SDLP: Sean Rogers. Colin McGrath. SInead Bradley.
Sinn Féin: Caitriona Ruane. Chris Hazard. MIchael Gray Sloan.
UUP: Harold McKee.
DUP: Jim Wells.
TUV: Henry Reilly.
Alliance: Patrick Brown.
Green: John Hardy.
Independent: John McCallister.
The position in 2011 was two SDLP, two Sinn Féin, one DUP and one UUP (John McCallister would defect to help form the ill-fated NI21 and is standing as an Independent this time). SDLP held the Westminster seat easily in 2015.
SDLP position here is quite strong….35% of the votes in 2011 and 42% in 2015. Allowing for the fact that some Westminster votes may have been loaned by unionists, the true position of strength is around 38% which gives SDLP two seats and a shout at three seats.
Typically, SDLP go with three candidates based in three areas of strength….Sean Rogers (Newcastle area), Colin McGrath (Downpatrick area) and Sinead Bradley (Rostrevor/Warrenpoint area). Sean is the only outgoing SDLP MLA, Colin is a long time associate of Margaret Ritchie MP and Sinead is daughter of former MLA, P J Bradley. Very much a case of any two from three…all will go close to the quota.
Sinn Féin have flat-lined around 30% enough for two seats. Ms Ruane is not as prominent as she used to be and as her star has gone down, Chris Hazard has become more prominent.
The unionist vote is fractured but still likely to take two seats.
DUP vote dropped from 12% to 8% between 2011 and 2015. Some of this can be attributed to tactical voting for SDLP but some due to controversy around Jim Wells.
UUP are around 10% (but some at least will be McCallister votes) and there is a steady 5% for Henry Reilly (UKIP in 2015 and TUV this year).
How the unionist vote splinters and transfers will be crucial. In 2013 at two different SDLP events, John McCallister made speeches appealing for SDLP transfers. It might be interesting to see where his second preferences go.
Alliance/Green are merely transfer fodder.
So….prediction…..SDLP 2, Sinn Féin 2, DUP 1…..sixth seat too close to call.