Alliance Party: Big Lads In The Big Picture?

Most Belfast people of a certain vintage will be familiar with the phrase “he is the big lad in the big picture”.It refers to someone rather publicly trying to punch above their weight.

I wonder if this is what the Alliance Party have actually been doing for nearly two years. In 2007, they got just seven seats in the Assembly…and had no seats on the Executive. In 2010, DUP and Sinn Fein appointed Alliance Leader, David Ford as the Minister for Justice. The Party got £97,000 …..chocolate money, innocent money, Quaker money from Rowntree with the expressed intention of winning extra Assembly seats in the 2011 Election. And they duly did…one extra Assembly seat.

Not a particularly good return for £97,000 but importantly it gave them a seat as of right on the Executive ….for Stephen Farry at Employment & Learning. And of course they retain the Justice seat for Ford, mandated to them….as Ford puts it….by the Assembly.

In the months prior to the 2011 Election, I was not a member of the SDLP but pointed out as often as possible that Alliance were Not quite the nice guys they claimed to be. The fact is that they are Norn Irons FIFTH political party. The UUP have 15 seats. The SDLP have 14 seats and just one Executive seat each. The nice guys in Alliance have slightly more than 50,000 votes, eight Assembly seats and two Executive seats.

Alas the Alliance Party got a bit uppity. big Lads in the Big Picture. They acted like they were the Third Party. And effected a curious swagger which started at the top with Ford and trickled down to their grassroots, including their Tinternet warriors.

From being cuddly fluffy kittens they revealed themselves to be pretty nasty. they have cried”foul” that Farry’s seat on the Executive might go due to entirely reasonable premise that there are too many Departments. The DUP and SF still can’t get rid of the Department of Employment & learning.

But it seems that they over-reached themselves at Belfast City Council last month. They believed their own hype that they are the Third Party…a genuine force and were cruelly exposed as amateurs.

What happens next? I expect they will be lobbying aggressively for that designated days at all council offices option which would get loyalist thugs off the streets with the victory they grave and get Alliance off the hook and back under the radar.

Of course the violence meted out to them is a total disgrace. a criminal disgrace. Hopefully the Minister for Justice…David Ford…can actually do something about that. But sometimes I wonder if the Germans have a word for “schadenfreude” but as they say in Belfast…what goes round comes around.

Theresa VillIers might send in the NIO cavalry to rescue the Alliance Party…Im sure the senior members of the Party have been on the phone to VillIers civil servants looking for help.

But where exactly does this leave David Ford? He has been invisible until this weeks resumption of Stormont business but frankly I don’t expect him to be Alliance Leader at Christmas.

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20 Responses to Alliance Party: Big Lads In The Big Picture?

  1. factual says:

    They do have some very impressive people such as Gerry Lynch, who as you say deserves to be admired.

    And they are definitely growing, with a message that seems to be catching an audience. And they are maximising their impact. For many years they were ignored. Will be interesting to see where they grow next. Gerry Lynch has stated that they can appeal more broadly than they do now and the LucidTalk polling have shown them on a rising trend

    • Er….Gerry LYnch is on the Lucid Talk staff.
      The Alliance Party are parasites.

      • factual says:

        I think David Ford is in a strong position. He has led his party from doldrums to success.

      • Really?
        He led them from seven Assembly seats 2007 to eight in 2011.
        The additional seat was in a constituency where they already had a seat.
        Alliance have MLAs in just seven of eighteen constituencies. They have one MP (an own goal by DUP).
        They are the fifth largest Party in Norn Iron with about half the votes of the fourth largest.
        They have one Executive seat by right with the other gifted to them by DUP and SF.
        That’s not Democracy.
        It’s a gerrymander.

      • factual says:

        Didn’t the assembly vote for it by majority of both nationalist and unionst? Yes they did.

      • Ford owes his position to that DUP/SF carve up.
        He has been bought and paid for.

  2. factual says:

    The SDLP put forward a minister for Justice. That candidate was unsuccessful in a cross communtiy assembly vote.

