State Of The Parties

As the dust settles on Assembly Election 2016, possibly a good time to look at the Parties.

DUP
will be happy with going out of the old Assembly with 38 seats and coming back with exactly the same number is a good performance. It means that the transition from Peter Robinson to Arlene Foster went smoothly and the big hitters such as Sammy Wilson and Gregory Campbell confined to Westminster did not adversely affect results.
Few people with any taste for decorum will miss Campbell and Wilson from the Assembly.
More women on the benches.
Minimal vote percentage drop.
Seats: 38 (no change).

Sinn Féin
Will also be happy. The loss of just one seat to People Before Profit is an irritation. But they can still supply an army (sic) of election volunteers sheltered under gazebos outside West Belfast polling stations. Gerry Adams is gaffe-prone and increasingly a liability but they were not affected. They traded seats with SDLP (lost Fermanagh-South Tyrone and gained Upper Bann) and they will be happy with that. Elsewhere showed no real progress.
They NEED to be in Government and whether Sinn Féin or just a rank and file member of the Felons Club need to tell each other and the electorate that merely being in Stormont is enough. To admit that it is a long way short of what nationalists had expected in 1998 and that the “Conflict” was in some way a success.
But the vote share is down 2.9% and thats a worry.
Seats: 28 (minus 1).

UUP
For all of “TV Mike’s” bluster, the UUP made no progress. A marginal loss of vote-share and just one MLA in the entire City of Belfast. Very much second-fiddle to DUP in the rest of Norn Iron. No change in the number of seats. But the Party has the look of one created by Nesbitt rather than the one left to him by people like Reg Empey and Tom Elliott.
Now that there are fewer government departments, UUP might choose to take the one due to them because of the number of seats won on Thursday. With fewer members of the Executive, the UUP influence would be proportionately stronger.

SDLP
SDLP will look on this election with a mixture of emotions. It was the best campaign but this did not translate into votes. It should have been better but as the results came thru on Friday, they will think it could have been worse.
They did lose three MLAs …Fearghal McKinney to the Greens, Gerard Diver to the People Before Profit and Dolores Kelly to Sinn Féin. On the upside, they took a seat from Sinn Féin….so a net loss of two seats.
The new Assembly Party is smaller, younger and looks inexperienced and they have the problem of finding a new Deputy Leader. Only Attwood and McGlone survive from the era of the Good Friday Agreement. Eastwood and Durkan are part of the 2011 intake, Hanna and McCrossan were co-opted in 2015 and the other six are all first elected on Thursday.
The Party is entitled to one Department in the new Executive. But whether they accept it is problematic. Choosing Opposition seems more dignified as well as pragmatic. The Opppsition benches look a better place to re-group. The Party will probably enter a period of reflection and have one of their usual “conversations” or “consultations” with members. No Party ever has genuine consultations. But it might all be part of Deputy Leadership campaign.
SDLP have always been the Party of the Good Friday Agreement. And there is thinly disguised that the Party resents not reaping the benefit. True, Sinn Féin have jumped on the bandwagon….but really SDLP might be the first to jump off the bandwagon.
SDLP vote dropped by 2.2% (and the combined nationalist vote fell by 5.1%).
The writing is on the wall.
Nationalist voters are apathetic at the institutions or disenchanted with the institutions.
The number of nationalist seats in the 108-member Assembly falls from 43 to 40. The Demographic Time Bomb? It has been examined by the experts and declared to be a hoax
The race is now on. Which nationalist Party will repudiate it first?
The unionist analysis is correct. “The Union is safe”
Seats: 12 (minus 2).

