The Labour Party in Northern Ireland: the first ripple in a new wave of electoral dynamics?

Craig Harrison writes for us about the Labour leadership and the possibility of the party contesting elections in Northern Ireland

This week, Labour leadership candidate Andy Burnham made a public commitment to review the party’s policy on standing candidates in Northern Ireland, arguing: “I want the people of Northern Ireland to make their voices heard in the Labour Party, and if I am elected leader, I’ll ensure that the party is listening”. If we ever want to see a normalization of politics here, this prospect may be a very good thing.

Electoral contests are fought in Northern Ireland on almost exclusively unionist-nationalist (or rather, Protest-Catholic) grounds. That this is currently the case however, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for something better; real change will only come if we are optimistic enough to believe it possible, and courageous enough to seize opportunities to make it happen.

We must recognize that another party entering the electoral fray in Northern Ireland on a cross-community platform may represent such an opportunity. The Labour Party holds ideals and principles that many diverse groups here could get on board with. The party is economically and socially left-wing, which – combined with its explicit non-sectarian platform – is attractive to young, left-wing demographics. This could have particular pulling power among young Protestant voters, who for a long time haven’t felt fully represented by the main unionist parties and their attitudes towards some social issues, such as emancipatory measures for the LGBT community for example.

It is tempting to point out that Northern Ireland’s nationalist community may struggle to identify with a party ultimately based in mainland Britain, and to an extent this is true. However, the NI faction of Labour also makes no secret of its affiliation with the SDLP, its (nationalist) ‘sister’ party. Moreover, it is quite easy to imagine a stringent Sinn Féin supporter listing a Labour Party candidate among the lower preference votes on their ballot paper, given the socialist and socially liberal ideological tenants shared between the two.

That the party is by nature one of the working class may also find a lot of cross-community support in a country with a historical reliance on manufacturing, agricultural and other forms of blue-collar employment, and which to the present day has a large working class workforce. Indeed, Andy Burnham hit the nail squarely on the head when arguing that the NI faction of Labour could offer the electorate here “a socialist, non-sectarian party… that can appeal to people of all classes and to people of all faiths or none”.

Similar attempts to compete in Northern Ireland have of course been made by parties like the NI Conservatives, but it doesn’t have the ideological ingredients to attract support from more than one sect (i.e unionists) the way Labour does.

The point here isn’t that Labour candidates standing in Northern Ireland would completely change the country’s electoral dynamics. I wrote previously on our flawed power-sharing system, which goes a long way to ensure that unionist-nationalist cleavages take political center stage. Labour running in Northern Ireland wouldn’t change this, but it would represent one step toward addressing another key facilitator of sectarian politics: the lack of non-sectarian options which can attract cross-community support.

As long as the political offering in Northern Ireland is dominated by parties driven by their binary attachments to unionism or nationalism, politics will continue to be contested on these themes. If more parties competed on platforms separated from this however, then perhaps politics here can slowly begin to resemble other democracies, where parties are distinguished primarily on things like their competing economic or social agendas, rather than this being a secondary matter to religious affiliation.
The Alliance Party, with its eight MLAs and two ministerial portfolios, has already shown that this sort of politics can achieve success. If the Labour Party in Northern Ireland – supported to whatever extent by its British parent and the unions – could match or even build on this, then perhaps this could slowly contribute to non-sectarian, cross-community politics becoming the norm.

Arguably, political attitudes here are also growing increasingly ripe for the entry of such a party into the market; for example, in the latest Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey, a significant percentage of respondents stated that they considered themselves to be neither unionist nor nationalist.

We must proceed tentatively. Even if Mr Burnham’s plans fall into place, nothing will change overnight, and the DUP and Sinn Féin will certainly remain the biggest parties in the Assembly. However, if the NILP could achieve the things set out here, it could loosen, to some extent, the tight grip sectarian politics has on Northern Ireland.

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  • Dan

    Meanwhile, back in reality, the new leader of Labour, with his longstanding associations with Sinn Fein’s terrorists, will do all in his power to undermine Northern Ireland

  • the rich get richer

    When/If I see Fianna Fail/ Labour party (British version) contesting elections in Northern Ireland I will believe it.

    Until then ……………

  • Sergiogiorgio

    By the time Labour get organised in NI they will have elected Corbyn and commited political hari kari. Even allowing for this, they’d still be an improvement on the no hopers we are faced with at NI election time. I listened to a bit of Nolan on the way down to work this morning. Gregory Campbell – does the man like no one – bigotry, homophobia in one neat package. God (sic) save us!!

