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The Northern Ireland Election Results May 8, 2010

Posted by Garibaldy in UK General Election 2010.
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So while the media continues to pretend that the instability on the financial markets has more to do with the fact no party has an overall majority at Westminster than it does with insignificant factors like the situation in Greece and linked difficulties for the Euro, and the attempts at seducing the Lib Dems continue, what about the results in the north? For the actual results, and some discussion of each constituency, see the results post by the blogging king (or should that be People’s Commisar) of this election, Splintered Sunrise. The results have left the DUP with 8 seats (a loss of one, and what a loss!), PSF unchanged at 5 seats, the SDLP unchanged at 3 seats, Alliance with their first ever MP, Sylvia Hermon as an Independent unionist, and the UUP/Tories with none. In terms of vote share, PSF got the most at 25.5%, followed by the DUP at 25%, the SDLP with 16.5%, UCUNF at 15.2%, Alliance with 6.3%, TUV at 3.9%, Greens 0.5%, and others with 7.1%.

Despite the loss of Peter Robinson, this has been a good election for the DUP, who have held off the twin challenge of the UCUNF on the one hand and the TUV on the other with ease. Although they slipped into second place in terms of vote share, that is the consequence of their not standing in either Fermanagh/South Tyrone and North Down. Had they stood in all seats, and all other parties done likewise, they would have gained enough votes to take them into first place. So whatever anyone tells you, the DUP remains the most popular party in the north. Whether they will remain so at the next Assembly elections is more difficult to say. The DUP percentage share fell in every constituency they stood except for West Tyrone; but, with the obvious exception of East Belfast, the fall was not as much as they might have feared given that in 2005 they were riding so high, and were without a challenger to the right. The most satisfying aspect of this election for the DUP has to be the way they dealt with their unionist rivals. Losing the seat to Alliance is much preferable to losing it to the UUP or TUV. The TUV’s main challenge was in North Antrim. Ian Paisley Junior beat Jim Allister comprehensively, by around 12,000 votes. The TUV’s next most credible candidate was the former UUP MP Willie Ross in East (London)derry, and he came fifth, behind both nationalist parties and the UCUNF as well as the DUP. Apart from Allister in North Antrim, it looks like any TUV prospects in the Assembly are highly dependent on transfers, and are therefore very unpredictable, and probably not that great. So, in terms of number of seats held, number of votes, and the performance of their rivals, this was nearly as good an election as the DUP could have realistically hoped for. As for Peter Robinson’s future, realistically he will have to go as leader of the party. Presumably this will mean stepping down as first minister as well. There is no little irony in Robinson, who waited so patiently behind Paisley for so long, helping to force Paisley out after a year as First Minister, only to have to go himself under duress within two years himself. And, like Paisley, a large part of his downfall has been self-inflicted. It was interesting to watch Ian Paisley Junior, who had been forced to resign as junior minister partly due to the attitude of the Robinsons, speak the language of loyalty, while his body language, to me anyway, seemed to suggest not a little satisfaction at the situation. Nigel Dodds seems the most likely successor, but the situation could be more complex, as we’ll discuss below.

The election was a disaster for the UUP/Tory alliance. It was clearly never a happy marriage, as illustrated by the situation in South Antrim, where a row with the Tories over the views on homosexuality of the UUP prospective candidate resulted in Reg Empey stepping in as candidate, and failing to unseat Willie McCrea, the most vulnerable of the DUP MPs. David McNarry, an Ulster Unionist MLA who is influential in his own mind at least (he described himself as a thinker and a fixer and someone who could bring people together), had no hestitation in describing this as the end of Empey’s leadership, something which Empey himself seemed to accept, though he said he would not rush any decisions. Unionists talk a great deal about unionist unity, but only rarely practise it. We saw it in this election in Fermanagh/South Tyrone fail by the narrowest of margins. The calls for unionist unity in South Belfast were refused. For the UUP, a deal elsewhere was unacceptable, not only to their Tory paymasters, but also if they were to have any chance of rebuilding to challenge the DUP for number one spot again in the medium term. The UCUNF did nothing for them, and any hope they have of unseating the DUP is gone for the foreseeable future.

