The possible demise of the ‘Naughty Corner;’ could it see the end of opposition?

During this term of the Assembly there has been a growing number of independent and minor party MLAs who sit just behind the Alliance party in the chamber.

They range from Steven Agnew on the left to Jim Allister on the right, from moderate Unionists like John McCallister to more middle of the road folks like Basil McCrea.

In total there are six of them and they sit in what has now become known as the “Naughty Corner.”

Basil McCrea, Jim Allister, Steven Agnew, John McCallister, Claire Sugden and David McNarry sit alongside each other in this corner of the Assembly chamber.

They are rarely quiet and not afraid to stand up to the two major parties in the Assembly over big issues such as Welfare Reform, opposition and SpADs.

It is worth remembering that in this most recent term it has been some of these MLAs that have led on issues, Jim Allister successfully got his SpAD bill passed and provoked a lot criticism to be directed towards the two major parties with the failure of his second bill.

John McCallister has led on the creation of an official opposition and modernising the assembly; however with the Fresh Start agreement this might end up going nowhere.

Then, Steven Agnew’s Children’s Bill recently passed in the chamber and during the welfare reform debate; he was along his other colleagues in the corner of the chamber, leading debates against attempts to rush pieces of legislation through without proper scrutiny.

Whilst almost always defeated in the chamber, they have effectively served as Northern Ireland’s opposition to the Executive.

Whilst the UUP have exited the Executive, they have not yet gotten into the rhythm of opposition and there is speculation that they could be returning to the Executive after the next election.

What is even more worrying is that the Naughty Corner could be much smaller after the next election as MLAs like John McCallister, David McNarry, Basil McCrea and Claire Sugden under threat at the next election.

From my own look at the constituencies, the only person I can see joining the corner is Gerry Carroll.

We could see a situation were just Agnew, Allister and Carroll remain as the leading opposition forces in the Assembly.

I suppose the question is will the SDLP, UUP or Alliance parties be tempted to join them?

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  • Kevin Breslin

    Half the naughty corner ex-UUP types Basil, John and David weren’t elected into the naughty corner, a further ex-UUP member Claire Sugden was not either technically but inherited the mandate of David McClarty her predecessor, who himself only chose to stand as an independent only three months before an election. A previous unelected MLA Gerry McHugh was in the naughty corner but didn’t stand again, while Jim Allister had at one stage left the Assembly while on a DUP ticket and returned with a TUV ticket.

    Only Agnew came from a “bone fide” “naughty party” background.

    Of course this simply shows that there aren’t “naughty” parties for want of a better word, just “naughty” politicians.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I suppose if we’re talking the Assembly’s entire history, a case can be made for the PUP, Woman’s Coalition, UDP, UKUP etc. and Dr. Deeney too, which was at a time Alliance weren’t in government in any form either.

  • Michael Lon

    Jim Allister has only been elected to the current Assembly under the TUV banner. He was elected to the failed 1982 Assembly under the guise of the DUP. And of course was elected to The European Parliament in 2004 as a DUP MEP, resigned from the DUP during the course of his mandate, and seen out the rest of it as an independent.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Fair enough for the clarification, he was elected to an Assembly.

  • Nevin
  • chrisjones2

    Perhaps the naughty step is a melting ice flow and they are all polar bears.

    We are witnessing evolution in action which must really annoy the Caleb Foundation supporters in the DUP

  • NMS

    Times are bad, no dire, when the election of a member of SWP is a positive. However Gerry Carroll will make the Provos sit up. Any chance of more Greens?

  • Gaygael

    I think David may be downplaying the chances of others.

    South Belfast may elect a green as may east.
    The SWP may also get someone in Foyle.

  • Gaygael

    I would suggest that the PUPs may have had a chance with Julie Anne Corr Johnston in north Belfast. Choosing Billy hutch over her was a terrible move.
    They may rue it. And so may we all if the uvf give up on politics.

  • David McCann

    East and South will not elect the Greens, maybe in 2021 but it is too big a jump this time.

    Westminster results show they are not going to get a seat.

    SWP will be interesting but with SDLP/SF, DUP, it is hard to see where they get it from.

  • Kevin Breslin

    He was deselected and I know that, but he did choose to stand. I did mention a David previously, but I assure you I meant McNarry.

  • Disdain

    How certain is Agnew of retaining his seat? He only scraped in last time.

    (I’m honestly asking, have no idea one way or the other.)

  • Gaygael

    I think if they don’t this time, it may be even harder in 2021 when we go down to 5 seats. I would also not set too much store in Westminster. It was pitched as a McDonnell versus DUP battle (despite MOMs protestations), and this certainly squeezed some of the Green votes. Alliance told their voters they could win, so this may explain their vote holding up so well, as well as the unseemly ganging up against Long in East Belfast.
    South Belfast will be very interesting. I said may with regard to the Green gain. With both alliance and the SDLP running 2 candidates there will be a number of candidates with first preference scores of between 7-10%. Clare Bailey will be in that mix.
    In 2011, Conal McDevitt scored 9.1%. It is unlikely that the SDLP second runner (McKinney) will score as well as that again. In 2011, Anna Lo scored 19.8% and even if Alliance hold that result and her huge personal vote, even a perfect split will see both their candidates below 10%. The UUP scored 13.6% the last time with 2 candidates. It is unlikely they will score that highly again, with the likely entry to the race of UKIP and Ruth Patterson. The DUP vote will also be split as they try to hold one and squeeze out other unionists for a second.

  • Lord Coleraine

    I wouldn’t rule the Greens out in South Belfast, but I’d say a second Alliance seat would be more likely. I think the SDLP will hold their two though. It’ll be a very interesting count.

  • Lord Coleraine

    Judging from the 2014 locals I’d say he has a very good chance.

  • Lord Coleraine

    I think Agnew and Allister are the only two with a reasonable chance of re-election.

  • Gaygael

    I think the last seat is Green/SDLP 2nd/Alliance 2nd in that order.

  • Gaygael

    I think Basil may be worth watching, There is a 10% or so nationalist/republican vote that needs somewhere to transfer. I expect alliance will be around or above quota.
    The unionists will be everywhere with 3 uup, 4dup, ukip and possibly TUV.
    How much of a personal vote does Basil have, and will his liberal unionist credentials shore him up with nationalist transfers? Maybe, just maybe….

  • Gopher

    I would like to see Alliance, UUP and SDLP work together in opposition next term. Lets face it the SDLP and UUP wont do much at the next election. I think if those three parties can *prove they can work together* in opposition by the time the next election comes round they will be the government. Lets faces fact number two, SF and the DUP have humiliated SDLP, UUP and Alliance ministers at various times. What is the point of going through another term of the same. Fact number three is simple, if there is just SF and DUP in government they will tear themselves apart.
    A joint declaration of intent by those three parties might encourage transfers at the coming election. You seriously have to start giving the DUP and SF a game.

  • NMS

    I think Gerry Carroll’s position on Páirc Mhic Easmuinn gives him a better chance than the others and it is an issue, which may persuade people to bother voting. Only the GAA would get away with naming a ground after a notorious pederast.

    The addition of a ladyman by the Greens certainly spices up West Belfast. He/she/its canvas should get an interesting reaction. (I am with Germaine Greer’s views, personally.)

    I presume apathy will win all around, turnout 54.5% last time, 45% in May?