A Big Yeeeeeeeeeooooo!

You will forgive me saying Yeeeeeeeeeeeeoooooo! The SDLP has not made a net gain since 1998 so gaining two seats (12 from 90 is an improvement on 12 from 108).

This was an unexpected election but I have been predicting the fall of Stormont for so long that I had to be right once (even a stopped clock is right twice a day).

The five-party coalition disguised the dysfunctional nature of the DUP-SF dominated government and without UUP, SDLP (willingly in Opposition) and the Alliance Party (unwillingly in Opposition…they crawled on their belly to stay in government) propping it all up….we were left with what Mark Durkan called “a one party state with a green wing and an orange wing”. That kinda government of  DUP-SF could not withstand scrutiny and….it fell.

From a SDLP perspective, Friday was the proverbial game of two halves. The First preferences were up…but so were Sinn Féin and Alliance. To continue the football theme, consider the 1999 European Champions Cup. As the fourth official held up the board signalling a few minutes of added time, Manchester United were trailing Bayern Munich by 1-0.

It was the same on Friday night. Ten seats would have been ok…it was pro-rata the 2016 result. But Pat Catney in Lagan Valley is an unlikely Teddy Sheringham and John Dallat is an unlikely Ole Gunnar Solksjaer….what can I say….2-1. Back of the Net!!!!!!

The last three constituency profiles that I wrote…West Belfast, Fermanagh-South Tyrone and East Derry…these were the three I was worried about. Hard to write dispassionately. RIchie McPhillips and Alex Attwood were unlucky. They deserved better.

I thought Roisín Lynch might have taken South Antrim but wrote it was partly wishful thinking. But I had a lot of confidence that Pat Catney would win Lagan Valley. My prediction was without qualification. Why was I so confident? Well …his team was working hard for years….this was not about the last month.

And I was totally confident that Dolores Kelly would win back her seat. Enough people who had failed to vote last year had expressed regret and were obviously taking this unexpected opportunity to put it right. It was that simple. I wish I had known that it was possible to get odds of 11/2 on Dolores. The gamblers among you….think of those odds. Many of you would think it was maybe 50-50……

So……yeeeeeeeeeooooooo. I hope SDLP holds a weekend conference without any politics. Just eating, drinking, dancing, slabbering and shouting “yeeeeeeeeeeoooooooo”. Cos this is a good result and we need to celebrate.

Obviously a good result for nationalism. SDLP might have 12 seats and Sinn Féin 27 seats and while the all-Ireland People Before Profit is officially “other” it is effectively 40 seats.

This Blog attempts to both understand and explain nationalism. I may be a member of SDLP but I find the fault-lines between SDLP-Sinn Féin and SDLP-Alliance to be interesting.

A good day for Sinn Féin of course. They managed to spin Incompetence into a virtue and cash in on anger at DUP arrogance. DUP actually galvinised nationalism more than they galvinised unionism.

While acknowledging that SF were victims of intimidation in North Down, they can play a hard game themselves. Do they intimidate? Well….only when they have to do so.

I make no pretence to understand the Alliance Party. If you want to understand the Alliance Party, I can direct you to “Slugger O’Toole”. They had a good election. They held all eight seats.

UUP had a disaster. Had more votes than SDLP and due to the way their vote was distributed only ended up with ten seats. Mike Nesbit has always struck me as a flakey flip-flopper….electoral pacts with DUP in 2015 and proclaiming he will give his second preference votes to SDLP in 2017. Typically he has resigned and the most likelhy people to succeed him, Danny Kennedy and JoAnne Dobson lost their seats.

What is next for Nesbit? Resign from the Assembly and a co-option? Has he really contributed anything?

What next for UUP? I actually see a parallel with 1974/75. brian Faulkner left the Unionist Party to form a pro power-sharing party, UPNI….it got just five seats in the 1975 Convention Election.

I wont labour the parallel because I dont know enough about unionism.

The DUP. Well clearly a disaster. Losing seats….just 28 which when added to UUP (10), TUV (1) and Sugden means that unionism and nationalism have parity or almost parity. Will Alliance Party re-designate themselves as unionist?

Scandal and Arrogance brought down the DUP. A sense of Entitlement.

People might say there is a fault line between a religious DUP and a secular DUP. I think it is NOT about Arlene Foster ….it is about the legacy of Paisley and Robinson.

I am not really familiar with the unionist mindset. But in recent days, I have been thinking about the early 1970s. There has always been a religious dimension to unionism. But curiously a lot of very religious Protestants are not political in the truest sense of the world. They would see it as a choice between GOD and Mammon. My impression of the early 1970s is that such people had reservations about Ian Paisley involving himself too much in Politics.

Of course the Troubles politicised many religious people. But I think a lot of God-fearing folk would have been outraged at the behaviour of DUP since after the Paisley days. In their terms, they will see that Paisleyism ….the sense of Decency was betrayed.

In 2017, there is just too much Mammon and not enough GOD in DUP. Ironically the Media and the Bloggerati praised Robinson for moving towards “secularism”. Wrong again!

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40 Responses to A Big Yeeeeeeeeeooooo!