And so to the issue of unionist realignment. The nightmare scenario for unionism is Martin McGuinness becoming First Minister after the Assembly elections next year, a very real possibility. Jim Allister’s whole pitch to overturn the current system was based on this scenario. What this election has proven is that the majority of unionists are behind devolution, and would rather see a workable devolution based on mandatory coalition and its implications than no devolution at all. With Empey and Robinson almost certain to go, and McGuinness a very real prospect for First Minister, what are the chances of unionist realignment? It seems clear that some within the UUP have accepted that they are destined to play second fiddle within unionism, and would rather cooperate with the DUP in the strategic interests of unionism as a whole – i.e. keeping a nationalist out of the First Minister’s seat – than continue a losing and demoralising rivalry. With Robinson likely to go, it may well be possible that significant sections of the UUP would accept closer links with a DUP led by Dodds with an ex-UUP figure like Arlene Foster or Jeffrey Donaldson as deputy. I don’t think a merger is on, but some form of electoral pact seems likely. If not, I wouldn’t be surprised to see further defections to the DUP. So the consequences of this election for unionism are significant. A change at the very top for each of the parties looks certain, and quite possibly a change in the way the two largest unionist parties relate to one another.

As for nationalism. Gerry Adams will be well pleased, both as an individual and as a party leader. The raft of allegations surrounding Adams have made next to no impact, and his party has held onto all their seats, and decisively moved ahead of the SDLP in other constituencies, which bodes well for the Assembly elections. It also got the most votes, though as I said above, I think this does not fully reflect the reality of the situation. In Foyle, they cut Durkan’s lead, though remain well behind. South Down pretty much replicated the last result (a 0.1% swing away from the SDLP in Ruane’s favour). There probably was some tactical voting by unionists for Ritchie, but she would most likely have taken the seat without it. The gap in the vote is roughly the same despite a lower turnout. Those suggesting that Ritchie’s victory was solely due to unionists seem to me to be exaggerating. Overall this election points towards more success for PSF next year.

Margaret Ritchie will also be pleased, both as an individual and as a party leader. Holding on to South Belfast was a good result, especially as McDonnell’s majority was such that he would have won regardless of Maskey standing aside. The seat is still vulnerable to a unionist unity candidate but that is outside the SDLP’s control. McDonnell has done a decent job of increasing his vote. His vote share was less than the combined nationalist share last time, but his vote was about 1400 more. It seems that not all Maskey’s likely voters voted for him, and he still increased his vote significantly. So at headline level, a very satisfactory result for the SDLP. However, as Mark McGregor has noted, there may also be some warning signs in terms of the Assembly election, as well as the slippage behind their rivals in several places. It’s hard to judge what is likely to happen at the Assembly election in Fermanagh/South Tyrone, where the SDLP vote halved this election, but an Assembly seat there may be at risk. Overall definitely a confidence-boosting election, and one that will maintain enthusiasm and belief.

As for the others. Eamonn McCann can be very satisfied with his 3000 votes, although I think that an absence of transfers will stop him from taking a seat at the Assembly elections next year. The Green vote in North Down, where they have Brian Wilson as an MLA, was down on their Assembly vote of 2007 from 2839 to 1043. They will be worried if Wilson is not to stand next year I would think, but more confident if is does. Obviously an outstanding election for Alliance and Naomi Long personally. Jenny thinks that this just might mean that

they indicate the possible beginning of a restructuring of NI politics that might begin to move us away from the domination of the territorial issue and the sectarian carve-up – I am being very tentative here

I’d like to think that’s true, but I’m not so sure. Alliance took 6.3% overall, well up on 2005, a combination of Long’s Westminster vote tripling and their standing in every constituency. It is also up from their 5.3% in the 2007 Assembly election. I don’t think it transforms their prospects, although it could point to an extra seat in East Belfast. That possibility is reduced by the fact that Long will be resigning from the Assembly, and so her personal vote won’t be in play. Anna Lo did very well in South Belfast, avoiding the possibility of being squeezed. Alliance are justifiably delighted with their results, and we shouldn’t underestimate the significance of an MP being elected from outside communal politics. With a Justice Minister and an MP, they look a much more serious and important party than at any time since the Sunningdale Executive.