    • Don’t be silly.
      Being followed on Twitter is not a guarantee of being highly regarded.
      I have 132 followers on Twitter.
      By this yardstick, Gerry Lynch is 12 times more highly regarded than me.
      I am not saying whether I regard him highly or not.
      I’ve met him twice and he’s ok.
      I’m merely saying that if you preface a remark by saying he is highly regarded, you need more evidence than the number of people who follow him on Twitter.

      • factual says:

        I think you have misunderstood my point. The parties agreed that (similar to the FM and DFM in the original GFA) the Justice Minister would be voted in on cross communtiy vote. If SDLP had won more MLAs in the election they would have been able to vote against Ford. But they didn’t win enough seats unlike Sinn Féin.

    • Séamus says:

      Under d’Hondt the department would have gone to the SDLP. However Robinson and McGuinness decided between themselves that this was unacceptable, changed how the ministry was appointed, handpicked Ford and then got their parties to vote in favour of him.

  3. Morning everyone and Happy Friday!

    Great points FJH on APNI.

    ‘But it seems that they over-reached themselves at Belfast City Council last month. They believed their own hype that they are the Third Party…a genuine force and were cruelly exposed as amateurs.’

    In all fairness, I don’t think anyone thought the ‘protests’ would get this out of hand. They got caught out, yes, but I think like many we saw this as a protest issue, not something where the likes of Gerry Lynch and others bemoan the GFA and call for drastic measures to be taken.

    APNI have not handled this too well as they are not accustomed to dealing with violence or having to go face to face with spides, others are accustomed though and hence why there heads are a lot cooler than what we see on twitter and on Bullshit Mountain for starters.

    ‘What happens next? I expect they will be lobbying aggressively for that designated days at all council offices option which would get loyalist thugs off the streets with the victory they grave and get Alliance off the hook and back under the radar.’

    I suspect they might buy without any kind of Nat agreement on this the SOS will not be bringing in any kind of legislation over the heads of one community, otherwise we would have a Bill of Rights and an Irish Language Act by now. It’s a devolved matter and Theresa will work within that framework IMHO.

    • Certainly on 10th January I postd that non solution to the Flags crisis and it didnt surprise me Gerry Lynch brought it up (Basil McCreas idea apparently) but the thing is no nationalist party could agree to that and David Ford is probably on his knees to Villiers begging for that solution.
      SDLP owes Alliance nothing….the Alliance stabbed UUP and SDLP in back 18 months ago. While obviously deploring violence nobody will be rushing to get Alliance off the hook.
      With the possible exception of a seat in South Belfast, no nationalist seat is vulnerable to Alliance and they will never get out of the suburban ghetto.
      Next time round with fewer Departments, unless number of MLAs are reduced it will require about ten seats to get a n Executive seat and if they manage it, it wont be at SDLP expense….or SF expense.

      • Bit late/early for ye FJH!

        APNI seem to have burned a lot of bridges, especially with those you would have been somewhat sympathetic to their cause or willing to work with them and I suspect the guys in charge (all 4 of them!) know that they have little/no leverage with Nats. Like you said, they will NOT get of the suburban ghetto and they are not challenging Nat seats, infact Nats are lending them votes in constituencies where we do not have enough for a quota of our own and a small ‘u’ unionist is always better than a big ‘u’ unionist.

        Ford may want the SOS to ride to the rescue here for him but with no leverage to work with and with Nats having already compromised (I did not agree with the compromise btw, it’s either neutrality or equality of symbols IMHO) I think the best thing APNI can do is hope that this fizzles out before the end of the month and work on how they can capitalise on this electorally speaking.

      • I think the Jury is out on how well Alliance will do electorally. And the performance might well be different at Westminster and Assembly level. Naomi Long might well be the defacto Leader. Ford might prefer her over Farry who seems to popular with the defectors from UUP.
        But Naomi looks like she will not give up that seat without a fight and she MIGHT rally the Silent Majority at the Belmont Bowling Club again. But her Assembly colleagues Chris Lyttle and Judith Cochrane have been invisible.

