The Democratic Peoples Republic of Northern Ireland

“I like the idea of democracy. You have to have someone everyone distrusts”

– Terry Pratchett


Election pacts, who wants ’em, who needs ’em, who gets ’em? That seems to be the name of the game this week, I’m sure not everybody got what they wanted, but if nothing else, a few party higher-ups have added quite a lot of chapters to their autobiographies. Every cloud and all that jazz…

I don’t get election pacts, it makes no sense to me to potentially give your rivals a helping hand. I’m aware of the phrase “my enemies enemy is my friend” but we are neither dealing with enemies, or friends…half the time in the assembly, the DUP/SF “friendship” seems more stable against the UUP/SDLP enemy. Choose your battles I suppose.

Are they undemocratic? No more or less so than some other political methodologies. Naomi Long said

“The DUP clearly now know that Gavin Robinson cannot win against Alliance in a fair fight, so they have resorted to this anti-democratic move in a desperate attempt to strengthen their position”

I don’t think that on the face of it, not running in an electoral area, is undemocratic. Is it undemocratic that the legalize cannabis alliance don’t run in every ward? What about the people before profit alliance? You do what you can with what you have, in these days of continued (infinite?) austerity, spending money on an election you absolutely know you cannot win, is somewhat wasteful. There are a number of electoral constituencies that are realistically, not going to be changed.

Paul Maskey (Belfast West – Sinn Fein) 57.1% of the vote, majority of over 13,000

Take Brian Higginson of UKIP running in this area, is that not just a complete waste of resources and money?

Ian Paisley Jr (North Antrim – DUP)  29.6% of the vote, majority of over 12,000

In 2010, Alliance party parliamentary candidate Jayne Dunlop received 3.2% of the vote in North Antrim…is she in anyway likely to usurp IPJ? Of course not, would it be undemocratic for the Alliance party to not put a candidate up? I don’t think so. Of course if you don’t run, you don’t know how you would do and you make like difficult in the future when you do choose to run, but there is a certain element of common sense that needs to be included there…which is why the legalize cannabis alliance aren’t running in every constituency in the land.

Additionally to this “undemocratic” concept…If Naomi Long loses her seat to Gavin Robinson, will she be for the dole queue? Or will her political status be utilized by co-opting her into the assembly…at the expense of an existing MLA, the party currently have 3 MLA’s aged 64, a 68 year old and a 72 year old. And amongst those members, Anna Lo has previously stated that she won’t seek re-election due to her disdain at “tribal politics.” It isn’t a particularly outlandish prediction that Long could be moved into a seat-made-vacant and continue as deputy leader of the party in Belfast South, which is a fairly comfortable seat for Lo, being elected at first count with a majority of nearly 2000 over the 2nd count MLA, Alasdair McDonnell. Would this be democratic? The people of Belfast South who elected Anna Lo would suddenly have a new representative that they never voted for, never received election literature, never seen a poster on a lamppost…just a breeze in candidate with a ready made job. I understand that this is a permitted mechanism, but so is a pact, so is a petition of concern. You don’t have to justify it, but it will help you with your electorate if you can.

Which takes me to the pact once more, Peter Robinson and his colleagues have repeatedly mentioned the Sinn Fein policy of abstentionism as a reason for electoral pacts…as has been pointed out, Naomi Long takes her seat in Westminster, what I think is more interesting is South Belfast, where a pact was sought but not agreed. SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell also takes his seat in London. If you combine the votes from the 2010 election of DUP & whatever acronym UUP & conservatives came up with, you still end up 16 votes short of McDonnells vote-share.

What’s the end game of an electoral pact? A continued pact in Fermanagh & South Tyrone offers the best chance of a unionist candidate claiming a seat from Sinn Fein, with Michelle Gildernew and her now famous 4-vote-majority sitting precariously atop the pile. Rodney Connor ran in 2010 and lost by those 4 votes, this time Tom Elliott has been offered up to the electorate…what if Elliott wins? Can the DUP ever run against him in the constituency? Maybe not “can” but “could”? Can they keep integrity in the next general election by putting up their own candidate and criticising Elliott? The DUP will support Danny Kennedy against Conor Murphy in Newry & Armagh, to succeed he will have to pull in more than 10,000 extra votes that Kennedy didn’t receive in 2010… He won’t win, it seems very unlikely, but going forward, he will stand again in the next assembly election, and the DUP will campaign against him with William Irwin being tasked with pointing our Kennedy’s failings… There seems to be a short sightedness in Electoral pacts, if you win in a pact, are you writing off that constituency for the foreseeable future? If you lose, can you keep face whilst criticising the person you supported?