Overall turnout was down by 5%, from 62.5 to 57.6, continuing a trend in recent elections suggesting that peace and devolution have for many encouraged a withdrawal from politics. The peace dividend is apathy perhaps. I think that the headline results have been somewhat misleading. I’ve already mentioned the vote share, and the fact that only one Belfast seat is in the hands of a unionist is also misleading. Only west Belfast does not contain a majority of unionist voters. The two biggest parties look set to tighten their grip, and we may well be seeing a long-term trend towards consolidation into an overwhelmingly dominant unionist and nationalist party on each side, and there’s no reason to expect a surge of support for others next year. So a more mixed set of election results than at first glance, and the main consequence may well be a move towards more straightforward sectarian headcounts despite the election of Alliance’s first MP.

Comments»

1. NI Election Results « Garibaldy Blog - May 8, 2010

[…] NI Election Results By Garibaldy I’ve just put up a (too) long piece on the election results in NI over at Cedar Lounge Revolution. […]

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2. DC - May 8, 2010

“There is no little irony in Robinson, who waited so patiently behind Paisley for so long, helping to force Paisley out after a year as First Minister, only to have to go himself under duress within two years himself.”

I hadn’t thought of it before until I read what Garibaldy wrote above, but doesn’t that remind you of someone else in British politics? 😉

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3. Jenny - May 8, 2010

Great analysis, Garibaldy. Shame about the turnout, I certainly got a bit of the plague on all your houses feeling when I was canvassing. In terms of my hope for a new politics, it wasn’t just Naomi Long’s victory that made me think about it, rather the possibility of all the non-DUP MPs realising that their territorial aspirations were far less important than the other factors they have in common, and that it may lead to the possibility of voluntary coalitions in which national identity is respected but is no longer the bedrock of political identity.

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sonofstan - May 8, 2010

One thing that dawned on me when i was drawing up my anti-Tory coalition wish list on the other thread was that a majority of NI MPs are now situated somewhere on the centre ->left spectrum: or, at the most minimal, wouldn’t support a Tory PM – although of course 5 of them won’t support anyone because they won’t be there.

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4. Garibaldy - May 8, 2010

Interesting idea Jenny. I wonder how you think that fits with the tendency towards consolidation into two big parties that seems to be going on at the same time? I think that the SDLP can talk that language to an extent, but if they go too far it will cost them Assembly seats. I think that they will be pulled in different directions. The united community group in the Assembly seems to me to be the place to look for this if it is to take hold locally.

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5. splinteredsunrise - May 8, 2010

The other thing about the left-right spectrum is that, while unionists tend to be socially conservative, that doesn’t mean they’re on the right economically. Harold McCusker was no more a Tory than Sylvia Hermon is, and the DUP will wheel and deal with anyone. Indeed, the DUP struck a heavy blow against UCUNF by going on Cameron’s threat to the block grant.

It’s lucky for the DUP that, Robinson aside, they were far enough ahead that they could take a drop in their vote without seats being put in danger. The UUP’s reputation for incompetence aside, Nesbitt ran a good campaign but had too low a base to start with, while Danny Kennedy should really have run in Upper Bann, because however strong a candidate he is he’s never going to be elected in Newry.

There’s also a danger for the SDLP in that their three strongholds look impregnable for the time being, but they’re in serious trouble elsewhere. Fermanagh is one thing, but that Mid Ulster seat looks dodgy if they don’t have McGlone running, and Declan O’Loan must be under pressure as well. And that’s even without a shoestring organisation, a leadership who hate each other and the lack of a positive identity apart from not being the Provos.

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6. sonofstan - May 8, 2010

The other thing about the left-right spectrum is that, while unionists tend to be socially conservative, that doesn’t mean they’re on the right economically. Harold McCusker was no more a Tory than Sylvia Hermon is, and the DUP will wheel and deal with anyone.

All true enough – I guess the only thing that distinguishes the DUP is that they would vote for Cameron -or anyone else

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7. WorldbyStorm - May 8, 2010

All of which points to the SDLP declining further ultimately, splintered, doesn’t it?

Re the DUP, that seems very accurate. And that is an important distinction. Pragmatic – which covers a multitude.

