Robinson’s plan for the consolidation of unionism appears to be working

As we approach the end of February 2015, the window for electoral pacts is all but shut, with candidates having precious little time to build profile let alone momentum in a campaign.  To this end I’ve decided to look at the potential future for the two main Unionist Parties over the next 15 months, leading into the Assembly Elections of May 2016 and after.

May 2015 – All eyes are on South Antrim and Upper Bann.  Nesbitt needs a win here to shore up his own position within the Party and ideally 2 wins in order to deliver ‘short money’ to Party coffers to help fund some sort of electoral fightback.

If i were to call it now, the UUP have more chance of winning in South Antrim.  Danny Kinahan is a credible candidate, a hard working MLA with a good profile who could just pip William McCrea to the post by no more than a few hundred.

In Upper Bann, Joanne Dobson is a good candidate for the UUP, however, to overcome the DUP incumbent David Simpson who has a track record of hard work and delivery will be a tall order. I expect the DUP to retain Upper Bann by a few hundred votes. But it sets it up nicely for 2020.

So as of lunchtime today, there’s still no word as to what is happening in East and South Belfast. There’s a lot to play for. Mike Nesbitt is under pressure to build on last year’s local government result, Peter Robinson needs to consolidate the DUP vote and fend of Sinn Fein in areas like North Belfast. He will also be mindful of his legacy – this will undoubtedly be his last Westminster election as DUP Leader.

He will want to leave his Parliamentary Party as strong as possible with the greatest prize of all being the return of the East Belfast seat. This is my take on how things will likely stand in the early hours of Friday 8th May:

 

East BelfastDUP
South BelfastSDLP
North BelfastDUP
West BelfastSF
East AntrimDUP
East LondonderryDUP
Fermanagh & South TyroneSF
FoyleSDLP
Lagan ValleyDUP
Mid UlsterSF
Newry & ArmaghSF
North AntrimDUP
North DownIND U
South AntrimUUP
South DownSDLP
StrangfordDUP
Upper BannDUP
West TyroneSF

 

DUP8
UUP1
SF5
SDLP3
IND U1

 

I have been kind and suggested that the UUP have one Westminster Seat. It won’t deliver any ‘short money’ but it will pay for a few jobs to help consolidate South Antrim and perhaps take some of the pressure off Jim Nicholson MEP who practically bankrolls their Headquarters. Mike Nesbitt will breathe a sigh of relief but this will be a small success ahead of the next test 12 months down the line.

Come the Autumn, public pressure and the public finances will dictate that the Assembly should be reduced to 90 Members (5 Member Constituencies) and the greatest champion of this will be the First Minster who sees it as the greatest opportunity to consolidate the DUP position by wiping out the Ulster Unionist Party in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

This is a credible position when you consider that 5 UUP MLA’s came in 6th back in 2011 (East Belfast, Mid Ulster, Strangford, Upper Bann & West Tyrone). This could practically cut the UUP Assembly Team in half thus depriving the Party of seat on the Northern Ireland Executive for the first time since devolution in 1998 and practically forcing them into Opposition.

This would be calamitous for Mike Nesbitt and the Ulster Unionist Party, an utter failure and probably one that would cost him his Leadership.  For Peter Robinson, he would retire from the public life around late-April 2016 on a high, having consolidated the position of the DUP, facing down what was the rise and now plateau-ing of the Sinn Fein vote whilst decimating its unionist rival.

The irony then being that shortly after the 100th Anniversary of the events of Easter 1916, the Assembly election results may force a uniting of the two main Unionist Parties.

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  • Ernekid

    The cutting down of the Assembly can’t come soon enough. There’s far too many non entities and half wits the Assembly who managed to get elected due to the quirky electoral system and the sheer size of the Assembly for such a small electorate. The old Northern Irish Parliament got by with 52 members in its House of Commons. Now it may have been horribly undemocratic due to Gerrymandering and a rigged electoral system for Unionists but it managed quite well at running this place for 50 years.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Not much point in voting when we practially know who is going to win each seat.

  • Jim Nelson

    If you compare the two unionist parties and imagine the world we will be living in in 20 years time, the UUP is the one that fits in better. The attitudes that keep the DUP going (sectarianism being the main one) will finally die out with the older generation who lived through the troubles and unionist voters who hold UK values will vote UUP.
    I don’t expect too many people will join me in holding their breath until 2035 though.

