Jonathan Bell: I will bring a campaign to South Belfast like “you have never seen”

On Wednesday night the DUP’s newly minted candidate for South Belfast launched his campaign to become the new MP for South Belfast. In the middle of all hustle and bustle of the Four Winds I caught up with the candidate, Junior Minister, Jonathan Bell.

To start with I wanted to know why the DUP thought that South Belfast was so ripe for change?

Bell told me that when you look at the last local election results it is clear that the DUP are in fact the largest party in South Belfast. He believes that people are looking for a more active voice in Westminster to implement a fresh and innovative approach the constituency. For Bell, South Belfast really needs to be “put on the map” and he believes that he can do that.

As he spoke about the constituency, I posed the question to him about why was the MLA for Strangford running for South Belfast?

The DUP Junior Minister points out that the areas of South Belfast used to be in his constituency, so he does have some experience in representing the area. However, he told me that from the DUPs point of view there was a need to have a recognisable face running for the party in this constituency. Bell does not promise that he can deliver everything, but he says he will always give 100 per cent of his effort to securing the best for the South Belfast constituency.

When the First Minister spoke at the campaign launch he pointed out that the DUP were the largest party in South Belfast, with the party ahead surely this race is about maintaining the DUP lead to win?

Bell believes that whilst the DUP on the numbers are ahead, he perceives this as an uphill battle for the party. But, he promises a campaign “like we have never seen” in South Belfast before from the DUP as he pledges to knock on thousands of doors and from now until election day he pledges that his team will be in every area and will be “on the ground” every evening in the constituency.

I wondered why he felt compelled to take on McDonnell. Did he feel that he has done a bad job over the last decade?

The DUP candidate candidly told me that Alasdair is a friend of his and that he has no intention of running a negative campaign against anyone. Bell says that he wants to be judged on his platform and for him the DUP has a strongest team at Westminster, Stormont and local government to bring about real positive change in South Belfast. For the DUP he says, it is not about being “bought or sold” by Labour or the Conservatives but using the party’s strength at Westminster to get the best deal for Northern Ireland.

On to the big issue of Unionist unity, Bell argues that he would “love” to see a united Unionist candidate. The Junior Minister pointed out that combined Unionists could have enough votes to take the seat, but from the sounds of his tone and words it would be unlikely that he would stand aside as he pointed out that in South Belfast it is the DUP that are the largest Unionist party but ultimately he says we need to just “see what happens.”

Pacts aside what did he think of two of highest profile opponents in Alasdair McDonnell and Máirtín Ó Muilleoir?

Starting with the latter, Bell points out that he has always been able to work very effectively with Máirtín in securing things like business investment into the constituency. However, a fundamental difference between the two of them is on the question of abstentionism. The DUP candidate points out that he will take his seat in the House of Commons in order to ensure that Departments like Business, Innovation and Skills are directing investment into South Belfast.

Yet, Alasdair McDonnell does take his seat?

Bell says if you compare what he hopes to be his attendance record at Westminster to other MPs, you will see a significantly more active and positive voice in the Commons than there has been in the past.

Overall, it was a solid performance from a candidate who is renowned for his campaigning skills. Bell does have some roots in the constituency and can use his working class background to his advantage. He will put a moderate, yet confident face on the DUP in that area and will run an aggressive campaign as he told me that he is willing to debate any of his opponents “anytime, anyplace, anywhere.” South Belfast just got a lot more interesting.

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  • Joe_Hoggs

    Ever since Martin Smyth stood down, SB has not had an effective and vibrant Unionist candidate, Spratt and McGimpsey were both very poor, with Spratt lacking ability and energy while McGimpsey was often viewed as “pushover Unionism”.

    The Unionist vote needs to be maximised in SB and Bell is the candidate to do this.

  • salmonofdata

    He’s the underdog, but Jonathan will certainly be there or thereabouts in the constituency; if the race was this year’s Premier League season he’d be Manchester City to Alasdair McDonnell’s Chelsea. There’s a number of unknown factors, such as whether the SDLP candidate will be adversely affected by the row over abortion, how well Máirtín Ó Muilleoir will poll, whether the Alliance can continue their decade long run of growth in the area now Anna Lo is not on the ballot, if Mr McDonnell will get his now-traditional Westminster bump, and what the UUP are up to. Some constituency polling would not go amiss.