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8. sonofstan - May 8, 2010

Splintered,

Did the SDLP ever have much of an organisation through the years of direct rule outside the personal entourages of their MPs?

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splinteredsunrise - May 8, 2010

Only really in Derry and South Down, latterly in South Belfast as well. In most areas they had personalities who could become councillors or even MPs but very little in the way of organisation. Gerry Fitt or Paddy Devlin never needed a party, just their own energy and their wives answering the phones.

Not unique to the SDLP either. One point about Gregory Campbell, say, is that he’s opened DUP constituency offices in Coleraine and Limavady. When Willie Ross was the MP, he never had a surgery. If you wanted to get some help from Willie, you had to trek up to his farm outside Dungiven and see him face to face.

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9. splinteredsunrise - May 8, 2010

There’s this thing, isn’t there, where people like to vote for winners. As long as the DUP were the smaller unionist party, people would stick with the UUP out of inertia, but once the DUP had the lead they consolidated that lead pretty quickly. It works the same on the nationalist side.

The SDLP has this thing where it isn’t going to be beat in either Derry or South Down, until such time as it looks like it’s going to be beat. Beyond those places, there are capable people in the SDLP I have a lot of time for, like McGlone or Bradley or O’Loan, but they could fit in just as easily to FF – probably not yet PSF, they still aren’t quite respectable enough but could pick up defectors in the not too distant future. What I’m missing is any sense of what the SDLP is for. Its shtick was that it was the biggest nationalist party and it was against the armed struggle, of which one is no longer true and the other is less and less relevant.

Same thing with the UUP. I don’t know what they’re for these days, and I don’t think they do either.

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10. Garibaldy - May 8, 2010

The SDLP and UUP had that similarity of not needing an organisation, so they didn’t have one. That went along with the not bringing in replacements in good time. I think we might be seeing elements of that with the current big two. Who is going to be the DUP candidate in east Belfast at the next election, which is coming soon? I have no idea. I don’t see anyone coming through the Provos in Belfast of the quality of their current leadership. They might well be there, but the persistence of using the well-known faces on the TV might prove to be a problem in the long run. At the minute, the Provos can rely on brand loyalty irregardless of candidate. That may change for them the way it did for others in the longer term.

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splinteredsunrise - May 8, 2010

The next DUP man in the local pecking order is Robin Newton, but he’s not a very convincing alternative. Sammy of course has decamped to East Antrim, so they don’t have him as a fall-back.

You need to give new people a run out some time, and I think it made a certain sense for the UUP to have people like Ringland or Bradshaw out there getting their faces known even if they weren’t going to win. Same with someone like Claire Hanna for the SDLP. As far as the Provos go, they have some youngish faces in their local government team, and will want to push a few of those in the Assembly election. Adams, McGuinness, Kelly etc are all around 60 and can’t go on indefinitely. What we can say is that they’ll plan a succession in a way that the SDLP didn’t. But no, succession is always a problem, isn’t it?

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Garibaldy - May 8, 2010

I can see the point about local government teams. Although interesting to see that family dynasties plays a part there too. And there is still I think a sense of putting ex-prisoners into the MLA seats. I think they are making plans for succession, but not necessarily as efficiently as they might be. McKay and O’Dowd are examples, but I can think of people who would have made better public representatives than they have who haven’t been pushed into that position. Not sure why. Could be due to jobs, families etc.

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splinteredsunrise - May 8, 2010

I can think of one or two reps who got where they are purely on family connections… But there’s an interesting connection here with Brendan Hughes. The main thing Dark broke with Adams over was the treatment of ex-prisoners and the feeling they were being deprived of their respected position in the movement, and that leads me to think back to the controversy over Gildernew’s selection in 2001. Dark may have been the Provos’ top military man ever, but I think even he recognised he would have been a useless politician. It has dawned on them at some level that they need to bring up young people with political skills like O’Dowd or McKay or Doherty in Donegal or even Forde before he jumped ship. Or again, though they have one downright bad minister at Stormont, I’d rate both Gildernew and Murphy as being fairly effective. It’s just very haphazard, and doesn’t really extend to the top leadership. Especially in Belfast with the Adams personality cult.

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Garibaldy - May 8, 2010

I had a look at the full Assembly team, and there are a few young faces there alright. More than enough to take some of some responsibility off those at the top while building their own profile. Interesting difference with the south, where people in their 20s and early 30s became prominent quickly. I’ll be interested to see will there be any movement of the ministerial team. It’s going to end up a permanent government in the sense of the same ministers forever the way things are going.

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11. DC - May 8, 2010

Think the DUP would vote for some sort of PR system for Westminister, assuming that is on the table whatever government is formed? Would it really be in their interest?

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12. Garibaldy - May 8, 2010

I think if they could get guaranteed funding, they would do the deal as could claim credit. Although they can’t get it, and the SNP and Plaid Cymru. So a limited space for it.

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13. Garibaldy - May 8, 2010

I meant to link this story from Slugger in the post

http://sluggerotoole.com/2010/05/07/sdlp-still-in-trouble-five-areas-going-under/

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14. Jenny - May 8, 2010

Garibaldy – re. 4: I’m not sure that there is a pulling into two big parties. The interesting thing right now is that there’s a difference between the shape of unionist and nationalist politics. IMO the UUP is finished and unionism will be dominated by the DUP in future. There’s been an attempt to link unionism to a wider agenda and it has failed. The difference within nationalism is the disagreement on (i)abstentionism which meant the SDLP wouldn’t agree to an election pact, quite rightly I think, and (ii) physical force tradition. The SDLP is starting to reposition it self as the party of a shared future, which you don’t hear from the unionists. At the moment this is nonsense, of course, but sooner or later I would see the SDLP as moving towards the centre of the sectarian spectrum, although whether out of principle or expediency remains to be seen. Whereas unionists who want to be more inclusive will join Alliance and the Unionist parties won’t change.

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15. Garibaldy - May 8, 2010

So you think that the SDLP might be able to resist the move towards centralisation within nationalism? I think both the SDLP and UUP will have 10-15 seats or so each for a while. The problem the SDLP has is that there not much mileage to be gained in seats in appealing more to the centre, and when they try to out-green the provos it never works. Then you have the FF v social democrat problem. It’s difficult for them. The shared future is one option, but not necessarily the most popular one with the voters they want to win back.

As for the physical force legacy. That’s a problem for members rather than voters. What’s been interesting from the stats for CLR is to see the number of people who got here by asking what a Portillo moment was. It might seem like yesterday for us, but there’s maybe two 5 year cohort of voters for whom it means nothing. Same year as the second Provo ceasefire.

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sonofstan - May 8, 2010

Exactly.

I was canvassed by a Shinner last year who was 15 when the GFA was signed. All my usual ‘why I’ll never vote for youse’ patter fell on uncomprehending ears.

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16. shea - May 9, 2010

think the most interesting thing about the election is that unionists rejected a fairly good idea from that perseptive of tyeing themselves into the union. the conservative and unionist pact on paper (as an outsider) seemed socialy, culturaly powerfully symbolic, great strategic potential, but they chose no. think its facinating. does it show the conservative nature of unionism i.e no change is good change. does it dispeal a myth of a stong afinity to the union maybe something else, unionists with a small u. was it soley down to local conciderations which in itself have to raise questions about priorities. what was it.

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sonofstan - May 9, 2010

Or proof that unionists are basically just a different kind of nationalist?

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17. Jenny - May 9, 2010

sonofstan – exactly. Unionism and nationalism are both forms of territorial politics and an inadequate basis for modern government.

Garibaldy – I think the SDLP has been in a difficlut position for several years and has managed to carry on regardless and not face up to the choice which is coming: remain a pale green party with an inward-looking agenda including an FF link, and pick up the crumbs from SF’s table; or go for stronger links with both Labour parties on these islands and with the PES, become part of an international democratic socialist movement, accept that the party was born of nationalism (although that’s debateable) but has moved on, and grow their support from non-voters and Labour-inclined unionists. It’s not Alliance territory because it’s more progressive, but Alliance and a new SDLP together give us in NI a strong centre left.

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18. Jenny - May 9, 2010

And as for physical force, it remains a distinguishing feature between as you say the parties but not (I accept) the younger voters, but a democratic socialist SDLP could take votes from SF too.

