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Posts Tagged ‘Democratic Unionist Party’

Same again, but more so, in Northern Ireland

8 May, 2011 1 comment

An election where no party’s total differed by more than two seats from last time. The DUP and Sinn Féin consolidated further their leads against the UUP and the SDLP respectively. And elections are very much still in these terms, as the table below shows. It shows too that the movement between communities in seat totals is far less sharp than if seen through the first past the post Westminster elections. MLAs are required to designate as Unionist, Nationalist or Other on the Assembly’s register, and votes require a support by qualified majority of both Unionists and Nationalists. This does create a systematic bias against Others, which is perhaps balanced by the Minister for Justice being decided by a full vote on a cross-community basis of the Assembly, rather than through d’Hondt, in effect a guaranteed Minister for the Alliance Party. Even without different rules, however, I’d still expect voting to be along community lines at this stage.

Year Unionist Nationalist Other
1998 58

28 UUP
20 DUP
5 UKUP
2 PUP
3 Ind

42

24 SDLP
18 SF

8

6 Alliance
2 NIWC

2003 59

30 DUP
27 UUP
1 PUP
1 UKUP

42

24 SF
18 SDLP

7

6 Alliance
1 Ind

2007 55

36 DUP
18 UUP
1 PUP

44

28 SF
16 SDLP

9

7 Alliance
1 Green
1 Ind

2011 56

38 DUP
16 UUP
1 TUV
1 Ind

43

29 SF
14 SDLP

9

8 Alliance
1 Green

There really is no better analyst on Northern Ireland elections than Nicholas Whyte, son of historian John Whyte, so check out his blog and site. Slugger O’Toole is good too. But rather than just present a neat table, I might as well add a few thoughts of my own. Read more…

Why Others annoys me

On the BBC’s results page, they list a summary of the result, which has a figure of 19 Others. This includes all Northern Ireland parties, despite the fact that they give figures for the Scottish Nationalist Party, with less seats than the DUP, and Plaid Cyrmu, with less seats than Sinn Féin and as many as the SDLP. This is a reminder of how little Britain really cares about Northern Ireland, but as parties represented in Westminster, they really should be listed. They won’t act as a unit, and particularly after an election with no clear result, it would informative for them to be considered separately, to consider traditional allegiances with the main British parties. The SDLP, for example, could be trusted to support the Labour Party in most circumstances, as could Sylvia Hermon, who voted more consistently with the government than some Labour backbenchers. The Alliance have had institutional links with the Liberal Democrats so it should fairly much be taken for granted that Naomi Long will support whichever prime minister Nick Clegg decides to support. Sinn Féin’s abstention changes the number required for a majority in the Commons, as the total number taking their seats would be 645 rather than 650. And that would leave anyone looking at the figures able to quickly see the DUP’s eight seats and wonder how they’d act.

And it’s not just about Northern Ireland. Grouping small parties as Others masks at first glance the breakthrough of small parties, such as the Green Party at this election. I wouldn’t really mind either if they listed the change for Respect, down from one to no seats, so we could all have the pleasure of being reminded of George Galloway’s defeat, one of the small comforts of this election.

Changing state of Northern Ireland MPs

7 May, 2010 1 comment

There have been significant and notable changes in Northern Ireland at all recent elections. Here is a quick glance summary of the 18 Northern Ireland constituencies since 1992. Since then, only 3 constituencies have been represented continuously by the same party, Foyle and Down South by the SDLP and Antrim North by the DUP.

