UUP MLA Ross Hussey steps down in West Tyrone on grounds of health…

Slugger understands that Mr Hussey has been in a state of uncertainty since the calling of this snap election. The UUP have just released this statement, saying he has…

…advised the party leadership of his intention not to seek re-election to the NI Assembly due to his deteriorating health. He is currently awaiting surgery and accepts that the period of time required to recover from the surgery will be substantial which would make it difficult for him to manage his constituency. He has therefore announced his retirement from politics but stresses his loyalty to the Ulster Unionist Party and wishes his successor and the party every success in the future.

Ross only just squeezed through last time, and he won’t be easily replaced.  The DUP were not far off getting two last time, but if there’s any squeeze over RHI, that could be less likely. The news that Sandra Overend next door in Mid Ulster has relatives on the RHI might take the sting out of it.

With the twice weekly AE17(/a)  SluggerReport starting tomorrow, I’ll give proper consideration to the various prospects in West Tyrone in due course.

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  • dog walker

    He’s a terrible loss, really well respected and a record of working for anyone who comes through the door to him. He has really encouraged some very young talent in the party locally and some of them may be the ones to watch

  • Sorry to see Ross go. It was good to see him attend the anti-goldmine Hustings in Greencastle G.A.A. club buildings last election. A big loss for the U.U. in West Tyrone as Ross worked very hard on grassroots constituency work and was well liked.

  • mjh

    I wouldn’t get too excited about the prospects of the UUP losing this seat. It would take a swing of at least 10.8% of the unionist voters in this constituency since last May to give the DUP the seat.

    To put that into context the highest NI wide swing UUP to DUP amongst unionist voters at an Assembly Election was 13.0% in 2007, and the second highest 6.0% in 2003. Last year it was just 0.9%.

  • Teddybear

    Only in NI would we be against gold mining. We deserve nothing in this stupid country

  • Lionel Hutz

    The chances of the UUP losing the seat are more likely to be to the benefit of Sinn Fein or SDLP. I think the DUP and UUP combined vote is about 30%. Enough for two seats just about. But a small drop could swing it the other way.

    On Hussey, I wonder if he would be stepping away if a certain scandal rag hadn’t done a hatchet job on him last year. However ridiculous that was….it wouldn’t play well with sections of the electorate

  • John Spence

    No certainty of 2 unionist seats here, especially if SF reverse their 2016 decline.

  • Not a big fan of Billions of our natural resources being taken away to be honest. The returns to the community has been peanuts and division

  • Granni Trixie

    Little chance of that surely given the public are disgusted with a lack of good governance at the top – and before you say it, yes the heat is on the DUP for good reason but SF haven’t delivered either plus they have flipped flopped about over what to do about the current crisis.

  • file

    “Mr Hussey has been in a state of uncertainty since the calling of this snap election.”

    Him and everyone else!

  • Gingray

    Based on the 2011 census, breakdown by religion brought up in is 68% Catholic, 31% Protestant, 1% none/other. As you would expect, among those more likely to vote over the age of 60, this split is closer, but still 60-40 Catholic to Protestant, and this cross section only accounts for a quarter of the voting age population.

    In 2016, nationalist parties got 62% of the vote, unionist 33% and other 5%, which is about expected given the breakdown by age and general lower turnout among nationalists.

    3 independent nationalists stood – they got just over 8% of the vote with 3% going to the sdlp, 4% sf and 1% wasted. Other parties broadly gave 1% each to the big 4 parties with 1% wasted.

    Based on the figures from 2016, SDLP are on apx 15%, SF on 47%, DUP on 23%, UUP on 13%, against a quota of 16.7%, which leaves things very tight.

    But given the surplus DUP, I would expect 2 Unionists to get elected quite easily. This leaves SF and the SDLP fighting for the remaining 3 seats, McCrossan needs to hope SF take a hit or he has done a good job, because on paper SF could edge him (although I expect him to shave it).

  • Gingray

    Lionel, 33.4%, which rose to around 36% of the remaining vote after all the small parties had been eliminated and their transfers redistributed. Should be more than enough to keep 2 Unionists, tho who is another question. I think UUP will sneak it by virtue of an unbalanced DUP ticket.

  • mjh

    For SF to take the seat from UUP would require a swing of 2.5% of all the votes cast.

    To put that into context the biggest NI wide swing from nationalist to unionist at an Assembly Election was 2.3% of the total voters in 2003, the second biggest was the 2.2% swing back from nationalist+PBPA to unionist last year. Overall since 1996 the swing has been 0.1% to unionist.

  • dodrade99

    Obvious replacement would be his brother who was previously an MLA but has had his own problems in the past http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-35800904.

