SDLP Campaign Launch puts Upper Bann firmly in their sights

The SDLP launched their campaign in Lurgan today with party leader Colum Eastwood setting out the party’s stall for the upcoming election.

Eastwood did not mention other particular constituencies, but did spend time speaking about Upper Bann, which until last May was held by Dolores Kelly until Catherine Seeley from Sinn Fein won the seat.

Here is what he had to say;

Before addressing the continuing campaign that lies before us in the next few weeks, I would like say something about this particular constituency.

There may have been a lot packed in during the last 9 months but there has also been something missing.

Even as the noise and heat of the Assembly reverberated beyond its own walls over the last number of months, it has been more and more noticeable that there has been something missing.

There has been a distinctive and definite voice absent.

It is a voice that stands up for every community and all of the people in Lurgan, Craigavon and Portadown.

It is a voice that never shies away from a good battle – in fact anyone and everyone knows that she is anything but shy.

But there have been many the better for it.

There have been many the better for the fact that she is always willing to fight the good fight.

It’s only been 9 months but we have missed that voice.

Upper Bann has missed that voice.

It’s time to bring it back.

On March 2nd it’s time to bring Dolores Kelly back to the Assembly.

It was a tight contest between Kelly and John O’Dowd last May, with a 5 seater, the consensus appears to be that one of the two UUP MLAs here is under threat, but you can play about with the numbers for yourself. Obviously with Catherine Seeley not standing again, the SDLP feel there is an opportunity here for the party.

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  • Donagh

    Did he mention whether Dolores would return the £60k “resettlement” payment if she wins? That’s a hot topic around Lurgan and one they’d need to address before seriously thinking of drafting their failed old-timers back into the fray.

  • HOW? the SF vote was nearly 12,000 and the SDLP about 5300 and none of the two SF and one SDLP managed a quota. in 2016, four unionists already on quota, when the 2 SF ‘elected’. So how on earth on those numbers is the SDLP in with a chance? Seriously. What sort of election thinking is this?

  • Failed? You have to laugh at the SF rhetoric…perhaps we will have a look at how many of their MLAs have lost elections and come back? would they also be failed?

  • mickfealty

    It’s not as long a shot as McPhillips in FST. It’s a bit like Blair launching the 2005 election with an ice cream on Weymouth seafront, but then Jim Knight was an incumbent and it was a show of strength.

    I wouldn’t call this a show of weakness, but if they can’t get her in this time, UB is gone permanently. If they win they will spin if as a first win against SF in a very long time. A real win would be three seats for the opposition, two for government. But it could go four for government one to the opposition.

    THere’s two Nat quotas here. She has to get into the top five to stand a chance. To do that she’ll need to get people out who haven’t voted for a while, i.e. an increased turnout.

    I think she will get Alliance and some unionist transfers. But I don’t think she’s got as many unionist friends in Lurgan and Portadown as Colum thinks. It would suit her better to look for Dobson’s Banbridge transfers where parading has not soured community relationships quite so much.

    In short, she needs a good campaign both in the air and on the ground.

  • mickfealty

    When did that come in? And did Conor get one when he left the Assembly for Westminster?

  • Same can be asked of Michelle Gildernew.

  • I was surprised to see Sinn Féin go with 2 candidates again in Upper Bann. They just about got 2 over the line last May when it was a 6 seat constituency, so I don’t really understand the logic behind running 2 candidates again in a 5 seater.

    Equally bemusing, however, is the SDLP thinking that they can regain a seat here. Dolores Kelly was 2,000 shy of the quota in a 6 seater last year and, with an inevitable increase in the 2017 quota, I can’t see the SDLP plugging that 2,000 gap never mind increasing beyond it.

  • Mr Caseydog

    I agree, Mick. She needs a good campaign. She could start by telling where she stands on academic selection. She has very unclear and indeed contradictory on this issue for many years.

    There is a large flagship all-ability school being built in this constituency. Initial indications are that it is likely to be well supported by the community.

    No doubt she will wish to support it. But does she believe that all-ability education is best for all of the children in this constituency? Or will she be evasive?

  • mjh

    Well based on the new quota for 5 seats, on the votes in the last election nationalist parties had 2.1 quotas and unionists had 3.6. So there should be 2 nationalist seats. If the SDLP fails to win one that would leave two for SF – hence two SF candidates makes perfect sense.

