A few thoughts on Upper Bann, and its battle royale for the final seat

The Upper Bann Constituency on the southern shores of Lough Neagh is a sublime blend of village and rural life alongside the three main towns of Banbridge, Lurgan and Portadown. Banbridge and Portadown – in the main – are largely protestant with a unionist electorate with Lurgan being mixed, with approx 55% protestant/unionist electorate and 45% nationalist/republican electorate.

I have strong ties to the area and a fair degree of local knowledge having worked for former MLA, the late George Savage, and managed the May 2016 Assembly Election campaign for his son Kyle. Here are a few of my thoughts on the upcoming election in Upper Bann:

In 2016, the main electoral battle in Upper Bann was within nationalism and republicanism. Outgoing MLA Delores Kelly (SDLP) was under extreme pressure from SF who in then outgoing Education Minister John O’Down and then Craigavon Councillor Catherine Seeley had built up an extensive profile in the area.

As things worked out, SF poorly balanced their vote with Seeley galloping ahead leaving her running mate to slug it out with the SDLP. After 11 stages and a few sub stages thrown in for the craic John O’Down took the sixth and final seat by some 177 votes.

It’s worth noting here that the situation with O’Down is further proof that as Mick recently pointed out on the Slugger Report recently, Ministerial office counts for precious little in an Assembly Election in Northern Ireland.

In 2017, Delores Kelly is running for the SDLP and judging by her tone of late in the Lurgan Mail, she wants her seat back.

Catherine Seeley has accepted an offer of employment outside politics and so has stepped back allowing SF party staffer Nuala Toman to stand alongside John O’Dowd.

Seeley was 900 ahead of O’Dowd on first preferences last May so SF will want to balance that out a bit more.

In 2016, on the Unionist side, DUP Craigavon Councillor and newcomer to Assembly elections Carla Lockhart, surprised many – including herself- by topping the poll and being pelted on the first count with her surplus helping her running mate, veteran Sydney Anderson over the line.

For the UUP, Doug Beattie, Joanne Dobson and Kyle Savage led the line, representing Portadown, Banbridge and Lurgan respectively. All in all, UUP activists were disappointed with Joanne’s first preference total of 5155 (1400 shy of quota) – even though she polled well in Banbridge, she was beaten 3 to 1 by Lockhart in her back yard of Waringstown.

Doug Beattie polled reasonably well in his first election with 2969 considering that Portadown is considered to be the DUP stronghold in Upper Bann. Kyle Savage fought his first election campaign in the Lurgan area along with part of his home patch of Donaghcloney and it is unclear how much of this vote (1,760) was a personal vote – for Kyle personally or linked to the track record of his father, the late George Savage, twice former Mayor of Craigavon and 2 term MLA – and how of much of it is a party vote.

What is clear is that the UUP didn’t afford him enough of an area in which to build a real solid first preference base with which to have gone on and won a seat.

In the same fashion as Dobson in Waringstown, Savage was losing to Lockhart by a similar margin in the Mourneview Estate.

In 2017, I’d expect the DUP to mount a similar campaign as in 2016. Sydney Anderson has decided to retire and local Councillor, Jonathan Buckley has stepped up.

This is a smart choice by the DUP, Jonathan is well known and well liked in the community and he is Portadown through and through and so is the perfect follow on from Sydney Anderson.

Carla Lockhart has built a profile for herself locally over 5 years on Council and now 8 months into her Assembly career and will expect to poll strongly in the Lurgan area, particularly in the Mourneview Estate, around Magheralin, Waringstown and then down into Banbridge.

For the UUP an election to a five seater in Upper Bann poses a major challenge. Joanne Dobson is in the driving seat having garnered 5,155 first preferences in 2016. Doug Beattie is well behind on 2,969 and so it will make Kyle Savage’s first preference of 1,760 vital in helping the UUP hold what they have.

If the UUP gave Doug basically all of Lurgan and assuming Kyle’s vote went en bloc to Doug, he would still be 426 votes behind. However, they may get a small surplus from the DUP and if we accept that both candidates are transfer friendly, one could reasonably suggest that Doug will do well in transfers from TUV, UKIP and PUP of whom Doug has build quite a rapport with Sophie Long on Twitter.

Joanne will benefit from Alliance transfers. A lot will depend on how Sinn Fein balance their vote.