  • Lionel Hutz

    I think the second unionist would definitely be elected under quota if it is to happen. So I don’t think it’s a given. It’s not clear if the DUP will run two candidates and if the UUP run an unknown.

    It’s most likely that twould unionists will be elected but not impossible that the fourth nationalist could nip in in front

  • Katyusha

    I know this is a politics blog, but it’s somewhat jarring to see everyone rush to their calculators to determine the implications for the sectarian headcount.

    Good luck with the operation, and get well soon, Ross.

  • Msiegnaro

    Chris Smyth is the person tipped, Derek at the last count was suspended from the party.

  • Gopher

    Ross never caught my attention apart from that intrusion into his private affairs which I’m sure is a reflection of a party consisting of Danny, Danny, a farmer from F&ST whose name escapes me and Mike. Its pretty self evident the UUP have a human resource and profile problem.,

  • dodrade99

    I believe his suspension was lifted but have since heard a different name mentioned.

  • Msiegnaro

    There is no obvious talent there and Barton is in big trouble in FST.

  • Msiegnaro

    Are you not impressed by the wonderful MLA Barton?

  • Anthony O’Shea

    Good wishes to Mr Hussey and his family.

  • Gopher

    I was thinking more of the Farmer who is an MP from F&ST rather than some MLA I have never heard off. I had to look up their site to tell you truth to see who you were talking about.That is a very shallow pool of talent which is an incredible handicap for a party. To be fair I forgot about Dobson who generally comes across well and in general most of the parties suffer from the same problem, I’m convinced they keep most of the MLA’s in a shed somewhere in the Sperrins and they are only let out to get their picture taken at election time

  • Granni Trixie

    Have you evidence or is it just your instinct that when RH declares he is not standing, people rush to do “a sectarian headcount”? It is perfectly valid to analyse the implications of the vacancy but simplistic to describe it as you do.

  • Granni Trixie

    Don’t you think that the present circs may be a leveller – people come out of their sectarian bunkers? Your analysis makes me sad.

  • Gingray

    Few things to note – for many, SDLP are a non sectarian party and parties like Alliance and Greens have little to no presence west of the Bann (local council reps are non existent).

    I think the last 4 Alliance Party conferences have all been in the east Belfast hills at La Mon – if the party refuses to come west of the Bann, it is understandable why voters do not think they represent their views.

    I could see the Greens do well if they had a decent performer, the anti fracking lobby is strong, but not sure they have the resources to hold on to the two seats they have, and fight for more too.

  • Granni Trixie

    Valid criticism. However – watch this spot – we have a terrific person trying to make inroads locally.

  • Katyusha

    Just using the term as slang for our elections. I just found it distasteful that the guy has had to step aside due to health issues, and the first thing people do is speculate over who gets his seat.

  • Gingray

    Terrific candidates are a dime a dozen – anyone who campaigns, regardless of party, deserve praise, and generally are terrific people, but my own view is that elections need resources.

    If APNI are serious about making inroads they need to up the ground game in the west, knowing they will likely lose, but to build for the future, particularly at council level. GP and PBP have shown how that can be done.

  • ted hagan

    Maybe you should study the Republic of Ireland’s experience with Shell to Sea and how it was ripped off over proceeds to see how badly wrong things can go.

  • the keep

    Completely correct MJH looking at the figures the UUP is safe I suspect the SDLP may be in big trouble here.

  • Nordie Northsider

    ‘An unbalanced DUP ticket’. I think you’ve found the perfect adjective.

  • Msiegnaro

    Tom is not too bad and is a marked improvement over Gilderniew. As for Barton, how did she get in?

  • Teddybear

    And whose fault is that? Why don’t we get billions in tax revenues?

  • Teddybear

    Ok but why and how? Why is no one protesting? A few less anti Trump marches and a lot more animus about Shell to Sea and other such important matters would be in order

  • mjh

    Do you have a particular local reason for saying that, TK?

    It would take a swing of 2.1% of total vote from SDLP to SF to cost SDLP the seat (that’s 3.4% of the nationalist only vote). That’s well within the second highest swing within the nationalist vote at an Assembly Election since 1996.

    However in recent years SF has not made much ground against them. Cumulatively between 2007 and 2016 the swing from SDLP to SF of total vote was only 0.2%.

    But if they had a swing against them big enough to cost them West Tyrone, and that were replicated across NI they could be left with only 4 seats.

    So far we have had no evidence that I know of to suggest that is likely.

  • the keep

    Didn’t SF`s vote dip by 8 percent at the last election over their GE results? And didn’t a majority of the independent nationalist vote get transferred to SF?

