I have crunched the numbers from Thursday’s election for each of the Northern Ireland constituencies, simply projecting the votes cast as if the election had instead been for 18 six-seat constituencies, and making a few other assumptions (competent but not perfect balancing of candidates, Unionists transfer to each other more than Nationalists, etc). The raw results are below, with links to each constituency page. I have colour-coded gains and losses, and also indicated in bold the four constituencies where there was a Unionist pact.
|2011||38||29||16||14||8||0||0||1||0||Green 1, Ind 1|
|N Belfast||3||2||1||Alliance chasing SDLP for last seat.|
|S Belfast||2+||1||0-||2||1||UUP and Greens close behind 2nd DUP and 2nd SDLP.|
|N Down||2-||0-||1||3+++||Greens would also lose seat to Hermon|
|Lagan Valley||4||1||1||UKIP and possibly SDLP close to 4th DUP.|
|E Londonderry||3||1||1+||1||Ind would lose seat to UUP|
|Strangford||3||1-||1||1+||Last seat v difficult to call, but UKIP best placed.|
(Apologies for the less than perfect presentation of this table. If a kindly editor can help make the font smaller, and the column widths better balanced, I’d be most grateful.) [Ed – fixed as best I can!]
I have made a few judgement calls here. While there are not quite three Nationalist quotas in North Belfast, if the SDLP can stay ahead of Alliance they should keep their seat; two well-balanced DUP candidates in South Belfast can knock out the UUP there; four well-balanced DUP candidates can keep all four seats in Lagan Valley; and UKIP lead the pack of smaller Unionist parties in Strangford and should overtake the SDLP for the last seat there.
On that basis, the DUP would be down by 6 seats, still the largest single party, but only 3 ahead of SF. True, three of those six notional losses are the result of the electoral pact with the UUP, in Fermanagh and South Tyrone and Newry and Armagh, and another is a by-product of my projection of Lady Hermon into three North Down MLA’s. But slippage to UKIP in East Antrim, the UUP in South Antrim, and the SDLP in South Down looks real enough, compensated by a notional gain from the UUP in South Belfast.
The projection gives the UUP a net gain of a seat, which is at first glance encouraging; but if one leaves aside the two southern constituencies where the DUP gave the UUP three notional Assembly seats (and on the other hand the peculiar case of North Down), the overall pattern is of a net downtick, with losses to Alliance in East Belfast, the DUP in South Belfast and UKIP in Strangford counterbalanced by gains from the DUP in South Antrim and the late David McClarty’s seat in East Londonderry.
UKIP had a good election in places, in contention for an Assembly seat not only in Strangford, where they currently hold one thanks to David McNarry’s defection from the UUP, but also in East Antrim, where TUV (as elsewhere) failed to put up much of a challenge.
My projection has both Nationalist parties on the same number of MLAs as in 2011, but with some interesting variation below the headline. The SDLP lost votes in South Down, but still has enough for three quotas, likely squeezing out the DUP. On the other hand, their vote in Upper Bann in this election is below the threshold of a decently balanced Sinn Fein ticket (in fairness, a trick that SF have had difficulty pulling off here). An SF gain from the DUP in Upper Bann is then countered by a loss to Gerry Carroll and People Before Profit in West Belfast.
Alliance had a good election overall – despite losing their one Westminster seat, the vote went up in all but their two worst constituencies, and Naomi Long’s East Belfast vote would deliver a third Assembly seat there at the expense of the UUP. Uniquely among the larger parties all their current seats look safe on this vote, and they are within shouting distance of a second seat in South Belfast and a first in North Belfast.
Westminster elections generally flatter larger parties and suppress the vote of smaller ones. That hasn’t been the case this year, as UKIP are in good position to take two seats and People Before Profit one, plus of course Lady Hermon’s success in North Down – which comes at the partial expense of the Greens, who we could expect to do better in an Assembly election.
Of course, real elections are different from virtual elections. But my sense is that there is in fact a drift away from all four of the large parties, SF and the SDLP losing votes overall, and the DUP and UUP upticks in vote share being almost entirely due to the pacts. But the centre ground is not the sole beneficiary of this drift; Unionist voters are having a fresh look at UKIP and to a lesser extent the TUV and the Conservatives; People Before Profit and single-issue campaigners are nibbling at the other side. Next year’s poll is looking very interesting.