I wrote on Tuesday about how the 2022 Assembly Election and the SDLP performance left me grief-stricken.
Time is a great healer so I am trying here to look at what actually happened.
First of all the facts. There are 90 sears at Stormont.
Sinn Féin took 27 seats (no change from 2017) with a slight upturn in percentage vote (29%). A nationalist party winning more seats than any other party is seismic.
DUP took 25 seats (a loss of 3 from 2017) and the vote share dropped 6.7% to 21.3%, almost 8% less than SF. They were actually lucky. They gained a lot of transfers from TUV.
Alliance took 17 seats (up from just 8 in 2017) and with a vote share of 13.5% (up 4.5%). Always a transfer-friendly party, their “seat share” is better than their “vote share”. Alliance hailed it as a break thru for the party.
Ulster Unionist Party -UUP took 9 seats (a loss of 1 from 2017). Vote share of 11.1% was down 1.7%.
SDLP took 8 seats (down from 12 in 2017) and the big losers. Vote share fell to 9.1% from 12%.
Independent Unionists took 2 seats…one close to the thinking of UUP and other close to the thinking of DUP.
TUV retained its single seat (party leader Jim Allister) but could not capitalise on increasing its vote share to 7.6%. Simply put the “traditional unionists can not pick up transfers and rather than eating into the DUP seats they actually helped DUP as TUV voters transferred to them.
People Before Profit -PBP held its only seat.
The Green Party lost both its seats.
The overall effect was that despite SF being the biggest party, the nationalist designated seats (SF and SDLP) fell from 39 to 35 and unionist designated seats fell from 40 to 37 and “Other” designated seats rose from 11 to 18.
But it was a strange election because it had no consequence. Whether motivated by Brexit Protocol (official) or unwillingness to see a Sinn Féin First Minister (more likely), the DUP did not allow the Assembly or Executive to be formed.
Had an Executive been formed, the First Minister would be from SF and Deputy First Minister from DUP and Alliance (neutral) would get the Justice portfolio.
The other seven Executive seats would go to SF (2), DUP (2), Alliance (1) UUP (1). SDLP would be entitled to 1 seat but as they had signalled they wanted no part in the Executive, it would have gone to SF.
From a nationalist/republican perspective, a 10 seat Executive where SF has 4 seats, DUP 3, Alliance 2 and UUP 1 looks kinda ok.
From an Alliance perspective taking two Executive seats from 17 MLAs is really no improvement on their two Executive seats from 8 MLAs. They do of course have staff in constituency offices but really thats no substitute for wielding the kinda power they thought they would have for five years.
The Assembly elected in May 2022 is now eight months into its mandate. Will it ever actually sit? Will an Executive be formed?…the condition seems to be a Brexit Protocol deal acceptable to DUP. Will the Secretary of State call for a new election and if thats the case then the results will not be the same as in May 2022.
The fact is that the results of the 2022 Election are null and void…unless of course there is a “Protocol Agreement”. This means that Alliance’s greatest triumph could actually mean that they are at their most impotent.
Alliance…all dressed up and nowhere to go.
But what has this to do with the 1993 Grand National?
Well if you are old enough to recall, this is the Grand National that never actually happened.
Around 40 horses went to the line at Aintree. And they started. It was a false start. Some of the jockeys realised right away and others ran up to the first fence and turned back.
And they started again. Another false start but nine horses were left at the starting line. The others jumped the first fence. And despite frantic efforts by officials, the horses and jockeys ran on. Some thought that the officials waving and signalling to them were actually animal rights activists (the Grand National being a very dangerous race for horses). And they jumped for two miles and most started the second circuit.
Commentators were calling it the race that never was.
And seven horses and riders actually finished the four and a half miles around Aintree. The “winner” was outsider Esha Ness and the winning rider was John White, a jobbing jockey having his eighth ride in the big race.
But the real point is that the 1993 Grand National never actually happened.
Do you think there will be a new election for the Assembly? I think the DUP will not state that they support the Windsor Agreement but nevertheless will seek to “bank” the changes in it. They have a message to the electorate: our pressure improved the agreement and to keep the pressure up we need Stormont now in order to use the Stormont Brake. So they will probably think this is a good message and seek a fresh election.
The five main parties will look on an election as being better or worse than last time.
Simply put, if they think they will gain seats they will back it.
DUP have had almost a year of keeping SF out of office. And interestingly their seat numbers are higher than percentage vote.
Its hard to see where DUP extra seats come from…they benefitted from TUV transfers to get last years total.
Likewise SF know an increased SDLP vote nibbles away at their majority.
It might be a one-issue election…First Minister.
In those circumstances better if Stormont falls.