DUP: Edwin Poots. Paul Givan. Jonathan Craig. Barbara Hale.
UUP: Jenny Palmer. Robbie Butler.
TUV: Lyle Rea
UKIP: Brian Higginson.
Conservative: Jack Irwin.
Democracy First: Frazer McCammond.
NILRC: Peter Dynes.
Green: Dan Barros-O’Neill
Alliance: Trevor Lunn.
SDLP: Pat Catney.
Sinn Féin: Jackie McGeough.
A constituency where DUP hold four seats and their four candidates are outgoing MLAs. UUP have a safe quota. Their MLA, Basil McCrea defected to form NI21. McCrea is not standing and NI21 is a footnote to Norn Iron history. The sixth seat is held by Trevor Lunn (Alliance).
There is really only one place for the DUP to go…down. Getting over 50% of the vote will be difficult as their vote has been falling since 2011.
To some extent, Edwin Poots star has been falling. Too controversial as a former Minister of Health (the gay blood ban) will do him no favours with the mainstream electorate but will resonate with traditional DUP voters. Increasingly Paul Givan seems to be a rising star and a regular on TV News over the past few years. I consider Poots and Givan to be safe. If DUP loses a seat,it is more likely to be Craig or Hale.
Ex-DUP councillor, Jenny Palmer left the Party over the Red Sky affair and now standing for UUP. Although UUP lost some votes in 2015, there is a safe quota and Ms Palmer probably has a high enough profile to take the seat.
Alliance are also on a quota but veteran Trevor Lunn (69) is to the right of the Party in economic and social terms. He will also benefit from the “liberal unionist” component in Basil McCrea’s support.
So five seats can be called …three DUP, one UUP, one Alliance.
The sixth seat….DUP are certainly in the mix, maybe the second UUP candidate benefits from Alliance only fielding one candidate. UKIP and TUV can benefit but more likely their transfers will keep the fourth DUP candidate afloat. UKIP and TUV did well in 2015 and between them can maybe rely on 10% of the vote
On the nationalist side, SDLP traditionally outvotes Sinn Féin by 2:1 but the total nationalist vote is less than 10% and while there are potential transfers from Green and Alliance, it would still need a very good day for SDLP to really challenge unionists for the final seat. SDLP seem to be making progress here. It is not just a matter of votes …Conor Quinn (the 2011 Green candidate) and Jonny McCarthy (elected to Lisburn Council for NI21) are now in SDLP.
So ….prediction…..DUP 3, UUP 1, Alliance 1…..sixth seat too close to call.