Ground war is the only game in Northern Ireland this time out…

We’ve had a lot of speculation on Slugger about how the election will go. The biggest thing in the favour of the two major parties is the fact there’s been no air war. If anything, it slightly favours the DUP in that most of the damage in March was self administered by the former First Minster.

Both big parties have been working on postal votes and proxies but just looking at the figures published by the Electoral Office, the huge increase even from March’s huge increase will be a worry for the SDLP in Foyle:

11,707 proxy votes have been issued – that is 1,787 up from the 9,920 proxies appointed for the March assembly election. 23,682 postal votes have been issued – up from the 19,670 sent out in March.

Fermanagh South Tyrone tops the table for both proxy and postal votes issued. 1,707 proxy votes and 2,981 postal votes have been issued in the constituency.

Other constituencies with high levels of applications include Mid Ulster and West Tyrone which are especially high for postal votes, and Newry and Armagh and Foyle which are high for proxy votes.

It also poses a huge problem for Tom Elliott in Fermanagh South Tyrone, where unionism only retains the seat on a one candidate strategy already. The ebbing of rage against Arlene amongst rural nationalists may be more than compensated for by organised proxy voting.

Most of the change we will see by the early hours of Friday will be the result of these subterranean moves and will be hard to anticipate, but I’m expecting a squeeze on SDLP and UUP votes, whose machines are puny and under-resourced for this ground war game.

The SDLP’s early gamble on work done on Brexit will likely go the same way as it will for the poor old Lib Dems in Britain, a proverbial beaten docket with only SF and the DUP getting any value out of it as a tribal marker.

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