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.