Constituency 1992 1997 2001 2005 2010
Antrim East Beggs Beggs Beggs Wilson Wilson
Antrim North Paisley Paisley Paisley Paisley Paisley, Jr
Antrim South Fosythe Forsythe Burnside McCrea McCrea
Belfast East Robinson Robinson Robinson Robinson Long
Belfast North Walker Walker Dodds Dodds Dodds
Belfast South Smyth Smyth Smyth McDonnell McDonnell
Belfast West Hendron Adams Adams Adams Adams
Down North Kilfedder McCartney Hermon Hermon Hermon
Down South McGrady McGrady McGrady McGrady Ritchie
Fermanagh–South Tyrone Maginnis Maginnis Gildernew Gildernew Gildernew
Foyle Hume Hume Hume Durkan Durkan
Lagan Valley Molyneaux Donaldson Donaldson Donaldson Donaldson
Londonderry East Ross Ross Campbell Campbell Campbell
Newry–Armagh Mallon Mallon Mallon Murphy Murphy
Strangford Taylor Taylor Robinson Robinson Shannon
Tyrone West   Thompson Doherty Doherty Doherty
Ulster Mid McCrea McGuinness McGuinness McGuinness McGuinness
Upper Bann Trimble Trimble Trimble Simpson Simpson
Total (Party) UUP: 9
SDLP: 4
DUP: 3
UPUP: 1
UUP: 10
SDLP: 3
SF: 2
DUP: 2
UKUP: 1
UUP: 6
DUP: 5
SF:
SDLP: 3
DUP: 9
SF: 5
SDLP: 3
UUP: 1
DUP: 8
SF:5
SDLP: 3
AP: 1
Ind:1
Community Breakdown Unionist: 13
Nationalist: 4
Unionist: 13
Nationalist: 5
Unionist: 11
Nationalist: 7
Unionist: 10
Nationalist: 8
Unionist: 9
Nationalist: 8
Other: 1

(DUP in Orange, UUP in Blue, SF in Dark Green, SDLP in Light Green, small Unionist parties in Pale Orange, Alliance in Yellow; Source: ElectionsIreland.org)

The 2010 election saw a major upset with the defeat of the DUP leader Peter Robinson in the seat he has held in East Belfast since 1979, losing to the Alliance Party’s Naomi Long. This was the first time an Alliance Party candidate won a seat in a Westminster election, Stratton Mills having defected from the Ulster Unionists in 1974.

It was also the first election in which the Ulster Unionist Party failed to win a seat. They have existed since 1886, when the Conservatives first contested elections on an explicitly Unionist platform, in opposition to Gladstone’s Home Rule Bill. They organized as the Ulster Unionist Council in 1905. From 1974, they no longer took the Conservative whip in Westminster, and they broke all remaining ties in 1885. In 2008, the UUP agreed an electoral alliance with the Conservatives, which ultimately led to the loss of their only MP, Sylvia Hermon, who would not accept the Tory whip.

Text-only version:

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Or not

Great news from East Belfast, where the Alliance Party’s Naomi Long has taken out First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson. Great to see an Alliance Party MP elected after 40 years, and 36 years after Stratton Mills, who had left after being elected from the Ulster Unionist Party, retired in 1974.

The Alliance are avowedly non-sectarian, though it has been difficult for them at times for them to maintain their identity. I look forward to seeing how they can shape themselves now on the Westminster stage. It is also a gain for the Liberal Democrats, with whom the Alliance are aligned.

Peter Robinson won his seat here in 1979, in a close three-way contest against the Ulster Unionist Party’s William Craig and the Alliance Party’s Oliver Napier, with less than a thousand votes separating the three candidates, and till tonight, it was considered a solidly safe seat for the DUP. As a hung parliament is likely, and the DUP will need someone to be able negotiate any arrangements, his leadership may well be on the line quite soon.

Well, ding dong, the witch is dead.

Kingmaker?

robinson_p

The Times/Ladbrokes seat predictor currently put the Conservatives six seats short of a majority. Suppose this prediction is accurate. It ignores a few details about Northern Ireland. They predict a seat for Sir Reg Empey, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, standing in alliance with the Conservative Party, which really puts the those elected as Conservatives at 321. South Antrim should really have been coloured as blue as any Conservative predictions in Britain. They also predict a seat for Rodney Connor in Fermanagh–South Tyrone, who has pledged to take the Tory whip under a loose arrangement. Add to that then the four predicted Sinn Féin seats. By their abstention, they bring the figure required for a majority to 324, rather than the standard figure given of 326.

