What to look out for next week

It’s nearly all over as Northern Ireland faces its third general election in just four years. As we get ready to head back to the polls, I thought it would be useful to pull together some things for you to look out for

For the UK wide picture as soon as it hits 10pm the main networks BBC, ITV and SKY News will publish the results of their exit poll, be cautious about other polls out there! The main exit poll will be the one you will see broadcast across the main networks.

Locally there will be no exit polls and as many races in Northern Ireland are seat by seat battles an overall poll might not tell you much about close contests.

Here is a list of estimated times for the declaration of seats

Before you get to the results, a key indicator to look out for is turnout. When the turnout at the last General Election was mirroring what happened at the Assembly it was clear something big was about to happen.

The key seat returns will be in between 2am and 4am, so if you’re wanting to stay up for the race, you’ll need to understand there are no Sunderland style fast counts here. West Belfast is typically the first seat in and that won’t happen much before 2am.

Some bellwethers to look out for

North Belfast-If this seat changes hands, it will be a bad night for the DUP and a win for Sinn Fein, Forget what happens in North Down or Foyle, if this seat stays with the DUP, they will be seen to have had a good night, if it goes, then a pick up elsewhere won’t be factored in. Likewise, if Sinn Fein win here, the loss of Foyle won’t have as much impact to the overall narrative of the election. Turnout here will be key.

East Belfast-This will be interesting to see the margin. Can Naomi Long dent the huge majority the Gavin Robinson has built up or will the Alliance vote stagnate? If there isn’t any big moves it will again feed a narrative that the surge for the party was perhaps something that has not lasted for the longer term.

East Antrim-No, this seat isn’t in play for Sammy Wilson, but it will tell an important story for the UUP. Newly minted leader, Steve Aiken is running in the constituency and interestingly the party came third here behind Alliance in June 2017. It’s the only constituency where the UUP hold two MLAs and if the party leader comes third, it will spell a bad night for the party.

North Down-Likewise this is an interesting seat as it is primed for a DUP win. But an interesting battle is going on as Alliance are aiming to bring that pro-remain vote of Greens, SDLPers and Shinners behind Deputy Leader, Stephen Farry. This election should see a real jump in the party’s support within the constituency as many of their voters backed Lady Hermon (Fun Fact; there was a near 10% differential between what Alliance received at the March Assembly election in 2017 and what it got in June, it was also a similar story for the Greens). This could be a bright spot for the Alliance Party as it struggles in other parts of Northern Ireland.

Foyle-This is ground zero within the battle of Nationalism. We are all expecting the SDLP to make a gain in South Belfast, but part of the real story of the party’s recovery will be told about how it performs in Foyle. It was the shock result of 2017 and this time SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood is up against incumbent Sinn Fein MP, Elisha McCallion. Turnout here in 2017 told us that something big was happening in the constituency and it likely will do so again.

Nearly all Northern Ireland elections are capped off with Fermanagh South Tyrone which typically reports at around 4am. This seat will always be close and has in the past gone to a recount.

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