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.

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