        The UUP are of course a write-off. But I think DUP are intent on putting Alliance back in their place, not just in East Belfast. The SDLP won’t lift a finger to help. and ironically Sinn Fein might be the only friends Alliance have.

      • I like how you have separated out the issue between how this effects Naomi and the 2 faceless and voiceless MLAs for the constituency, it’s clever and it highlights how I have been conflating a number of issues together when I shouldn’t have been.

        I was completely unimpressed with both Lyttle and Cochrane over their cowardly tactics relating to the same sex vote (they disappeared off the face of the planet) and they have been fairly anonymous since then.

        In relation to the leadership of APNI, I have no horse in the race and little knowledge (actually, none) of the internal politics of the party. All I know is Mammy FC met Farry once and didn’t like him and that is good enough for me. Naomi is a lot warmer and someone I have some time for while I do not particularly like APNI in general.

        As for friends they may have, it could well be SF, otherwise APNI are themselves alone, ho ho! (I’ll grab me coat on the way out…). Though if I were SF I would exact a high price for support as APNI is never going to threaten SF at an election.

      • Mrs FJH didn’t like the look of Farry and generally that’s not scientific but good enough for me.
        I think There are several things going on in East Belfast and that same sex marriage thing is one of them.
        about six months ago I heard that Alliance were fighting like ferrets in a bag….and it was related to what would happen if they lost Farrys Department.
        The original date was supposed to be last May and I wrote to the dept asking when they were going out of business and I got a very terse reply “to be decided by ministers” so Farry has clung on.
        SF cannot give AP any concessions on Flegs….but AP have few friends. They will pay the price for thinking they are the third Party….they might lose that Department sooner rather than later.

      • A further thought.
        It’s far too soon to try and work out if unionist disgust at ALliance will win out over moderate sympathy for them.
        The elections are too far off.
        In a Westminster election NAomi can rely on a sympathy vote as well as a tactical vote in Short STrand. Alliance apologists make a lot out of the ALliance rise and rise….but they are still a long way behind 1970s levels of support. What goes up might well go down and in the years after 1998 their vote suffered when the moderate ground got crowded…WOmens COalition and the GReens will be watched carefully.
        But ALliance apologists on LetsGetAlongerist discussion boards….think in terms of targets…a second NOrth DOwn seat,a second seat in South Belfast.
        But their strategists will be aware of a best case scenario.
        They would also be aware of a worst case scenario.
        Strangford is marginal…ans so importantly is the second East Belfast seat.
        Nobody will know this better than Chris Lyttle and Judith Cochrane.
        they got the two seats on Alliance votes…but a coalition of transfers…Catholic nationalist transfers, Dawn Purvis transfers, Belmont Bowling Club.
        they will be number crunching and also be acutely aware of what’s happening in their individual part of the constituency, Cochrane Upper Newtownards Road and Lyttle the Lower Newtownards Road.
        Short Strand doesn’t really “need” AP…there is a SF councillor who will have as good access as they will.
        I’m sure Cochrane and Lyttle are decent enough people to have sent an email to the parish priest at St Matthews, maybe even to community people….and who knows might even have made a visit to the Short Strand….rather like Alasdair McDonnell did when the Alliance office in Carrick was attacked and of course properly made sure TV cameras were on hand.
        Yet if Cochrane or Lyttle made a visit to Short Strand….I didn’t see it on TV….perhaPs they are just too modest to be photographed visiting the Church or homeowners.
        Like I say they might well have done so.
        But a cynic might suggest they might be taking their transfers just a little too much for granted.
        Or they might be making a calculation based on how many votes are won and lost in the broader constituency.
        That may or may not be the case.
        But there is surely some credibility that these “new faces” based their “same sex” stance on an electoral calculation.
        That second seat is marginal and with no clear front runner (they are equally inept or equally brilliant LOL) then they are probably wary of each other.
        It’s the dynamic of a marginal seat. Anna Lo for example has the luxury of not having to make such a calculation.

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