    The argument about whether the SDLP can take a seat is similar. If the unionists fail to win 4 seats, there is likely to be a lot of unionist votes available for transfer at the end of the count. If the SDLP are still around at that stage (and on last year’s figures they almost certainly would have been) they will pick up far more of them than SF – and so could come through.

  • But the only reason she was were she even was last time was because of a (very few) transfers late on. It is still a long shot and all down to who gets most least votes at the end. If Colum is relying on Unionist transfers for Dolores Kelly his head’s a marly.

  • Gopher

    There are a few last ditches for the SDLP this election, Upper Bann is not one. The two main ones are North Antrim and South Antrim, if they can’t supplant either SF candidate which one could describe as not their strongest, it’s over in both. Whilst transfers cast illusions in Upper Bann, in SA and NA there is nowhere to hide. Bottom line is they have to get close to SF of the first count

  • Ryan A

    I don’t see them getting anywhere near close to Kearney in South Antrim; despite how insufferable I find him to listen too. Upper Bann in fairness is much easier as despite the fact I like Doug I think he’ll come up short and pass a few her way once the Unionists have 3 wrapped up.

  • Ryan A

    In fairness when 1 is pretty much guaranteed you’ve got to go hell for leather to keep the second. The only instance I’ve seen of admission of defeat is in North Down by the DUP and I suspect that’s down to the fact going for 3 could cost 2 in a seat where Unionists are typically more unforgiving than many of their counterparts in other parts.

  • Aye, I was a bit off the mark to dispute the logic of the double candidacy in view of MJH saying above that there’s 2.1 quotas for nationalism here, and so I guess it’s at least worth running a 2nd candidate in Upper Bann to see what can be salvaged.

    Nonetheless, the drop to 5 seats will inevitably make the task that bit harder, so I remain sceptical about a 2nd runner actually translating into a 2nd seat for Sinn Féin.

  • Gopher

    Upper Bann they will still have a residue but failure in South Antrim and North Antrim means in a five seater means there is no way back. County Antrim is gone. SF have two weak candidates in Kearny who was demonstrably used as a sock puppet by his own party and the replacement for the “popular” MLA who was essentially jettisoned by his own party and to add insult to injury they call an election a couple of months later. Now or never time for the SDLP

  • mickfealty

    Just written my bullet piece for last Thursday’s SluggerReport on this. Consolidation of the Unionist vote (if UKIP don’t stand for instance) should mean the Alliance transfers should come to her earlier, and have more value since she should do well off their No 2s.

    Unionist transfers (what there are of them) will be less valuable because they’d be coming in much further down the card. If all of that keeps her ahead of the second SFer, those transfers could crucial in bringing her home. But she needs to scrum for everything (including new 1st preferences).

    As well as not being particularly liked by unionists (parading controversies here have left a lot of deep scars), she’s also up against a younger next generation SF candidate. Dolores will be a tough sell as the change candidate against Toman.

    Turnout trends favour Unionism at the moment. I suspect those voters removed from the register will re-enforce that trend. Even Unionists those angry with the DUP will likely most fill the reservoirs of the other Unionist parties. Nationalists may be more inclined to stay home.

  • aperfectstorm1

    The last few elections have seen a steady growth in Unionist turn out. This has served to mask what is an irreversible decline in the overall natural Unionist population. At some point the balance will tip (its a mathematical certainty), the question is if this time is now. If it is, then all evidence would suggest SF are in a better position to capitalise. In any event, one would thing that Colm’s time and effort would be better served rousing the troops in East Derry where the real problems lie.

  • Granni Trixie

    Mick I think Bob Stoker is standing in SB so there Isnsome presence of UKIP.

  • mjh

    Agree with all that you say about how hard Kelly will have to fight if she is to take a seat. In the end, though, it could boil down to two questions which will decide Dolores’ fate. Will there be a significant swing from DUP to UUP? And how well can the UUP balance their two candidates down to the later stages of the count?

    On last year’s figures the UUP would have to balance unusually well to prevent their lower candidate falling out before Kelly. The more their vote increases the less demanding that balance has to be.

  • mickfealty

    Not in UB yet.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Erm Mick McPhillips won a Sinn Féin seat six months ago.

  • the keep

    They have no chance in making a come back in NA even with two Republicans running.

  • Ryan A

    I could see McGuigan losing easily if the SDLP could sweep enough transfers from Digney and Alliance.