Sunday 5 July 2009

The Allister surge continues

TUV leader Jim Allister has indicated that his party will force a Ballymoney council by-election after the resignation last week of DUP councillor Roy Wilson. Allister said that: "my understanding is that councillor has resigned not just from the council but from the DUP because of his principled objection to the DUP's present political stance. Of course it throws up the opportunity of a by-election, and we're not ones to run away from such opportunities. I look forward to that testing of the water in a constituency which is for some reason attracting increasing interest."

The DUP, of course, claim that Wilson had not resigned from the party and his decision was a personal matter unconnected with its power-sharing policy.

Thanks to its existing councillor on Ballymoney Council, Audrey Patterson, the TUV can block the co-option of a replacement for Wilson. Legislation that would have stopped by-elections in the run-up to the 2011 elections to the new larger councils has apparently not yet been enacted, and so if the council cannot agree unanimously to a co-option a by-election must be held.

Roy Wilson was elected in 2005 in the Bann Valley electoral area. The DUP then took 43.3% of the vote in Bann Valley, leaving the UUP far behind on 12.4%. But, not too far behind the DUP was Sinn Féin on 33.7%. On previous outings (only two, of course: Dromore and the European Parliament) the TUV has taken over 40% of the aggregate DUP/TUV vote (call it the extreme unionist vote) – almost 43% of that aggregate only a month ago! So if they eat into the DUP vote in Bann Valley in a similar fashion, the outcome could be that neither the DUP nor the TUV take the seat, and it is won by Sinn Féin.

Neither in Dromore – a safe unionist seat – nor in the European Parliament did Allister’s intervention actually hand a seat to nationalists (though he did hand them a large propaganda victory in the European elections). But Bann Valley is at least 44% nationalist and if the transfers do not fall correctly Sinn Féin could pick up the seat, and Allister will earn the hatred of many extremist unionists in exactly the area (North Antrim) where he will be keen to woo them.

Allister is thus playing a high-risk game. If he does force the by-election and the TUV wins it (which would need a DUP meltdown of catastrophic proportions) then he would be a shoe-in for the North Antrim seat in the Westminster election. But if he forces the by-election and Sinn Féin wins the seat then he will be branded as a splitter and will lose a lot of his support, thus calling into question his chances in the Westminster election. If he does not quickly rule out the forcing of a by-election then he will be seen as a ditherer, but if he waits too long and then rules it out he will also be seen as too scared to fight in his own back-garden. Maybe he will come to regret his rash bravado about the “testing of the water” in North Antrim.


hoboroad said...

We all know that Allister is Ian Paisley mark2 in the political world.But who is going to replace him in the religous sphere? I don't think there will be a new Paisleyite Preacher mark2 has Paisley left a gap in protestant extremism that cannot be filled by anybody else?

Faha said...

I believe Jim Allister and the TUV will decide to call a bye election. In the Dromore bye election and the European election the TUV damaged the DUP but did not defeat them. The TUV need an election where they actually defeat the DUP and take away a seat from them that is won by the TUV. It is very unlikely that Sinn Fein could win the seat. In the 2005 election in Bann Valley all the political parties had a chance of winning a seat since there were 6 seats available. In a bye election only one seat can be won. UUP and SDLP voters may be less motivated to turn out and the election will be seen as a contest between the TUV and DUP. For example, suppose the first count is as follows:
TUV 23%
DUP 20%
UUP 12%
SF 34%
SDLP 11%

The SF, SDLP and UUP vote is similar to 2005 with the DUP vote split between the TUV and DUP.
After the UUP and SDLP are eliminated in the 2nd and 3rd counts the result could be:
SF 44%
TUV 28%
DUP 25%
Non-transferable 3%
The TUV would win on DUP transfers. The only possible way SF could win would be for only 60% of DUP transfers going to the TUV.
It is unlikely that there would be such a low percentage of DUP tranfers to the TUV, especially since those DUP voters are aware that failure to transfer would result in SF winning the seat. However, if the DUP out poll the TUV and the TUV candidate is eliminated, there would be fewer transfers going to the DUP, though I doubt that it would be as low as 60%. Even in the European election 53% of TUV transfers went to the UUP and 37% to the DUP. Of course, it is unknown how many of those who transfered to the UUP chose the DUP as a lower preference. Some TUV voters will refuse to transfer to the DUP in any election but I doubt that it would be on a scale ( 40% ) to elect a SF candidate. This election would also be important from the TUV viewpoint since it will give them data on how many UUP transfers will go to the TUV and and how many DUP voters are willing to transfer to the TUV.

Horseman said...


Thanks for that comprehensive analysis. I agree that a SF win would be a long shot, but it is within the realm of the possible. It would be interesting to see the TUV and the DUP locking heads in a real grudge-match, and then desperately needing the transfers of the defeated party! The nastier the election campaign, the less transfers there would be.

A lot would rest on the turn-out. If nationalists saw a possibility and turned out in large numbers, while unionists were turned off by the in-fighting, then the result could change.

One thing that won't yet influence the result is demographic change. I expect that in the 4 years since the last local elections there has been only a glacial change in the composition of the electorate.

hoboroad said...


It can only get dirtier between the TUV and the DUP! Allister will reveal how long the DUP/SinnFein have been really talking to one another.Anybody who believes they were not in secret talks before the Chuckle Brother routine needs there head examined! Allister need a creditable candidate to stand though a Cedric Wilson type will not do.

Militant Mike said...

Surely one shouldnt rule out the possibility of an Alliance surge. Remember Bann Valley in 1985 ? - 6.3% or those halcion days of 1981 (albeit Ballymoney A not then called Bann Valley) a whopping 19%.

Scamallach said...

A nationalist victory in a majority unionist area would not be a great result for anyone, even the nationalists. It would inevitably lead to raised tensions, ill will from the unionists, etc. That doesn't serve the greater good. Also, it seems slightly undemocratic to me, even if I concede that it would have been the voters who shot themselves in the foot in this instance... :-)