  • Pete

    I was surprised by how sensible Bell sounded in the interview. He seems like a good candidate, although I think McDonnell will have no trouble keeping his seat.

  • Mirrorballman

    I think South Belfast may have two future First Ministers going head to head at the GE….

  • Tacapall

    ” I think McDonnell will have no trouble keeping his seat.”

    Not with this clanger hanging over his head in relation to his promise that the SDLP secured cast iron guarantees that the NCA would be fully accountable to the people of this part of Ireland.

    “The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland can veto any action of a
    local minister or any piece of legislation if she considers it
    incompatible with national security and can direct a minister or
    department to take any action to ‘safeguard the interests’ of national
    security. The Security Service, protected from any serious scrutiny, has
    been given strategic primacy in ‘national security’ policing. The
    Secretary of State also has powers to curtail or direct investigations
    and censor investigatory reports which touch on national security”

  • Dan

    Judging by his local performance at the Assembly, where he does little more than grin inanely for the cameras whilst standing behind his boss, I can’t see that he has much to offer on the national stage

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Good strong Orange credentials, that’s always a sound foundation and a good marker for any Unionist candidate to have, Spratt and McGimpsey were not in the Orange.

    Bell also is young, vibrant and comes across as having more energy – I think he is a breath of fresh air.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Chelsea’s form has dipped at present but then again so has Cities.

  • Pete

    I personally don’t think that would really influence the electorate, to be honest.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    From what I know of Jonathan Bell, he is a respected Orangeman – that wil go down very well with the Unionist electorate.

  • Tacapall

    Why and would a border poll constitute an action that would be incompatible with the national security of the country she represents

  • T.E.Lawrence

    That is an interesting call MBM – it has got me thinking ! Good Post !

  • Tacapall

    Do you know the geezer on the banner Joe and do you know yer man carrying the banner.

    https://html2-f.scribdassets.com/5rjbcu9nlsi4v3p/images/3-1aec395123.jpg

  • Practically_Family

    That depends. If the signs were that there was going to be a 0.5% vote in favour of Irish unificaton, I think it’s very possible that (s)he would.

    A smidgin more likely, IMO, is that a poll will be held round about the point that a very small pro union majority can be expected and then a restriction placed upon how soon the next plebescite can be called.

    Not in order to keep hold of NI but to give a transparent indication of “the writing on the wall” and sufficient time to minimise the fallout.

  • Tacapall

    Yeah why would they not, they have deceived the Irish people at every opportunity before.

  • Tacapall

    Number 2. Thought he’d take over Gerry Adams seat myself but that went to another family dynasty.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Rodney Connor lost the FST seat due to lack of Orange credentials and this was from people whom themselves are not in the Orange.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Enlighten me Tacapall.

  • Mirrorballman

    Bell and Ó’Muilleoir – Think either Bell/Hamilton/Foster will succeed Robinson and Ó’Muilleoir might succeed Marty though I think O’Dowd might get a chance before him. Ó’Muilleoir may need ministerial experience first. Worth a punt…..

  • Practically_Family

    And maybe not.

  • Tacapall

    “Maybe that was the intention of Perfidious Dumbledore, or whatever that
    phrase is you keep using, all along. In which case you have been played”

    Now Morph thats not only man playing and a little childish but ignores historical fact and who are you to tell any Irish person whats the best way of achieving a unified Ireland, because Sinn Fein say so. I speak only for myself, its a personal choice and a personal opinion Im not running around the streets demanding other Irish men and women not to engage in British politics so who exactly played me ?

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Well collarette.

  • Tacapall

    Thats UVF murderer Brian Robinson on the banner and yer man carrying the banner is yer man the Orange order claims paid his dues to society for all those murders he committed when he was a Shankill Butcher. Im sure you know the other murderer wearing the sash, bottom left and right.

    What were you saying about “Good strong Orange credentials”

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Is that an Orange bannerette Tap?

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Conor Murphy? Surprising choice, he has went off the radar a little.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Check out Poot’s FB page and then you’ll be under no illusion as to how important the Orange is to both him and his son’s credentials.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    I think you’re genuinely surprised at this? We are a sly at this, many of us don’t don the collarette but we also wouldn’t dare vote for someone who didn’t don the collarette.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Elder or younger Poots?

