There has been a lot of media criticism of Sinn Féin’s cavalier approach to LockDown rules. Much time and energy has gone into lambasting SF over their behaviour at a recent funeral.
Some of our leading bloggers have been critical. I am not a leading blogger but I have also been critical.
I therefore welcome the decision of Ms Paula Bradshaw of Alliance Party (and formerly of the UUP and the “liberal” UCNCFUC or whatever) to cancel her family holiday in Italy. She intended to fly out next Saturday via Dublin.
She has quite rightly criticised the British government over various guidelines. But somehow I would have expected the Alliance Party spokesperson on Health to have a grip on the rules, particuarly as the rules apply in Norn Iron.
While all is well that ends well and Ms Bradshaw tells us that she could have been clearer in interviews, it is hardly a good look for Ms Bradshaw and her current party. As I criticised Sinn Féin, I think I have to admonish Ms Bradshaw. No doubt, other fair-minded blogs will be critical. Happily Ms Bradshaws hubby has a regular column on a well known local blog.
How this plays out in South Belfast at next Assembly election is interesting. Certainly after the 2019 local and European elections, Ms Bradshaw might have thought she was a safe bet to stay at Stormont, maybe even bring a running mate with her. Some people even talked about here as becoming the Westminster MP for the constituency.
Alas “the best laid plans” did not materialise.
To win, Bradshaw needed the support of other parties (the five Assembly seats are held by five parties) and she needed to convince enough voters that she could take the seat from the DUP. And she failed.
For all the talk of surges, Alliance did not have a great Westminster Election.
The pact between SDLP, Greens and Sinn Féin cooked the Alliance goose, not just in South Belfast but arguably in East Belfast.
There is of course no denying that the Alliance Party was/is on a roll. As UUP collapsed/collapses, it is increasingly the last resort of occasional liberal unionist (sic). And certainly any reasonable “Remainer”, nationalist or unionist in the eastern counties would have given Alliance a vote in December 2019.
But really there is little more to the Alliance “surge” than that.
SDLP took two Westminster seats and seems re-vitalised, even if victory papers over the cracks between socialists (Hanna) and nationalists (Eastwood). “Social Democrat” seems respectable again and Nichola Mallon seems a capable minister.
There are five parties representing the diverse five seat constituency of South Belfast. SDLP have one seat and there seems no risk in the Greens (one seat) and Sinn Féin (one seat) lending their votes to Claire Hanna.
But nobody should take the view as some commentators that Claire 57% vote share translates as THREE SDLP seats with one for Alliance and one DUP.
The votes will mostly return to the Greens and Sinn Féin. And while there is an outside chance SDLP could take two seats, I think it is unlikely. Ms Bradshaw might have considered herself a likely MP but she was actually humiliated in being the only Alliance candidate to lose vote share. Of course some of those went to Hanna as the candidate most likely to defeat the DUP.
But Ms Bradshaws poor performance and occasional faux pas must embolden her possible running mates in any future Assembly election.
Duncan Morrow is Alliance “royalty”, Emmet McDonough Brown and Kate Nicholl are on the rise. If tow Alliance candidates stand at the next Assembly election, only one will win…and I don’t think it would be Paula Bradshaw.
But it is not just about South Belfast.
North Down and East Belfast, SDLP, Greens and Sinn Féin stood aside in December, urging support for the leading Remainer (Alliance) and this rare act of being graceful to rivals and opponents was readily accepted by Alliance. It worked in North Down and did not work in East Belfast.
In North Belfast, SDLP and Greens stood aside for the leading Remainer (Sinn Féin) and it worked. Alliance did well but largely as a result of their core vote and those liberal unionists.
In North Belfast and South Belfast, their assertion that it was all about nationalism and unionism being equally untouchable does not stand up.
Still maybe I am too hostile to Alliance. I am sure other bloggers will tell us the right way of things.