  • GEF

    Hear hear the rich get richer. I will believe it when I see it.
    Those with hopes can sign this petition till they are blue in the face but it will never happen

  • Dan

    ……was interesting to hear Rainbow Alliance’s John O’Doherty’s hypocrisy over ‘equal marriage’ exposed by a caller

  • There is, of course, already a non-sectarian party in Northern Ireland: the Green Party. Jeremy Corbyn is just copying half of the programme of the Green Party: the social justice and equality part, while wanting to mine more coal, so making life intolerable for our children and grandchildren by 2050 when weather extremes driven by CO2 levels start to seriously kick in.

  • chrisjones2

    He may wish to do so …………………….but he will never be in power

  • 241934 John Brennan

    Corbyn as labour leader and Prime Minister. Sinn Fein take seats at Westminster – and the deal is Adams or McGuinees as deputy P.M.

  • Catcher in the Rye


    Let’s review what Burnham said in his “commitment”.

    I want the people of Northern Ireland to make their voices heard in the Labour Party, and if I am elected leader, I’ll ensure that the party is listening”

    This is a commitment to do nothing other than allow Northern Ireland voices to be “heard in the Labour Party”. Burnham has ensured that his commitment is ambiguous enough that he can get out of it if he becomes leader.

    The Alliance Party, with its eight MLAs and two ministerial portfolios, has already shown that this sort of politics can achieve success.

    The Alliance Party is staffed, funded (mostly) and led by people from Northern Ireland.

    Parties which are staffed, funded and run from London fail. You need look no further than the Conservatives. A place like North Down would be prime territory for a Tory. Yet even at their height they couldn’t win a seat there from the old men of Unionism, and now they crawl in at or close to the bottom of the billing at the polls.

    Labour won’t run candidates here because they will lose. That’s really all there is to it.

  • Paddy Reilly

    The Problem of how NI parties would pan out in a United Ireland is a tricky one, but has to some extent been solved for us already by the European Parliament, where local parties affiliate with Europe wide movements.

    Three parties already have representation in both North and South: Sinn Féin, which in European terms is Leftist, but a Stand Alone, People before Profit and the Green Party, which affiliates to the European Green Party.

    Both Labour and the SDLP affiliate to the Party of European Socialists, which is why Labour has never bothered to organise in NI.

    One unlikely combination is both Fianna Fail and Alliance, who are, in Europe, members of the Liberal Democrat Alliance. I can’t really see this working: perhaps Alliance will pal up with the previous or the following. (I seem to recall that Alliance has already declared Fine Gael to be its sister party in the Republic.)

    Fine Gael is in Europe a member of the Centre Right, and the UUP of the European Conservatives. In an All Irish situation, they might try getting together.

    The DUP in Europe is a Rightist Stand Alone. In a United Ireland this would be a bit of an eyesore, and to be perfectly honest I don’t think it really expresses the DUP’s politics.

    To some extent I see the Green Party expanding and picking up some (obviously not much) of the DUP vote. It has the advantage of being free of CNR associations, and has previously flourished in North Down.

    NILP is another one which could do the same. Actually I see the (so far purely conjectural) NILP primarily picking up the PUP’s vote. I think you’ll find that the old NILP functioned largely in those areas in which the PUP is found now. But obviously, in conditions of a United Ireland and not before, the NILP could move in to soak up the DUP’s vote, and then go into coalition with Irish Labour, without obliging decent ex-Unionists to be on the same platform as ex-members of the Official IRA and followers of James Connolly and the Starry Plough.

    The TUV does not have a European equivalent, because it has never elected a European Parliament member. In a United Ireland they would probably just boycott the polls, perhaps as a religious obligation, rather like the Reformed Presbyterians.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Well, by the time of the next UK election, Martin McGuinness or his successor in title will be 1st Minister in NI and England’s prime concern regarding NI will be how to get rid of it.

    Corbyn, to be Prime Minister, would need first to be in coalition with the SNP, and also, especially when the SNP exits the Union, the Liberal Party. The new alliance will gradually form in the current opposition benches as the tiny Conservative majority is whittled away.

    So effectively English Labour will operate under the same conditions as Irish Labour: they can be as radical as they like, but can only get into power by going into coalition with the Liberals/Fine Gael.

