The election exposed the faint breath of a desire for change within the sectarian camps.

All true democrats should thrilled to have it confirmed that politics is not dominated by the polls. Real people apparently can think for themselves.

Locally LucidTalk’s amazingly hairy exercises with opinion panels fared better  in the prediction stakes than the  UK national pollsters, even though playing percentages  is a whole lot easier than making firm predictions. Small shifts in turnout and opinion made all the difference.

Looking at it from across the water, your campaign was generally beyond embarrassment. The broadcasters did you a favour by excluding the local parties  from the national leaders’ debates. The  injured professions  of  anti-sectarianism , from the DUP over Jim Wells’ repeated  homophobia and from a Sinn Fein student ( keep watching your back, lad) over Gerry Kelly’s appeal to sectarian loyalty, afforded as few moments of grim amusement.  These views are supposed to be kept in lodge (note the phrase) as much as unionist job fixing was in the old days . To an outsider the fuss about the supposed sectarianism of a unionist pact must be completely bewildering.  Which twin is not the reactionary?

Still. A few lessons can be drawn.

The viability of other parties beyond the DUP and Sinn Fein has been confirmed.

The Fermanagh South Tyrone result actually did defy predictions which tend to be based on a tacit belief in Sinn Fein near- invulnerability and – equally pervasive –  pan unionist inferior vote harvesting abilities.

I would like to see the analysis but it looks as if it was differentials in a higher  than average turnout that did it.  In other  cases, successfully in south Antrim and almost so in Upper Bann, the DUP was challenged  by the  UUs when it was safe for pan-unionism to risk it. This fires warning shots across the bows of the two dominant parties , even though it doesn’t mean the stranglehold of the DUP and Sinn Fein on the Executive is about to be broken. But it does suggest a lot quite a lot of people are scouting around for alternatives. The UUP  the SDLP and the Alliance party ( at least  with Naomi’s vote up)   each has a modestly firmer  platform to build on for next year’s Assembly campaign. What will they do  with it?

For a start the SDLP should find themselves another leader and think hard about it this time. Colm Eastwood or Mark H Durkan have some  21st century appeal to them. Either would set a good example to the old warriors of the 1960s and 70s to retire .

Alliance put all their eggs in Naomi’s basket and badly need to widen their range of appeal people and policy. Paula Bradshaw was already a singularly inept choice as candidate for south Belfast  as a former restless unionist, when she was faced by  the striking condemnation  of Catherine McCartney  for her gratuitous comment on the “ “loss of Gerard from the community sector.”

Sinn Fein were lucky not to have the barrenness of abstentionism exposed in a hung parliament.  If they were angling for an extra £1.5 billion in the SNP’s slipstream, this was always likely to be a fond hope.

DUP hopes of becoming a pivot in a hung parliament were exaggerated if they thought  this meant  they were the acceptable face of Sinn Fein ready for another rattle of the begging bowl, while at the same time posing as champions of the Stormont House Agreement.

SHA is the better deal already. Cameron will make it clear that their reward for compliance is the devolution of corporation tax, even though  it won’t build a single extra social home or inch of road for years. Nor will it protect them from welfare cuts.  Their attitude to CT is like a small child being presented with a copy of the Bible  – worthy, but she wanted sweeties.  The only home grown alternative to  implementing  the SHA seems to be raid the block grant and cut deeper elsewhere.

Theresa Villiers has already reminded them of the political realities which are much the same as before.  There are dreary steeples in Whitehall too.

Meanwhile, the Detail has done a fine job in laying out real issues.


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  • chrisjones2

    But where do they raid?

    Police College? White elephant.Not needed.Cant be afforded and no one else wants it but DFM whose constituency (coincidentally) it is in insists it is vital

    Casement Park? Potentially dangerous white elephant which Minister says must be build while muttering about anti GAA forces. Unfortunately most of those forces may be voters in West Belfast but never mind, her constituency is North and there are enough local sheep to do what they are told so the residents views dont matter

    New Agriculture HQs? White elephant. Not needed.Perverse when cutting the civil service by 20% and when NAMA is desperate to offload office blocks around Belfast to be building new buildings in remote areas in backside of nowhere using wonderful and expensive designs. Meanwhile the Civil Service demonstrates business as usual by buying Causeway House in the middle of the election as it will be cheaper than renting – aye right boys but it all depends on the assumptions dunnit

    Environment? But tens of millions in EU fines due soon for earlier incompetence

    Agriculture? Cant annoy the farming lobby and ditto environment on waste and mismanagement

    Health? Always possible but dangerous as some of those who die as a result might be oursuns as well as themuns.Also involves taking hard decisions on closures of hopelessly economic and operationally dangerous small units – so wont happen until at least 2017 and probably never

    That basically leaves Justice. Now this is a bye ball really.Its led by Alliance (on sufferance because the big boys don’t trust themselves or each other) so no one really worries if they shaft wee Davey. The downside is that there have been worrying signs that the OO is acting up and that the dissers are starting to get bold enough to attack the Shinners now so the cops may need a wean of pounds and we cannot risk any of that.

    So I’m afraid its back to Michael Palin’s choice in “The Meaning of Life” – sell all the Children for medical experiments to pay off the debt

    Do you think they wouldn’t?

  • Robin Keogh

    The issue in the north as borne out in the election is the existence of two political communities in one legal jurisdiction. A sort of self imposed politcal apartheird if you like. Despite the jump in support for alliance and not a bad showing for the greens, the votes cast broke down along community lines like they always do and no manner of positive spin can change the reality. It is slso important to look at the contest in the context of the pact, while many condemned it as sectarian I thought it made perfect sense. There is not so much as a cigarette paper between the DUP and the UUP on social economic and politcal issues. The choice between the two in any given constituency can be decided simply on who you like the look of over the other, while the constitutional question is never far from the minds of the Unionist camp regardless of the GFA. The two polical communities decide in the main between their two main parties respectively with a small proportion opting for ‘outsiders’. Ultimately the scores on the doors for each depend on turnout. While Natinalist turnout is on the floor, Unionist turnout is up off the back of fears over the Fleg, Demographics and the age old UI ogre. Moreover, the presence of UKIP, TUV et all have opened up a new competitive edge within Unionism which is starting to pull people from their couches (as seen in the locals last year). But all parties will have to face into a five year stint of Tory cuts, Scottish roaring and the uncertainty of EU membership. I said elsewhere that this election was a win win scenario for the SNP, a Cameron majority will be grist to the mill for the Scottish Independence movement and terror on the beaches of mainland Europe. The Election is over but the fighting is just about to kick off.