ALLIANCE
The biggest losers, although their vote share was only marginally down and they lost no seats. But with the threshold for the right to be Minister in the Executive being raised from eight seats to ten, Alliance failed in their target of gaining the two seats necessary to claim a Department.
In the outgoing Executive, they had two Departments being gifted the Department of Justice by DUP-SF, propping up the very people they regard as extremists. Of course they might still keep Justice thru another shabby deal but the election has put some manners on them.
They deserve failure. While other parties are vilified for half-hearted “outreach”, the Alliance Party has never tried to reach more than twenty-five miles beyond Belfast City Centre.
Really they did even look capable of adding a second seat in South Belfast, North Down or East Antrim or a third seat in East Belfast.
The interesting thing about Alliance is would anyone other than David Ford or Trevor Lunn retained South Antrim or Lagan Valley. If Ford as expected resigns as Leader and appointed to the “House of Lords for services to whatever it is David Ford does”, will he resign from the Assembly and a completely unelectable (in 2016) substitute be co-opted.
Co-Option is a GOOD thing. Extremely civilised. It is right and proper that someone is co-opted to replace a MLA who has died or suffering serious illness. It is much better than a bye-election and a seat just going to the biggest party in a constituency.
But it is important not to abuse that very civilised arrangement. Simply resigning is not a good enough reason.
The way seems clear for Saint Naomi Long to become Leader of Alliance and give us yet another rendition of “I’m just a wee girl from Bloomfield” speech.
Seats: 8 (no change).

TUV
Pretty much a disaster for Jim Allister. I certainly thought there were gains to be made in the Antrim constituencies. But Allister went out of Stormont as the sole MLA for his Party. And thats how he returns.
Seats: 1 (no change)

GREEN PARTY
Perhaps the biggest phoneys in Norn Iron politics. They are NOT socialists. If you think they are, ask an unemployed miner or steelworker. Of course there are not any in Norn Iron…which is the reason that Greens get elected. They have expanded their usual policies to include Abortion Law reform. Clare Bailey has championed this for years and is now MLA for South Belfast.
Seats: 2 (minus 1)

PEOPLE BEFORE PROFIT
Hailed as the big winners in this election but some perspective is needed. They have two seats. The West Belfast victory was expected but the Foyle victory less so. They will probably stage a few publicity stunts at Stormont, probably some nonsense about dress code if they show up in scruffy Tshirts and jeans. Ultimately there are only two lobbies at Stormont. There is nothing really new about PBP except they have designated themselves as “Other” rather than “nationalist” or “unionist”.
The Revolution has not started.
Certainly a little extra cash for Eamonn McCann (now 73) to supplement his pension. You might consider him a great socialist. I consider him a spoofer. I first heard him make a speech in 1968/69 and he hasnt shut up since.
A pain in the arse.
Seats: 2 (plus 2)

I should add that there is one Independent, a unionist, Clare Sugden who has held her seat in East Derry. She was co-opted on death of David McClarty during the last Assembly.

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18 Responses to State Of The Parties

  1. Catholic voter says:

    Claire hanna would be an obvious deputy leader giving gender and geographic balance

  2. Vince says:

    As posted before, I think there are 2 better candidates in Nichola Mallon and Patsy McGlone.

  3. zig70 says:

    I thought the SDLP ran a decent campaign. They didn’t fail, the government has failed them and arguably the UUP. They would need to articulate what difference they would make and the commonly held belief is that it is virtually impossible to achieve anything. Poc’s need to go and some other means to control sectarianism in Stormont found. Getting cheesed of with people blowing smoke up Arlene’s arse, I wager that she slips up during the summer and displays a bit of venom towards Catholics.

  4. Vince says:

    The PEB was v good, the manifesto was strong – childcare, StrongStart, Universities, crime etc, Colum Eastwood was consistently good in his media performances. Those are the good bits. The drags were the candidates/campaigns in certain areas – E Derry and Newry/Armagh in particular. Dolores Kelly and Alex Attwood despite their many virtues, are not good vote-getters. If Nichola Mallon had been standing in either’s constituency, despite her inexperience, then the former would not have been lost (it should not have been lost anyway – there was some extremely bad luck on transfers) and W Belfast would not have been a nail biter. NB, she got more than 30% of the SF transfers with a SF minister still in the shake-up (another reason for making her Deputy Leader).

    The bad publicity around W Tyrone could have been avoided – that in combination with the Manifesto interview probably cost 3 seats in U Bann, Foyle and South Antrim. When up against sharp outfits such as DUP and SF these are mistakes that can’t be made. I also think that advertising of key policies (advertising in general) and the narrative in the key local paper (Irish News) was poor – the latter sometimes seemed like a free advertising platform for the Greens and Alliance through their liberal use of the letters page – why doesn’t SDLP use this?