  • Max

    Unionism has failed here and can never become respectable nor ensure that the North is accepted as a valued member of the ‘Union’.
    With an ever decreasing voter base, why do we kid ourselves in playing the stalling game to the detriment to the progress of the rest of the country.
    Pacts are truly the last sting in the tail of the dying unionist political classes. They can only ever be successful once. Who gains from pacts? No one other than the ones who want to keep their head on the trough.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Sinn Fein ran pacts during the last term by not fielding candidates in SB and practically insisting that the SDLP stood aside in FST.

    Are you seriously suggesting that we would be better off in a UI for the past 100 + years than we are under the union?

  • Joe_Hoggs

    By that logic there is also no future for Sinn Fein which seems highly unlikely.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Max why do you go around up voting all of your ludicrous statements on here?

  • mickfealty

    How so EK? Wasn’t there a ‘war’ afterwards? (I’m being devil’s advocate btw, but the sheer lack of detail surely warrants such a gentle rebuke?) In what way did it ‘work’? Or hadn’t you really thought about it?

  • mickfealty

    Right I’m spudding this out on the grounds there’s no content in it…

    Adds: Max, I want you in, but if you keep ignoring the rules of the site, then you will have to go.

    In short: you’re chewing up space others could do better with.

  • Ernekid

    In terms of legislating for Northern Ireland it worked well enough. It was an undemocratic old boys club but it managed to fulfil its remit as established under the Government of Ireland Act in providing stable political structures.

  • Max

    Yes. From my own personal position, I do not like earning half the money someone in the same job role for the same company gets in Dublin. Cost of living is not twice!

    Ohh Ohh the NHS….. you can shove it as far up your $$$$! Have you ever heard the term “you get what you pay for”. The NHS is substandard, pathetic and not fit for purpose. My family is currently suing them for negligence for the death of my father.

    How about the 90+ years of under investment here? The jobs selection based upon religious background???? The Gerrymandering? Didn’t work out too well, or how about the state sponsored discrimination, murders and cover-ups?

    Even the most staunch unionist must be able to look themselves in the mirror and say, ‘ya know maintaining this antiquated perception of privilege is costly to the community and to my children and their grand children’. Why do we need to be enslaved to our paymasters in London?

    A nationalist/republican pact is to extract ourselves from political slavery, to fend for ourselves, to put our own people first, to be the makers of our own destiny.

    A unionist pact is to keep us in chains, starving us of progress and freedom, to push through far right wing fundamentalist agendas. To ensure that the privileged maintain their privilege class. To beg for scraps at the masters table.

    A unionist pact benefits absolutely no one in society other than those directly elected. If our MPs at Westminister could acheive or change anything within the UK, you could be dammed sure the English would abolish it.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    I just noticed an interesting plot development in North Down that could damage the UUP across the board. The UUP candidate selected to fight this seat for the UUP is standing aside to give Lady Sylvia Hermon (who left the UUP unceremoniously) a free run and this is a move which is being supported by Mike Nesbitt. A bizarre decision by the UUP that shows it lacks both vision and confidence.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    With the current crop of MLA’s it’s still impossible to get any proper responses from them and their remit does not seem to go beyond that of sending an email.

  • mickfealty

    Define ‘well enough’? It pretty much had to be forced to bring in the Welfare State by the UK Labour Government, IIRC?

  • Joe_Hoggs

    I think you’re just trolling now so I won’t bite and I notice you’re still up voting your own comments, are you afraid nobody else will?

  • mickfealty

    Listen mate, if you don’t know anything about the subject, then you are far from obliged to parade your lack of knowledge in front of people who do.

  • Max

    Mick thank you. However, can i draw your attention to the following Slugger Comments Policy

    “Slugger is a political heterogeneous site. There is no presumed political consensus on any subject…..”

    Your earlier blog post of
    “Which party *exactly* represents a practical challenge to the ongoing deprivations of west Belfast?”

    How does the loaded statement above fit in with the policy?

  • Pete

    Yeah, it’s baffling. Very strange decision from the UUP. Obviously Hermon will take the seat regardless, but it’s completely defeatist to not even try against someone who quit their own party…

  • Joe_Hoggs

    If this is factored into the original prediction by bystander then I predict a DUP hold in SA.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Max you’re clearly trolling with some of your statements and then you find the need to up-vote yourself, this is partly what Mick is alluding to.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I really thought Joanne Dobson would have the better chance against Simpson, but when I come to think about things, Danny Kinnihan is actually a better bet with the TUV candidate possibly out McCreaing Rev. McCrea. Decent shot, but DUP favorites in both.