  • Séamus

    I’m not sure about the claim that the British Labour Party can attract cross-community support. Nationalists already have Sinn Féin and the SDLP if they want broadly social democratic parties; those who don’t like parties with a tinge of sectarianism about them have the Green Party and People Before Profit in the areas where they stand.

    In unionist communities though, we know the PUP likes to make reference to Clause 4 from time to time (when it’s not whinging about flags, that is) but understandably a lot of people from that background don’t want to vote for them. It seems that liberal or progressive unionists would be the main pillar for the Labour Party. Which brings us right back to one of the major problems the old NILP had to deal with but could never solve.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The potential is there. It just takes some vision.
    Corbyn would screw it up though 🙂

  • MainlandUlsterman

    true, but it seems more people are ‘non-aligned’ than before. As Craig says, it’s those people, who find parties without an NI ethnic community tag very attractive, who could find Labour reflecting their concerns pretty closely, while being agnostic on the border. These people may see the SDLP as too old-fashioned or just too nationalist, while agreeing with a lot of SDLP positions. Alliance probably have most to fear from such a Labour revival.

  • gendjinn

    “These people may see the SDLP as … too nationalist”

    And they would be Unionists, and as 1965 demonstrated they will never be voting NILP.

    Is it a different planet you’re on or great meds?

  • Andrew

    I wouldn’t vote for Labour, but it would be good to see them stand candidates here and hopefully weaken the sectarian parties. The sooner SF, DUP and their partners piss off, the better.

  • Roy White

    What if the Labour Party in NI was affiliated to both UK Labour & Irish Labour?
    People here can be N Irish,British,Irish or any combination, so the party would reflect that. There wouldn’t be a party-line on a United Ireland, and members wld be free to campaign for or against unity should there be a border pole. The relationship with SDLP is a tricky issue, ideally I would like to see it merge into a Labour Party here, with socialy conservative SDLP people joining FF when they set up in NI in a few years time, but that is of course a matter for the SDLP.

  • Gaygael

    What? You honestly think that Sf will have the position of first minister before 2020?

    Where are sf picking up extra seats and the DUP losing at least 9 in the next elections?

  • 23×7

    Nationalists would also like to vote for a socialist party that has cross community support and has the potential to break the stalemate at stormont. That rules out the greens I’m afraid.

  • Paddy Reilly

    It needs 6 seats to change hands from Nationalist to Unionist, not 9, to make Martin McGuinness First Minister.

    These are the figures of how many extra votes Nationalists need in various constituencies to win an extra seat:-

    Strangford 458
    North Antrim 613
    South Antrim circa 1,000
    Upper Bann circa 1,100
    Ferm & S.Tyrone circa 2,000
    Lagan Valley circa 2,000
    Mid Ulster circa 2,000
    E. Londonderry circa 2,500

    Note that this number can be made up partly of a Nationalist
    increase and partly of a Unionist decline. So the actual change does not need to be very large.

  • Gaygael

    In the electoral contests since 2011 (which is where I presume you are getting those statistics from) nationalists votes have been down.
    Sdlp and Sinn Fein. And note that euro and local 2014 were held on same day.

    Assembly2011 -14.2% and 26.9% combined to 41.1%
    Local 2014 – 14.5% and 22.7% combined to 37.2%
    Euro 2014 – 13% and 25.5% combined to 38.5%
    Westminster 2015 – 13.9% and 24.5% combined to 38.4%

    The figures you quote are from 2011. They need to not just get back to 2011 but to score even better. I don’t think that’s going to happen. So based on recent results….

    For the SDLP – I would suggest seats are at risk in North, West and South Belfast. And the risk comes from Alliance in North, PBP in West and Green or a 2nd for DUP or Alliance in South. There may also be a risk in Foyle of PBP finally squeezing in. They may pick up a seat in FST, but if they do it may be at SFs expense. And that’s unlikely.

    For SF – I am not sure where any gains may come from. Upper bann, but it could be at the expense of the sdlp. So no nationalist gain. I don’t think they could take a third in North belfast either.
    They are at risk in east antrim. It was very tight the last time and alliance will have their eye on it.

    So that’s general comment, so I will take on the constituencies.
    STRANGFORD – relying on the sdlp to break through. This is unlikely.
    NORTH ANTRIM – the SF seat is safe. It’s nowhere near a second. And the sdlp vote keeps sliding.
    SOUTH ANTRIM – again. Hoping for an sdlp breakthrough. Unlikely.
    UPPER BANN – I addressed that above.