  1. hoboroad says:
    • Saw this earlier.
      I was still at school in 1969 and bought a red note book. I remember writing down all the results.
      Incredible but any second election this year will reverse it a little.
      Also have to say Alliance might claim to be “other” but are effectively unionist.

  2. Bernie says:

    I got Pat Catney at 10-1!!!
    Another yeeeooooo!

    • Vince says:

      You can use some of those considerable winnings to help keep open a constituency office in W Belfast!

      • The loss of an office will be a big loss.

      • Vince says:

        They have to find imaginative ways to keep that office open AND functioning. I can think of a few. Ditto in FST.

      • This is vital.
        Last year, the thing that worried me most about UPper Bann was the loss of the Lurgan office.
        When Tommy Gallagher lost Feranagh-South Tyrone, it was a big blow especially over such a wide area.
        SF have an office in Dungannon and can now run two more.
        Likewise three in Mid Ulster and three in West Tyrone….and can run a fourth if necessary with Westminster money.
        Certainly the Party needs to find a way to deal with this.

    • The drinks are on you!

  3. FJH,

    I take no great pleasure in saying it – but this election has probably signalled the loss of the SDLP seats in South Down and Foyle. From SF viewpoint their gain and possible gain in North Belfast could mean a really victory for absentionism (which is for me the best policy). This result simply reinforces the trend towards the consolidation of the % of the Nat vote that goes to SF.

    Bad day for the SDLP which the vagaries of the Stormo set up have simply disguised.

    • There IS that danger. But Id say that SF voters are less enthusiastic abouut Westminster and Some unionists will vote tactically.
      A real danger yes…but not overly worried.

  4. SDLP activist - North Down says:

    In terms of vote share we didn’t do all that well and actually UUP did better, while in terms of seats we did well and UUP did worse. So much for PR! There are some worries in terms of the SF/SDLP split in Foyle and South Down. So while I am pleased for the seats, I think its also worried about some other aspects. We need to win back West Belfast and FST.

    • I think in a First Past the Post election, there would be tactical voting. And harder for Sinn Féin as they dont go to Westminster.
      But yes it is a concern.
      I think what analysts (eg the fair and balanced team on Slugger O’Toole) need to do is stop looking at the next election before the dust has settled on the most recent election.
      Nearly every analysis I saw over the past month simply projected the 2016 figures on to 2017. I dont really see that as Politics…its Mathematics.
      As I pointed out in every profile, this time “Politics might happen” and this time, it did.
      So next elections..the background might well be different.

    • Vince says:

      I think we need to cover this in more detail but, briefly, there are reasons to be cheerful, gloomy, relieved & frustrated by the results. At one stage on Friday afternoon I thought they were down to 7 seats and it was pack-up time (the esteemed Nicholas Whyte was predicting a range of 6-10). I was for the estate agent and the boat. So 12 was fine following a near death experience (metaphorically), hence the relief.

      The frustration comes from FST (62 votes), Strangford (225 votes) and W Belfast (350 votes) where narrow losses could have have been reversed for the sake of 650 extra votes spread across 3 constituencies resulting in what would have been a remarkable score of 15 seats (simultaneously dropping the DUP and SF to 27 & 25 seats respectively).

      Reasons to be cheerful?
      In 11/18 constituencies the vote share went UP.
      Nichola Mallon – surely she must be Deputy Leader?
      Pat Catney – together with Nichola demonstrating beyond any doubt that hard work & dedication to the common good is a recipe for success.
      The party, as in W Tyrone in 2016, having the courage to take the right but difficult decision in E Derry and getting it over the line.
      U Bann – demonstrating that seats CAN be won back from SF.
      Colum Eastwood coming of age.
      Mark Durkan MP – I believe he will turn that around in a GE.

      Reasons to be gloomy?
      The amateurish approach to campaigning in certain areas – depressingly in places like S Belfast where the wrong candidate from the wrong area was selected (basic mistake). Where are the posters and billboards? People like Mallon & McCrossan get this right (perhaps because they are scrapping for their lives) – others sadly don’t.
      What is the approach to GOTV?
      Why are some people obsessed with the Irish Labour Party (with all that baggage incl workers with “Repeal the Eighth” Twitter labels) when getting assistance with campaigning?
      South Down – don’t understand what happened there although clearly Sinead Bradley may have had limited scope to campaign there and I think the Alliance candidate is an ex-SDLP member. Does look challenging for Margaret Ritchie in 2020.
      W Belfast – they need to identify a new effective flag bearer there asap. Losing representation there is an electoral tragedy and awful for the people of WB.
      FST – as for WB, unless Richie is considered a viable option for 2021/2022. Sharon McAleer?
      The army of workers that can be deployed by SF – this necessitates hard work on the ground by SDLP; working smarter; better fundraising, advertising and promotion; getting basic decisions right – candidate selection being key; a laser-like focus on the most important issue facing each of us – healthcare & the scandal of our creaking NHS.
      A lack of any obvious psephological expertise – key seats not being plastered with resources & key areas, potentially rich in voters, not being canvassed at all.

      Just a few initial, random thoughts.

