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.
Jim has had the DUP whip withdrawn as a result of an internal DUP issue.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.