Anna Lo said she was leaving Northern Irish politics due to the tribal nature of the beast… I can see where unionists are coming from when they campaign against nationalists, but when you group “other” parties in with nationalists, you just create the mental image of old battle-weary protectionists, backed into a corner lashing out at all who approach. As I have said time and time again, the border issue isn’t at stake, that will eventually come to the fore with a referendum…until then, it shouldn’t matter one iota what the designation of a party is, it’s what the candidate does that matters. More and more people vote with their heads rather than their flags, unionist pacts aren’t going to stifle that metamorphosis, maybe it will win themselves some seats, maybe they won’t, what they will do though is highlight how little future-proofing is being done in Northern Irish politics. Democracy is arguably a subjective concept, the DUP can call themselves Democratic but so does the DPRK. Other parties need to be very wary of how they respond though, it cannot become “if you can’t beat them, join them”…that tactic has already been taken by DUP/UUP.


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  • Dan

    I thought Lo was leaving the country…….

  • NMS

    As the GB polls stand, maximising the number of active and attending members offers NI parties a possible once off opportunity to actually participate in UK meaningfully in UK politics. As the SDLP & Lady Sylvia will support the British (or will it be just the English & Welsh?) Labour Party, the varying other parties will seek to ally themselves with various others Conservatives or Liberal Democrats.

    This just leaves one question. Why would anyone vote Sinn Féin? If you are in favour of abstentionism, abstain, don’t vote, go for a day trip to Buncrana. Not returning someone seems silly, but so do most things in NI……

  • Pasty2012

    If the Party’s with the most similar Policies were to have a Pack then you could have Sinn Fein and the PUP together representing the Working Class People, they would however need to leave the issue of Nationality and Parading outside. It is somewhat unbelievable that Working Class Unionists don’t have a “Labour” Party to represent them as both the DUP and UUP are to Right and Far Right of Tory Party Policies. The Fact that Working Class Unionists always vote for these Conservative Party’s is down to the Lies they are fed at every election and being told a vote for the DUP/UUP is a vote to smash Sinn Fein or to Protect the Union, when neither is true. Sinn Fein have only got stronger and there has never been a vote on the issue of the Union and the issue will only be decided if and when a Referendum on that question is put to the people. The PUP should be out there highlighting that to the Unionist people and maybe then they will get the votes they believe they should in the same manner that Sinn Fein get the working class vote on the Nationalist side.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    The PUP need to throw the kitchen sink at both North & East Belfast constituencies in the Assembly Elections in 2016 and try to scrape home the 6th MLA of each constituency, with a base vote of 3K in each constituency they are about 2.5K short of the quota, however transfers could get them home. They need to start planning a two front election assault, 1. Get more voters onto the electoral register to help increase that first preference vote and 2. Go looking for transfer votes within both the Unionist and Working Class Vote Base. If they can run a good campaign in both constituencies it’s doable and they could get two MLA’s elected from both North and East Belfast. I am going to put a bet on that they can do it and get both them last seats. It will be close and down to the wire !

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Its interesting to note that electoral pacts have been useful in a Westminster Election format of FPP. You can look back to the Unionist Pact and Westminster By-Elections in January 1986 because all Unionists resigned their seats due to the Anglo Irish Agreement and say that was a success returning 14 out of the 15 contested seats. Seamus Mallon gained Newry and Armagh for the SDLP however Unionism could have ended up with a bloody nose if the SDLP and SF had have been able to agree also an electoral pact. They would have lost another 3 seats, South Down, Fermanagh & South Tyrone and Mid Ulster.
    The UUUC pact in 1974 was also successful where this pact captured 11 out of the 12 Westminster NI Seats in February 1974 however it lost Fermanagh & South Tyrone in later Westminster Elections in October 1974 to an agreed independent Republican Candidate.
    The 1975 NI Constitutional Convention Elections saw the UUUC Pact win 46 out of the 78 seats. Some might say gaining 62% of the seats in this case was also sucessful. But possibly the format of voting in this election (STV) was the defining moment of the breakup of this pact. Vanguard was to split from the UUUC in 1976.
    I know Nick Clegg (LibDems) back in 2010 talked about negotiating with the Tories his coalition partners about proposals to change Westminster Elections to STV. This would be the end of electoral pacts but may create political party strategic voting alliances ?

  • Joe_Hoggs

    There is some merit in some of your argument, however being from FST I am fed up of being “represented” by an abstentionist MP who has made to positive impacts within the county over three tenures now. A united Unionist candidate offers me some hope. Many believed Connor had not chance in 2010 and stayed away from the polls due to this, these people ended up regretting this as did those who spoilt their papers and wrote on them “TUV”. With both DUP and UUP running in FST, too many Unionists would not bother to vote.

  • Mirrorballman

    I don’t think this pact is anyway sectarian in nature – however I do think it IS homophobic!

  • Joe_Hoggs

    The PUP with its direct links to terrorism is never going to amass large amounts of support amongst Unionists.