Another local Nobel Peace Prize winner heads towards the Middle East …

Steve Punter's profile photo of David Trimble

Having rejected the UN’s call for an international inquiry into the storming of the flotilla of aid vessels heading for Gaza, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has now announced his country’s own inquiry. A panel of three will be led by retired Supreme Court judge Yaakov Tirkel, and observed by two international experts. Whereas 1976 Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Corrigan was heading towards Gaza aboard the MV Rachel Corrie, 1998 winner Lord Trimble will be joining retired judge advocate … Read more

NI Assembly – bak 2 skul in the form of a comic

Snippet from NI Assembly comic

The NI Assembly’s education service has produced a comic aimed at educating school children about the local democratic institutions. As well as covering the daily/weekly life of a MLA, departments and ministers, it even gets as far as working out an example of the transferrable vote system in action! So far, none of the cartoon characters seem to resemble real elected representatives …

Want a parade? When do you want it? Now! What about in just 3 days time?

There still seems to be a bit of misunderstanding about the consultation paper issued by OFMDFM on Public Assemblies, Parades and Protests in Northern Ireland. It’s even been covered on Slugger … though Brian did point to the small relevant print. Talk about parades and all you’ll hear a lot of talk about 37 days. Section 13 explains that notice should normally be given to OPAPP (Office of Public Assemblies, Parades and Protests) during working hours on a working day … Read more

UTV declare that Martin McGuinness is First Minister!

Niall Ó Donnghaile pointed out earlier tonight that UTV have got a bit ahead of themselves and started to address Martin McGuinness as “First Minister”. In an online news article about the Irish President’s visit to the Balmoral Show, they explained The President of Ireland addressed an audience which included First Minister Martin McGuinness and Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew. With Sinn Fein’s strong polling at the Westminster election – coming out as the local party with the greatest number of … Read more

Why the big fuss over fixed term parliaments?

House of COmmons logo

About a month before the election Radio 4 broadcast a fascinating programme narrated by the BBC’s Scottish political editor Brian Taylor. Over half an hour he explained how the Scottish Parliament differs from its Westminster counterpart. It’s fixed term. Every piece of legislation is a new act of coalition. While some parties will support each other to get one piece of legislation passed, they’ll not agree to cooperate over the next. The SNP dominate, but while they win some debates, … Read more

All in a day’s work for post room staff …

This news flash came through earlier today on London Borough of Westminster’s public alert feed via CommunitySafe. Please could Postal Room staff be made aware of the following : earlier on this afternoon a Parcel containing a doll and organic matter was handed into a Government building Post room. The person handing in the item was described as a Male, approx 60-70 years of age, with White hair and wearing a green coat. The item was declared suspicious and Police … Read more

What kind of a mandate do you need to be elected as an MP?

Bar chart showing percentage of eligible voters who voted for winning candidates in NI's 18 constituencies, together with the percentage turnout

Not as big as you’d think! On average, you only need to persuade one in four voters in your NI constituency to support you. In some areas, less than one in five voters would be enough. Most of the figures you see at election time talk about the percentage share of the vote, ie those who turned up at a polling station (or posted in their vote). But what about the percentage share of the eligible voters? What kind of … Read more

Conservatives and/or Unionists?

logo for Conservatives and Unionists - UCUNF

The Ulster Unionist Party Executive meets on Saturday, but will the key issues of Sir Reg’s leadership and the relationship with the Conservatives be resolved? Will David Cameron make a flying visit to keep his promise to “be back in a week”? And what will the NI Conservatives do if the UCUNF linkup collapses?

Anyone for a game of Fantasy Cabinet?

House of COmmons logo

You’ve got an hour or two – maybe even until Wednesday morning – to suggest in the comments below who you think will be appointed to the Cabinet. Remember you’ve MPs from two parties to choose from? Who will be Chancellor? Foreign Secretary? Northern Ireland Secretary? … Confirmed … Chancellor – George Osborne Foreign Secretary – William Hague Defence Secretary – Liam Fox Deputy PM – Nick Clegg (Lib Dem) Health Secretary – Andrew Lansley … Northern Ireland Secretary – … Read more

SDLP performance between May 2005 and May 2010

SDLP percentage point changes between 2005 and 2010

The SDLP successfully held onto their three Westminster seats, and passed the baton between Eddie McGrady and Margaret Ritchie without a fumble. However, how healthy is their share of the vote across the 18 constituencies? They lost their deposits in two seats – North Down and Belfast East – and other than two of the seats they won, they only made gains in share in three others. The graph below shows the percentage point difference in their share between May … Read more

East Belfast at the next General Election?

