South Belfast is a constituency comprising areas like affluent Malone, Lisburn Road, the Queens Universityarea and the Holylands bedsit land. It also includes Ormeau, Donegall Pass and Sandy Row and suburban Carryduff. It also includes the City Hospital, Musgrave Park Hospital and the health service administration at Purdysburn
Currently there are five MLAs…SDLP (1), DUP (1) Alliance (1) Sinn Féin (1), Green (1).
Previous to 2017 when it was a six seat constituency, the sixth seat was held by SDLP. The five seats are held by five different parties.
The spreadsheet shows Assembly 2017 and Westminster 2019 results. For the benefit of folks in USA, it is important to understand that Assembly is decided in eighteen constituencies where having a quota of votes is required to win one of five seats. And Westminster is decided on a simple “first past the post” vote. I also include the runners and riders for 2022.
The quota for 2022. Probably 7,000 votes is as good a figure as any. So on the face of it Claire Hanna’s thumping 27,000 votes in 2019 could be three quotas. Of course this massive vote includes votes that would normally go to Sinn Féin and the Green Party. This was a result of the anti-Brexit pact with those parties. In a “first past the post” election Claire would probably have won, on SDLP being the best placed to take the seat from DUP. Old fashioned tactical voting.
For 2022, SDLP is fielding two candidates, Matthew O’Toole who was co-opted to replace Claire Hanna in the Assembly and Elsie Trainor, a newcomer. By all accounts Matthew who I have never met has been very impressive at Stormont. Elsie, who I have met hit the headlines earlier in the week when she tackled two thugs who were removing her election posters.
To some extent, Claire Hanna is a very visible presence in the election campaign. Likewise the team of councillors. What is the extent of SDLP strength in South Belfast? Well it is better than 8,300 votes in 2017 and way below 27,000 in 2019. So almost impossible to arrive at a figure that is somewhere between a core vote and a “soft” tactical vote.
I think SDLP will top the poll. Probably in excess of 10,500 votes. The thing to note is that there are only two constituencies where SDLP believe they can take a second seat. This is one of them. Elsie is not the “sweeper”. I think she has a reasonable chance.
Alliance is the only other party to field two candidates. Paula Bradshaw is a MLA. Running mate, Kate Nicholl is the current Lord Mayor of Belfast and has been an Alliance staffer for some time.
Ms Bradshaw contested South Belfast for the Conservative/Unionist Party at the Westminster General Election. She joined Alliance in 2010. Husband Ian Parsley contested 2009 European Election for Alliance, then joined UUP/Tories and then rejoined Alliance.
Again the question is what is the real strength of Alliance.
In early 2009, the Alliance “surge” led to some hope with Alliance hype that they would take the Westminster seat.
It would take a heart of stone not to rejoice that the best laid plans were foiled. It would appear that some who voted for Alliance in 2017 did not do so in 2019. So the core vote is much less than they think. Where do tactical votes go?
I have always said that lending votes to another party is a bad idea. They never really return at least not all of them do.
So Alliance strength is probably only a little higher than in 2017. Probably no higher than 9,000 and probably short of two quotas, even with transfers.
But will Nicholl outvote Bradshaw?
Deirdre Hargey was co-opted to Stormont when Máirtín O’Muilleoir resigned. Already the Minister for Communities. Sinn Féin will not lose votes thru supporting Claire Hanna in 2019. She is safe.
Also a co-option to replace the much respector Christopher Stalford who died three months ago. Poots had stood down in Lagan Valley to facilitate “Sir” Jeffrey Donaldson.
Yet it is a strange case. Poots had briefly succeeded Arlene Foster as Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party. And really when DUP decide you are “yesterday’s man”, there is not much to be said. But strange also as Farmer Poots seems a bad fit for the dazzling metropolitans and cosmopolitans of South Belfast.
DUP SHOULD be punished for Brexit. But will their stupidity actually rally the traditional loyalist voters in Donegall Pass and the “Village”?
Unlike Sinn Féin who will not suffer from lending votes to SDLP, Clare Bailey is not safe. The dilemna for SDLP is how hard they go after the Greens. Do they owe Clare Bailey anything? The dilemna for the Greens is that all the parties (except DUP of course) have got green policies that are not seen as “extreme” by ordinary families.
Stephen McCarthy is a UUP “moderniser”. It is a relative term of course but he is committed to the Doug Beattie slogan of “Union of People”. UUP does not have a MLA in South Belfast but the combination of Brexit miscalculation, Poots being parachuted into the constituency and simply being a better fit for South Belfast makes it possible if not very probable that McCarthy could take the unionist/loyalist seat.
Sipho Sibanda is likely to improve on the 2017 Assembly vote for People Before Profit. But the jibe that PBP is tone deaf over the Ukraine War…or “Putin Before People” will harm the party. As always it is their transfers that can make a difference and they will go to the left, Sinn Féin (who may not need them) and SDLP (the second candidate will need them).
Even in the Brexit Election (Westminster 2019) and the Hanna (SDLP) landslide, the Aontú candidate got 550 votes and maybe up to 1,000 votes this time for Luke McCann. Much is made of Aontú’s almost single issue (Pro-Life, anti-Abortion) policy putting them in common cause with the DUP. But there is nothing in DUP history that shows any life-enhancing feeling towards Catholics (equal housing, equal jobs) and it is easily overlooked that Aontú is pro Irish language and pro-Irish unity.
Sinn Féin will not need Aontú tansfers. SDLP might. And Clare Bailey, perhaps the most vocal of Pro-Choice activists in Norn Iron will get nothing.
I find it intriguing that Aontú, pretty much a “Catholic” party …helps or hinders SDLP and Sinn Féin. On the plus side, the transfers have to go somewhere. On the negative side, they can siphon off first transfers.
Neil Moore (Socialist). Not much to say except it is South Belfast and there has to be a youthful “socialist”.
In fact, it might even be a legal requirement to have two socialists. Paddy Lynn, Workers Party is also on the ballot paper.
And Elly Odihambo is an Independent.
No sign of any TUV posters on my two trips to South Belfast but I cannot see Andrew Girvin making an impression except taking votes from Poots (DUP) which might filter back to DUP after Girvins elimination.