Local Elections 2019

This was a more interesting election than most. And with a lot of aspects, it is to be expected that there will be a lot of “Spinning”. I will “spin” it my way over a series of posts here.

The Alliance Party and the Green Party (and their allies on Slugger O’Toole) are doing most of the “spinning”. I cant blame them. They have the most to “spin” into the single narrative they want…especially ahead of the European Elections.

So let the “Spinning” begin here.

There are eleven district councils in Norn Iron and they are made up of 80 District Electoral Areas. Ten are in Belfast and the other ten councils have seven DEAs. In a sense, each DEA has its own story from last Thursday. Local Elections have local factors but there are common threads.

So the first observation is that of the five main parties…and it sickens me to admit that Alliance is now the fifth “main” party, none actually stood in all DEAs.

The breakdown (from my back of an envelope analysis) is that it was:

DUP 76….UUP 75….Alliance 71….Sinn Féin 65….SDLP 61.

My regular readers will know that I believe passionately that any serious political party needs to stand in all areas. Political parties owe it to the voters to at least present a case. It is disrespectful to the few DUP votes in Foyleside DEA that the DUP did not stand. It is disrespectful to the few UUP voters in Black Mountain DEA that UUP did not stand.

There will be some people in Erne West DEA who wanted the opportunity to vote Alliance and either stayed at home or voted SDLP as an alternative.

There will be a handful people in Newtownards DEA who wanted to vote Sinn Féin and stayed at home or voted Alliance or Green. There will be a few people in Ballyclare DEA who would have liked to vote SDLP but abstained or voted Alliance.

Its not “swings and roundabouts”. It does SDLP no credit that around Belfast Lough from Larne to Carrickfergus to East Belfast to Holywood to Bangor to Donaghadee, potential voters were ignored. The same can mostly be said of Sinn Féin although they did stand in East Belfast but left most of East Antrim, North Down, North Antrim and Lagan Valley alone.

I am of course mostly interested in how this affects SDLP but the party of “one man (and woman)  one vote” would have scored a higher percentage if they had stood in more than three quarters of the District Electoral Areas.

Indeed on 10th March 2012, I was at the Wellington Park Hotel and heard Alasdair McDonnell talk about this “horse-shoe” and the need for SDLP to get into these areas. He made a reasonable start by appointing young enthusiastic as “representatives” for certain DEAs. But really there was no follow thru. The youngsters got bored and were maybe not big fans of Alasdair.

Now I understand that SDLP has no money to “waste” on hopeless campaigns. And I understand that it is not easy to find a man or woman in Carrickfergus or Donaghadee to come out as SDLP (or Sinn Féin) and harder still to find ten people to break cover and sign nomination papers but the practice of just allowing “middle ground” parties like the Alliance Party to get votes by default is sickening.

For the record, the minor parties participation was TUV (28 DEAs),  Green (26), Aontú (16) and People Before Profit (12). Even more minor parties like PUP, Workers (sic) Party, UKIP etc, I never counted (not enough space on the back of the envelope).

Now this DOES play into the hands of Alliance for their “Euro” campaign. There are three seats in Norn Iron and DUP and SF will take one seat each. With degrees of reasonableness, UUP, SDLP and Alliance can all make a claim as best placed to take the third seat. Between now and the election date, I will try and analyse this.

But in relation to Alliance, there are three headlines….they are just 0.5% behind SDLP on first preference votes in last weeks election. But they stood in ten more DEAs than SDLP. But Alliance took votes off unionists rather more than from nationalists and nationalists seem to have lost more to Greens/PBP and “independent” nationalists.

The Euro election is of course one single constituency so our Alliance supporter in Garrison, County Fermanagh WILL see posters for Naomi Long , the SDLP supporter in Ballyclare, County Antrim  will receive a mail shot from Colum Eastwood  and the Sinn Féin supporter in Newtownards, County Down can see Martina Anderson on his/her ballot paper.


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26 Responses to Local Elections 2019

  1. Vince says:

    Very relevant John. Probably more comment to follow but one small point is that the SDLP left behind 1800 votes from 5 DEAs that it contested in 2014 and did not contest in 2019 – Braid, Ballymoney, Coast Road, Bangor West, Holywood and Clandeboye, Titanic, Ormiston. There are really no excuses for not contesting all but the last 2 of these.

    • I agree totally.
      This post is really the first in a series as there are different aspects to the Election. For me an election begins when the Electoral Office publishes the runners and riders and the people who nominate them. It is a goldmine of information to political nerds like myself.

  2. michael c says:

    Me and you often disagree but maybe you’ll join me in celebrating the fact that the”workers sic party” managed a total of just over 900 votes in total for the whole North.This 900 was”achieved” by standing 7 candidates

  3. michael c says:

    Maloney accurately described them as “the biggest lie in the history of Irish politics”.

  4. zig70 says:

    I had no one to vote for in three mile water. So pub it was. Euros will be interesting. Great to see the political spectrum filling out.