It’s however also reasonable to expect the Joanne Dobson camp to want Donaghcloney and Lurgan so this could end up being a bitter battle. I’d expect UUP HQ to have made decisions on this matter and to give very clear instructions on canvass areas etc.

It will also be interesting to see what impact Nesbitt’s comments on transferring to the SDLP will have on the campaign in this area.

2017 – overall conclusions

The DUP candidates should get over the line on first 2/3 counts.
Followed by first the UUP – count 6/7
Then followed by SF – count 7/8/9
There will be a battle royale between UUP – SDLP – SF for the final seat.

If SDLP go out first – will they transfer to UUP or to SF?
If SF go out first will they transfer to SDLP?
If UUP go out first will they transfer to SDLP?

In conclusion, I believe that there will be 3 unionist seats in Upper Bann with 2 nationalist seats – the only question being if the last seat is won by Sinn Fein or the SDLP. I think it’s too close to call.

,

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Doug Beattie toast then ??? Would not write him off yet !!!!

  • Msiegnaro

    Surely you mean O’Dowd? Also a little pedantic of me but shouldn’t words such as Protestant and Catholic etc be capitalised?

    Otherwise an interesting piece although I assumed Beattie with his credentials would do well.

  • Nevin

    Also, it’s Dolores Kelly, not Delores.

  • Gopher

    Upper Bann is uncomplicated. Kelly has to get within a couple of hundred votes of a SF candidate on the first count to survive, that means cutting a 900 vote deficit, which is a moon shot. The SDLP will transfer to SF by a margin that will secure two seats. Talk of Kelly getting ahead of the second UUP candidate is misplaced. Unionists in Upper Bann have a 1200 vote margin for error in non-transfers alone, which with a raised quota will be decisive and that is before you even consider there is one less UUP candidate standing. Basically what you will be witnessing is the end of the SDLP in Upper Bann and County Antrim in this election. The only question is what will fill the vacum and how much it will benefit SF, Alliance or the Greens in future elections.

  • Donal O’Hanlon

    …..and vacuum.

  • Stephen Warke

    Apologies for the typos… the joys of typing too fast

  • Stephen Warke

    Beattie is a good candidate – the problem is he’s in the wrong constituency. He is of course to be respected for his military record and career but his liberal views don’t play well in his home patch of Portadown, a DUP heartland. In my view if the UUP were serious about a resurgence they’d have put him up in South Belfast where his liberal views would make him ultra transfer friendly.

  • Msiegnaro

    Interesting point, however with Doug’s background SB may not be favourable. He does lack orange credentials too which is an issue.

  • Stephen Warke

    Based on the 2016 figures, as I’ve outlined above Dobson has quite an advantage of some 2000+ first preferences. Even if Doug got Kyle Savage’s vote en bloc (which he won’t by the way) he’d still be 400-500 behind but at least that would put him in play. I’m hearing good things on the ground in Upper Bann so I don’t anticipate any swing. I do expect a lower turnout however.

  • rfcjohn

    Why would any DUP voter want to transfer to Beattie following his “knitting needle” comment last time?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Davy Jones (UKIP) 1072 Votes and Sophie Long (PUP) 704 Votes in 2016 are not standing this time around. My best guess is that a lot of these votes will be going to Doug ?

  • Stigni – Go Lincoln Go

    In 2016 unionist had 3.43 quota in count 11 and nationalist had 2.26 quota.
    So I will say that is UUP to go out first, so how many vote will go to SLDP and how many go to non-transferible?

  • Msiegnaro

    Elaborate please.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    I think the UUP gave up on South Belfast many moons ago ? As a matter of fact I think if UUP get one home in East Belfast in 2017 then thats a success for Belfast !

  • Stephen Warke

    Doug tweeted a comment during last years campaign basically saying that he would rather stick knitting needles in his eyes than vote DUP.

  • Msiegnaro

    Oh dear, that could be the end of him.

  • Stephen Warke

    He needs every one of them.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Don’t dispute that but Davy Jones is a Portadown Man so could help but what I know is them 1776 votes are not a DUP Vote ? If Doug was to get them votes and the TUV transfers it would be interesting ?

  • Westie tyrone

    Its young bluckley seat easy in portadown .and as for lockhard .i was told by a uup person shes the only one that does any work for anyone .she will top the poll easy dobson .only for banbridge she would be toast .

