Lagan Valley is a constituency centred on Lisburn and including Belfast suburb of Dunmurry, the relatively upmarket towns of Hillsborough and and Moira and rural areas at Dromore and Dromara.
Currently there are five MLAs…DUP (2) UUP (1) Alliance (1) SDLP(1). The Alliance member left the Party to become Independent.
It is a Westminster constituency where unionist votes are weighed rather than counted. But recently unionist infighting and the rise of Alliance has added an element of chaos.
I travelled by train to Lisburn.
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 might be high at over 7,500.
As always the problem is untangling the real strength of a party from the unique circumstances of the tactical voting of 2019 Brexit Election.
The DUP have two big hitters here. Jeffrey Donaldson is Party Leader and the current MP for Lagan Valley. Paul Givan was briefly First Minister in the Norn Iron Executive.
It can be expected that DUP will take a hit over Brexit, Protocol and general incompetence. The 2017 and 2019 votes cast are not very different. and probably enough for two quotas.
Givan has been allocated Lisburn City and Donaldson has been allocated (among other places) Moira.
Donaldson has been climbing the slippery pole of loyal Order and unionist politics for decades. Bag-carrier for Enoch Powell in South Down, he moved to Lagan Valley to do much the same for Jim Molyneux. He was then UUP of course but switched to DUP after the Good Friday Agreement. Already a “Sir” , he will in due course become a “Lord”. I expect he will just love that.
But now he has a job to do…saving the DUP. And possibly even saving Norn Iron.
With over 11,000 votes cast for UUP in 2017 and just over 8,500 votes cast for UUP (Robbie Butler) in 2019, the true position in terms of UUP core votes is probably around 10,000.
UUP were effectively squeezed in 2019. Some voters may have decided to shore up the unionist vote and others may have decided that the best way to unseat Jeffrey Donaldson was to vote Alliance.
Laura Turner posters are in Lisburn.
Trevor Lunn (now 75) an Alliance veteran who held his seat in 2017. Since then he has left the Party to be an Independent. He is standing down at this election. It appears that the party hierarchy and local party members were in indecent haste to have him resign and be replaced by a co-option.
Trevor Lunn was over 1,000 votes below quota.
In 2019 Sorcha Eastwood’s vote suggests that Alliance are on course for two quotas. But is it so clear cut? Her 2019 is inflated by tactical voting.
Sorcha Eastwood has been acting that she is already a MLA and that the election on 5th May is just a formality. She is probably right.
But with two likely DUP seats and one likely UUP seat, then David Honeyford has to target the sole SDLP seat of Pat Catney.
SDLP taking a seat in Lagan Valley in 2017 was a major surprise. As I recall I put a bet on Pat Catney to win a seat. It was touch and go with transfers playing a major part. It will be harder this tim with two Alliance candidates and just two from DUP. But I hope that Pat’s record as a MLA will be crucial. He sponsored the Period Products Bill and that is bound to help.
There are probably 2,000 votes available to Lorna Smyth (TUV). But they are really only transfer fodder for DUP.
Gary Hynds is standing as an Independent, having stood as a Tory at Westminster 2019.
Gary McCleave (Sinn Féin) stood in 2019 and got just over 1,000 votes. This was a big drop from 1,800 for Sinn Féin in 2017. There is little interest in Westminster politics for nationalists in Lagan Valley but undoubtedly some tactical voting for Sorcha Eastwood. A chunk of his transfers might help Pat Catney.
Simon (Si) Lee is unlikely to make an impression except in terms of transfers to SDLP and Alliance.
Amanda Doherty (People Before Profit) is in the same position. Her second preference vote will be more important than the first preferences.