    • Exactly. SDLP only stood (and won) in Ballymena. SF to their credit stood in four and had (I think) one victory. But why should it be made easy for Alliance (no friends of nationalism)

  5. michael c says:

    I seem to recall a few years ago that SF escorted voters from a loyalist area to vote in a polling station in the falls.They were getting no votes out of it but ensured others weren’t deprived from voting.

    • And yet Ive seen 40 plus Sinn Féin election workers at St Theresas on the Glen Road in Belfast. And around 25 with a gazebo at Oliver Plunkett on Glen Road. In fairness only a handful at Slate Street, Holy Child and at Clonard Hall. Do you think there should be a limit on election workers at polling stations. Can it seem like intimidation?
      Two anecdotes circa 1974 (same election) I was at a polling station in Sandy Row when an Orange band walked in and read their names (some could barely read) from their polling cards. I decided not to challenge them.
      But later that night, with 15 minutes to close of polls at a school on the Falls Road, the unionist agent shouted “that woman is personating” personating” and several women ran out.
      Im sure we all disapprove of any abuse of the electoral system.
      You should maybe ask some older folks about the time some gunmen burst into St Aidens School, Whiterock and fired shots. Again about 15 minutes before polls closed. We utterly condemn it …don’t we?

  6. michael c says:

    Fitt was the best at personating.

  7. Political Tourist says:

    Thanks for that, Admin.
    Looking at the stats for 1973 compared to 2019.
    Candidates with a Unionist banner in 1973 got 297 council seats.
    Today in 2019 the Unionist bannerettes got 203.
    Unionism has quietly lost seats here and there at every council election since 1973.
    Be interesting to see what the future holds.

    • For me, the interesting thing is votes cast. Back in 1973 locals, Alliance outvoted SDLP by 2,000 votes (95,000 to 93,000) so Alliance are still a long way short of that figure.

  8. SDLP activist - North Down says:

    SDLP performance in the Ards North Down area was good where we did stand:

    Joe Boyle (SDLP) 1621
    Murdoch McKibbin (SF) 196

    SDLP did not stand in Bangor West this time but did last time; SF stood this time not last time.
    Kieran Maxwell only got 71 votes in Bangor West this time , compared to SDLP 264 votes last time.

    SDLP should have stood in Hollywood – got 308 votes there last time, could win there with a bit of door knocking.

    • I wonder if Mr and Mrs Logan are still involved. A few years ago there was a guy called Woollley or Woodley who was English. I recall finding some posters to photograph at a roundabout in Bangor West.
      There was a guy called Peter Lismore in Helens Bay or Holywood. I think he had workef in EU and was maybe on the party Executive. A guy calld Gareth Brown stood for the Party at Assembly. Also Caoimhe McNeill who is from my part of the world. I cant recall which elections these folks stood in as I am on a train between Longford and Carrick on Shannon and dont have my spreadsheets available.
      Joe Boyle of course did well but overall.leavong the field to the Greens and Alliance is not good.

      • SDLP activist - North Down says:

        Tom Woolley is a nice guy and a member until this year but but has now left the SDLP because of the FF link.

  9. Political Tourist says:

    Let’s be honest, you’d be a brave man or woman plus the 10 signatures that go with it to go public in places like Bangor. I’ve had a look around that neck of the woods. Happily vote for them in the privacy of the polling booth but it’s very much eyes and ears open, mouth shut country.

    • True…but in part its a legacy issue. SF imported an Assembly candidate and on occasions SDLP have done that. But the signatures is the tricky one….as far as I know they have to live in the constituency.
      I am open to correction here but I think a council candidate has to live in the council area but the signatures have to be from the DEA.
      But I say “legacy issue” because theres a long tradition of people keeping their heads down or “croppies lie down” in some parts of Norn Iron.
      To be blunt, there are Catholic parishes all over and I think I am right in saying that there is one parish (two churches) within Bangor and there is a church (probably part of Bangor) in Donaghadee.
      And there are Catholic schools in Bangor and Donaghadee.
      Now I can accept that there are class issues or migrant issues (Poles and Portuguese might not be motivated) and families that are “mixed” but I don’t think that Catholics going to Mass in Ballyhackamore on the Upper Newtownards Road are that different from Catholics around Short Strand.
      Likewise in Newtownards, Comber, Broughshane, Bushmills, Holywood.
      But during the Troubles it was a safe option to give the impression of being an Alliance supporter. In my day we didn’t have water coolers in an office but in any office I ever worked 87.93% of people voted Alliance.
      From the earliest days, Alliance was “allowed” to get its feet under the table in these parishes….I find myself using the word “parish” because my late father would often talk in those terms.
      And once settled, it was harder to challenge Alliance and in fairness, it probably becomes a way of life, especially if Alliance councillor is doing a good job.
      But it does give an Alliance or increasingly Green candidate an advantage in a “no go area” for nationalists.
      He/she has a guaranteed bloc that is maybe half a quota, either by conviction or best available option.
      Alliance is effectively a coalition of three kinda voters….liberal unionists, genuine letsgetalongerists and nationalists who have no nationalist standing.
      It inflates their percentages in local, Assembly and Westminster elections and normally wouldn’t help in Euros, except that Naomi Long aided and abetted by the media and Slugger O’Toole might have momentum.
      It is maybe safe for ten signatures as presumably they wouldn’t sign if they thought they or family were in danger. But it does draw attention to their fellow parishioners (again I apologise for using that word) in a dangerous neighbourhood. They might not thank the “ten” for drawing attention to them.

