The strange thing about Norn Iron Elections is that the LetsGetAlongerists give me no time to enjoy them.
A gentle reminder here to LetsGetAlongerists that the Alliance Party lost a seat in East Belfast last week. Grief gets people in different ways. Brian O’Neill and Kris Nixon from Slugger O’Toole produce a thread which does the usual post-Election Slugger “thing”. Consoling the LetsGetAlongerists with pouring vitriol on the winners and telling the folks in the so-called “centre ground” that it will all be different in 2016.
So begins the new narrative. It is still only May but already the LetsGetAlongerists have convinced themselves they are in the ascendancy …Last week…Reality never happened. LetsGetAlongerists prefer Fantasy. We will have this in August, in November, in February…all the way to May 2016. For the Alliance Party, the glass is never allowed to be half-empty. The Slugger Team keep filling it until it is…er…half-full.
Nicholas Whyte is a former Alliance candidate. Now an academic, his analysis is much more accurate. but he is a Number-Cruncher. His analyis merely uses votes cast last week to give a picture for 2016. Thus Sylvia Hermon will be elected three times for North Down next year. It seems unlikely.
Callling three seats for SDLP in South Down should please me. But it is balanced by the imaginary loss in Upper Bann. And it is even more balanced by the fact that this is just numbers. It takes no account of the actuality on the ground.
It takes no account of the candidates, local conditions,multi seat constituencies, First Past The Post, Proportional Representation, tactical voting, loaned votes, turnout and the manifestos in 2016.
Numbers look the same from Brussels as they do from the Kings Hall. The Election results need more than numbers to make them understood.
Take…East Belfast. It is not really enough to say that DUP have 19,500 votes, Alliance 17,000, Tories/Greens/Sinn Féin/SDLP 3,000 that we can claim this equates to three DUP and Alliance seats in 2016.
For a start this was a First Past The Post Election for a single seat. The turnout was ten per cent higher than in 2015.
The DUP votes include some UUP votes (there was after all a Pact). The Alliance votes will include votes from more liberal UUP votes and votes they asked other parties to lend them. Presumably Alliance is not the kinda political Party that would ask parties to lend them votes that they wont repay.
As for Tories/Grens/Sinn Féin/SDLP tthey were squeezed.
So in 2016, I would expect both DUP and Alliance to lose votes. I would expect UUP to gain votes (obviously!) and Tories/Greens/Sinn Féin/SDLP to gain from beyond their hard core, who could not bring themselves to hold their noses long enough to vote for Naomi Long.
A much more sensible take on East Belfast in 2016, would be the almost certainty of three DUP seats and at least two Alliance. The sixth and final seat will more likely be a two way fight between Alliance and UUP …and I would not rule out the Greens and TUV being involved.