fact that either is considering pacts at all shows no deference to the electorate. SF calling for pacts before there was even an agreed unionist candidate in Fermanagh-South Tyrone was really telling, they need unionist unity there, they’ve chip a tooth with realpolitik, constitutional politics, now it gives the impression they just rely on football supporter loyalty to get by.

    If they really cared about unionism or nationalism they would respect the voter’s right to a political choice here.

  • Gingray

    Of course you would not – otherwise it would appear you are making things up. As I posted above:

    Alliance vote in 2005 (W) was 6%, 2007 (A) 13%, 2010 (W) 15%, 20% (A) in
    2011.

    Alliance have got progressively higher since 2005.

    You claimed that
    “Alliance voters switched was because the unionist parties seriously considered entering a pact.”

    This was 2010, an election where Alliance increased vote share from 6% (previous westminster) to 15%. You could claim assembly, but again Alliance jumped from 13% to 20%, very similar gains, and from a low base.

    So where are these voters who swicthed?

  • Robin Keogh

    I agree, ten years should do it. Although i find the demographic changes in NB more interesting and more dramatic, despite political Unionisms refusal to allow homes to be built in Catholic areas.

  • Kevin Breslin

    My point is that Alliance would have lodged an SDLP tactical vote more as an anti-sectarian pact protest than playing the Arrow’s Law game.

  • Robin Keogh

    Thats all very gallant and in a normal political society one would expect the tenets of political competition to hold. But for better or worse the North is different and it always has been. The subtext of any cry for cross community cooperation when it comes to truth has always been one of ‘vote for your own’. We see it time after time yet nobody seems to think that its an ethnically premordial phenomonan that needs a lot more than fine words and good intentions to overturn. No matter who is placed on the ballot, regardless of their expertise and their outreach credentials, the majority of voters always vote for their coreligionist regardless of calls for unity candidates or not. Its high time politicians and commentators alike got to grips with the reality of competitive politics in the North rather than hankering for a political culture that simply does not exist.

  • Gingray

    I disagree – as you can see from the numbers alliance increase has come at the expense of the unionist parties. Perhaps you see soft unionist voters choosing to tactically vote nationalist over a unionist, while the evidence suggests that once they vote alliance they stay alliance.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Play the ball.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Sinn Féin was very slow to join the AV reform movement, an SDLP/APNI/SF/UKIP backed movement (yip UKIP) could have got the local victory and we could have used that on the constitutional reform platform as a step towards STV, sadly the SF electoral machine put the party first, when this was no threat to the party if it put the work in.

    AV is a better mechanism to vote for your own then vote out the “other”, better than STV infact, don’t have to play the quota game you have to play the “all in” game. Shame they left it too late.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Yes you’re an ardent Sinn Fein follower, to a UI at any price.

  • BetsyGray

    What do you mean by…’you don’t get O Muilieor ‘…?…could you elaborate …?….he’s sort of everywhere in this constituency….great on the ground…..he’s the one to watch….perfect for the seat and pushes all the buttons for SB …..why not.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Nah, still don’t get him, you say he was everywhere and his profile is high, Mike Nesbitt was everywhere too I mean too.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I’m still not convinced they’ve put a price on an United Ireland, Sinn Féin are no SNP.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Numbers don’t tell everything, all I am saying is that the main reason why Alliance supporters would have backed McDonnell was due to opposing pacts.

  • Gingray

    Kevin, the point is that alliance voters didn’t switch. You can keep on imagining your point of view to be accurate, but the facts are clear:

    – Nationalist vote in 2005 was 41%, same in 2010
    – Alliance vote in 2005 was 6%, 15% by 2010.

    Your theory does not add up. Sorry. But keep on plugging it