  • Tacapall

    Its being carried by an Orangemen is it not ?

  • Ernekid

    I really rather hope that this backward flat earther homophobe does terribly at the polls.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    That was not my query sir, I would be disgusted if a bannerette was named after a paramilitary member and this will need investigated.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    On the subject, he has absolutely no right to even be in the Orange, never mind abusing the regalia by parading at non Orange events.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Gerry Kelly, the man of the people. Surprisingly charismatic in real life too.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Play the ball.

  • Tacapall

    I cant really withdraw from a system that I never engaged in the first place with but for the record.

    Has politics changed much since 1885 – 1886 elections.

    John Bull “I swear by the Eternal Jingo, much as I hate you, I will never consent to our ‘Separation’.

    Pat. “Look here, Bull, you’re only making an ass of yourself; don’t you see that unfortunately we can never be separated, our premises are built too close for that, but that’s no reason you should meddle in my domestic affairs, and for the future, myself and Biddy here, will manage our own little house, and you and Sawney [Scotland] can look after look your own place”
    Biddy “O! Pat, jewel, will you try to keep that noisy, nasty man quiet – he quite upsets me.”

  • Ernekid

    What does that even mean Joe?

  • Joe_Hoggs

    You’re attacking the man.

  • Ernekid

    And he attacks LGBT people.

  • Croiteir

    And the fact that it was accepted by all and sundry that Scotland would never vote for independence would not have prompted Cameron to call the referendum?

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Sorry I was talking about junior who topped the poll at the last council elections.

  • Tacapall

    You know fk all about me johnny come lately.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Connor but through gritted teeth and only to keep the other two out.

  • Tacapall

    Oh were you wondering who the other murderer is ? Thats ex RUC/UVF and member of the Glenanne gang who carried out over 120 murders, officer Billy McCaughey another murderer never expelled from the Orange Order.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    It’s not an Orange bannerette for starters and yes said individuals if members should be expelled.
    Do you allow terrorists into the GAA?

  • Croiteir

    Yes – there is a marker to guide the way to treble top now – but not then.

  • I’d very much like to see some in depth opinion polling for South Belfast, as was done for East Belfast recently by LucidTalk. It would hopefully shed some light on Mairtin O Muilleoir’s potential, the current support levels for so-called non-aligned parties, and also decompart South Belfast’s unionist factions.

  • Floreat Ultonia

    Are they doing live favorite ‘Gerdundula’ (or Gerry’n’alasdair, as we’d call it locally 😉 )

  • eireanne
  • eireanne

    Why do you compare the loyal orders with the GAA?

  • Zig70

    V depressing. A real smell the coffee moment.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    An Orange creationist versus a Pro Lifer. And they call this representation…..

  • Starviking

    Maybe because they have tradionally had similar social roles in their sides of our divided society?

  • Gopher

    Probably pointless but trying to bring the discussion back to South Belfast but that was a pretty clever interview. No need to knock Alasdair because he is pitiful and no need to attack the ex mayor despite his technicolor dreamcoat because everyone knows he is purely beholden to what Gerry has had for breakfast in Louth. No need to mention Alliance simply because no one will vote for her. Again clever interview.

  • eireanne

    They didn’t. If you look into the history and background of both organizations you’ll see how different they are.

  • carl marks

    You do a lot of that Joe, calling people Lundy, and disloyal malcontents, maybe you should take your own advice!

  • carl marks

    cause mate if the Brits could, they would drop this place like a hot potato and not bend down to pick it up.

  • carl marks

    Joe honestly, how was martin Smyth ever a vibrant unionist candidate?

  • carl marks

    Really how will membership of a group breaking the law daily (Twaddle)go down well with anybody?

  • chrisjones2

    I hope he is …as he is perinnially useless

  • chrisjones2

    In the DUP there are two classes who stand grinning behind the Leader ……. those who hold the knives and are waiting and those who dont

  • carl marks

    well if what our unionist contributors are telling us is right (which I don’t believe for a minute) the way to get respect inside unionism is to be a member of a group that welcomes murderers and torturers into its ranks.
    and you can believe any oul Blarney about Gays and dinosaurs and that doesn’t matter.
    Is it a bit of wonder the Shinners are wiping the floor with them.

