BelTel Polling suggests Pact has not quite put East Belfast out of contention

So, next week you will get to see the mettle of the two East Belfast candidates tested under a strong panel of local journalists, but Liam Clarke reports something worth noting in the BelTel today

According to the Belfast Telegraph’s latest monthly LucidTalk poll taster, Gavin Robinson is more likely than ever to win the East Belfast seat off Alliance’s Naomi Long.

Our monthly poll result found that the DUP man is now 75% likely to win the seat.

He was 55% likely to take it last month – so that extra 20% is the bounce he received from the unionist pact. It means the fiercely contested seat, which DUP leader Peter Robinson lost in 2010, is very much his to lose.

Bill White of LucidTalk polling explained: “As a general guide 85% is secure, 65% is fairly marginal and 75% is sort of OK at this stage, but Gavin Robinson would need to be hitting 80%+ to feel confident, in our next and final monthly panel poll before the election”.

Two things worth highlighting here.

One, a poll is not a vote, so these are indicative figure. Two, it indicates that despite the mathematics of the last actual vote in 2010, Alliance were close enough so that the DUP needed this pact with the UUP to give them a secure margin.

And two, even with that secure margin (if we continue to suspend our disbelief for a moment), the seat is still not quite secure.

All of which goes to show that that certain fatalism which has befallen both the UUP and the SDLP (and indeed many pundits in NI politics) that their prices can only go down rather than up in the face of the formidable (OFMdFM) big two can be challenged with a strong candidate and a sense of purpose.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty