If’s, But’s and Maybe’s


Good afternoon .

It’s been an interesting day. From Theresa May telling blatant, demonstrable lies in Westminster regarding the legacy inquiries to , eh, Jim Wells being suspended by the DUP.

It is this latter issue I wish to comment upon.

Wood PelletsJim has had the DUP whip withdrawn as a result of an internal DUP issue. A first fallout of the RHI scandal as I would see it.

This is an internal DUP disciplinary issue of course. Others outside that party are already forming their views based upon the evidence so far and, of course, the findings of the official enquiry when they are arrived at.

The action against Jim Wells has a singular decisive effect though.

It puts Sinn Féin and the DUP at level pegging on 27 seats each at Assembly level.

This raises the question as to who would be elected as First Minister if the Assembly were to reconvene.

The rules are actually quite clear:

Following the St Andrews Agreement in October 2006, this procedure is:

  • a First Minister nominated by the largest party of the largest designation
  • a deputy First Minister nominated by the largest party of the second largest designation.

The results in 2017 were SF 27, DUP 28, UUP 10, SDLP 12, TUV 1 PBP 2, All 8, Greens 2, Others (Claire Sugden) 1.

That’s a lead of precisely one for unionism. (DUP/ UUP/TUV and Claire)

What has changed now with the removal of Jim? Everything.

In other words a dead heat in seats between designated Nationalists and Unionists.

So who decides the First Minister position now? The electorate of course.

In the circumstances of an equal number of MLA’s elected for the two main designations, the party with biggest vote at the Assembly Election would be the party who can nominate first for the post of First Minister.

That, of course, would have been the DUP at the last election (225,413 vs SF 224,225)

 

But the bould Jim polled 7,786 leaving SF (Hypothetically speaking) as the largest party and Michelle O’Neill as our new (Hypothetical) First Minister.

 

 

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Managing Decline – the Lucid Talk poll- Feb 2018


Lucid Talk today released the first findings of their February 2018 tracking poll.

I thought it worth doing a quick blog on these findings as they reveal some very interesting facts.

Below are two of the charts published by Lucid Talk, the first is an age grouping breakdown:

Lucid Talk poll Feb 2018

The second graphic shows us the overall effect of the above and a comparison with results in September 2017:

Lucid Talk Poll Feb 18-2This is fascinating stuff, In the first graphic we can see that SF have a lead of 9.5% over the DUP in the under 44 category and Nationalist parties (SF & SDLP) have a full 10% lead over the main unionist parties (UUP and DUP).

In the older age cohort the figures are a lead of 10.2% for DUP over SF and 13.7 for Unionism (35.3% vs 49%)

This is massive electoral change coming down the line for political unionism and it’s a one way direction of travel.

Turning our attention to the second graphic which combines the results to give us a prediction as to voting intentions and the changes over a six month period the figures are equally startling.

There is a swing from DUP to SF of 3.1%, in the context of politics here, that is significant.  I am sure the drop in support for the DUP will be much speculated upon over the coming days.

Using the above figures, the total Unionist vote (DUP/UUP/TUV and PUP) translates into 46.6%, well short of a majority. The total Nationalist vote (SF/ SDLP/ PBP) is 42.7%.

A swing to nationalist parties of 0.6% since September.

How this would translate into actual seats of course depends on the geographic spread of the votes and how motivated voters are in an actual election.

This poll demonstrates the continuing trends established in last years elections and the potential growth of the nationalist parties in the years ahead. For political unionism, while they continue to beat their tribal drums and resort to the dog whistling of the past, they are faced only with decline.

As events of the past two weeks demonstrate, Unionism keeps repeating the mistakes of it’s past. Walking out of the talks process was a colossal strategic error, lying about the circumstances in which that happened compounded that error and failure to have any idea about what to do next exposes their lack of vision and planning for the future.

The failure to be honest with their electorate is why their base was so woefully unprepared for the deal on restoration of Stormont. The above poll demonstrates that they are now managing the decline of unionism. Denial will only increase the shock to unionist voters as this process rolls out in the years ahead.

Like their allies in the Brexiteer brigade, they may have acted in haste but will have plenty of time to repent at leisure.

This is only going one way.

 

Faha: Why the Boundary review needs to be challenged


The Boundary Commission released their revised recommendations this week for the new 17 Northern Ireland constituencies.

I will analyze the changes and how they will affect the Westminster and Assembly elections that are currently scheduled for 2022. First I wish to give some background on the Boundary Review. The current UK Boundary Review was begun in March 2016 and was based on the December 2015 Parliamentary electoral register. The number of seats in Westminster is to be reduced from 650 to 600 with Northern Ireland dropping from 18 to 17. The revised proposals have already been released for England, Scotland and Wales. As it currently stands this review is unlikely to pass in Westminster.New Boundary Commission Map

There have been several reports from the Conservative Party that the estimated 15 Conservative MP’s who would lose their seats will vote against the proposals. There are others who will have radical changes to their constituencies. It only will take 5 defections for the Review to fail. It appears there may be new legislation to redo the Review but with 650 seats. This will not affect Northern Ireland since the proposals released this week are likely to be very close to the final proposals. If it is redone with 650 seats Northern Ireland will still only have 17 seats. The reason for this is that a new review would be based on the 2018 electoral register. The Northern Ireland December 2015 register was 1,243,369 voters and the January 2018 register is 1,242,444 voters. That is a decline of 955 voters in 2 years.

The total UK register was 44,722,000 in December 2015 and increased to 46,800,000 at the time of the June 2017 Westminster election. It is now over 47,000,000. Since the Northern Ireland register has declined while the total UK register has increased by 2.5 million, Northern Ireland is currently entitled to 17.1 seats with a 650 seat Parliament. So Northern Ireland will have 17 seats if the current review passes and 17 seats if it is redone with a new review. One commentator noted in 2016 that if the current review had been based on the March 2016 register (when the Review actually began) Northern Ireland would have had only 16 seats. It barely qualified for 17 seats in the current Review.

I will analyze each constituency and project any changes for the 2017 Westminster and Assembly elections based on those changes. I will begin with the southern and western constituencies as these have minor changes.

South Down

There were only a few minor ward changes on the edge of the constituency.

Catholic       Protestant         Other         None

Current                      69.26%             26.85%         0.52%         3.36%

New                            68.66%             27.53%         0.52%         3.29%

The Catholic population will be only 0.6% lower. The Westminster election would still be a SF MP and the Assembly would be 2 SF, 2 SDLP and 1 DUP.

Newry and Armagh

The heavily unionist wards of Laurelvale and Tandragee were transferred to Upper Bann.

Catholic        Protestant         Other          None

Current                       66.36%            30.59%            0.55%         2.55%

New                             69.43%            27.69%            0.54%         2.35%

There would be a 3% increase in the nationalist vote with a SF MP and 3 SF, 1 SDLP and 1 DUP in the Assembly.

Upper Bann

Laurelvale and Tandragee wards were added to the constituency and the Banbridge town wards were transferred to the new Mid Down.

Catholic        Protestant         Other          None

Current                         44.00%            49.99%             0.88%         5.14%

New                               43.72%            50.30%             0.92%         5.06%

Minimal demographic changes. The Banbridge wards that were removed have a UUP vote that was much higher than the DUP vote in 2014 council election. The SDLP vote is also slightly higher than the SF vote. The DUP will have an even larger plurality in the Westminster election. The Assembly would still be 2 DUP, 1 UUP, 1 SF and 1 SDLP. The SDLP will benefit from the large excess of available transfers from unionist parties.

Fermanagh South Tyrone

There were some minor ward boundary changes here that actually have a significant influence on a Westminster election. A net of 600 unionist voters (500 voting) were transferred to Upper Bann and a net of 1,200 nationalist voters (900 voting) were transferred inform nearby Dungannon wards.