    I won’t go on. They all require votes that are significantly above 2011.

  • Gaygael

    Why does it rule out the greens?
    Is it they are not socialist? Is it not they are cross community? Or that they can’t break the stalemate at Stormont?
    Which or all?

  • Robin Keogh

    I dont see any SF gains myself unless there is an increase in the nationalist vote coupled with a further erosion of the SDLP vote. However the stars could line ul badly for the DUP in the next Ass elections. UKIP/TUV/PUP and a reinvigorated UUP could steal some DUP seats.

  • Robin Keogh

    I agree, their needs to be a surge in nationalist turnout

  • Gaygael

    I think more and more people are moving away from Natalionist or unionist.

    This sparked me to do this.
    NATS (SF and sdlp)
    OTHERS (Alliance, Green, PBP, NI21, Socialists, workers)

    Westminster 2010 – 42% – 50.7% – 7.3%
    Assembly 2011 – 41.1% – 46.3% – 9.7%
    Local 2014 – 37.2% – 47.7% – 9.9%
    Euro 2014 – 38.5% – 50.9% – 10.5%
    Westminster 2015 – 38.4% – 50.4% – 10.9%

  • Robin Keogh

    I think the growth in the middle ground is too slow to be of consequence tbh. We need the combined alliance green vote to hit 15% before we can honestly say there is a sea change.

  • Robin Keogh

    Never never never ?

  • Gaygael

    In which seats do you see an erosion of the sdlp vote, and a surge in the nationalist vote bringing in an extra seat? I just don’t see it. Technically, what your are suggesting is that any lost sdlp seats are picked up by SF. That would put nationalism at exactly the same. No increase.
    So where might that happen?
    I think the most at risk sdlp seats are North Belfast, West Belfast, South Belfast and Foyle. Apart from Foyle, there is no realistic chance of SF picking up any of those losses.
    Nationalism needs more choices in order to potentially see an increase. That may happen if FF come north and start to contest. Even that may not be enough.
    Next year may see unionism lose its outright majority at the assembly. That would require unionism to lose 3 seats. The most likely are; North down, with alliance squeezing a second at a unionist expense, as the won’t dislodge the green. Basil holding on and switching designation in Lagan Valley, and upper bann or east Derry as outsiders which may change from unionist versus nationalist make up, both moving to 3/3. These gains are likely to be for others, rather the nationalism, with upper bann and east Derry in the mix for potential Nat gains.
    I expect that nationalism will slide a little, particularly the sdlp, and that will be at to the gain of others. PBP, alliance and greens gaining seats at the sdlp expense. And as I said, alliance gaining from SF in east antrim.

  • Gaygael

    It’s primarily alliance and green, but also PBP. And then of course, workers and socialists, but I don’t expect either of those parties to be in the serious running for any assembly seats.
    Alliance will be looking to hold their eight. Which looks likely on Westminster scores. And make gains in North Belfast, East Antrim, North Down, and South Belfast. They will run 3 in East Belfast but it’s unlikely that will pay off, but don’t put it past them. They may have hopes in East Derry, hoping some of the McClarty/Sugden vote will switch to them rather than the UUP.

    Greens look solid in North Down. They are in the scrap for the last seat in South Belfast, and may steal it.

    PBP are certain in West Belfast. And they have always been close in Foyle, so the heartening score at Westminster 2015 in west belfast may embolden them in Foyle too. I think they missed a trick not running here in Westminister.

    NI21 will change designation. Basil may just hold on….. May.

    So others could have representation in the assembly ranging from 10-19, but most likely around 14/15.

  • Robin Keogh

    I think there exists potential for nationalist gains in UB, SD, LV and Strngfrd. But it would require an increase in nationalist turnout similar to that of 1998.

  • Gaygael

    I’m definitely putting upper bann in the mix.

    Strangford and Lagan valley no.
    I don’t see South down. In fact the change there is likely to be a DUP loss to UKIP, but there is a chance of a sdlp/SF gain.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Oh dear. So many questions and so many misunderstandings.

    In which seats do you see an erosion of the sdlp vote

    The SDLP vote doesn’t have to be eroded. You become 1st Minister by being the leader of the largest party in the largest designation.

    An expansion in the Alliance (and other Centrist) vote makes no odds. Alliance works like a concertina: it expands both ways, taking votes (1st preferences, actually) from both SDLP and UUP, and then contracting inwards to disgorge its 2nd preferences back to these parties. So if Alliance takes a seat from both the SDLP and UUP, there is no change in the relative standing of SF and DUP.

    Actually, at the moment, the most likely gain by Alliance is an extra seat in East Belfast, in which there is no Nationalist candidate.

  • Paddy Reilly

    As remarked above, gains by the Centre do not affect the 1st Minister contest.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Looking at the figures for East Antrim, I see that Alliance had 15.5% of the vote in 2011 and 15.0% in the recent General Election.

    That is one quota and one quota only. There is absolutely no prospect of them taking a second seat on these figures, except apparently in your imagination.

    Equally in North Belfast, the Alliance vote was 6.3% in 2011, and 7.2% this year. At this rate you would expect them to win a seat somewhere around 2200.

    In South Belfast, Alliance’s 19.8% (2011) and 17.2% (2015) guarantees it its existing seat, but does not give it any title to a second one.

    You are obviously suffering from partiality bias.

  • 23×7

    At the moment in the UK they are not regarded as a party of government. They have 1 MP. That may change though I think it will require the introduction of PR before it happens.

  • Steve Larson

    Some slap in the face to the SDLP for years of service.

  • Steve Larson

    The SDLP too nationalist?

  • Steve Larson

    The closest to FF in the North would be the DUP, they would work well in Govt. together in power.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Stranger things have happened I suppose. In South Africa the old (Apartheid creating) National Party ended up, on the restoration of majority rule, joining (Nelson Mandela’s) African Congress party because they couldn’t bear not to be in government. A week is a long time in politics.

    But it would not be a happy marriage.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    it may surprise you to learn that many people (who don’t tend to appear on Slugger) regard the taking of partisan national positions one way or the other as not at all cool.
    We assume the SDLP has to be an out-and-out nationalist party, but does it? It’s been nationalist thusfar, but it’s fair to say its green overtook its red under Hume. All I’m suggesting is that one way forward for the SDLP would be to reassert the red and tone down the green. To be ‘radical’, I might even ask, why not move to an Alliance-style position on sovereignty? And become a party of the left better able to appeal to the growing ‘non-aligned’ vote.

  • Paddy Reilly

    The Catholic population is growing by 7,997 per annum, while the Protestant population has an annual shrinkage of 1,966.

    This means there will be 40,000 more Catholics in the Electorate in 2016 than 2011, and 10,000 less Protestants. Despite strictures about identifying religion with politics, I find it hard to believe that this will not lead to Nationalist gains and Unionist losses. The Stormont system is very sensitive to minor changes in the composition of the Electorate.

  • Gaygael

    Look at census data – those new Catholics joining the register are increasingly likely to identify as N.Irish. They are less motivated by constitutional politics.And those Catholics joining the register (as I have outlined above) since 2010 are not coming out to vote Nat!

    Stop equating Catholics with Nats.

  • Gaygael

    Paddy – gains by the center at expense of Nats set you back significantly in your pipe dream.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Not if they are matched by gains in the centre at the expense of Unionists. In fact all Centrist growths that I can see predicted are East of the Bann.

    But the simple fact is there haven’t been any: not in terms of seats.

  • Paddy Reilly

    In West Belfast in the 2011 census 21.50% identified as British and 22.4% as Northern Irish, and yet in the 2011 elections SF won 5 seats and SDLP 1. The Unionist vote was 11.7%, the Alliance 1.1%.

    Stop counting your chickens before they are hatched.

  • Gaygael

    I’m actually a Green and have little time for Alliance.

    In East Antrim – Alliance and UUP both narrowly missed the 2nd seat. If SF don’t at least score the same as 2011, they are in trouble.
    Good split by Alliance in South belfast may. But i think that both the SDLP 2nd and the UUP seat are both under pressure. Where they will go I’m a not sure but inclined to think that Green will gain and UUP will hold.

  • Gaygael

    I’m not./ I am pointing out that combined Nat vote has dropped since 2011. you are expecting Nat gains – which would require an even better result than 2011.
    So far, the evidence suggests that this is not going to happen. No matter how much you wish it.

  • Paddy Reilly

    I asked Comrade Stalin which seats had been lost as a result of the fall in the Nat vote. He said he thought there might be a loss of a local council seat but he could not name it.

