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This is the first of a bunch of election profiles I'll be posting for the upcoming Northern Ireland Assembly election over the next week or so.

Lagan Valley, which is basically Lisburn on Belfast's southern edge and Dromore a little further south, was the most Unionist constituency in Northern Ireland in the last Assembly election - 74.6% of the vote went to nine candidates from five parties, electing three DUP and two UUP (the DUP, who benefited from UUP disarray in 2011 and won four seats that year, lost one to the UUP in 2016). The last seat went to Alliance, who got only 9.5% of first preferences but benefited from transfers. The Nationalist parties had 10.2% between them.

2016 results
DUP 18,325 (47.2%, -5.9%) 3 seats (-1)
UUP 8,247 (21.2%, +0.8%) 2 seats (+1)
TUV 1,291 (3.3%, +0.4%)
UKIP 768 (2.0%)
Conservative 341 (0.9%)

Alliance 3,707 (9.5%, -2.9%) 1 seat
Green 1,118 (2.9%, +1.2%)
Independent 817 (2.1%)
NI Labour 171 (0.4%)
Democracy First 124 (0.3%)

SDLP 2,899 (7.5%, +1.4%)
Sinn Féin 1,045 (2.7%, -0.7%)
2017 candidates
@Brenda Hale (DUP)
@Paul Givan (DUP)
@Edwin Poots (DUP)
@Robbie Butler (UUP)
@Jenny Palmer (UUP)
Sammy Morrison (TUV)
Matthew Robinson (Cons)

@Trevor Lunn (Alliance)
Dan Barrios-O'Neill (Green)
Keith Gray (Ind Lab)
Johnny Orr (Ind)

Pat Catney (SDLP)
Peter Doran (SF)


All six retiring MLAs are standing again (not very surprising since it is less than a year since the last election). There are only two women among the thirteen candidates. The DUP are defending three seats with 2.8 quotas; the UUP are defending two with 1.2 quotas; and Alliance is defending one with 0.6 of a quota. In 2016 there were 4.5 Unionist quotas (as noted above, the highest anywhere) and 0.7 of a quota for Nationalist parties.

So it's pretty clear that there are four Unionist seats between five sitting MLAs. The numbers from last time point pretty clearly to those going 3 DUP, 1 UUP. If there is indeed a swing against the DUP due to recent controversy, this is one of the bellwether constituencies where one might see a change. Let's not forget that Patrick Roche came out of nowhere to take a seat here for the UKUP in 1998.

Outside the Unionist camp, Alliance could be vulnerable to the SDLP in the event of a Nationalist surge or Alliance dip. But their position is a bit more robust than the raw figures may suggest. The Greens (2.9%) and Jonny Orr (2.1%) are in the same part of the electoral spectrum, and transferred to Alliance ahead of the SDLP. Their voters will presumably do so again, on second or even first preference.

My call: second UUP seat is under the most pressure here, but nobody can rest easy.

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