    South Belfast is going to be decided by how many SDLP or DUP voters stay at home I feel.

  • Kevin Breslin

    If there was a United Ireland the entire reason, purpose and direction of Sinn Féin would implode as it did last time with Original Sinn Féin the Irish Civil War. Any pragmatics needed to achieve unity would cause a party split.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Look at North Down and this should see the UUP dead in the water across the board.

  • tmitch57

    Bystander, if your predictions prove true than it will be quite a gain for both major unionist party leaders. Robinson will get back E. Belfast, which he lost to Alliance to 2010 and the UUP will get back in Westminster, which they have been out of since the disastrous UCUNF (?) hi-bred election pact with the Tories. But I agree with you, if Assembly downsizing goes ahead then the UUP will have to merge with the DUP, which has already had the UUP’s policy for a decade.

  • Kevin Breslin

    North Down is funny, but the UUP is far from dead there. They got an MLA in Leslie Cree didn’t they, when they were at risk to losing the seat to Alan McFarland, and they are the 2nd biggest party in North Down and Ards, possibly 3rd though if Ards is excluded.

  • chrisjones2

    From my own personal position, I do not like earning half the money someone in the same job role for the same company gets in Dublin.

    WOW …you have stumbled on a solution!!!

    There is an Enterprise every 2 hours – £30 single or £12,.50 of you book in advance

  • mickfealty

    Its why the OFMdFM show is so potent. Welfare Reforms were co-negotiated from the start by SF and the DUP, and now their strategy on South Belfast is nicely synchronised too.

    What’s not to like if you’re SF or DUP?

  • mjh

    Yes. On the face of it this is not in the UUP’s own interests. In the last Assembly elections they did win a seat here – but with only 0.7 of a quota. Which means that they ought to be taking the opportunity to consolidate their support in advance of 2016.

    The danger is that not contesting could make them appear an irrelevance in the eyes of some of their voters.

  • mjh

    Perhaps they see the risk of the DUP gaining another Westminster seat (if they defeated Sylvia Hermon) as a greater danger to them.

  • mickfealty

    Sylvia’s in there for life. North Down likes its mavericks and tends to hold on to them.

  • mickfealty

    It’s a perfectly legitimate question, but it rightly belongs on that thread… not here.

  • mickfealty

    That distraction again? The core deal was virtually unchanged (bar borrowing to eliminate 20k jobs), and that was negotiated jointly.

  • Gaygael

    Hmmm……

    I am not convinced. I can’t belive that in both your articles in relation to unionist unity and the upcoming Westminster elections you exclusively focused on the 2 biggest unionist parties. You only talk about the UUP and DUP. I think this is a fundamental flaw. You fail to talk about UKIP, TUV and PUP.

    At euro elections, UKIP and TUV scored 16% of the total vote. That significantly rises as a proportion of the total unionist vote. There were 314991 votes cast for DUP, UUP, TUV, And UKIP. I haven’t included NI21 and conservatives in this figure. TUV and UKIP combined they scored 100390, or 31.8% of the total unionist vote. One may also argue that the alliance vote contains a significant proportion of unionists. And This is a better barometer that council elections, where TUV and UKIP seemed to be all over the place in terms of strategy, and in many places, unionists didn’t have an opportunity to vote for them.

    This is a huge flaw in your premise.

    I disagree also with your idea that Kinnahan is closer the Dobson. I would have reversed it and have explained my rationale elsewhere.

    I don’t want to say too much assembly yet as I think a lot will hinge on the outcome of may.

  • Robin Keogh

    Max, a lot of people in the North have felt the sting from the back hand of the conflict on all sides of the community in every social group and all ages too. The subjective narrative is only valuable to the one that holds it, and that too relates to all of us north and south. My hero is your devil and vice versa. In general, the aim is to try not to wind people up and in turn try not to let others get under your skin. I am a constitutional republican and probably share many of your views so can i say that there is great potential on Slugger to contribute and learn at the same time. I can assure you, i have lost the plot myself once or twice and even got blocked for a while. It was deserved and the rules apply without favour across the board. So, my only advice to you is try to stick to the thread topic (even if it is pure shaite) and be respectful to those who comment, even if it makes your head hurt. There are a few contributors to this site who are pretty cool and very fair, and they are fun to tangle with. Enjoy them and politely ignore the rest….good luck.