    You are trying to market minor adjustments as a major turn in the tide. Any apparent fall in the Nationalist percentage (in say 2015) is due to the fact that there were more political parties on offer then than in previous elections. In Stormont elections this merely produces a drop in the 1st prefs which is recovered on the 2nd. The same applies to Euro elections.

  • Gaygael

    SF hoped to have 22 in BCC. They ended with 19. Notionally a loss in Belfast North (Castle – Teirna Cunnigham) and a failure to gain in Oldpark which they expected and a loss to PBP in Black mountain. That’s North and West Belfast covered.
    Those are factual. Thats a failure to gain and 2 reversals, in what is SF heartland.
    I’m heading on. I’m at a Sinn Fein event in newry tonight as part of their Pride in Newry festival, but will continue over the weekend.

  • Tochais Siorai

    It’d be an interesting concept if there was something like the NI Greens with both Irish and British links i.e. supported by both Irish and British Labour Parties and the party embraced candidates who were openly nationalist or unionist or agnostic e.g. a nationalist leaning candidate stands in West Belfast, a Unionist in East with the whip not being applied on certain ‘ethno-cultural’ issues. For this though it probably needs the SDLP to leave the stage.
    As a regional branch of the UK party as outlined by Craig – Might take a few council seats from Alliance but I reckon that’d be it. Oh and Craig – ‘Mainland Britain’? Are we in the Hebrides?

  • Gaygael

    And regarding east antrim. At the last Westminster election, alliance scored 11.1% and then increased to 15% in Westminster 2015.
    In assembly they scored 15.5%. This was a year after their 11.1% the year before. That was a FPTP election, and in an STV they increased as expected. I expect that he 15% in a FPTP election will rise. Enough to give the, an even more serious shout than the last time. The last time they were just out.

    SF to stay in, need to score at least equivalent to their assembly 2011 score which was 8.2%. The marginal decreases that SF have experienced over the last few elections, suggest that this will be difficult to do.

    In North Belfast, they were 1% behind the SDLP. They just need to get ahead of them when it comes to elimination time. The transfer patterns in North belfast suggest that SDLP transfer go significantly to alliances we SF. Hence my hunch that that seat will go to alliance at the expense of the sdlp.

    Almost a repeat of the council election in castle in 2014 which saw a gain for alliance in North belfast at the expense of SF. This time it’s at the expense of the sdlp.

    in South belfast, it’s commonly accepted that the second sdlp seat is not safe. The parties with a punt at taking it are a 2nd DUP or Alliance or a green. In 2011, alliance ran 2 candidates in east belfast. They were both a from hundred of quota and within 150 votes of one another. It would take both them and the DUP to do the same in South belfast to try and take that seat.
    I think Greens are in with a shout, and that is the only time you can accuse my of partiality.

    I am suffering from political geekiness which causes me to spend free time following transfer patters, turn outs, demographic shifts and political trends.

  • ted hagan

    To refer to a party ‘based in mainland Britain’ is not a great way of encouraging nationalists to join it, I’m afaid.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Happy taken, Madame George.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Actually, to make M. McGuinness 1st Minister Nationalist gains are not necessary: only Unionist losses, but it is true Nat gains would speed the process up.

  • Gaygael

    ? No idea what you mean.

  • Gaygael

    So what seats are due to change hands? The ones that will give us a SF first minister?

  • Paddy Reilly

    Can’t say that. All I know is that taking 10,000 mainly elderly Protestants out of the population and adding 40,000 Catholics will lead to changes, and the Stormont system is particularly sensitive to any change in the composition of the population. It depends where these extra voters end up, and whether the constituencies are adapted to accommodate them fairly.

    Nicholas Whyte sees a third seat being taken by Alliance in
    East Belfast. He also sees a DUP loss in South Down. An extra centrist seat of some sort seems possible in North Down and East Londonderry. Did you not say so yourself? That reduces the number of seats Nats need to win from Unionists to 4.

    A SF gain in Upper Bann is a possibility, leaving McGuinness 3 seats short of the 1st minister’s job. Where these 3 are you would do better to enquire immediately before the following Stormont election.

    Actually most constituencies in Antrim and Down, including E. L’derry and Upper Bann have the potentiality for a change, and as the population wind is blowing in a Nationalist direction, it seems more likely that they will benefit, rather than, as you think, the opposition.

  • Zeno

    Just shows how desperate the Labour Party are. If they hadn’t lost almost all their seats in Scotland we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Do they see themselves as ‘serving’ the Labour Party?

  • Paddy Reilly

    That Greens in South Belfast, with 2.8% of the vote in 2011 and 5.6% in the 2015 Westminster election, could be in the running for the last seat in 2016, strikes me as an egregious piece of partiality bias.

    But it should be remarked that the last seat is currently held by McGimpsey of the UUP, so this would not affect the Nationalist score adversely.

    In North Down, the Green vote, just over 2,000 for Stormont and just under for Westminster, is actually nothing to write home about.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Catholics vote overwhelmingly for SF, partially for the SDLP and minimally for Alliance, Greens and People before Profit.

    However, in constituencies where very few Catholics live, (SA, LV, Strang, EB, ND) these figures are reversed and Alliance seems to pick up the Catholic vote, even in preference to the SDLP, and the SF vote is minimal.

    So an increase in the Catholic electorate would ordinarily lead to an increase in the SF vote, except where the increase takes place exclusively in the above named constituencies.

    However, if the increase did take place there, they would cease to be ‘constituencies where very few Catholics live’ and would be open to canvassing from SF, which is what seems to have happened in East Antrim.

  • Granni Trixie

    Why do you think Basil will hold on to his seat? Surely not.

  • Granni Trixie

    Basil could be kingmaker for a seat from votes that may have gone to him where it not for the NI21 debacle (which have shafted hm forever I believe).

  • Gaygael

    I said in a later post that he may. Emphasis on May.
    It imagine it’s very unlikely but we have a history of electing alternatives and independents particularly within the broad swathe of unionism.

    I don’t think alliance are in the running for 2 seats, and those 10% that SF and sdlp hover at won’t be enough for a quota, but the transfers will certainly help baza.

    I fully expect it will be very tight, but he may just. Even after the debacle.

  • Gaygael

    Ah paddy. So now you are attacking my party and avoiding the question.

    Where are those unionist loses and Nat gains that will give SF the first ministry in 2016? I will wait patiently.

    The green vote in north down in 2011 was a new candidate standing and was a respectable result. To almost hold that in 2015 in a FPTP against Lady Hermon is solid and bodes well for assembly. There are many tactical votes that are green in STV that switch to Hermon at Westminster.

    In South BELFAST, firstly, for a minor party to nearly double its vote share (I’m matching with Westminster 2010) in what was a tight tactical contest with sdlp claiming they can hold, SF saying they can take it (ha!), and the Dup hoping to take it, and alliance trying to punt they were in the race, is a great result.
    Door after door told me that they had to vote sdlp to ‘keep the bigots out’. By that they meant both the DUP and SF. These were voters that were afraid to switch to green in a FPTP election. I fully expect that significant numbers of those will make the switch this time round, in a STV election.

    But it should be remarked that the last seat is currently held by McGimpsey of the UUP, so this would not affect the Nationalist score adversely.

    Seriously? Did you even look at the results? Or was that pulled out of your Hat? In 2011, the last seat was held by DUP and SDLP fifth and SF 4th, all elected under quota. This is somewhat artifical as the 7th placed candidate was the DUP second, who would have transfered hugely to her running mate. The sdlp 1st, alliance,and uup were elected above quota. There are two solid unionist seats here, and potentially a third but the DUP are transfer toxic. If you think south belfast is going to drop to 1 unionist rep, youbarebquitebfrankly deluded. And if they can’t turn 38% in 2011 into 3 quotas, it’s unlikely this time. The UUP got elected over quota (really putting a hole in your incorrect analysis) after elimination of their second runner who went out at the same time as the green. Here is the link to the count, just to provide you with some facts. Thanks to Ark. This is much better than your half baked conjecture. Do you actually understand electoral politics?
    There is a consensus that the last two seats will be a dog fight. Alliance, SF, sdlp and DUP are all guaranteed one seat each. The last two are between a uup, green, sdlp 2nd or alliance 2nd. It will be very interesting.

    If you are going to debate with me, at least get the basics right honey.

  • Gaygael

    Catholics actually overwhelming don’t. They choose not to vote. Turnout at marginally over 50% in areas suggest Catholics stay at home. Of those that choose to vote, yes SF score top. I would say with greens and pbp, there are few constituencies we’re Catholics have that choice. I full expect that to change, and bear fruit.