    • You highlighted the big things but I honestly saw the election as 18 elections. The small things good and bad made the difference.
      But I will tell you what the biggest single thing was….SF can call out an army of canvassers, poll agents and general helpers.
      At heart they are street fighters and for the month long campaign and polling day they can do that.
      I am a blogger…it is my contribution …but really being out every night knocking on doors is something that I couldnt do.
      I am…and most people are the same…too timid.
      on Thursday I saw no SDLP members at any of the polling stations in West Belfast…I was at eight!
      By contrast in Rosie McCorley and Alex Maskey.areas I saw dozens of SF people…not so many in Fra McCann areas…but there was always some.

      SDLP in West Belfast is a small but very dedicated group. They have worked a miracle.
      Thats the big difference ….boots on the ground. SF have that kinda dedication. SDLP are too genteel.
      They wear the boots..we wear the hish puppies.
      Until we get that degree of numbers, committment and overcome the hesitancy of knocking a strangers door and inviting a stream of abuse, ee will get nowhere.
      Like I said…I couldnt do it.
      For all kinda reasons Sinn Féin have no fear.
      And election after election after election….they can do it.

      • Kev Hughes says:

        You see John, that’s the problem there, boots on the ground.

        Don’t get me wrong, SF can call on an army of support, I know as my mum even helped them in North Antrim and she would never do such a thing but one of their candidates had helped her during the big snow storm a number of years ago when here car was quite literally buried in snow up a mountain and they brought her home and dug her car out 2 days later.

        I am not saying the SDLP need to become the RAC or AA, but that type of devotion to your constituency pays off. I think they need to become somewhat more like the Democrats in the states ie, more affiliated with community groups, and they need to make it such that they help them and expect help at the polls in return. With all due respect, stop giving people free lunches, you guys always, ALWAYS do that.

        Ask yourself WHY do you want to get more MLAs and MPs elected? What’s the end result you seek? If you guys wish to be some genteel club of Nats who dislike SF and believe in doing things to be nice then continue as you are. If you want power and to change things for the better then you need to start shirt fronting folks, as they would say in Aus.

      • SDLP have provided three kinda of Free Lunch. I have heard voices from outside the Party at SDLP meetings and Conferences….a few years back there was a discussion on Irish Unity at an annual conference….with Brian Hayes FG, Mary Hanafin aFF and Joane Tuffy.Lab.
        The Labour woman said she had never thought of it but she lived a couple of streets away from Conall McDevitt.
        As I have said a million times, we listen to too many outside voices and are obsessed with looking good. We do LITERALLY give out free lunches….Ive been at Health, Business, Education and other seminars hosted in hotels by SDLP spokespersons. Lunch provided.
        A few months ago SDLP Youth put on an event on European REferendum and the main speaker was from Independent Retailers Assn ….Glyn Roberts Chair of Alliance Party. You couldnt make it up.
        We are part of the community….soft canvassing if you like….being seen at the under 12 GAA matches, the pensioner club lunches, the credit union, the annual school concerts…..soft canvassing.
        But clearly not working for us.
        A lot of people will miss the Upper Bann Constituency Office. It helped a lot of people. When a seat is lost, it is hard to get back.
        Next campaign …European Referendum.
        I really dont know if I serve SDLP and nationalists better by being a member or a critical friend.

  5. Vince says:

    You are of course right and in the end that can trump whatever broadcast messages go out – perhaps not that large a proportion of the electorate actually watch the PEB or even read the letters page of the Irish News anyway.

    There was no criticsim meant of those people working in W Belfast and elsewhere – it is an incredibly tough job, even tougher with PBP on the scene now and there are so few of them. It takes huge commitment, time and courage – I wouldn’t have it either. I suppose it’s whether through your work and messaging the other 11 months of the year you can change the vibes and reception you get in that month before the election – I don’t know.

  6. Vince says:

    Still trying to understand how U Bann was lost – find it incredible that at the point of elimination well over 700 of the 1900 Alliance voters clearly had no opinion on whether they had an Ulster Unionist, SDLP or SF representing them.

  7. Vince says:

    This is just one of the many reasons why we need to keep you doing this blog……

  8. Political Tourist says:

    McCann should be a good laugh at Stormont.

  9. Catholic voter says:

    Interesting to see sdlp closed the gap with sf quite a lot in North antrim.

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