  10. SDLP activist - North Down says:

    The problem is mostly one of getting people to stand in a seat that is, by past history, a long shot at best.

    • Its a hobby horse of mine. I fully believe that all political parties should stand everywhere. Its a fundamental right that voters have choice.
      There are ways to make it easier.
      If it was allowed that people outside a constituency or council area could stand, then Id happily go forward for SDLP in North Down, East Belfast wherever. Id be under no threat really.
      Reciprocal arrangements….if TUV or even the dreaded Alliance wanted to stand in “hostile territory” Id happily sign nomination papers if I could.
      Alternatively an ad hoc group of activists who like myself believe in this could arrange to do so.
      It would remove the link between nominating and voting for the Party. Id happily sign an Alliance nomination but Hell wil freeze over before I vote Alliance.
      Well nobody wants to be abused verbally or physically. If I was a paper candidate in Bangor, I would not canvas. I would simply take out half page adverts in the local paper (is it the Spectator) and say……”look Im standing for SDLP. You probably wont vote for me. I only want to give you a choice and I hope you exercise the choice for Somebody. I wont knock your door or solicit your vote or pester you in the street. I wont even put a poster up. All I want to do is give you a choice. Here is a summary of what I believe….””
      And I might even get more votes that way.

      • Vince says:

        Council and Assembly candidates can reside outside the DEA/constituency represented – examples are Paula Bradshaw/Geraldine McAteer/Mairtin O’Muilleoir in South Belfast/Balmoral.

      • but the signatures have to come from inside the constituency/DEA?

  11. Political Tourist says:

    Have the Unionists made a serious mistake buying into the Super Councils? Places that seemed as safe as houses look somewhat fragile. Unionism couldn’t afford to say lose another say 25/30 councillors in the heartlands. Are we finally seeing the demographics kicking in?

    • The demographics wont kick in for a while. I have always seen the demographics as the night they drove old dixie down. USSR simply imploded. Apartheid. The Berlin Wall. All there one minute and gone the next. When Norn Iron implodes, likewise it wont be a bang. It will just be a whimper.
      It wont happen for a while.
      We might be in a transition phase. UUP will collapse first and will be eaten up by DUP on one side and Alliance on the other.
      Alliance is a coalition as all parties are but the influx of pragmatic unionists, careerists into a party that is already “liberal unionist” and genuine letsgetalongerists of the old (churchy-corrymeela) school and secular new generation “progressives”….under pressure from greens and nationalists, there will be tensions.
      I see it as a crisis for unionism and certainly a period of chaos but hopefully free of violence.
      The atmosphere has changed totally.

  12. Political Tourist says:

    What kind of demographic change has took place in Castlereagh South DEA?
    Could understand the Alliance.
    Green Party easy enough
    SDLP interesting
    Provos!!! what seriously, i’d to look to make sure i was on the correct page.
    5 out of 7 council seats went to non Unionists.
    I’m reading this right, this South/East Greater Belfast correct? Taking a guess this is suburbia?

    • It is suburbia. And in part South and East Belfast constituency.
      But also part in Strangford.
      This is basically Carryduff, Knockbracken, Galwally. A lot of health workers.

      The quick analysis is that about 1,000 more people voted than in 2014. That increased the quota from 1,000plus to 1,100 plus.
      There was some local difficulty. The two Alliance councillors elected in 2014 left the party. One stood as an Independent and the other (a member of the Indian community stood for DUP.
      The votes are actually more interesting than percentages.
      Alliance got 2800 plus (up by about 1,000).
      The Independent ex Allance got around 300 which is part of gene pool Alliance)
      SDLP got 1,400 plus (down by about 400)
      SF got 1,050 plus (up about 250)
      So if Alliance had run three candidates they would have taken another seat…
      SDLP and SF were over or close to the quota.
      So basically SF took a SDLP seat.

      On the other side
      DUP got 2000 plus (up 200) but it was very unbalanced as their winning candidate outperformed his two (a mistake) running mates.
      UUP got 650 (down by 300)
      TUV 150 (down 400)
      Unionism had close to three quotas but just didn’t get the transfers and the UUP candidate was helped by the early elimination of two DUP runners and AP transfers
      The Green was on 650 votes…very shy of a quota but Alliance and SDP votes got him there.
      DUP a bit unlucky here. (it could have been two) Alliance could have picked up three.
      Green and UUP very lucky,

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