Assembly Election 2022: East Belfast

East Belfast is a constituency that includes prosperous areas around Knock, Belmon and Stormont and working class Protestant areas such as Lower Newtownards Road, Castlereagh Road, Woodstock and estates such as Gilnahirk and Dundonald. There is a Catholic enclave at Short Strand and a smaller Catholic community at Ballyhackamore. The parish priest at Ballyhackamore was shot in 1974. Happily he survived and died just a few years ago.

I went thru the Newtownards Road on Monday last, stopping off to take photographs of election posters

Currently there are five MLAs…DUP (2), Alliance (1), UUP (1).

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.

East Belfast is usually considered safe DUP territory but Alliance have done well on occasions. Naomi Long actually defeated Peter Robinson. DUP Leader and took the Westminster seat in 2010. But the seat returned to DUP in 2015.

The quota for 2022 will be around 6,500. The most recent election was the Westminster Election of 2019. The Green Party, SDLP and Sinn Féin withdrew in favour of Naomi Long and UUP did stand which did not help DUP. She was widely tipped to win the seat but failed. On election day, I spent some time in Short Strand polling station where I was told that Long was not getting the Catholic votes that she took for granted. In part, it was a nationalist reaction to Alliance splitting the anti-Brexit vote in South Belfast and (especially) North Belfast.

Veteran DUP MLA has retired from Politics JoAnne Bunting is a current MLA and David Brooks is a newcomer at this level. As Gavin Robinson got over 20,000 votes in the last Westminster election, it is likely that the two DUP candidates will muster the required quotas between them. It will be a test to see the extent Brexit and the Protocol has damaged the electoral chances of DUP.

Chris Lyttle, elected in 2017 has also decided to retire from Politics.

Alliance “surge”? Well as Alliance are only fielding two candidates, they wont be making any gain in East Belfast. I would have expected them to field three. Why not? Well two is certainly a risk-free option. Or maybe Long expects to top the poll and get elected on the first count. And that little triumph would be undermined by “vote management” of three candidates.

While it is unlikely Alliance will hit 19,000 votes this time, there is enough votes to get two over the line. The SDLP and Green posters are evidence that Alliance are no longer the only “letsgetalongerists” in East Belfast.

As well as Chris Lyttle, a youngish and popular MLA standing down, they have lost a councillor who has defected to UUP.

Andy Allen seriously wounded by the Taliban in Afghanistan was elected for UUP in 2017. This time he has a running mate, Lauren Kerr. Much is made of the fact…not least by herself… that she is a woman, 30 years old and gay. Not the typical UUP member.

I think she has a chance. She should be transfer friendly. I did not see any Kerr posters on Newtownards Road. So she has been allocated a different part of the constituency.

John Kyle, previously of the PUP recently defected to UUP and his endorsement will help UUP. They have also gained a councillor who has defected from Alliance.

A lot of Bryan Smyth posters on Newtownards Road and he is in with a chance of a seat. He will certainly improve on the 2017 vote and is transfer friendly and likely to pick up eliminated votes from Sinn Féin and SDLP and probably Alliance transfers.

I would be surprised if John Ross (TUV) made a serious dent in the DUP vote.

A surprising number of People Before Profit…Putin Before People posters. I cant see many votes for PBP. They might present themselves as neutral on Irish unity but the perception is that there are nationalist.

Charlotte Carson. Surprising number of posters around North Road, Ballyhackamore and Holywood Arches. Some of her posters have been burned. I am of course partisan but I have never met her. She is impressively unafraid and one of a group of new candidates that bring (literally) something new to the Party. In Charlotte’s case it is Feminism, and standing up to Israeli tanks.

The SDLP vote has dipped to as low as 140 in recent Assembly elections. And I think that Charlotte’s first task is to increase SDLP votes here.

I have not seem any Mairead O’Donnell (Sinn Féin) posters but as yet, I have not been in Short Strand. Probably around 1,500 votes available to them.

Karl Bennett (PUP) will fall far short of the 2,500 plus that John Kyle (now with UUP) got in 2017. I do not understand why Doctor John Kyle, an excellent medical doctor who was concerned about his community got kudos from the media despite his association with PUP.

And Eoin MacNeill …well the Workers Party are always with us.

PREDICTIONS

None of course. But two things to look for …the people who style themselves as “progressive” have more than two quota and unionists/loyalists have more than two quotas so who takes the fifth seat.

Essentially the real interest here is the state of unionists/loyalists in the post-Brexit world. Do voters go for the traditional, nihilistic route of DUP, TUV, PUP or the pragmatic route of UUP (occasionally) or Alliance.

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6 Responses to Assembly Election 2022: East Belfast

  1. Derek says:

    Well written and insightful. I predict no change here.

  2. Vince says:

    This is an interesting one. Would expect AP, UUP & Green vote shares to increase, DUP to fall. AP should have 2 quotas – they will miss Chris Lyttle in the longer term but Peter McKeynolds is a likeable guy and will do OK.
    DUP will be short of 2 quotas – Brooks does not live in the constituency and that could have a small impact. The size of his house also suggests he is not exactly a “man of the people”. I think that the Greens will double their vote. If they can get ahead of the 2nd runner for UUP then this is where it could get tasty for the DUP. Smith will get every transfer going from SF, SDLP and WP together with some UUP2 and any small surplus from AP. Could take him v close to Brooks.

  3. Vince says:

    Apologies, have to make a correction. Was confusing David Brooks with David Graham, DUP Councillor in Balmoral. Brooks does live in Belfast East. Still, he is the runner vulnerable to a Green wave in the constituency.

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