Wednesday 17 June 2009

European Parliament election wrap-up

This blog enjoys an election as much as anyone else – even a fairly irrelevant one like the recent election for the European Parliament. The EP itself is, of course, becoming increasingly important, although this fact has yet to really filter into the consciousnesses of most local politicians (which is why the parties stand only B-list politicians for the EP). However, with only three MEPs spread over three parties and three EP groups, Northern Ireland's EP representation is utterly irrelevant. Once in Strasbourg they will disappear from sight, despite their parties' attempts to pretend that they are running Europe!

After running stories on the EP election since February 4 it is now time to wrap it up and look forward to the next election, for Westminster.

Before leaving the EP behind though, it is interesting to note that almost all of what this blog wrote in February came to pass, with the exception of Jim Allister's performance, which was much better than expected.

In February this blog wrote that:

"The breakdown of the vote in June's European Parliament election between the unionist block and the nationalist block will probably not differ much from the breakdown in other elections" – and in fact the outcome was almost indistinguishable from the 2004 EP election.

" … the relative strengths of the two blocks are approximately: Unionist 50%, Nationalist 43%" – and the outcome was 49% unionist, 42.2% nationalist.

" … this should translate again into two unionist seats and one nationalist seat" – not such a brave prediction, but nonetheless true.

"… Jim Allister, by sheer persistence and good timing, has managed to remain a serous threat to the DUP. While few expect him to hold his seat, the DUP are concerned that he will steal their more extremist voters and consign them to an ignominious scramble for the third seat" – which is exactly what happened!

" … The DUP may then suffer the double indignity of failing to keep Sinn Féin from topping the poll and having to depend on transfers from minor party candidates, which might not come. When the DUP candidate is eventually elected, he or she may have lost considerable face in the process" – exactly as came to pass.

" … The SDLP vote should hold steady" – and indeed, after dropping from 28% in 1999 to 16% in 2004, it remained almost unchanged at 16.2% in 2009.

" … Historically the 'Alliance and other' vote has tended to be around 8-9% in EP elections, and this time should be no different" – it was, in fact, 8.8% - exactly in the range predicted (though the Green portion was higher than this blog expected – 3.3% instead of 1%).

Enough blowing of our own trumpet. There were other sources of soft predictions, including the bookies. Northern Ireland has no reliable polls for most elections, so this blog relied heavily on the odds quoted by the bookies, particularly Paddy Power. And the outcome that those odds pointed towards was almost perfectly correct. The bookies predicted victory for the three candidates who won, and predicted correctly that Bairbre de Brún would top the poll. On the unpredictable performance of Jim Allister the bookies called it correctly – as polling day approached, they were quoting their shortest odds (i.e. representing what they thought was most likely) for a vote above 60,000 – and he scored 66,197.

As Allister's odds shortened, Dodd's lengthened, and that turned out to be exactly how the vote fell – Allister's votes appeared to have come entirely at Dodds' expense.

The lesson that this blog has learned is that, in the absence of reliable polling, the best predictor for the outcome of an election is how people are prepared to risk their cash. This lesson will be applied, of course, during the next election campaign – which should be starting very soon.


hoboroad said...


Chekov has accused Seymour Major of not being a proper conservative and listening to Horseman to much.Any thoughts on that?

Horseman said...


It seems that Chekov doesn't like me much! But surely he's not afraid of peple hearing what I say? If his position is so secure he should be happy to listen to other viewpoints.

Seymour Major is a rarity amongst unionists, in that he is prepared to actually listen to what other say and think. But IIRC he is actually English, so lacks the genetic element of northern unionism.

hoboroad said...

He does seem to be just to nice and he has good manners.Not something normally found in unionist circles.I think he understands English politics pretty well thats why he upsets Chekov so much!

hoboroad said...


What % of the TUV vote was in the 60 years or older bracket?I think he has managed to convince a lot of people who followed Paisley through thick and thin to now follow him.He is like Paisley only more educated and that only makes him more dangerous.I do think there is an element in Unionism that will never be happy in government and prefer to be outside protesting I think we should call it the Cedric Wilson Factor!

hoboroad said...

Allister's plans for bringing down the executive is to stand candidates for every MLA's seat forcing Unionism into a minority at the Executive table and bringing about a Sinn Fein First Minister!He also plans to run candidates only in Unionist safe seats for Westminister.You can read all about it in todays Newsletter it's available online if you don't want to pay for it.

Horseman said...


Yes, I read Allister's plans in today's NL (and yes, I certainly do not pay them a penny of my own cash!). It means that he'll only stand in a few constituencies, which will save him some face. But it still leaves the UCUNF standing everywhere, so South Belfast and Fermanagh and South Tyrone are still interesting.

But even if the TUV stand where Allister said they would, it could cause the DUP serious grief.

Anonymous said...

Chekov doesn't like me much!

Don't get the idea you're being singled out.

Chekov doesn't like anyone whose views don't accord with his own - witness the treatment he regularly doles out to Brian Walker on Slugger O'Toole or the current comments on his blog about Brian Keenan (the former hostage rather than the ex-IRA man).

Anonymous said...

What is the impact of the higher Catholic birth rate on these Euro figures?

hoboroad said...

The UVF has Decommisioned according to BBC NEWS

Militant Mike said...

Well i'm looking foward to seeing the odds on Alliance finally winning a Westminster seat in North Down or East Belfast or maybe even South Belfast in the event of a nicely fractured Unionist vote. Roll on the TUV! Trouble is, the better the odds, the less i'll win.