South Belfast: Crowded Left Field could tempt Unionism for a pact?

South Belfast is set to be one of the most competitive races in Northern Ireland for the upcoming General Election. Unlike the other 17 constituencies, four parties are running in this seat who are within a few percentage points of each other.

On The View, Gareth Gordon put out a useful report on how the constituency has changed over the past few decades.

What used to be a straight, UUP-SDLP battle for the seat, now has four parties seriously eyeing it up as a potential gain. The seat has been held by Alasdair McDonnell since 2005 and he defends a slim majority of just over 900 votes.

2015 Result

Since 2016, the party’s fortunes have continued to slide in the constituency with the loss of the second SDLP seat and the DUP overtaking the party in first preference votes.

In 2017, the constituency voted this way

Since the last election the following changes have happened

  1. SDLP have declined further, falling below 20% of the vote, although the party does tend to poll a bit better at Westminster elections.
  2. DUP have consolidated their position within the Unionist community as the UUP have continued to falter.
  3. Sinn Fein have continued to rise from the low to high teens.
  4. The Green Party have nearly doubled their vote in the constituency
  5. Alliance Party have also slowly continued to increase their vote (although there was a dip in 2016).

The temptation for a pact here will be huge. If the two parties can find an agreed candidate, it should fall into Unionist hands for the first time in 12 years.

It is also important to remember that amongst all of the parties running, there is no love lost between them. There is a growing ABA (Anybody But Al) sentiment with some of the SDLP’s main rivals.

So far the declared candidates are;

Alasadair McDonnell (SDLP)

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir (Sinn Fein)

Paula Bradshaw (Alliance)

Possible Candidates;

Clare Bailey for the Greens would be the most logical choice for them.

Christopher Stalford for the DUP, he had a broad appeal amongst Unionist voters and could motivate them to come out for a possible DUP victory in this seat.

Mike Nesbitt has been touted for the UUP, but Danny Kennedy’s name has also been thrown out there too as  possible unity candidate.

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