  • Robin Keogh

    That is hardly true considering the lengths Sinn Fein have gone devising left policies and formulating social, economic and political platforms. The civil war, a hundred years ago ? Really ? I am a tad surprised at your comment tbh.

  • Robin Keogh

    I think they are really trying to woo her ladyship back maybe?

  • Robin Keogh

    Erne, i am so happy you just posted this. I can be quite jealous of you sometimes as you almost always hit the nail on the head or you manage to find the correct words to explain something while i struggle with terminology. However this comment shows me you are far from perfect 😉

  • Kevin Breslin

    Provisional Sinn Féin already have a Civil War to deal with, in terms of The Troubles … Vast majority of the left wing Protestant population would not trust their “social” policy over UKIP, the UUP, the TUV, the DUP, the local Conservatives or even Éírígí. As long as the IRA is glorified, Sinn Féin will be seen as a culturally sectarian party in the Protestant and some sections of the Catholic community too.

  • mjh

    That thought crossed my mind. But they must realise that is never going to happen.

    In 2011 Lady Hermon did nothing to support Alan McFarland when he stood (and lost) as an Independent for North Down in the Assembly. He had previously held the seat as UUP, but followed her out of the party in 2010 risking his seat to support Sylvia Hermon’s Westminster campaign.

    If she can’t help her political friends when they need it, she isn’t going to compromise her above-party image to assist those who tried to unseat her.

  • chrisjones2

    Agreed. Thyere is and always will be a market for demagoguery on both sides

  • chrisjones2

    Its all optics …positioning so you can tell the best possible set of lies to the voters afterwards when you know (nay, may have agreed) from the start what the end game will be

  • chrisjones2

    ,,,,and what about the rest of us who will pay for those mitigation schemes? The civil servants losing their jobs? THe people in the communities who will suffer from the economic downturn and economic shambles that is STormont

  • chrisjones2

    ….and a recognition that they have no hope of winning against her

  • chrisjones2

    you means the ones who will vote for Sylvia Hermon come what may?

  • chrisjones2

    Why would she rejoin a party that treated her so badly?

  • chrisjones2

    …only issue ….has she said she will stand?

  • chrisjones2

    What % of them CAN send an email?

  • chrisjones2

    Yes MIck but that was political attitude not ability to find Ministers. The benches were still filled with the flag waving numpties but they had enough competent people to run Departments. Look at the relative size of Stormont vs the Dail, Holyrood and Cardiff. Stormont could so – would be much better – with say 50- 70 MLAs and half the number of Departments

  • carl marks

    never say never Joe.

  • Mike the First

    “Now it may have been horribly undemocratic due to Gerrymandering and a rigged electoral system”
    (Don’t want to divert this too much onto a historical discussion but…) Are you sure you’re thinking about the Northern Ireland Parliament rather than local Councils of that era?

  • chrisjones2

    Yes optics. The cynical manipulation of positioning when you have agreed /. know the outcome. Happens all the time. You need to get out more and take those glasses off

  • chrisjones2

    That depends on whether those who receive the benefits really need them or deserve them. Sadly in many cases, perhaps not. As an example if there is a retired couple living in a largish 3 bed NIHE House should they stay there or move when so many young families are in cramped accommodation?

  • Kevin Breslin

    Complaining about “unionist” votes in South Down and Foyle helping the SDLP is not the language of someone who wants the people of this island truely United, they would never complain about Fine Gael voters helping Labour in the Republic.

  • I think South Belfast will be a very interesting one to watch if the UUP put Jeff Dudgeon up for election. The main winner could be the DUP as it could send progressive Unionists back from Alliance and Green, neutralising the Alliance threat, and a few older UUP voters could go to the DUP. Perhaps this might be enough to get them over the line?
    It will probably take a bit of tactical voting to minimise the Sinn Fein vote in order to get McDonnell back in.

  • Kevin Breslin

    It is connected, there is nothing sectarian seen about Sinn Féin in the South but there is in the North, unification would put these different political cultures could not coexist in a merged state in my opinion

  • Kevin Breslin

    Fianna Fáil failed to maintain their presence in the North for similar reasons, civil unity takes a back seat to power.