      • I am still working thru some thoughts.
        But I will add another….SDLP need to utilise the talent available to them.
        For example ….off the top of my head….a blogger or group of bloggers.

      • I’ve long said Mallon should be ahead of Hanna (and Kelly) as Deputy Leader

      • Kevin …if you look at the Blog archive for 19th October 2016, “Next Deputy Leader of SDLP?”, I make this same point.
        I describe Claire as being more popular outside SDLP than in it. She connects well with the self-proclaimed “progressives” in South Belfast, PES in Europe and the Labour women in An Dáil. She walks a difficult line.
        NIchola connects better with SDLP rank and file.
        If I was to re-write that Blog from five months ago, I would now say that Claire is pretty much in charge of SDLP in South Belfast. In October I said that the McDonnell-MCKinney faction was still strong. But the South Belfast ticket was unbalanced in 2017.
        Id also add that Nichola is much loved within the Party and I think she had an excellent campaign and connected well beyond SDLP voters.
        Its almost certain the next Deputy Leader will be a woman and back in October, I thought that Nichola would win narrowly.
        I think she has pretty much consolidated her advantage.

  5. Turgon says:

    As ever an interesting read.

    Just a few comments on the religious thing. Sadly some religious Protestants seem to see religion and politics as the same but it is remarkably few. There are sadly more who seem to see business lies as not lies at all (or at least business cunning) and I think that is why we have ended up in the debacle of the RHI.

    There is also a large cohort of evangelical Christians who have views a long way from what nationalists expect re politics.

    Some decry any political involvement. Some refuse to vote (mainly Brethren). Some are politically liberal and vote Alliance. Some have even suggested that a united Ireland would be a good thing as it would assist in evangelising Roman Catholics.

    I have heard all these views and more in my years in evangelical circles.

    The median position is probably pro unionist and probably approximately DUP but a lot will have been pretty disgusted by what has happened. I have friends and family members who could not face voting this time due to the RHI scandal.

    • HI Turgon,

      Sammy here – long time no see. if you are okay with it can you ask FJH for my email and drop me a line?

    • Thank you.
      Sometimes I feel like a one-eyed man. I can see one community clearly and I can barely see the other community.
      There are vague recollections of 1960s protocols that I alluude to…the protocols of living in a “mixed” street. Oddly we were all proud of that.
      Then in the early 1970s such communities seperated as we sought the safety of the tribe.
      So we all worked in offices …naive first and then guarded…in that curious polite parallel world, where at 5pm we went back to our suburbs and villages.
      Seperate development or parallel universes.
      Less about safety and it became about comfort.
      I could avoid the discomfort of knowing there was even another community of other churhes, schools, clubs…
      It is like knowing that community minimised my sense of self and that if I ignored another community, it maximised my sense of self.
      Perhaps the one redeeming factor is that I never demonised any community. I always believed that people are people.

      I am not entirely comfortable with 2017. But I cant hold back “progress”

  6. FJH,

    The SDLP are now reliant on some ‘event’ to reverse the drift towards SF just as the UUP need another event (even bigger than the current scandal) to reverse the drift towards the DUP. Voters flock to the biggest tribe in times of uncertainty – which is basically what has been the scenario since the GFA.

    I can see no point in voting for the SDLP or the UUP – voters may as well vote for the Alliance party. The UUP and SDLP pre-election cosying sounded like a lukewarm Allinace Party political broadcast. If you want proper cross community cooperation vote for the people who specilise in it not those who are just dipping their toes in the water.

    • I take all these points. Perhaps the main role of the UUP and SDLP is to provide alternatives.

    • Vince says:

      The Alliance Party are sanctimonious way beyond their mandate, unionist, fiscally right-wing (Bradshaw/Parsley etc) and in some cases aggressively pro-abortion and opposed to Catholic education (although the latter 2 were somewhat toned down for this election). This combination is of little attraction to many SDLP/Catholic/Nationalist voters.

  7. Vince says:

    Fitz, agree with utilising talent pool – yes including bloggers like you. Critical friends with ideas and insights. Not just talking to small groups in an echo chamber – trendy friends with similar outlooks and little that challenges. They also need advice from those who know to campaign and ruthlessly examine those areas where campaigns are clearly failing. Where it is working they need to kick on looking for that extra % point to make a quota easier or get closer to 2. They also need to get input from sympathetic professionals in education, healthcare, business etc – if they can get them to run as candidates, all the better. It is deeply frustrating to see campaigns fall short due to simple mistakes and omissions – the point has long since been reached where it has to stop. There are no votes (or not enough) for just being nice and decent – which they are.

  8. Wolfe tone says:

    I tell you one thing, in my town the SDLP, it appears have given up enticing the working class, housing estate voter if you like. In fact their reps seemed to be more interested in visiting small businesses and canvassing the workers there. Yeah yeah I know they are working class too but when the shinners ‘go to the bother’ of rapping doors it reflects badly on the SDLP I.e snobbery.

  9. hoboroad says:

    A lot of car dealers and golf clubs from what I see. Just remember that the next time someone goes on about Social security claimants. It seems the middle class can milk the system just as well.

  10. hoboroad says:

    Antrim minus Belfast and half of County Down is all they would be left with if they tried it.

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