  • Granni Trixie

    If people remember,you didn’t.

  • Granni Trixie

    His liberal views did not lead him to back Mike in transferring to SDLP candidates.

  • Granni Trixie

    Falls between two stools in your eyes?

  • Ryan A

    Did McGimpsey ever have ‘orange’ credentials? I Predict after this election there won’t be an orange man representing South Belfast. Why 2% of the population should have as much sway anyway is beyond me.

  • Msiegnaro

    Need to remind people then?

    It could be inconsequential anyway as Mike was encouraging people at the time to exhaust the Unionist candidate list.

  • Stephen Warke

    I’ve yet to see any comment from any UUP reps in Upper Bann either distancing themselves from Mike’s comments or showing support for them.

  • Msiegnaro

    Orange credentials in Upper ban is what I mean. There have sadly been very few Orangemen elected in SB since the great Martin Smyth.

  • Msiegnaro

    What two stools?

  • Msiegnaro

    I thought Dobson would be the top dog around there?

  • Westie tyrone

    hard work counts ,they say ,she is a go getter ,lockhard ,buckleys 1ST TIME OUT in portadown area ,he topped the poll easy ,and hes a orange and black man ,hes a sure bet ,goes down well round there ,lockhart is a major problem ,for the uup .when she is eating into ,waringstown ,donacloney ,and banbridge ,

  • Beattie is a good media performer and good on the floor of the Assembly but all politics are local so I fear he will lose out.

  • Msiegnaro

    I’m surprised the UUP fielded a candidate here without Orange credentials. If I remember correctly Dobson has some links to the Orange as this was rolled out before.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Yeah would agree with that I have Stalford as toast also in South Belfast !

  • Msiegnaro

    So only one Unionist in SB?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Yes Pengally ! 2016 – Pengally 4511 Stalford – 3570 UUP – 2466 UKIP – 794 Patterson – 495 TUV – 475 PUP – 430 Con – 161. I think unionist turnout is going to be down in SB without them other unionist parties running and Stalford is not going to get enough transfers to make it !

  • carnmoneyguy

    Sinn Fein got a fright with John ODowd waiting for count 11 to be elected last time, so I think he will be a head of his running mate on 1st preferences based on better vote management
    The higher quota soaks up transfers within unionism, so I expect a real fight for the final seat between Beattie UUP, Kelly SDLP and Toman Sinn Fein

    This is a constituency where the turnout will be key

  • Msiegnaro

    That’s a terrifying prospect.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Will wake up because it is reality ! I seen this coming a long – long time ago with the DUP policy of scorch the earth every other unionist candidates in constituencies. The end result is lesser unionists voters to come out and vote as they have gave up with politics and losing !

  • Msiegnaro

    Not a nice one either.

  • Westie tyrone

    thats the way the uup are going liberal veiws ,it will only work i think ,if there is a higher turn out off non ,voters ,i suspect ,this election ,will be much the same ,not a big turn out ,as for upper bann ,i think it is clear cut ,2 dup .2sinnfein ,1 uup ,

  • Msiegnaro

    Upper Bann was once staunchly Unionist too.

    Yes Nesbitt is going for the Liberal vote.

  • Westie tyrone

    you think so .T,E ,thats interesting ,is young allen under pressure ,i thought he would get elected ok ,

  • Msiegnaro

    He’s fine.

  • rg

    We all remember it, don’t you worry.
    He’s a gonner.

  • rg

    The exact opposite of what actually is happening. The nationalist vote percentage has been dropping in case you hadn’t noticed, which is why SF precipitated the election to stir up their base.

  • Westie tyrone

    theres only so many liberal votes in the pool ,yes upperbann was i uup stronge hold ,i remember harold mccusker ,orange man ,they got hes son,up ,i thought he would have done well ,but ,harold was 25 years ago and theres a new generation ,off voters that do not remember harold ,sadly ,but i think if the uup had have stuck with colin his son ,they would be in a stronger place round lurgan anyway ,but lockhart has lurgan area and much more ,

  • rg

    Just look where the UKIP votes went in the last election. Most of them went to the Brexit party.

  • rg

    I think you mean if Doug was to get ‘those’ votes.