The Conservatives would then be only two seats short of a majority, and could very reasonably expect to form a government. But to be secure, to sure of not losing any confidence motion, especially if the predictions are a little high for the party, they could turn then to the eight predicted seats of the Democratic Unionist Party. They would most likely guarantee some measure of relief from the expected public sector cuts to Northern Ireland. It would be a major turn around in Peter Robinson’s fortunes, whose position was in doubt only a few months ago. It would also consolidate the Conservative government’s Unionist stance on issues of disagreement in Northern Ireland, which could potentially have repercussions for any further negotiations.

The election in Northern Ireland

Of the eighteen seats in Northern Ireland, fourteen are unlikely to change hands. At the moment, the DUP hold 9 seats, Sinn Féin hold 5, the SDLP 3 and one seat is held by the Independent Sylvia Hermon, who was elected in 2005 as an Ulster Unionist. It will be an interesting election to watch from a few perspectives. Will UUP, now standing under the Ulster Conservatives and Unionists – New Force banner make any gains? Will Unionist voters be more convinced of the benefit of supporting a likely government party or an unaligned party? Can the SDLP hold their own under their new leader Margaret Ritchie? Will the DUP and Sinn Féin face an ebb in their increased support since 2001?

I would count the following thirteen as safe seats:

  • Antrim East, to be held by the DUP’s Sammy Wilson
  • Antrim North, currently held by former DUP leader Rev. Ian Paisley, who will most like likely be succeeded by his son, Ian Paisley, Jr.
  • Belfast East, to be held by First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson
  • Belfast North, to be held by DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds
  • Belfast West, to be held by Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams
  • Down North, to be held by Independent Sylvia Hermon
  • Down South, currently held by the SDLP’s Eddie McGrady, to be succeeded by the new party leader, Margaret Ritchie
  • Foyle, to be held by former SDLP leader Mark Durkan
  • Lagan Valley, to be held by the DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson
  • Londonderry East, to be held the DUP’s Gregory Campbell
  • Newry–Armagh, to be held by Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy
  • Tyrone West, to be held by Sinn Féin’s Pat Doherty
  • Ulster Mid, to be held by deputy First Minister Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness

Leaving the following five, the first three fights between Unionists, the remaining two between Unionists and sitting nationalists:

Read more…

Symbolism of Hatfield House

27 January, 2010 1 comment

David Cameron has shown himself aware of Conservative Party history on the Irish question, such as when he declared in 2008 that he had a “selfish and strategic interest” in Northern Ireland.

Hatfield House, home of the Salisburys since 1611

With apologies for going on about the recent meeting between these parties while more serious negotiations are ongoing, the history of the location came to mind. One might wonder about the symbolism of Hatfield House as the location for the talks between the Conservatives, the Ulster Unionists and the Democratic Unionists. This is the home of the Robert, 7th Marquess of Salisbury. In no way do I mean to impugn the marquess’s character, a political figure in his own right as a Conservative MP between 1979 and 1987. But it is interesting to remember that his great-great-grandfather, the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, led the first Unionist government. When William Ewart Gladstone, then leader of the Liberal Party, gave his support to Home Rule in 1886, his party split, with the Liberal Unionists, led by Lord Hartington and Joseph Chamberlain, aligning themselves with the Conservatives. Gladstone’s government fell and Salisbury led a Unionist government until 1892. It would not be far fetched to think that discussions between Unionists on both sides of the Irish Sea happened in 1886 in Hatfield House, just as they did this year.

I’m sure it was

27 January, 2010 Leave a comment

A piece today on Conservative Home is now taking the line that the talks between the Unionist parties were not about electoral strategy, but about bolstering the peace process.