Naomi Long - Lord Mayor

There are a lot of issues external to the Alliance party and Naomi Long that will impact the next result. How many people used their vote as a protest? Will the TUV implode? Will UCUNF collapse? Will Peter Robinson stand again? Unionist unity candidate? Or will the East Belfast electorate will decide to give their new MP a second chance?

Basil McCrea talking about results, strategy, leaders & therapy

Basil McCrea

I caught up with Basil McCrea this morning and he talked about UCUNF’s results, Lagan Valley, the UUP’s strategy going forward, choosing a new leader (to fit the strategy) and something about getting a therapist! By the way – the breakfast liveblog post has been updated with voxpops with Dawn Purvis (talking about Naomi Long’s success in East Belfast) and Conall McDevitt (talking about the SDLP results and need for engagement by civil society). Alan Meban (Alan in Belfast)Alan Meban. … Read more

Slugger Stratagem Election Breakfast – what they’re talking about this morning

David Ford watching Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg speaking on BBC News election programme

This morning, Stratagem and Slugger hosted a post-election breakfast in Belfast’s Europa Hotel. I’ve tidied up the proceedings and added a couple of brief voxpops with contributors. Passages in “direct quotes” are cleaned up verbatim comments, the rest captures the gist of their points. 0825 Mick Fealty kicks off and welcomes people. 0828 Brendan McMenamin (Derry~Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013) – “New [political] stories are emerging this morning” … and that’s the story of the City of Culture bid … Read more

Long-shot success, Gambling leaders at a loss, Hanging chads in FST

It was a night of success for Alliance in East Belfast. Peter Robinson and Reg Empey were united in defeat; and after recounting was suspended before 5am this morning. New party leader discussions could be heard at counting stations last night as the news sunk into DUP and UCUNF camps. Fermanagh & South Tyrone has come down to the interpretation of whether doubtful votes should be counted or rejected. Sinn Fein are seeking legal advice this morning. The SDLP held … Read more

New “united” Spratt posters appear in South Belfast

They've united, so have we! Vote Spratt - DUP election poster featuring pictures of SF's Alex Maskey and SDLP's Alasdair McDonnell

They’ve united – so have we! The meaning and context of the word “united” is probably open to interpretation (and misinterpretation) in these Spratt/DUP posters spotted tonight around Donegall Pass, near the old School of Music building. The sharp-eyed may spot the election mark to the right of McDonnell’s image – so it’s an official DUP poster and not a piece of rogue campaigning.(Thanks to @kateyo for the tip off.) Update – Or did they have these printed just in … Read more

What to expect at the count (AH AH AH AH AH!)

Ian Paisley Junior and others hunkered down on the ground tallying votes being validated face down at the 2009 European Election

What should you expect to see at the count on Thursday night if you’re turning up as a party worker, a journalist, an election observer or a member of the public lucky enough to find a count centre allowing you in? What follows is my understanding of what will happen. (EONI’s Guide for Candidates is a good source of information.) The first ballot boxes will arrive at the count centres from nearby polling stations shortly after ten o’clock. As soon … Read more

Posters, walkthroughs, boundary changes, Facebook – reflections in Lagan Valley

In the last of these three posts looking at the campaign in Lagan Valley, I’ll broaden it out from just canvassing to look at a few other things I’ve picked up along the way. Posters seem to be a necessary evil. The unanimous verdict across the five parties I talked to in Lagan Valley is that as long as one party puts them up, the others will be forced to follow. While a local agreement was put in place to … Read more

Fears over the end of the overnight count allayed

At the end of last summer, the media was buzzing with fears that right at the moment that Northern Ireland was re-embracing overnight counts, many English local authorities were threatening to pull out of nocturnal calculations at the General Election. As you’d expect, a Facebook group was formed, and electoral officers (described by Tory MP Peter Bone as “tin-pot, upstart little town clerks”) across the UK were surveyed to find out their plans. By January 2010, BBC Newsnight’s Michael Crick … Read more

So what happens on the doorstep?

UCUNF's Daphne Trimble and canvassing team consulting the street map before setting off around the doors

All the candidates (and canvassers) have a fixed patter that they repeat ad nausea on every doorstep. Rosettes and ties are out with the UCUNF team in Lagan Valley, but in with DUP and TUV. A sitting MP has an advantage – and knows it. No one tells unionists canvassers that they vote nationalist or Alliance. All that and many more reflections from watching the parties canvass in Lagan Valley.

Canvassing for beginners

Bring pens, maps, water and a coat. Wear comfortable shoes. Don’t forget to eat. Keep track of the bookies’ odds. Develop a sixth sense for whether a house is empty or occupied. It’s all good advice for candidates canvassing around the doors of their prospective constituency. During last year’s Euro election I blogged about the process of checking postal ballots, polling day, the main verification of votes, and the eventual counting of the ballot papers. This year I’ve gone a … Read more