  • Msiegnaro

    I forgot about Colin, however he was largely unspectacular.

  • the keep

    They are two clear unionist quotas is SB.

  • Westie tyrone

    i know politics has changes a lot this last number off years ,it will not be social media ,that will decide this election ,must folk ,are out working and are not on twitter and facebook ,and i suspect ,on polling day when folk go too the polling booth ,the dup ,will win ,they will take a hit but it will not be fatal

  • Ryan A

    ‘Sadly’ is in the eye of the beholder.

  • Msiegnaro

    I think it’s a concerning development.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Yes but it is down to transfer management which the DUP have no control over

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Well watch this space after this election and see a massive swing in nationalist turnout and big downturn in unionist and don’t tell me it was not on the cards

  • Granni Trixie

    Trying to appeal to moderates/.liberals and extremes.

  • Gopher

    Weather like today and turnout falls through the floor

  • Msiegnaro

    I assume you would classify myself as an extreme, I find that deeply disappointing.

  • Granni Trixie

    I suppose it’s useful enough to use such terms to categorise politicak views. On reflection now that you ask it’s not really and I can see I may have sounded offensive, sorry about that.
    But my misunderstanding is one of the reasons I thnk we need to have social structures to encourage mixing rather than separation, When we get together hopefully we woukd see beyind the stereotypes.

    Also, pondering on “extremes” – it’s all relative isn’t it? Extreme compared to what…..

    I also admit that APNI includImg myself tend to be passionate about politics …in some people’s words “extreme”.

  • rg

    Give us a prediction then for the seats with this ‘massive turnout’. How many for each? One guess for each one and no ’28-30′ or ’24-26′ stuff.

    I’d go for DUP 31 SF 23 UUP 11 SDLP 10 ALL 8 Others 7

  • Séamus

    Any chance of Lochkart suffering from her family links to the RHI scandal?

  • Msiegnaro

    No I wasn’t offended but I would say I’m fairly liberal.

  • Petrus Hibernus

    I’m a big fan of Doug Beattie (hope I’m not playing the man here even if I am being positive) but it’s shame he’s not given higher national profile in NI

    He describes himself as an Irish Unionists and doesn’t deny his Irishness which is great but unfortunately rare to hear from unionism

  • Gingray

    Also 2 clear nationalist quotas and 2 other quotas – its fairly evenly balanced, so it will come down to transfers. Initially I thought Greens would lose out, now tho I think it could be the DUP purely due to lost votes transferring in from the other U parties.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Now your on the same pane as me Gingray ! The problem the DUP now have in South Belfast is that the Unionist Transfers they need to get their second horse over the line is now outside their vote management and control ! Its Squeaky Bum Time especially if that Unionist Turn Out Goes Down ?

  • Gopher

    I think apathy with regards this election is becoming universal. It is obvious driving through many constituencies that the parties are taking this election for granted. They are putting little effort in and spending less. Social media is not seen as a medium for reaching people its used to kid oneself and the electorate that you dont have to spend money.

    You can tell posters are done on the cheap or left overs from 2016. I’m getting the feeling that the electorate in general see this election for what it is, an attempt by whichever 90 people to get their noses back in the trough and do nothing, or strut about Dublin and London full of their own misplaced self importance in two cities that dont give a damn.

    When your sole achievement after 20 odd years is not killing people (by and large) and Bus Lanes (whether for or against) the people are wise to you and wont turnout.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Gopher I agree on the Unionist side it is going to be a serious problem but on the Nationalist side they are motivated and fired up ! Arlene is collateral damage !

  • Paul Hagan

    I saw an interesting (if rather spiteful) exchange on Twitter between Beattie and DUP Cllr Mark Baxter….the “needles” comment not forgotten it seems

  • Gopher

    I not so sure that it is not universal and despite RHI, incumbency is a huge advantage.I also get the feeling that the sentiment is growing that Brexit is here and lets get on with it rather than mincing around being an instabilty merchant. The DUP are the only realistic party tapping into that pool.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Yeah you could be right but I think the DUP and SF to try and get their vote base out have hooked themselves up on Red Line Issues which I just can’t see being overcome in negotiations after elections. It looks like a long haul of Direct Rule !

  • Paul Hagan

    There were still quite a few of her posters up in Warringstown and Lurgan over the weekend- but local media is continuing to report the issue