Or at least, they say it was about both. First off, they defend Ben Brogan’s piece on the Telegraph site David Cameron is a Unionist, remember?, as if to say that even if that was what it was about, that would be ok. Then they say that it was about the Tories putting pressure on the UUP to support the DUP in the event of a deal on policing.

The piece claims “After all, Irish political parties will sometimes discuss politics from a nationalist view with both Sinn Fein and the SDLP, and at the same time”. We do have to concede this in part. Members of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour have maintained informal associational ties with members of the SDLP, and all four parties did meet in 1984 at the New Ireland Forum. There have been secret service talks, from the Hume–Adams talks in the early 1990s to discussions on decommissioning in more recent times, something both governments engaged in. What we have not seen is an opposition party south of the border negotiating with both the SDLP and Sinn Féin to discuss politics from a nationalist point of view.

For equivalent reasons, I would be critical of Fianna Fáil moves to establish itself North of the border.

But even if we suppose that they discussed matters like policing, which presumably was on the agenda given the current deadlock, are Conservatives going to claim that the talks in Lord Salisbury’s residence in Hatfield House were “all about trying to bolster peace and security”?

If either of the Unionist parties do stand aside in marginal nationalist constituencies, such as Fermanagh–South Tyrone or South Belfast, will they maintain that this was not discussed at all during these talks?

That this has nothing to do with securing every possible vote in the Commons after the election to avoid the possibility of a hung parliament? I don’t think anyone really believes that.

Conservatives and Unionists

26 January, 2010 2 comments

In 1990, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Peter Brooke, declared that the Conservative government had no “selfish strategic or economic interest” in Northern Ireland. This marked a significant step for his party, still formally titled the Conservative and Unionist Party, and it paved the way for the Downing Street Declaration issued by An Taoiseach Albert Reynolds and Prime Minister John Major in December 1993, leading in turn to the IRA ceasefire of the following year.
In his speech to the 2008 Ulster Unionist Party Conference, Conservative Party leader David Cameron chose words to deliberately suggest that was repudiating Brooke’s sentiments, saying that he wanted to include Ulster Unionists in his government, expected to come into office later this year, “It’s in my own selfish and strategic interests, too”.

This week, reports emerged of talks between the Tories, the Ulster Unionists and the Democratic Unionist Party on electoral strategy. These will presumably aim to raise the total Unionist representation in the Commons with the parties standing aside in marginal nationalist constituencies. The Ulster Unionists could stand aside in Fermanagh–South Tyrone in favour of Acting First Minister Arlene Foster, targeting Sinn Féin’s Michelle Gildernew, and the DUP could stand aside in South Belfast, giving the UUP a better shot against the SDLP’s Alasdair McDonnell.

There has been a shift in recent elections in the community division of representation in Westminster, with 13 Unionist and five nationalist MPs in 1997, whereas two elections later in 2005 there were 10 Unionist and eight nationalist MPs, a ratio that is somewhat more representative of the division across Northern Ireland.

While nationalists had long assumed a level of understanding between the Conservatives and Ulster Unionists (they took the Tory whip in the Commons until 1974), it is a step too far for them to stomach such favourability towards the DUP. That David Cameron is willing to be perceived as taking sides in the divisive politics of Northern Ireland for the sake of a few extra votes in the Commons can most kindly be described as foolish, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown is right to chastise him. Some of the comments on Conservative Home seem to show how little British Tories really understand the politics of Northern Ireland. Trust is all-important in the delicate political process of Northern Ireland, unless the parties believe that the governments can do what they can to put aside their instinctive sensibilities on tribal loyalties, negotiations will be ever more strained.

The best hope for moderate Unionism will be in the re-election of Lady Sylvia Hermon, MP for North Down. She opposed the electoral alliance with the Conservatives, and has yet to agree to stand under the Conservative label. Her votes in parliament show her far closer to the Labour Party than the Conservatives. Alas, this could also have the effect of furthering the identity crisis within Unionism, with a four-way division from the civility of Hermon to the hardline stance of Jim Allister.

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