Catholic        Protestant         Other          None

Current                         57.69%            39.10%             0.61%         2.60%

New                               58.57%         38.27%             0.59%         2.57%

Although the ward boundary changes were minor they would result in 500 fewer unionist votes and 800 more SF votes in a Westminster election. Michelle Gildernew would have won by a margin of over 2,000 votes. The days of a unionist unity candidate winning here appear to be over. The Assembly would be 3 SF, 1 DUP and 1 UUP.

West Tyrone

The 3 wards of Banagher, Claudy and Feeny were added from East Derry. A section of Slievekirk was transferred to Foyle.

Catholic        Protestant         Other          None

Current                         67.98%            30.16%             0.40%         1.47%

New                               69.34%       28.84%             0.39%         1.44%

The constituency is even more nationalist than previously. SF would still win Westminster with a larger margin and the Assembly would be 3 SF 1 SDLP and 1 DUP.

Foyle

A net of 800 unionist voters (600 voting) were transferred from the Slievekirk ward.

Catholic        Protestant         Other          None

Current                         75.12%            22.02%             0.79%         2.07%

New                               74.31%         22.79%             0.79%         2.11%

Eamonn McCann of PBP lost this seat to the DUP by 660 votes with an undistributed SDLP surplus of 160 votes and over 800 votes from nationalist candidates that transferred to no one. If 2/3 had transferred to PBP he would have won. However, with these new boundaries adding 600 unionist voters the DUP would win under any scenario.

Mid Ulster

Small sections of wards were transferred to Fermanagh South Tyrone and 4 nationalist majority wards (Upper Glenshane, Dungiven, Garvagh and Kilrea) were transferred in.

 

Catholic        Protestant         Other          None

Current                         66.72%            30.78%             0.44%         2.06%

New                               66.67%            30.84%             0.43%         2.06%

The demographics are unchanged here and so are the election results with a SF MP and 3 SF, 1 SDLP and 1 DUP in the Assembly.

 

Causeway

Causeway is a newly named constituency that is a merger of parts of East Derry and North Antrim. Most of the Catholic majority wards of East Derry were removed which significantly reduced the Catholic percentage of this new constituency. The wards added were from Moyle and the Ballymoney town and nearby wards.

Catholic        Protestant         Other          None

Current (East Derry)          41.70%           53.27%             0.68%         4.35%

New                                      33.52%           60.83%             0.74%         4.91%

Gregory Campbell would win a Westminster election with well over 50% of the vote. It is likely there would be only one nationalist MLA (SF) since it appears that the SDLP candidate would be over 1,000 votes behind the 3rd DUP candidate on the final count. There would have been 3 DUP, 1 Independent Unionist and 1 SF elected in an Assembly election.

East Antrim

This constituency will have significant changes with the loss of 1 nationalist ward in Moyle and the addition of 7 heavily unionist wards in Newtownabbey (4 of the Ballyclare wards plus Hawthorne, Ballyduff and Mossley).

Catholic        Protestant         Other          None

Current                         20.39%            70.11%             0.97%         8.53%

New                               16.63%           74.06%             0.86%          8.44%

Sammy Wilson will easily win this seat for the DUP. The Catholic population will be almost 4% less so there is no hope here for a nationalist Assembly seat. There would have been no change in the Assembly election with 2 DUP, 2 UUP and 1 Alliance.

Mid Antrim

This new constituency is mainly the Ballymena wards and some of the Ballymoney wards from the current North Antrim with the Dunsilly DEA wards added from South Antrim.

Catholic        Protestant         Other          None

Current (North Antrim)        28.39%            66.03%             0.74%         4.84%

New                                         30.28%             64.15%             0.72%         4.85%

The Catholic population is 2% higher and those nationalist voters in Dunsilly vote at a higher rate than those removed from the Ballymoney wards. Even so, the SDLP would have been 1,500 votes short of a quota. The Assembly vote would have been 2 DUP, 1 UUP, 1 TUV and 1 SF. Ian Paisley would easily win the Westminster election.

South Antrim

The new South Antrim is a merger of half of the current South Antrim with half of the Lagan Valley constituency.

Catholic        Protestant         Other          None

Current (South Antrim)         31.86%            59.80%             0.87%         7.46%

New                                          28.62%            61.86%             0.98%          8.53%

Paul Girvan of the DUP would easily win the Westminster election as the new boundaries are even more favourable to the DUP with the addition of the Lagan Valley wards. There would have been 2 DUP and 1 UUP in the Assembly election. The Alliance candidate would have been ahead of both the SF and SDLP candidates and would add to that margin with unionist transfers. SF appear to be 400 votes ahead of the SDLP but the SDLP would have won the 5th seat on unionist transfers.

Mid Down

Mid Down is a new constituency. The majority of the wards are from the current Strangford (minus the Ards Peninsula which was transferred to North Down). Other wards were added from Lagan Valley, South Down and Upper Bann.

Catholic        Protestant         Other          None

Current (Strangford)        17.28%            73.13%             0.94%         8.65%

New                                    17.69%            73.86%             0.80%          7.57%

Both the Catholic and Protestant populations are slightly higher but basically no demographic change. It is likely that Jeffrey Donaldson will compete here since part of the Lagan Valley constituency is within this new one. He would easily win the Westminster election. There would be 3 DUP, 1 UUP and 1 Alliance elected in the Assembly election.

North Down

The entire Ards Peninsula DEA was added to North Down and 3 wards were transferred to East Belfast

Catholic        Protestant         Other          None

Current                         12.59%            74.44%             1.15%         11.83%

New                               14.61%            73.47%             1.07%         10.86%

The changes here would have had profound consequences if these boundaries were in place for the 2017 Westminster election. The addition of the Ards Peninsula would have added over 5,000 votes to the DUP, 1,000 to the UUP and 1,000 to the Alliance party.  There was no UUP candidate so most of those votes would have gone to Sylvia Hermon with perhaps a few tactical Alliance votes also. Sylvia Hermon only won by 1,200 votes but would have lost by over 3,000 votes. The wards that were transferred to East Belfast were also area where Sylvia Herman polled well. Jim Shannon will be the candidate here and should win easily. There is a 2% increase in the Catholic population but still far below a quota. The Assembly would return 2 DUP, 1 UUP, 1 Alliance and 1 Green.

North Belfast

The 90% unionist wards of Woodvale and Crumlin were transferred to West Belfast but the equally unionist wards of Monkstown, Carmoney and Burnthill were added in along with the mixed Mallusk ward so the demographics are unchanged.

Catholic        Protestant         Other          None

Current                         46.94%            45.67%             1.04%        6.36%

New                               46.95%            45.15%             1.15%        6.75%

Even though the Catholic population is unchanged the demographics are slightly less favourable for SF since Catholics in Newtownabbey have a greater tendency to vote SDLP or Alliance compared to those in the Belfast wards. Nigel Dodds would have won with a slightly higher margin. The Assembly would still be 2 SF, 1 SDLP and 2 DUP.

West Belfast

Wet Belfast will experience dramatic demographic changes with the addition of the heavily unionist Woodvale, Crumlin, Seymour Hill and Lambeg wards. The mixed Derryaghy South wards was also added.

Catholic        Protestant         Other          None

Current                         80.09%            16.64%             0.58%        2.69%

New                               69.70%            26.18%             0.67%        3.45%

The Catholic population has dropped over 10% due to the addition of heavily unionist wards. This will not affect the Westminster results. However, there will be more than enough unionist votes here for a DUP MLA at the expense of SF. The result would be 3 SF, 1 PBP and 1 DUP.

Belfast South

Similar to Belfast West 3 heavily unionist wards (Cregagh, Drumbo and Moneyreagh) were added to South Belfast.

Catholic        Protestant         Other          None

Current                         44.01%            43.65%             2.80%         9.54%

New                               42.00%            45.82%             2.71%         9.48%

The Catholic population will decrease by 2% and the Protestant population will increase by over 2%. In 2017 the DUP won the Westminster election by 2,000 votes. If these new boundaries were in place last year the margin would have increased to 5,000. The Assembly results would also change. The second DUP candidate was only 58 votes behind the UUP when she was eliminated. Her surplus elected the other DUP candidate. There was an undistributed DUP surplus of 1,500 votes which were never distributed since the UUP candidate was 1,540 votes behind the Green candidate Clare Bailey. However, these new wards would have added over 2,000 votes to the 2nd DUP candidate and the UUP candidate would have been eliminated. I estimate that the Green candidate would have lost by over 1,000 votes. The Assembly vote would have resulted in 1 SF, 1 SDLP, 1 Alliance and 2 DUP.

Belfast East

Belfast East added 3 wards from North Down. Cregagh ward was removed and Hillfoot added.

Catholic        Protestant         Other          None

Current                         12.70%            75.40%             1.44%         10.47%

New                               14.09%            73.83%             1.43%         10.65%

There is a slight increase in the Catholic population but these are Catholics from North Down who are voting Alliance or Green. The DUP would easily win the Westminster election. The Assembly would be the same with 2 DUP, 1 UUP and 2 Alliance.

The final Westminster results would be 10 DUP and 7 SF. This is in contrast to the initial Boundary Review proposals in which the results would have been 9 SF and 8 DUP. For the Assembly there would be 5 fewer MLA’s due to the loss of one constituency. If last year’s Assembly election had been with these boundaries the results would have been:

SF                     25      (-2)

SDLP                11      (-1)

PBP                    1

Alliance             7      (-1)

Green                 2     (-1)

DUP                 29      (+1)

UUP                  9       (-1)

TUV                   1

Unionist           1

The total number of unionist MLA’s would be unchanged at 40 and the 5 eliminated seats would have been 2 SF, 1 SDLP, 1 Alliance and 1 Green.

One does not need to be politically astute to see that these new proposals will obviously benefit only 1 party- the DUP, at the expense of nationalist and nonsectarian parties. That is the definition of gerrymandering. SF has already noted this publicly. You will note in my analysis that the southern and western constituencies do not have any net gain of electors since overall they are not short of the required minimum. Several heavily unionist constituencies in the Belfast region such as Strangford, East Belfast, North Down and East Antrim needed to add significant numbers of voters. If it were a truly random process one would expect that the added wards would result in nationalist representation in some of these 4 where none exists currently. Indeed the initial proposals in 2016 added enough nationalist voters to East Belfast and Strangford so there would be nationalist MLA’s elected. There would have been only 2 constituencies, East Antrim and North Down, without nationalist representation. However, these new proposals would result in no nationalist representation in 4 constituencies: Mid Down, East Belfast, East Antrim and North Down. Currently there is one constituency with no unionist representation, West Belfast. There is 2nd, Foyle, on the verge of no unionist representation. These new proposals added enough unionist voters to those 2 constituencies to elect 2 DUP MLA’s. Thus while unionists will be represented in all constituencies there will be no nationalist representation in 4 constituencies. That is how you define gerrymandering.

These proposals will only increase the disillusionment for the political system among nationalist and indeed nonsectarian voters. In 2016 the UK voted to Leave the EU yet 90% of Northern Ireland nationalist voters and 85% of nonsectarian voters voted Remain in Northern Ireland. There will be no Northern Ireland MEP’s after the May 2109 European Parliament election so Northern Ireland will have no representation in Europe. The new District Council boundaries were gerrymandered by the DUP with the result that 3 nationalist councils were transferred to unionist controlled councils while no unionist councils were transferred to nationalist control. Unfortunately, SF went along with that DUP gerrymander. SF cannot make that mistake again with these proposals. Along with the Irish Language act, the status of Northern Ireland outside of the EU and other important issues it is now imperative that SF include the Boundary Review in all negotiations with the DUP and Conservative Party. One possibility would be to have a separate Boundary Commission for the Assembly constituencies. The Chairman of the current Boundary Commission is the Speaker of the House of Commons who originated from the Conservative Party. There should be a representative from the Dail in the Republic of Ireland as a Co Chairman so the Commission would have representation from the nationalist side also

At the suggestion of Enda over at “endgame in Ulster” I’m including the below details from the Boundary Commission website on how to contact/ respond to the consultation – BD 

How to respond

Complete our online consultation at www.bcni2018.uk(external link opens in a new window / tab)

Email your views to: review@boundarycommission.org.uk

Post your views to: Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland, The Bungalow, Stormont House, Stormont Estate, Belfast, BT4 3SH

The Battle for the Middle Ground


The premise for this blog was always to build upon the work of Horseman in his relentlessly logical and fact filled, but beautifully titled blog, Ulsters Doomed.

Little did I suspect when I began this blog, that his predictions would become so acute and so prescient so fast.

I have always been thinking towards a date of mid 2021-22. I was wrong, the time is now.Tricolour stormont

As so often in history, moments, or events, can change things faster than anticipated. In the circumstances of Ireland that is no surprise to those of us who are keen students of our past in order to better understand and shape our future. Examples abound across our history from the wars for an English crown in the 1690’s through to the struggles for civil rights in the 1960’s and much else before and after.

Today, the catalyst for change in Ireland is the brexit calamity but the central dynamic for the reunification of the island is, and has, remained constant since the enforced partition of Ireland by the Government of David lloyd George under the threat of “immediate and terrible War” in 1921.

The Brexit debacle has merely focussed minds.

As Edward Carson observed in 1922 “I was only a puppet, and so was Ulster, and so was Ireland, in the political game that was to get the Conservative Party into power.”

These days, the DUP have walked straight into that bear trap. They are now little more than the “paramonetary” wing of the brexiteer wing, of the conservative Party. It is a short sighted tactic which makes no strategic sense whatsoever.

The path ahead is now, in the short term, dependent upon the middle grounders. Those who don’t have a strong idealogical leaning towards the reunification of the island and those who are ambiguous regarding continuation of the link with the UK.

Brexit has decisively shifted the balance amongst this group.

The case for reunification has thus taken a decisive turn and I anticipate a border poll within the next 3 years.

To paraphrase the words of Horseman, Ulster (As it is defined by political unionism) is doomed.

 

 

 

 

 

All Changed, Changed Utterly


Faha’s take on Lucid Talk’s most recent poll on Brexit and a Border Poll

In the previous 2 weeks there has been much publicity over the pending part 2 negotiations between the EU and the UK government. The 3 issues that needed to be resolved before moving from part 1 to part 2 were the size of the UK monetary settlement that the UK would owe to the EU, EU citizen rights within the UK, and the nature of the border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.

ireland-eu-flag

The Northern Ireland-Irish border proved to be the most contentious issue but after much controversy the issue was fudged and negotiations will proceed from part 1 to part 2 next week.

What received little publicity during this past week was the release of a Lucid Talk poll on Brexit and a Border Poll. A previous poll on this had been done in October so why was another done so soon? Apparently the GUE/NGL group within the EU parliament commissioned Lucid Talk to conduct a poll on Brexit and a Border Poll in order to determine the current views of Northern Ireland voters on these issues. The EU needs this information in order to develop a negotiating strategy based on the wishes of the population of Northern Ireland. What the EU already knows is that Northern Ireland, in the June 2016 Brexit referendum, voted 56% Remain and 44% Leave. Apparently they wish to confirm if there have been any changes in the view of Northern Ireland voters.

The poll was commissioned by the GUE/NGL parliamentary group and conducted by Lucid Talk. Over 3,000 voters from the Lucid Talk panel responded and a final total of almost 2,100 was included based on the demographics of Northern Ireland. The following were some of the more significant results.

One question asked was whether Northern Ireland should have a special status which would include remaining in the EU Customs Union and EU Single Market. The results for all voters were:

Special Status-Stay in EU Customs Union and EU Single Market

Yes                             57.8%

No                              39.6%

No Opinion                 2.5%

 

 

Results by Political Party                  Nationalist           Unionist             Other

Yes                                                  97.7%               12.0%              87.7%

No                                                    1.7%                83.7%               9.5%

Results by Religion                             Catholic              Protestant       Other/None

Yes                                                       94.8%                 21.7%           67.3%

No                                                        4.6%                74.0%           30.5%

Obviously there is huge difference between Nationalist- Alliance/Green voters and Unionist voters with the former 2 groups overwhelmingly in favour of Special Status and Unionist voters overwhelmingly opposed. Not surprisingly, Catholic voters overwhelmingly prefer Special Status and Other/None favour Special Status by a 2 to 1 margin. There is a significant percentage of Protestant voters, 21.7%, who also prefer Special Status. The 74% of Protestants who oppose Special Status is exactly the same percentage that voted Leave in the Brexit Referendum. Overall, less than 40% of all voters are opposed to Special Status while 57.8% are in favour. The percentage in favour of Special Status is slightly higher than the 56% of voters who voted Remain in the Brexit Referendum.

A question on a Border Poll was also asked. Voters were asked how they would vote if there was a Hard Brexit with no deal on the Border or the Good Friday agreement or citizen (? EU citizen) rights. The 2 choices were Remain in the EU by joining the Irish Republic in a United Ireland or Leave the EU and stay in the UK. The results were (excluding nonvoters)

Remain in EU-United Ireland

48.2%

Leave the EU-Stay in the UK

45.7%

Undecided

6.1%

 

Results by Political Party                    Nationalist               Unionist            Other

Remain in EU-United Ireland                 94.5%                  2.2%           56.9%

Leave the EU-Stay in the UK                    1.9%                 95.0%           14.5%

Undecided                                             3.6%                  2.4%            25.1%

 

Results by Religion                               Catholic                  Protestant      Other

Remain in EU-United Ireland                90.0%              8.1%              54.9%

Leave the EU-Stay in the UK                   5.1%              85.3%             33.7%

Undecided                                                 4.8%              5.6%            10.2%

 

Results by Age                                          18 to 44                     45+

Remain in EU-United Ireland                   57.1%                    37.8%

Leave the EU-Stay in the UK                    37.4%                     54.4%

Undecided                                                     4.9%                      7.2%

What is remarkable is that there is a plurality of 2.5% who are in favour of a United Ireland with a Hard Brexit. No previous poll in the previous 100 years has ever shown this result.

However, in the October Lucid Talk poll they estimated a 46.4% vote in favour of a United Ireland with a Hard Brexit and 53.6% to Remain the UK. What has changed since the October poll is that most of the Undecided (10%) and Soft Remainers (5.5%) have opted for a United Ireland which is consistent with their preference with a Hard Brexit. The preference for a United Ireland had a base of 34% with a Soft Brexit or no Brexit. There was another group of soft Remainers (10%) who were not further questioned in October on their preferences with a Hard Brexit and some of these appear to be undecided with a Hard Brexit.

The breakdown by Religion and political party is unsurprising when looking at the unionist-nationalist and Catholic-Protestant preferences. However, support for a United Ireland among Protestants has increased from 4.6% to 8.1% because most of the Protestant undecided have opted for a United Ireland with a Hard Brexit. There has also been a significant shift among Catholics who preferred to stay in the UK with a Hard Brexit. This group was 12% in October but now it is 5.1% stay in the UK and 4.8% undecided so it appears that half of Catholics (the 12%) who wished to stay in the UK with a Hard Brexit in October are now undecided or in favour of a United Ireland. Younger voters (age 18 to 44) are strongly in favour of a United Ireland by a 20% margin. The main reason that a United Ireland has a plurality is that support for staying in the UK with a Hard Brexit has collapsed to only 14.5% among Alliance-Green voters with a clear majority of 56.9% in favour of a United Ireland.

What are the implications of all of this?

The EU is aware that Northern Ireland voted 56% to Remain in the EU in June 2016 and that in December 2017 58% wish to remain in the EU Customs Union and Single Market. The support for leaving the EU Customs Union and Single Market is less than 40%. Therefore, the EU should acknowledge the wishes of the Northern Ireland people and negotiate an agreement with the UK that includes a Northern Ireland that essentially remains in the EU. This is irrespective of what the remainder of the UK negotiates with the EU. The Republic of Ireland and certain political parties within Northern Ireland, including SF, the SDLP, Alliance and Green parties, should support this negotiating position since their voters in Northern Ireland also overwhelmingly support Northern Ireland remaining fully within the EU.

An outsider reading about this whole situation in the previous 2 weeks could conclude that Arlene Foster and the DUP are representing Northern Ireland in the Brexit negotiations. Yet their views are held by less than 40% of Northern Ireland voters. In the coming year it is essential that the non unionist parties represent the views of the majority of Northern Ireland voters who wish to remain in the EU in all negotiations with the EU.

Now it is true that if the UK did agree to allow Northern Ireland to remain in the EU Customs Union and Single Market that the DUP would strongly object and threaten to withdraw their support for the Conservative government and thus collapse that government. However, if that occurs then a Border Poll should be called. A Border Poll may be the best options if negotiations are deadlocked over a final agreement. The EU, Republic of Ireland and non unionist Northern Ireland parties should not allow a DUP or unionist veto in any agreement.

The results of a Border Poll would be much more in favour of a United Ireland than the 2.5% margin that exists in this recent poll. In an actual Border Poll 16 and 17 year olds should be allowed to vote. The demographics of that age group and the fact that younger voters strongly favour a United Ireland would result in a 65% vote in favour of a United Ireland in that age group which would increase the margin to 3.5%.

The Undecided group is currently 6.1% but that group consists of 4% None/Other and 1% Catholic and only 1% Protestant. That is a demographic profile that is unlikely to aid the stay in the UK vote. This poll includes very few foreign nationals. There were 1% included in the poll that did not identify their identity as British, Irish, Northern Irish or some combination. That group would have included some who identified as Scottish, English, Welsh as well as some actual foreign nationals. That 1% broke down to 76% for a United Ireland and 19% to remain in the UK. If only actual foreign nationals were counted support for a United Ireland would actually exceed 90%. Since foreign nationals are potentially 10% of the electorate the actual margin of victory for a United Ireland could exceed 55%.

It is time for the political parties in Northern Ireland that favour a United Ireland to begin negotiations with the EU and the Republic of Ireland on integrating Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland  and including a potential Border Poll in negotiations with the UK.

Brexit and a Border Poll by Faha


Last week Lucid Talk released an extensive poll on Brexit and a Border Poll. I am going to analyze some of the more important findings in that poll. Lucid Talk has a panel of over 10,000 Northern Ireland residents. Almost 4,000 responded to their recent poll and their findings are based on those respondents. Lucid Talk has been very accurate in their recent polls. In the 2016 Assembly election they predicted a total nationalist vote of only 38% to 39% which was widely scoffed at prior to the election since it showed a mark decline in the nationalist vote despite a rising nationalist voting age population. The subsequent election results showed the poll was almost 100% accurate. The Lucid Talk poll for the EU referendum in Northern Ireland in June 2016 was accurate to within 1%. Their poll for the 2017 Assembly election predicted a resurgence of the nationalist vote and a significant decline in the unionist vote which was borne out by the actual results with the unionist parties in a minority for the first time ever in an election in Northern Ireland.

The main question asked on a Border Poll was: If a Northern Ireland Border Poll Referendum was held “tomorrow” which way would you vote: “Should Northern Ireland REMAIN a part of the United Kingdom or LEAVE the United Kingdom and join the Republic of Ireland and one nation state Ireland?”

After excluding those who stated they would not vote the results were:

Remain           56%

Leave              34%

Undecided     10%

The results by age were

Age 18 to 44

Remain           44%

Leave              46%

Undecided        9%

Age 45+

Remain            60.0%

Leave                28.9%

Undecided       10.0%

The results by Religion were

Protestant

Remain           90.2%

Leave                 4.6%

Undecided        4.8%

Catholic

Remain             15.8%

Leave                 68.7%

Undecided        13.2%

None/Other

Remain             46.5%

Leave                 36.0%

Undecided        17.5%

Unsurprisingly, 90% of Protestants wish to Remain in the UK. However, there is an increase in support for a United Ireland since all previous polls in the previous 50 years have shown Protestant support for a United Ireland in the 1% to 3% range. The results for Catholics are also not surprising since similar polls in the previous 50 years have shown Catholic support for remaining in the UK in the 15% to 20% range with higher values in the past 10 years. The results for None/Other show and unexpected support for a United Ireland at a relatively high 36%. Even if a slight majority of the Undecided voted in favour of a United Ireland the final result would be 60% Remain and 40% Leave if a Border Poll were held “tomorrow”. The poll also found that a slight plurality of those under 45 favour a United Ireland.

Lucid Talk also looked at a future Border Poll with different Brexit scenarios including a “Hard Brexit” and a “Soft Brexit” and further analyzed the Undecided and Remain voters. They conclude that with a “Hard Brexit” the results would be:

Remain           53.57%

Leave              46.43%

This indicated a much closer result.

In looking at the sub groups for the initial results of 56% to 34% they found the following for Alliance-Green voters:

Remain               33.3%

Leave                  37.0%

Undecided         29.7%

Alliance-Green voters show a slight plurality for a United Ireland with many undecided.

Lucid Talk looked at all the 10% Undecided with the question “What type of Undecided voter are you?”

1.0% Remain regardless of Brexit

7.4%   Leave regardless of type of Brexit

57.6% UK Hard Brexit- would Consider voting Leave

34.0% UK stayed in EU or Soft Brexit-would Consider voting Remain

The Undecided are undecided mainly because of Brexit and if there is a Hard Brexit it appears that almost all of them would vote Leave.

The Remain voters were also asked if Brexit would change their vote.

Protestant Catholic None/Other

Remain regardless of Brexit                          61.6%      62.5%        63.8%       53.4%

Hard Brexit-reinforce decision to Remain  11.0%       10.4%        14.2%       12.2%

Hard Brexit-Consider voting Leave               9.5%       9.5%            5.5%        13.7%

Soft Brexit-reinforce decision to Remain    17.9%     17.7%          16.5%       20.6%

What is significant is that 9.5% of Remain voters (5.5% of all voters) may switch to Leave if there is a Hard Brexit. The 18% of Remain voters (10% of all voters) who stated that a Soft Brexit would reinforce their decision to Remain were not further asked how they would vote if there was Hard Brexit so it is unknown how many would consider the Leave option. A curious result is that Catholic voters who are Remain are less willing to change their vote with a Hard Brexit compared to Protestant voters. There appears to be a hard core of 12% of Catholics who are Remain even with a Hard Brexit. Overall, 72.6% of Remain voters are hard core Remain under all circumstances. For all voters, 40% are Remain with a Hard Brexit and would never consider Leave. For Protestant voters, 9.4% are Leave or Undecided and another 8.6% would consider Leave with a Hard Brexit.

At this point I will present an estimate of what the results of a Border Poll would be after a Hard Brexit in March 2019 based on the demographics at that time. There is some uncertainty in calculating the demographics since the 2011 census cannot be perfectly extrapolated from 2011 to 2019 due to emigration of the native population and continued in migration of foreign nationals. There were also some inaccurate estimates in the Religion question as there was no information available for over 200,000 people. For a 2019 Referendum Border Poll I will assume a voting age of 16 since this was the same voting age allowed in the Scottish Independence Referendum.

From the time of the March 2011 census and the final Brexit in March 2019 this is the electorate calculation. There would be 118,000 deaths, mainly in the elderly, during that time period. There would also be 238,000 new voters. The voting age population would be as follows:

Total                Catholic          Protestant        Other        None

1,500,000          685,000          725,000          14,000      76,000

These official numbers need to be adjusted for undercount of the Catholic population as shown in the 2011 School Census. The school census showed 5,300 more Catholics in the same age cohort than the official census. Extrapolated to the whole population indicated a greater than 20,000 undercount. There are also 5,000 British soldiers in the census who do not vote in Northern Ireland. I conservatively estimated a 15,000 Catholic undercount for the voting age population. The adjusted numbers are:

Total                Catholic              Protestant        Other            None

1,495,000         700,000              719,000            14,000         62,000

Immigration data shows a net inflow of only 3,500 per year. There are 7,500 immigrant foreign nationals and over 1,000 from the Republic of Ireland per year. That indicates a net outflow of 5,000 per year of natives from Northern Ireland. There does not appear to be any differential emigration from Northern Ireland based on religion. Most of the immigrants from the Republic of Ireland are of Catholic origin as well as many of the EU nationals. The figures adjusted for emigration and immigration are:

Total                Catholic              Protestant        Other            None

1,525,000          730,000              713,000           20,000          62,000

While it appears that there will be more Catholics of voting age in 2019 compared to Protestants this is not true of native Irish. Recent data from 2016 show 125,000 foreign nationals with NiNO registrations living in Northern Ireland. Including native ethnic nationals and new arrivals between 2016 and 2019 there will be 150,000 foreign nationals by 2019. The adjusted numbers are:

Total-Native     Catholic            Protestant        Other            None

1,375,000           640,000              683,000          5,000            47,000

Total-Ethnic

150,000                90,000                30,000          15,000          15,000

Thus, I estimate there are 43,000 more native Protestants of voting age compared to Catholics and I will use these numbers. If there was a Border Poll with 100% turnout these would be the results for native voters. I am assuming a Hard Brexit and based on the Lucid Talk numbers with a Hard Brexit there would be at most 15% of Catholics who would vote Remain and 15% of Protestants that would vote Leave. There would be a slight majority of 55% of Other/None who would vote Leave.

The predicted results are:

Remain    700,000            50.9%

Leave        675,000            49.1%

Remain would have a narrow win. The percentage for Leave is only 2.7% higher than what Lucid Talk predicts with a Hard Brexit. This increase is entirely due to including 16 and 17 years old in the electorate as well as 2 years of demographic changes. However, what about those 150,000 foreign nationals?  The Lucid Talk panel consists of voters who are highly engaged in politics and have a high rate of voting. There a few if any foreign nationals though perhaps a few from countries such as Australia and Canada. The 150,000 foreign nationals are approximately 110,000 EU nationals, 10,000 from English speaking countries such as Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand. The other 30,000 would be approximately 7,500 Chinese, 7,500 from India, 5,000 Muslims, 3,000 Filipinos and 7,000 from all other countries. The EU nationals would be strongly motivated to vote in a Border Poll since a Hard Brexit could mean the loss of their jobs and financial security. Their relatives could no longer come to work in Northern Ireland. The non EU nationals would not all be in favour of Leave. I estimate 135,000 Leave voters and 15,000 Remain. The result if everyone in Northern Ireland voted would be:

Remain               715,000               46.9%

Leave                   810,000              53.1%

Now clearly predicting the result of a Border Poll on a 100% turnout is not realistic. The Good Friday Agreement Referendum had a turnout of 80% of the voting population. 20% of the voting age population could not be bothered to vote even though the referendum was about ending 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland. The Scottish Independence Referendum had a turnout of 85% of the voting age population. Even though this was a Referendum that would totally alter the status of Scotland 15% of the population had no interest in voting. I expect that a Border Poll would have a turnout of between 80% and 85%. The Westminster election in June had a turnout of 812,000. EU nationals were not allowed to vote in that election and I estimate there may have been 12,000 other foreign nationals who did vote. So 800,000 native voters voted. In 2019, there would be a potential additional 575,000 native voters. Of these 90,000 would be new voters currently age 14 to 17 with a demographic profile of 51% Catholic, 41% Protestant and 8% None/Other. With that profile and given that younger voters in general are more likely to vote Leave, this group will be 55% to 60% Leave with a Hard Brexit. The other potential 485,000 voters would be skewed toward younger voters since there was lower voter turnout among younger voters. Thus, the nonvoters would tend to be more likely Leave voters. An 85% turnout would add an additional 370,000 voters with the majority under 45. Including 16 and 17 year olds, the 16 to 44 age group is actually larger than the 45+ age group.

Lucid Talk did evaluate likelihood of voting and these were the results if the Border Poll was held “tomorrow”. This only includes voters who have consistently voted in recent elections.

Remain              Leave          Undecided

45+                          47.2%               42.2%              12.2%

18-44                      33.8%                56.4%               9.7%

Clearly a Border Poll held “tomorrow” with likely voters would result in a Leave majority. It was noted that the under 45 group that was in favour of a United Ireland were the most committed to voting. This defies conventional wisdom since it is generally assumed that unionists would turn out in large numbers to prevent a United Ireland with younger voters less likely to vote. There certainly are many unionist voters who are opposed to a United Ireland. However, this opposition may be tempered by the fact that some are also opposed to a Hard Brexit and see both prospects as undesirable. It should be noted that almost all polls in the June 2017 Westminster election predicted a large Conservative majority because they assumed that turnout would be low among voters under 30. They were wrong and voter turnout was quite high among that group which led to the unexpected strong showing for Labour and a Conservative minority in Westminster.  A Hard Brexit may result in a similar high turnout among young voters.

With this poll data there needs to be a major change in strategy by the nationalist parties-Sinn Fein and the SDLP. The new goal should be to aim for a Border Poll to be timed shortly after Brexit occurs in March 2019. Since the poll numbers are most favourable for a United Ireland with a Hard Brexit that is the most favourable scenario. The DUP and Conservatives are in favour of a Hard Brexit so give them what they want. It appears that Stormont will be in permanent suspension and Direct Rule, which is DUP-Conservative rule, may occur shortly. With Direct Rule, nationalists will have no say in the governing of Northern Ireland. This will be no different than the period from 1922 to 1972 except that the DUP is more hard line and less willing to share power with nationalists than the unionists of the 1922 to 1972 era. Direct Rule will sway more Undecided and soft Remain voters to consider Leave. It has been 8 months since the Conservative government has officially begun the process of Brexit. There have been no agreements reached with EU officials over the details of Brexit. EU officials appear to be taking a hard line with the UK over Brexit and SF and the SDLP should support their negotiating position. The only border that is acceptable to nationalists is the Irish Sea. Otherwise, the alternative should be a United Ireland with no Border. Divorces are often messy and bitter and the EU is in no mood to be conciliatory to the UK. The EU will be supportive of efforts towards a United Ireland and this will include financial support. The EU was very supportive of a United Germany when East Germany collapsed. The East German economy was in much worse shape than that of Northern Ireland with 10 times the population.

There are some issues that will need to be addressed with a United Ireland and SF and the SDLP need to work on proposals now. Many aspects of the economy such as Education, Defense and Foreign Affairs and Agriculture should meld easily with a United Ireland. The 2 most difficult ones are Health Care and Pensions for the elderly. Pensions for the elderly in Northern Ireland should be set at least 5% to 10% above the current levels so there is no disincentive for the elderly to vote against a United Ireland (I believe they are already higher in the Republic?( Current Pension rates in ROI range from €227 – €238 per week versus £159 in UK- BD). A health care system similar to the NHS would be desirable and would need to be established. There have been concerns raised because of the large of amount of agricultural exports to the UK. However, the UK (excluding NI) only produces 60% of the food needed to feed its population. It must continue to import the other 40% or else there would be widespread malnutrition and famine.

There are a few practical issues that need to be addressed in order for a Border Poll to win a majority for a United Ireland.

#1 Voting Age

The voting age should be lowered to 16 just as it was for the Scottish Independence referendum

#2 Voter Registration

SF and the SDLP need to begin a voter registration drive among younger voters and foreign nationals since these are the least likely to be on the electoral register. Currently online registration is available throughout the UK except in Northern Ireland. This needs to be introduced immediately. Potential voters should be allowed to submit online a photograph that will be used for the photographic ID electoral identity card.

#3 Northern Ireland Representation in the Dail

Based on the 2011 Ireland and Northern Ireland census, Northern Ireland should be entitled to 62 representatives in the Dail. The current Boundary Review with 17 constituencies will be completed by October 2018. This Review could be used for the constituencies for the first initial election to the Dail in Northern Ireland. There would be 4 TD’s elected per constituency for a total of 68. The total size of the Dail would be 226.

#4 Economy

Some companies in Northern Ireland have already indicated that they may relocate to the Republic of Ireland or elsewhere in Europe in order to retain access to EU markets. The Border Poll needs to occur as soon as possible after Brexit so that these companies would remain in Northern Ireland in the event of a Leave majority vote

At this time it is still premature to predict the effects of a Hard Brexit on the UK economy. If the world economy is booming in March 2019 a Hard Brexit may have only a minor negative effect on the UK economy. A worldwide recession in 2019 would be much worse with significant capital outflow from the UK and possible bank failures. The nationalist parties should prepare for the worst and begin the process of negotiating the nature of a United Ireland with the government of the Republic and lay the groundwork for a successful Border Poll Referendum.

 

 

Fury, Outrage and Anger


Hi everyone,

It’s been an interesting few weeks.

The Tories clinging to power in Britain by flirting with the DUP, flashing the cash, paying for the goodies and swishing their conservative skirts brings to mind a political lap dancing image which I’d rather not conjure up.St matthews

The title of this blog is a reference to the Belfast Telegraph sub editors who seem incapable of any other adjectives regarding unionist reaction to, well, just about anything. I could have added a few more words such as defensive, defiant, aggressive and denial.

We have had to endure the unedifying spectacle of certain elected politicians treading one of three well trodden paths and  combination of all of them.

  1. Attempting to Justify the behaviours and consequences of those behaviours, of the crazier elements of their support
  2. Deflecting in every direction possible rather than addressing the actual issues
  3.  Disappearing from sight and sound entirely

This amounts to a single thing.

A dereliction of leadership.

If I may spell  it out, never has the PUL community been more in need of clear, focussed, leadership than now.

Without that, unionism cedes ground to the lunatic fringe that we saw on display in Windsor Park last night with their songbook in full voice and their unrestrained, instinctive, visceral, hatred, on display to a wider audience.

Wider Unionism has not yet realised that they are now a minority in the North East of Ireland.  Their politicians know it. Everyone else knows it, Horseman knew it some years ago, most educated unionist voters know it.  Someone needs to tell their 1690 facing followers.

As long as political unionism refuses to lead their voters, the only movement they will experience is backwards. That is a tragedy for their poorest and most disenfranchised voters.

As for the the Belfast Telegraph headline writers? Shame on you.

I hope, for the sake of unionism, that change will happen soon.

 

Westminster 2017 Faha Predicts


By Faha

I know that regular readers here have been looking forward to this. Faha’s analysis and predictions for the June 8th election are set out below……. Enjoy! – BD

NI Constituency pic

The June 8 Westminster election will be held in 2 weeks. This is my constituency analysis for that election. It is more difficult to do an analysis by comparing this election with the 2015 election because so much has transpired in the previous 2 years. The UK voted to leave the UK in the Brexit referendum one year ago. Northern Ireland voted Remain by a 56% to 44% margin and this fact will influence the results in Northern Ireland. The second major factor is the end of nationalist voter apathy in the March 2017 Assembly election, which resulted in the unionist parties winning a minority of seats in the Assembly. This is the first time the unionist parties, in any legislative Assembly in the previous 100 years, have ever been in a minority.

However, it is not as simple as transposing the results of the March 2017 election to the Westminster election. The electorate is different. The 30,000 EU voters who were eligible to vote in March are unable to vote in the Westminster election so this would decrease the vote totals for SF, SDLP, Alliance and Greens. Since this is a first past the post election, tactical voting will be more prominent. Turnout is difficult to predict but there is no reason to believe that there will be an increased unionist turnout. Brexit is a done deal and the Conservatives appear headed for a landslide victory in the UK. There is no reason for unionist non-voters who favour Brexit to vote since the Conservative Party will negotiate Brexit for them.

Some SF, SDLP, Alliance and Green nonvoters who did not vote in March, but who are strongly opposed to Brexit, may vote as a form of protest against Brexit and this is their only opportunity to do so before Brexit occurs in 2019. There may also be an increase in voting by dissident republicans who traditionally have voted for SF but have stopped voting in recent years. Of course, they have no interest in Westminster but the strong showing by SF in the Assembly election will motivate some to vote and defeat unionist candidates.

There was a Lucid Talk Poll done in the past week and the results were:

Change Assembly 2017

SF                    27.9%                         0.0%

SDLP               13.7%                         1.8%

PBP                    0.9%                       -0.9%

Alliance            9.8%                     0.7%

Green                0.7%                   -1.6%

DUP                  28.8%                    0.7%

UUP                  15.7%                    2.8%

TUV                    0.1%                   -2.4%

Conservative     0.2%                     0.0%

Others                2.2%                    -0.2%

The only statistically significant changes from the March Assembly election are the increase for the SDLP and UUP and the decrease for the TUV and Green. More than half the other vote would be for Sylvia Hermon.

There are 8 constituencies where there could be a change compared to 2015, I will briefly go over the 10 constituencies where there is no possibility of a change in the results from 2015. 4 of these are SF seats and 5 are DUP seats.

West Tyrone

Assembly result

SF           48.1%

SDLP       14.2%

UUP         8.2%

DUP        20.5%

An easy victory for SF here and it is possible the SF vote may exceed 50%.

Mid Ulster

Assembly results

SF            52.8%

SDLP        12.9%

UUP            9.1%

DUP          19.3%

Again an easy victory for SF with a vote greater than 50%.

Newry and Armagh

Assembly results

SF            48.4%

SDLP        16.3%

UUP          13.2%

DUP          17.8%

An easy victory for SF here and it is possible the SF vote may exceed 50%.

West Belfast

Assembly results

SF            61.8%

SDLP         8.6%

PBP          14.9%

UUP          1.2%

DUP          10.1%

This will be SF’s best result. The only point of interest here will be if the PBP vote collapses further.

Strangford

Assembly results

SF                2.9%

SDLP            8.9%

UUP           20.1%

DUP            39.9%

Alliance      15.0%

An easy victory for the DUP here. This was one constituency where there was only a minimal increase in nationalist turnout. The Brexit referendum had a much higher turnout and there was a 44.5% Remain vote. If there is any evidence of a anti Brexit protest vote it would show up in higher vote total for Alliance, SDLP or SF.

Lagan Valley

Assembly results

SF                4.0%

SDLP            8.4%

UUP           25.2%

DUP            40.3%

Alliance      15.0%

Another easy victory for the DUP here. Lagan Valley voted 46.9% Remain on a higher turnout so it will be interesting if any anti-Brexit protest vote shows up in the Alliance, SDLP and SF vote.

East Antrim

Assembly results

SF                9.9%

SDLP            4.1%

UUP           22.7%

DUP            35.2%

Alliance      16.0%

An easy victory for the DUP here. This is another constituency with a higher Brexit turnout and a 44.8% Remain vote. Will there be any evidence of an anti-Brexit protest vote here?

North Antrim

Assembly results

SF               15.8%

SDLP             7.3%

UUP             12.5%

DUP              40.6%

TUV              16.1%

Another safe seat for the DUP. This was the most pro Brexit constituency at over 62%. The only point of interest here is if the TUV vote collapses further.

East Derry

Assembly results

SF                          25.8%

SDLP                     10.8%

Nationalist             1.2%

UUP                         6.7%

DUP                        33.3%

Other Unionist     16.7%

Alliance                    4.4%

This is a safe seat for the DUP. This is one constituency where a nationalist pact could be viable since the combined nationalist vote of 37.8% exceeds the DUP vote of 33.3%. In reality though it would not be successful since much of the other unionist vote would go to the DUP in such a situation and the DUP vote would exceed 40%, as it did in the 2015 Westminster election.

North Down

Assembly results

UUP           21.5%

DUP            37.5%

Alliance      18.6%

Green          13.7%

Sylvia Hermon will win easily here as she always does. She will receive the UUP vote as well as much of the SF, SDLP, Alliance and Green vote. Some of the DUP vote will also go to her.

Now I will analyze the 8 seats where there could be a change. I will start with the ones that will be the most likely to change.

South Antrim

Assembly results

SF                16.3%

SDLP             9.5%

UUP           20.8%

DUP            33.7%

Alliance      12.5%

I except that this seat will be won by Paul Girvan of the DUP and Danny Kinahan of the UUP will lose. They are several reasons for this conclusion. The DUP vote exceeded the UUP vote by 5,500 in the Assembly election. In the 2015 Westminster election Danny Kinahan won by only 1,000 votes. In comparing that 2015 vote with the previous Assembly election it appears that 1,000 of his votes were tactical votes from Alliance voters and another 500 were tactical votes from the SDLP. These 1,500 tactical voters probably voted for Danny Kinahan because Willie McCrea was seen as extreme by those voters and Danny Kinahan was seen as a moderate. These votes are unlikely to go to Danny Kinahan this time. Those tactical Alliance and SDLP voters are anti-Brexit and Danny Kinahan voted pro Brexit in Westminster so they are unlikely to vote for him. Paul Girvan of the DUP does not have the same image as Willie McCrea and it is more likely that most of the DUP Assembly voters will vote for him. This constituency is the most likely to have a change on June 8.

Fermanagh South Tyrone

Assembly results

SF                                            22,008

SDLP                                         5,134

UUP                                          6,060

DUP                                         15,581

Other Unionist                            850

Alliance                                      1,437

Green                                            550

Labour                                          643

There is a unionist pact here will only Tom Elliot of the UUP standing as the unofficial unionist unity candidate. The total unionist vote of 22,491 only slightly exceeds the SF vote of 22,008. The SF vote does include some EU nationals but probably less than 1,000.  I expect that the majority of the 643 Labour vote will go to SF. Also, in Westminster elections some of the SDLP vote goes to SF. This is more likely to occur this time because the SDLP candidate is not from the constituency and is actually a councillor in West Tyrone. There could be a few Green or Alliance anti Brexit voters that also go to SF. I also expect more dissident republicans to vote in this election as a protest against a hard border. This seat will be won by SF though as always it will be a close election.

East Belfast

Assembly results

SF                                 2.9%

SDLP                             0.6%

UUP                            13.1%

DUP                            37.6%

Other Unionist           8.9%

Alliance                      31.4%

Green                           3.6%

Labour                          1.1%

I believe this constituency will result in a very narrow win for Alliance. The DUP appear to have the advantage. There is a 8.9% vote for the PUP and TUV here but some of these voters may stay home or vote UUP. I expect enough of them to vote DUP to increase the DUP vote to 41% to 42%. I expect that there will be enough tactical voting by SF, SDLP, Green and Alliance voters (and possibly a few UUP) to increase the Alliance vote to 36%. The major unknown is turnout.  East Belfast did vote 48.6% Remain on a higher turnout. There were 20,700 Remain voters. I think there will be an increased voter turnout here mainly due to anti Brexit voters and this will give Naomi Long a narrow victory over the DUP.

The following 2 constituencies could change but I believe it is very unlikely.

Upper Bann 

Assembly results

SF                27.8%

SDLP              9.9%

UUP           20.6%

DUP            32.8%

TUV               2.0%

Alliance         5.3%

It appears that SF may have a chance of winning in Upper Bann. The SF vote was only 2,500 less than the DUP vote in March. However, the TUV are not competing and most of their 1,000 votes will go to the DUP. The SF total also includes EU nationals and may be as high as 1,000. Thus, SF would need an additional 4,000 votes. It is possible that 1,000 to 2,000 could come from the SDLP. Nationalist turnout has always been much less that unionist turnout here and unless there is a significant increase in nationalist nonvoters who decide to vote as a protest against Brexit the DUP should retain this seat.