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19. Garibaldy - May 9, 2010

I can see the logic of your argument, and I reckon some within the SDLP can too. But fear I suspect will hold them back. I also wouldn’t underestimate the extent to which the social democratic stuff leaves a lot of their voters, and indeed some prominent members, cold. Obviously I’d like to see them move in the direction you suggest.

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20. Jenny - May 9, 2010

Let’s hope that if vision won’t take them forward, then expediency might.

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21. sonofstan - May 9, 2010

Jenny, Garibaldy,

Would there be a difference between how SDLP members/ voters in Belfast would see their future and those in more rural areas? -I’m guessing Derry is a special case…

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22. Jenny - May 9, 2010

Any SDLP readers care to comment?

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23. Garibaldy - May 9, 2010

SoS,

I think that was perceived to be the case, although it was always more complicated than that (as McDonnell in Belfast and Ritchie in South Down show).

Just saw McDonnell on the politics show with John O’Dowd. Was clear about his nationalism after O’Dowd’s bizarre claim that the SDLP pretended not to be nationalist before the election, and then weht back to being so after. Good illustration of the dilemma we are talking about though. Faced with those accusations, he has to remind people of his nationalism, but in such a way as might alienate those he might target from other backgrounds.

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sonofstan - May 9, 2010

Saw that too: and people say Ritchie doesn’t do well on telly….

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Garibaldy - May 9, 2010

As one of those people, SoS, I am inclined to think that is the sort of aggression they will need to reclaim lost nationalist voters who have jumped ship over the last decade though.

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sonofstan - May 9, 2010

Just thought he seemed a little pompous.

Would Unionists voting tactically for O’Donnell – or Ritchie – ever doubt that they are nationalists?

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24. Jenny - May 9, 2010

I thought it was awful – not only did he protest too much – for heaven’s sake, as SoS says, who doubts it? – but his agression was also a turn off. Compare with how Naomi Long dealt with the question of where her support was coming from in her earlier interview, she just wouldn’t go there. The SDLP should learn not to rise to SF’s bait on the nationalist question but treat it as the silly diversion it is. Rather, O’Dowd should have pushed McDonnell on whether his commitment to work with other parties includes SF and if not, why not. The difference between a broad church and a sectarian pact is far more interesting.

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25. Garibaldy - May 9, 2010

I think that people doubt that the SDLP will stand up for nationalists as strongly as the Provos will, and likewise with the UUP and DUP. Both of the smaller parties are given a problem with that perception. I think that explains McDonnell’s attitude – to counter the Stoop Down Low party argument.

As for the aggression. It often isn’t pretty I totally agree, and can strike the wrong note. But it makes the SDLP look passionate again, and that is something they have lacked for a long time.

Interesting point about what O’Dowd might have done. The line he took was definitely the lowest common denominator whereas that would have been smarter.

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26. splinteredsunrise - May 9, 2010

I’m not a huge fan of McDonnell personally, but I’m coming round to the view that the SDLP slipped up big time in not making him leader. He would at least have shaken them up and brought in some passion, but apparently they didn’t want that. I’m also unclear as to whether Ritchie has anything driving her other than not liking the Provos.

On reflection about South Down, I think that while Willie Clarke is a fairly anonymous MLA, he would have done better than Ruane – or even someone parachuted in from another area. Should the SDLP slip behind there in a PR election, they should be worried.

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27. Garibaldy - May 9, 2010

I’d agree McDonnell is not the easiest person in the world to like, and personally I’d prefer Ritchie, who I do think has some sense of social democracy driving her as well as not liking the Provos. But in terms of what would have been most effective for the SDLP, I really don’t understand how in terms of their own self-interest they overlooked McDonnell. Unlike the UUP, they had the option of someone spiky and passionate and able to stand-up to knockabout politics.

The PR result in South Down will definitely be interesting next year. We’ll get a better sense of how much tactical voting has been going on. Same with Foyle, where the two nationalist parties are probably closer than the Westminster election suggested.

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28. sonofstan - May 9, 2010

I think that people doubt that the SDLP will stand up for nationalists as strongly as the Provos will, and likewise with the UUP and DUP.