    Here are some hadpndy stats of SF shedding votes in north belfast. Where the catholic pop is growing.
    2014: SF 44.6%, DUP 18.1%, SDLP 8.8%, Ind R 8.0%, PUP 7.3%, UUP 3.5%, Alliance 3.0%, TUV 3.0%, Rep 2.1%, WP 1.5%
    2011: ***SF 52%, **DUP 25%, *SDLP 11%, UUP 5%, IRSP 4%, Alliance 3%, Ind 1% 2005: ***SF 47%, *DUP 22%, *SDLP 16%, *UUP 8%, PUP 4%, Green 2%, WP 1% 2001: ***SF 47%, *SDLP 19%, *DUP 15%, *PUP 9%, UUP 7%, Inds 2%, Alliance 1% 1997: ***SF 47%, *SDLP 16%, *UUP 16%, *PUP 11%, DUP 5%, UDP 3%, Green 2%, Alliance 1%, WP 1%
    1993: ***SF 38%, **UUP 23%, *SDLP 16%, DUP 9%, Dem Left 6%, Alliance 3%, Green 3%, WP 2%, Cons 1%

    2014: SF 25%, DUP 24.7%, SDLP 16.6%, UUP 10.7%, Alliance 9.6%, PUP 6.2% NI21 3.2%, Ind 2.1%, WP 1.8%
    2011: **DUP 31%, **SF 27%, *SDLP 22%, *UUP 12%, Alliance 7%, WP 2%
    2005: **DUP 39%, **SDLP 27%, *SF 19%, *UUP 10%, Alliance 2%, Green 2%, WP 1%
    2001: **DUP 33%, **SDLP 28%, *SF 14%, *UUP 11%, Alliance 7%, PUP 2%, Inds 2%, NIWC 2%, WP 1%
    1997: **UUP 27%, *DUP 25%, *SDLP 21%, *Alliance 12%, *SF 11%, UDP 2%, WC 1%, Green 1%, WP 0.44%, Ulst Ind 0.07%, Nat Law 0.04%
    1993: **UUP 28%, **SDLP 22%, *DUP 21%, Alliance 10%, *Ind U [McCausland] 9%, SF 5%

    Increase in catholic electorate and fall in SF vote?
    Oh dear!

  • Gaygael

    Paddy. I go back to my original post. The combined Nat vote has fallen in successive elections. Re east belfast and upper bann I concur. I can’t see SF having first Minister in 2016. Maybe in 2021. Maybe but that’s too far away to project and we don’t have voting patterns to use for informed speculation. We do have voting patterns from 2010 to 2015 to use to inform next year.

    My point is I think centrist gains will also come from nats. I have said this and articulated where, namely north belfast, west belfast and South belfast and east antrim. This may be offset with a gain in upper bann and potential unionist loses in north down, east Derry.

    For nationalism to make gains, it needs to score as well or above 2011. It doesn’t look like that is going to happen.

  • Paddy Reilly

    No I do not believe that Unionists are going to go down to one seat. This was merely in refutation of your idea that Greens are ‘in the running’ in South Belfast.

    If Greens (and NI21, Socialist, Workers Party, PBP, etc) run a candidate in every constituency then the percentage of the Nationalist 1st pref vote will go down. But it does not follow that the number of nationalist seats won will diminish. As we have vanity publishing we have vanity candidates. The vote for the mickey mouse candidates generally goes back to the major parties on transfer or disappears into the ether.

    As the people on the doorsteps told you, we have bigger fish to fry. Yet you don’t listen to the voice of the people. Wait till there is a United Ireland and then we can have issue instead of identity politics.

    If another 25,000 people vote SDLP, we could an end to partition; millions of votes for Greens won’t put an end to Global warming.

  • Gaygael

    Paddy. Ethno nationalism is so last century. Wallow in it all you want. The FPTP system is a farce and encourages people to vote against things rather than for things. People still voted for the sdlp to keep out SF and the DUP. They have a much wider choice in STV.

    Climate change, exacerbated by unbridled new-liberalism is destoying our very planet. We are locked in zero sum game of burning through every resource we have to make money now, regardless of the cost. We have bigger fish to fry. Leaving our grand kids a habitable planet. Your new Ireland could be below sea.

    Millions of votes for greens and other progressives are the only things that will. We evolved from the peace and hippy movements of the 60s. Those ideals are now political mainstream. The modern Green Party started talking about environmentalism. Now every party does. It is political mainstream. We shall keep doing it.