Foyle

Assembly results

SF                36.7%

SDLP            31.8%

PBP              10.7%

UUP                3.7%

DUP               13.4%

Alliance           2.5%

SF would appear to have the edge here as their vote total exceeded that of the SDLP by over 2,000 votes. However, there is no UUP candidate and there is a history here of significant tactical voting for Mark Durkan from Alliance, UUP and even a few DUP voters which will make up that 2,000 vote difference. PBP will poll less without Eamonn McCann as the candidate and the SDLP will pick up more of that vote. Mark Durkan should win but with a narrower majority.

 

South Belfast

Assembly results

SF                  17.7%

SDLP             19.4%

UUP              9.0%

DUP            20.9%

TUV               1.6%

Alliance      17.8%

Green           9.9%

The DUP would appear to have the edge over the SDLP here. Not only was the DUP vote 1.5% higher than the SDLP vote in March but it is likely that the DUP will add another 1% from the TUV vote. However, there is likely to be significant tactical voting for the SDLP from some Green, Alliance, SF and even a few UUP voters to prevent the DUP from winning. In the Brexit referendum South Belfast voted 70% Remain and 30% Leave so there could be a significant anti-Brexit protest vote that will benefit Alasdair McDonnell. The Lucid Talk poll is showing a 1.8% increase in the SDLP vote and it is likely that this increase is localized to the constituencies of South Belfast, Foyle and South Down due to tactical voting and a personal vote for the candidates.

North Belfast

Assembly results

SF                  29.4%

SDLP             13.1%

PBP                 3.8%

UUP                5.8%

DUP               32.1%

PUP                 4.9%

Alliance          8.4%

Green             1.7%

There is an unofficial unionist pact here with Nigel Dodds of the DUP the only unionist candidate. The DUP will pick up all the PUP and most of the UUP vote so the DUP total vote should be 42%. The SF vote will be much higher than 29.4% and will come from 4 sources. SF should add 3% of the PBP vote. The SDLP have a low profile candidate and the SDLP vote is lower in Westminster elections compared to Assembly or Council elections due to some tactical voting for SF in Westminster elections. The big unknown is how much of the 13.1% of the March Assembly vote will go to SF. Alban Maginness received 8.2% in 2015 but he was a high profile candidate with a significant personal vote whereas Martin McCauley is relatively unknown. Furthermore most SDLP voters are anti Brexit and may be more inclined to tactically vote SF to defeat the pro Brexit Nigel Dodds. I believe the SDLP vote could be as low as 6%. There will also be a few Green and Alliance voters who will vote tactically for SF due to Brexit. These would be Green and Alliance voters who give SF a 2nd or lower preference in an Assembly election. The SF vote should reach 40% which would still be short of Nigel Dodds. SF can win only if stay at home republican and nationalist nonvoters turnout in an anti-Brexit vote. SF needs a perfect storm with additional votes from PBP, SDLP, Alliance and Green voters as well as non-voters to win here. If any one of those does not materialize SF cannot win.

South Down

Assembly results

SF                38.6%

SDLP            25.2%

UUP               8.5%

DUP              15.8%

Alliance         9.2%

SF is more likely to win this seat than North Belfast. The gap between SF and the SDLP was over 13% in March. Based on previous elections the SDLP will pick up another 9% from tactical votes from Alliance, UUP and DUP voters. However, the SDLP would still be 4% behind SF. There was higher unionist tactical voting for Margaret Ritchie in 2010 and if this were to recur in this election then the SDLP would close the gap. There is probably also a small personal vote for Margaret Ritchie among voters who voted for SF for the first time this past March. This will be a very close contest and the outcome will be determined by the extent of Alliance and unionist tactical voting. This is probably one constituency where the increased SDLP vote in the Lucid Talk poll is concentrated.

South Belfast, one to watch


“We can do this”

The words of a Sinn Fein activist on the stump in South Belfast last week.

I must admit I was personally sceptical. But it got me thinking.Polling booths

Then, this week , South Belfast bubbled to the surface again as a serious point of political interest. Sam McBride over at the newsletter published a predictably, unionist minded piece which Mick referenced in an earlier article here on Slugger. Chris Donnelly has also done an in depth piece on the constituency including the recent vote numbers.

What is clear is that the SDLP share of the vote has decreased from 32.3% to 19.4% (with the exception of 2010 when SF didn’t stand gifting a 41% vote to the sole SDLP candidate) and the Sinn Féin vote has increased from 9% to 17.7% since 2005.

The trend is clear therefore, that barring the unexpected (Or, of course, “events”) Sinn Féin is in a position to overhaul the SDLP as the the largest nationalist party, if not at this election, certainly by the next electoral cycle. It’s a question of when, rather than if.

The overall Nationalist vote, however, has remained essentially static. The two trends that have emerged are the shift in balance between the SDLP and SF, and the growth of the smaller parties. Alliance have doubled their percentage vote over the period but remained largely static since 2010. The Greens have also done very well, increasing from 3% in 2010 to 9.9% in 2017.

Outwith those two, the intra Unionist battle is clearly being won by the DUP who are now gathering votes at a ratio of 2:1 versus the Ulster Unionists. Nevertheless the overall Unionist vote has decreased from 51.1% to 31.9% – a staggering 20% drop in twelve years.

As a number cruncher myself, I must admit to an academic interest but as a republican I must also admit to an emotional and political interest.

There are three clear interesting elements to this election, the inter-nationalist SF v SDLP vote, the broader Nationalist V Unionist result and the issue of how the wider vote fragments among other parties.

The infuriating point of FPP elections is, of course, that it focusses things in a very black and white way. The ultimate sectarian headcount if you’ll forgive me that phrase. For example, in 2017 Green Party transfers broke 70% for the two main nationalist parties – 40% of them went to SF.

Given the nature of this election, a number of questions present themselves:

Will the fragmented voters among the smaller parties actually vote, and if they do, who will they vote for?
Will the big ticket issues impact on voters? – Brexit, Stormont reignition, Equality issues, Political competence?
Will the politically smart and diverse electorate in South Belfast withdraw to the traditional barricades?
Regarding the Intra Nationalist battle – can Máirtín win?

In my opinion, yes he can but for that to happen it’ll require two things to happen.

It will require sufficient SDLP voters to shift their votes in the belief that Máirtin can beat Alasdair to take Mairtin over about 25%. In other words he needs to find 4000 votes above his 2015 total or 2000 above the May 2017 performance.

It will also require voters in the smaller parties to vote SF.

Given the rapid rate of demographic change in South Belfast it will be interesting to see how the vote coalesces this time around.

If, and it’s a big if, he can maintain the momentum he has built over recent elections. Yes Mairtin can win this but the odds are currently not in his favour.

The most recent Lucid talk poll gives the SDLP a 60% chance of retaining the seat with  the DUP as the likely winners if they don’t.

The SDLP are clearly pitching their hopes of retaining the seat on a campaign built upon the local popularity of Claire Hanna and the benefits of being the incumbent MP.

I am personally yet to be persuaded as to the benefits of any MP from hereabouts actually taking a seat in Westminster, not to mention taking an oath to an unelected monarch. I am unaware of a single instance of any elected MP from here materially affecting any piece of legislation passing through Westminster.

For me, South Belfast will be the one to watch on the night of June 8th.

Game Changer?


We face into yet another election which, I suspect, few want just now.

The key question is if the previously dormant nationalist leaning electorate will turn out again.

There is a text and and a subtext to this one. The text is the Brexit mini referendum and the subtext, as always, is the nationalist v unionist headcount.John Finucane

Momentum is key in politics and I have no doubts where the momentum lies just now.

The selection of John Finucane in North Belfast is a potential game changer. The SDLP pattern of simply attacking SF will be laid bare if they go for this one. I hope they don’t but you never know.

Just a thought but the potential for 7 unionist out of 18 MP’s is now live.