Well you could turn that around, and say that, at some point, it may be possible for parties such as Alliance, the SDLP, a reconstituted UUP and maybe even a Labour party of some kind, to see their job as going beyond that remit, whereas SF and DUP will never be able to do anything more than ‘stand up for’ Nationalists/ Unionists.

Of course the current structures conspire against such a thing, but still….

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29. Garibaldy - May 9, 2010

You could. But I think the UCUNF fiasco in Fermanagh/South Tyrone and over Catholic candidates has proven that the UUP cannot move beyond communal politics, even if some elements within it would like to embrace civic unionism. Interesting to see one of the UCUNF’s chief supporters on the web reach the same conclusion

http://unionistlite.blogspot.com/2010/05/rumours-of-ucunf-demise-not.html

I’m not sure that there isn’t a significant bloc in the SDLP that is happy enough to be specifically the voice of the Catholic middle class.

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sonofstan - May 9, 2010

Yeah, I’m sure your right. I’m not particularly arguing, It’s just that if the job of parties simply becomes to ‘stand up for’ their respective communities, then there is no real need for anything beyond the two big ones: it’s all they do, and they do it best.

There’s no future for either the UUP or the SDLP going to the electorate with the message ‘let us represent you -we’ll do it slightly less effectively than the other lot’.

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30. Garibaldy - May 9, 2010

I agree. But the problem for them is how could they move without shedding the voters they do have. That’s a hard problem to crack. And any UUP attempts at it result in them going back into their shell.

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31. yourcousin - May 9, 2010

But isn’t there an inherent difference between the two notions of “standing up for” their respective communities here? Take for example the housing situation in N Belfast. SF represent the nationalist estates which are horribly overcrowded. How is it sectarian for them as a representative of their constituents to push for more access to housing when there are housing estates in the same area that are depopulated and falling into ruin? Now for the UUP and DUP to represent their community it means that they must oppose the allowance of families into those areas because those are “their” areas. There is a fundamental difference there. One is a logical thing that any representative would do anywhere in the world and the other is well, unionism incarnate.

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32. Garibaldy - May 9, 2010

YC,

When I see talk of including rights as nationalists or as unionists in a Bill of Rights then I think that shows that ‘standing up’ for either side can be equally poisonous to the prospects of progressive politics.

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yourcousin - May 10, 2010

Which is a very nice way to sidestep the question I put to you.

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Garibaldy - May 10, 2010

That wasn’t my intention YC. I took your point about the housing situation in north Belfast to be that unionism was by its nature more reactionary than nationalism. I was making the point that I felt that wasn’t necessarily always the case.

As for people moving into protestant-dominated areas in north Belfast. The situation is complicated by the fact of intimidation from paramilitaries and thugs, as well as the Thatcherite policy of selling off the public housing stock. There is no simple solution. On the housing issue more generally, I would like to see the establishment of more mixed housing estates being part of state policy.

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33. shea - May 9, 2010

its clear the way things are going. the next election is basisly orange v green. unionists are probably going to come up with some pact and the knock from that what ever about the rights or wrongs of that, its the way it is. if the sdlp want to come in to there own instead of putting the national question on the back burner they should articulate how they would do a ui. instead of the question being who’d wants a ui more its then who’d do it better.

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34. Garibaldy - May 9, 2010

They have a section on it in their manifesto

Click to access 41562_Manifesto_Final.pdf

The next Assembly elections will overwhelmingly continue to be orange v green, but there is also space to grow the united community group.

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splinteredsunrise - May 9, 2010

Or at least holding it steady. If Deeny isn’t in the frame, at least one gain for Alliance or the Greens would be needed. Or you have a few extra independents – Dawn Purvis may designate as unionist but she’s amenable to working outside the bloc, and that may prove to be true of Alan McFarland. And an extra Alliance seat in east Belfast will be tricky without the Long personal vote, but then you’d have nationalist, WP, SP and Green candidates who couldn’t win but will have some handy transfers to pass on.

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Garibaldy - May 9, 2010

Not sure what Deeny’s plans are. Would certainly be lost to the United Community group. Purvis would work with it alright. Two Alliance seats are possible. I think turnout will play a part there, and who is standing for the DUP and UUP.

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