  • carl marks

    Prove that Joe please! I don’t see how you can know it.

  • carl marks

    If that is true Joe then it is very sad,

  • Joe_Hoggs

    You shoot me down when I do.

  • kalista63

    Jonathan Bell and Allasdair McDonnel are sitting outside Stormont on a sunny day. Al say, I fancy an ice cream. Jon says so do. Al says, I’ll go and get them. Jon say, nah I’ll go, Al says, but I want nuts on mine, you won’t remember. Jon say, I famcy that and I’ll remember. Al say, I’ll have to go cause I want strawberry sauce on mine, you’ll never remember. Jon says, hmmm….strawberry sauce…me too. I’ll go, I’ll be fine.

    An hour later, Jon turns up with two burgers and Al says, Ya stupid bastard! I wanted cheese on mine.

  • Kevin Breslin

    He’s right, I’ve never seen his campaign, so it is a campaign like I’ve never seen.

  • James

    He couldnt bring the value of a loaf to south Belfast, the pretentious little

  • Davros64

    Who cares? It’s the DUP FFS…

  • carl marks

    so either stop doing it or stop complaining when other people do it.

  • carl marks

    would that be the Poots who’s knowledge of the Geography of SB was so bad that he “accidentally” wondered into the unveiling of a memorial to two loyalist terrorists (a sort of SB McCreesh park thing), and stayed for the whole event, claiming afterwards he didn’t know what it was about!

  • Kevin Breslin

    Has Mary Lou McDonald the entryist defected back to Fianna Fáil and is now standing in South Belfast?

    Only McDonALD, I know in Irish politics.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Who in the South Belfast contest takes a pro-Choice stance? Ó Muilleoir, Bradshaw and McGimpsey (or Dudgeon not sure who the UUP candidate there is any more) don’t, not sure if Claire Bailey does openly either.

  • chrisjones2

    “the entryist”

    I know. Its shackin. Imagine standing for election when you haven’t murdered anyone or blown anything up. What is politics coming to

  • chrisjones2

    effective and vibrant Unionist

    Err what age was he when he stood down? 30 years before perhaps.

  • chrisjones2

    But the Shinners ARE a group that welcomes (eulogies) the murderers and child killers and rapists in their midst. A group that defends Garda killers and lobbies to get them out of gaol. And it doesn’t seem to have done them any harm with their electorate

  • chrisjones2

    ….and an atrocious campaign with neither side really working to get him elected because of the Fermanagh internecine Unionist warfare

  • chrisjones2

    …its all very sad green and orange

  • Gaygael

    Greens are pro choice.

  • carl marks

    all true, but then you are a person who thinks that throwing nail bombs at police protecting primary school girl’s is not a attempt to kill the children right behind the police, so excuse me if I take your moral indignation with a very large pinch of salt!

  • Kevin Breslin

    Okay turns out Claire Bailey is a pro-choice activist.

  • Snow white

    I would have £20 on Bell taking South Belfast from McDonnell. I live in SB and in one of McDonnell’s heartlands. He’s been absent and it’s been noticed. My neighbours are now more likely to vote for Claire Bailey or Paula Parsley.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Enoch Powell and Slyvia Herman were backed by the DUP, neither were in the OO

  • Bryan Somers

    Went Gone dear oh dear

  • Croiteir

    Glad you agree

  • Croiteir

    I suggest you re read – I have been saying that until the last referendum the English did not pay much heed to the possibility of an independent Scotland – Cameron thought that he was a latter day Wade and would crush the unruly Scots – I wager he has been sent homeward to think again.

  • Croiteir

    Yep – sorry for the big words

  • Croiteir

    Not my problem – I could follow it easily.

  • Croiteir

    depends on which level of mediiocrity you aspire to I suppose

  • Starviking

    History and backgrounds do not change the fact that they had similar social roles.

    Many in the Nationalist Community identified with the Gaels – this was a core identity in the community.

    The GAA provided social settings that promoted this identity.

    Many in the Unionist Community identified with Orangism, and that was a core identity in the community.

    The Orange Order provided social settings which promoted that identity.