The Pro-Remain Coalition failing with have consequences on June 8th.

The short lived attempt to build a Pro-Remain coalition of sorts has now ended with the Greens pulling the plug and the failure of the other parties to agree on independent candidates.

Alliance who were out of the traps early opposing the pact delivered an unusually strong criticism towards the Green Party over even entertaining such a prospect. 

Initial Thoughts

I was a supporter of some arrangement that brought together Pro-Remain forces in some shape or form. This would have involved compromises on all sides that would have delivered some short term electoral pain for all of the parties involved.

Parties needed to see that it was unrealistic to expect a sitting MP to step aside and it was not realistic to expect a party where they had previously held the seat to stand aside there too. In retrospect, there should have been a greater clarity for the role that the Greens were going to play with a potential compromise for them as the standard bearers for the Remain forces in somewhere like North Belfast.

In constituencies such as North Down, it was important to send a clear signal that the Pro-Remain, Lady Sylvia Hermon would not be opposed under any circumstances.

Ultimately this was a bridge too far for the Green Party as absentionism and Alasdair McDonnell continuing as the MP proved too difficult for the party. They deserve credit for engaging in the process, but expecting the SDLP to drop a sitting MP was incredibly unrealistic.

For me, it is a real shame that the idea of independent candidates in places like North Belfast didn’t get up and running. This could have brought some new faces into politics and broadened the Westminster team that Northern Ireland sends to the House of Commons.

I think that Agnew, Eastwood and O’Neill deserve some credit for trying to get some form of arrangement going, sure it has failed, but to fail at something, you first have to try. Standing on the sidelines just watching events unfold in front of you is no strategy. Nor does it seem wise to view these arrangements as a zero sum game, where everybody has to viewed with suspicious motives or ill intent. Party leaders will try and advance their aims, but politics is ultimately about compromise and attempting to find common ways forward.

Consequences 

Actions have consequences and in a First Past The Post system, this will take seats that could have been competitive races and place them in the safe column.

 

North Belfast will stay with Nigel Dodds, who will be easily returned as the local MP. You can also take a constituency such as East Derry/Londonderry out of the competitive column. Likewise for Upper Bann.

Fermanagh/South Tyrone is more uncertain too. I have heard a strand of thought that thinks Tom Elliott is a goner off the back of the Assembly Election results, however, I am not sure that as a incumbent MP, he cannot survive and with a few votes in it, you cannot be complacent. This is the same story in East Belfast as Gavin Robinson tries to win a second term as an MP.

Now, South Belfast is incredibly vulnerable and with vote splits on the centre left side, it is an extremely attractive punt for the DUP, who will own a huge section of the Leave vote in the constituency. If there is some form of Unionist unity, this constituency will be an almost certain gain for that candidate.

This could have made a number of contests a real fight, in an election where the Prime Minister declared this vote an important one about Brexit.

Disunity is death in politics and the Pro-Remain side might learn this the hard way as the votes are counted on June 9th.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs