Breaking down the Belfast Council area into four Westminster constituencies, I am looking first at South Belfast.
From some inner city areas such as Ormeau (nationalist) and The Village (unionist), the constituency also includes the leafier middle class areas of Lisburn Road and Malone Road. It also takes in Queens University and the student bed sits in the Holy Land.
So it is…diverse.
The current Westminster MP is Dr Alasdair McDonnell (SDLP Leader), a veteran now in his sixties. He is assumed to get some moderate votes from other parties because the main rival is the DUP.
The six Assembly members come from five different parties…SDLP (McDonnell), DUP, Sinn Fein, UUP and Alliance. The sixth seat is held by SDLP. The final seat in the constituency is regarded as “up for grabs”.
Traditionally this is regarded as good territory for SDLP but in the 1970s the local Catholic population often voted Alliance. Boundary changes and Demographics have now shown that there is a maximum of three nationalist seats in the area. Claire Hanna has now established herself as the leading nationalist vote getter in the constituency.
There have however been signs of Alliance making a comeback here.
SDLP 1. DUP 1. Sinn Fein 1. Alliance 1. UUP 1.
SDLP 1. DUP 1. Sinn Fein 1. Alliance 1. UUP.1
Lisnasharragh DEA. (partly in East Belfast)
SDLP 1. DUP 2. Alliance 2. UUP 1.
The Diversity remains obvious. Anyone considering Westminster 2015, would know that SDLP needed tactical votes from Sinn Fein and Alliance to retain the seat.
While SF would be also-rans at Westminster level, Alliance have genuine claims to be a contender. Ironically if SDLP and Alliance are almost equal, it could be that a unionist (there could well be an agreed unionist unity candidate) could take the seat.
There is the Anna Lo factor.
She topped the poll in 2011 but did not have a running mate to fully capitalise on her votes and SDLP retained that sixth seat. She is atypical of Alliance…Hong Kong born, more socially liberal than fellow Alliance members, and seemingly at heart a “nationalist” who views Norn Iron as a colonial legacy.
But just yesterday, Anna Lo announced she would be standing down from politics in 2016. This is not entirely surprising, given her age. She cites being a victim of Racism as being the main factor. She has undoubtedly been the victim of abuse and there is a rising tide of Racism in Norn Iron.
Yet there may be more to it.
Is there a Duncan Morrow factor? Surely the serial LetsGetAlongerist Quango man and with Alliance in his DNA has been handpicked to be a MLA in 2016 and I, for one find it amusing that he lost out to a running mate in the Local Elections. “The best laid plans of mice and men…”.
Will Morrow be the Westminster candidate in 2015? Or (say it aint so!), newly elected COUNCILLOR (Jesus wept!) Paula Bradshaw (Mrs Ian Parsley).
Is there a Naomi Long factor? Anna Lo’s alleged nationalism, would not have played well with Naomi, who has a battle to retain her Westminster seat in East Belfast…against an (assumed) agreed unionist candidate.
Following a high profile start, Anna Lo’s European campaign faltered after that “nationalist and colonial” quote. Fellow Alliance people emphasised their own unionist credentials. I have seen it noted that she did not appear much in public…and certainly that is understandable in view of the racist abuse that she faced.
But ….why hang on until 2016 and the next election?
Why not stand down now and let new man (Morrow) or new woman (Bradshaw…sheesh!) get embedded before the Assembly Elections of 2016?
Is Anna Lo already a semi-detached member of the Alliance Party? If so, the next two years could be interesting.
Yet South Belfast is the very heart of MetroTextual Land, where 97.3% of people are PhD Politics students and tweet to each other on Twitter about it.
The heartland of LetsGetAlongerism and Platform for Change and other nonsense.
It is atypical.
So high profile people like Claire Hanna (SDLP), Mairtin O’Muilleoir (SF), Christopher Stalford (DUP), Chris McGimpsey (UUP) as well as Morrow and Bradshaw will have an eye on 2015 and 2016.
And I would not leave out the Green Party. Good to see Clare Bailey do well but she narrowly missed out.