  • Katyusha

    Tom Elliot? An improvement over Michelle Gildernew?
    The only way I can assume that could ever work is that as an MP Tom turned up to sit and be ignored at Westminster whereas Michelle, for obvious reasons, did not. There is night and day between them as politicians.

  • Granni Trixie

    Stephen Donnelly, standing for Alliance in West Tyrone is the future you refer to. Very articulate, originally from a local Integrated school. One to keep your eye on.

  • Teddybear

    Was the journalist he sent those photos a man or a woman? It’s odd how our local news outlets took great to not mention the gender pronoun his or her or him etc is said journalist.

  • Gingray

    I will indeed! He polled 1.3% last time around, so a very long way to go, and as I have said, the party, rather than one candidate need to put time, money and effort in if they want results.

    While you may not have meant it however, you confirmed one ofy worries for this election, and a long standing alliance problem – the view that the misfortune of the DUP and poor governance by Sinn Fein will somehow translate into votes for the “nice” parties.

    You know well I am sure that it actually takes hard work to get results. I could be wrong, but West Tyrone does not strike me as a constituency Alliance care about, or have investment in.

    South Down and reversing the loses in North Belfast are more likely targets, but this may not be the election to fight hard, focus more on holding existing seats.

  • Granni Trixie

    Yes, it has been disappointing that APNI has not made the breakthrough it hoped for. On the plus side it has been effective on occasion and tends to have candidates/reps with convictions. Leaving aside your ‘nice’ snide comment,Alliance have shown themselves to be transfer friendly and right now people are looking for alternatives to the big two.

  • Gopher

    Tom does seem a decent individual, but I have a feeling he would be a better MLA than MP, horses for courses and all that. Yup definite improvement.

  • Gingray

    Apologies GT, it was not meant to be snide, nor was it targetted purely at Alliance. SDLP have been as guilty, UUP too.

    I think that supporters of those parties sometimes fail to recognise that not only are the DUP and SF at the more extreme side of their sectarian spectrum, but that both parties have diligently built up really effective ground games with a plethora of willing activists.

    I work the polling stations and I’ve seen both parties bringing voters in. It ain’t pretty, but its effective.

    Against that, those nice parties, or call them less extreme or middle of the road or whatever, nearly have a sense of entitlement without the hard work (again, all those candidates work their socks off, but it’s the supporting structure that needs put in place too).

    My worry is that RHI goes the same way – more moderate parties expect things to change hoping that people want alternatives, I don’t know if that is enough to change things.

    Re transfer friendliness, absolutely, Alliance do benefit, if they can get apx 10% of the vote in any constituency I’d expect them to reach quota, doing so in just one west of the bann could set the precedent, but the lack of any local councillors is a major weakness that needs addressed first.

  • dog walker

    The interesting question now is who will the UUP offer as a replacement. Chris Smyth is a 23yr old local councillor who has been very strongly mentored by Ross and apart from him I’m not blown away by the talent in the UUP locally. It’s a shame that Alistair Patterson lost out at the last election and defected to the Dup. I’m struck by how Ross’s attitude about standing again seemed to change over the weekend, could a nomination meeting have gone against him?

  • mjh

    I see what you are getting at, TK.

    Direct comparisons between first-past-the-post Westminster elections and proportional representation Assembly elections can be problematical. Bigger parties often do better in the Westminster, when some voters are more inclined to vote tactically.

    Nevertheless this can be important to demonstrate the potential vote a party might gain if it is given, or can create, the right circumstances.

    No doubt the local SF campaign will be two pronged: 1) get out the vote and 2) attempt to recreate the atmosphere of a Westminster election to convince potential SDLP voters that “an SDLP vote is a wasted vote” when “the real fight is between SF and the DUP”.

    How much juice remains to be squeezed out of that fruit remains to be seen.

  • Pete

    I hope the Sunday Life’s disgraceful story didn’t play a part in this – there is nothing wrong with a politician having consensual sex.

  • Westie tyrone

    i agree ross ,was a very hard working honest decent mla ,a big lost too west tyrone ,uup should still hold there seat there ,now with one dup ,standing ,

  • Westie tyrone

    underpressure

  • Msiegnaro

    What do you mean?

  • dog walker

    UUP have put forward a slightly surprising candidate in Alicia Clarke, she’s been involved in the party locally but has no significant political background. She’s a relatively young candidate and it’s certainly going to be difficult for her to replace a candidate like Ross who was so well liked. Brave of the party and a far cry from the “grey men” but difficult to know how well she’ll go down with the average UUP voter.