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European Election 2014

Bumped up from a comment in Slugger, re the next European Parliament elections in Northern Ireland:

There is zero chance of two Nationalists winning. Last time round Alban Maginness was more than 18,000 votes adrift of Diane Dodds, and taking the undistributed surpluses into account the real difference was probably 24,000 (Nicholson ended with a 11,000 surplus, de Brún with 5,000) and the 7,500 non-transferables from Allister are probably a high-water mark for hardline plumpers. The total Nationalist vote is consistently 5-10% behind the total Unionist vote, and Unionists are better at internal transfers; there is absolutely no reason to expect 2014 to be any different.

There is also zero chance of Nationalist transfers deciding which Unionist candidates get elected. This would require the total Nationalist vote (impossibly) to fall below 37.5%. At every election since SF came into the system, the trailing Nationalist party has survived to the last count without being eliminated.

Even in the (impossible) Nationalist meltdown scenario, while it is wrong to say that no Shinner will ever vote DUP or vice versa, the numbers that do are likely to be too few to make the difference. The one occasion when something like this happened at a European election was in 1979, when Bernadette McAliskey was eliminated, and 81% of her votes did not transfer, failing to help Oliver Napier close the gap with Jim Kilfedder (let alone with Harry West or John Taylor).

If I were the DUP I would run two candidates in the hope of squeezing out the UUP. Jim Nicholson will be 69 by the time of the 2014 election and will have served five terms, so I would not count on his running again, and it’s difficult to see who the replacement would be (but then again few of us predicted either Allister or Dodds as a DUP candidate for Europe). The DUP have comfortably outpolled the UUP in every election in the last ten years except the last Euro-election. In both Assembly elections they got more than twice the UUP total.

But I am not the DUP, and I think they will run only one candidate. The fact that the one election where the UUP finished ahead of them (after transfers) was the last European election will certainly play into their preparations for the next one. Also the DUP have shown a commendable caution about over-nominating in recent years, even where their candidate might have had a good chance on the numbers. My impression is that internal discipline is strong enough that running two candidates would not be a big issue, but the party’s political aims are served more effectively by winning one seat safely than by scraping (or worse possibly failing) to win a second.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 2nd, 2012 04:30 pm (UTC)
I agree that it's unlikely, but I'm not sure I go along with zero chance anymore. The Unionist vote is dropping while the nationalist is merely stagnating (or affected by dissident appeal).

I really the think the main sleeper issue that didn't get enough of any airing is the destination of the allaince transfers. People used to say that alliance were a small 'u' unionist party which would have annoyed a lot of people (no doubt yourself included). The real thing for me is that in south belfast last year the bulk of transfers go to the SDLP and broadly speaking nationalists. 40% to the SDLP, 5% to the shinners and 20% to the greens (who ultimately transferred on to Conall McDevitt.

On top of that, in north belfast the alliance candidate didn't have a chance to transfer to any nationalists, but in the Castle ward of the council elections, the elimination of Mckechnie went a whopping 57% to the SDLP, 6% shinner, 17% UUP and the rest dead.

The point is two-fold, firstly about what I think is the wrong depiction of alliance voters as unionists who want to boast at the golf club. It's just not true and really interesting in Belfast in particular. Secondly, in the (unlikely) event that the DUP did run two candidates, the elimination of Nicholson (or whoever) would probably take a large part of the initial alliance transfers from the UUP pack to the SDLP, as well as a fair number of UUP no. 1s who would rather transfer to someone like All-bran Maginness than the ghastly DUP. As well as the that and the plethora of leftist/ republican/ green types who could be bothered to vote down a ballot and suddenly that 2nd unionist seat is not so secure.

All that said I don't see it myself, but it's just not the zero chance that you make out.


Apr. 3rd, 2012 11:50 pm (UTC)
I'd agree with you on the nationalist side. The nationalist vote seems to be remaining static at around 42% and it would need to be a lot higher for two candidates to be elected. On the Unionist side I think the circumstances have changed considerably since 2009 though. Then the TUV were able to make capital out of opposition to the Saint Andrews agreement and Allister also had the incumbency factor on his side. He no longer has that and the TUV have been exposed as a busted flush with power sharing with the shinners rapidly becoming a dead issue now with unionist voters. I think the DUP would be daft not to run 2 candidates as they will be way beyond the 25% mark below which it would be a dodgy strategy (due to transfer leakage etc.) The key would be getting the right candidate for the west.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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