Monday 16 November 2009

The best laid schemes o' mice an' men

How many seats in the Assembly would the TUV need in order to bring about their declared objective – the inoperability of 'mandatory coalition'?

The TUV plan was set out clearly by Jim Allister on 14 November:
"It is by a sufficient number of MLAs refusing to operate mandatory coalition that it will be starved of its legitimacy and all those who claim opposition to mandatory coalition will be tested. Then, we will see the durability of mandatory coalition. I believe it will flounder and the inevitable outcome will be fresh negotiations within which a sizeable section of Unionism will not be rolling over. Once mandatory coalition is made inoperative then alternatives will kick in, because the present Stormont parties’ reliance on sustaining an Assembly is such that even those who presently declare otherwise will then accept the logic of voluntary coalition."

When Allister talks of the 'legitimacy' of the 'mandatory coalition' it is likely that he is talking about its 'legitimacy' amongst unionists only. Although he does not say it clearly, it is evident from other sources that this unionist legitimacy derives in large part from the existence of a unionist First Minister.

In order for unionism to lose the First Minister post, under the terms of the Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Act 2006, if after an election to the Assembly 'the party which is the largest political party of the largest political designation is not the largest political party, any nomination to [the post of First Minister] shall instead be made by the nominating officer of the largest political party'.

So, in order for the Executive to lose its unionist legitimacy, Allister believes, his party needs simply to reduce the number of DUP seats to less than the number of Sinn Féin seats.

At present there are 36 DUP MLAs against 28 Sinn Féin MLAs. His aim is to capture at least nine DUP seats, or cause them to be lost, bringing their total to 27 or less. If UCUNF take another couple of DUP scalps then that just makes the Sinn Féin position even stronger. A resurgent SDLP does not feature in Allister's thinking, probably correctly.

Can the TUV take one quarter of the DUP's seats? So far, on the few occasions when the parties have gone head-to-head the TUV has taken around 40% of their combined vote. But these occasions are quite specific, and have involved no more than two TUV candidates – Allister himself, and Keith Harbinson in Dromore. Apart from them, the TUV has few recognisable or electable faces. Nonetheless, the TUV may well be the inheritor of the unionist tradition of voting for a donkey if it has a union jack wrapped around it, so the quality of its candidates may not matter.

In order to take nine DUP Assembly seats the TUV need to pick up one per constituency, on average, or to split the unionist vote sufficiently that fewer unionists of any stripe are elected.

As things look at the present, such a scenario is possible. The TUV itself could, on a good day, pick up at least seven DUP seats (one each in East and North Belfast, East and North Antrim, East Derry, Lagan Valley and Strangford), while another seat could fall to the UUP (Fermanagh and South Tyrone), and two to nationalists (Foyle and Newry and Armagh). This would leave the party strengths (ceteris paribus) at: DUP 26, UUP 19, TUV 7, PUP 1 versus Sinn Féin 29, SDLP 17, and Alliance/others at 9. Sinn Féin as largest party would nominate the First Minister, and, in Allister's plan, the unionists would walk out en bloc.

Allister's plan requires the DUP to refuse to nominate for the Deputy First Minister post – and on this he is probably right. But it then requires Sinn Féin to "accept the logic of voluntary coalition" and rule themselves out of power until such time as unionists decide they are sufficiently 'house-trained' (i.e. never, as Allister himself believes ("TUV will never enter government with Sinn Fein"). This is where Allister's plan starts to part company with common sense.

The Westminster elections next year will act as a dry run for the TUV. Since the constituencies are the same for Westminster and the Assembly, the party's performance next year will allow an accurate prediction of its prospects in 2011 to be made. If the TUV does well in 2010, then the planning for what to do in 2011 when the Executive collapses can already begin. If the TUV do badly in 2010, then the Executive may stagger on until its next crisis.


Watcher said...

To destroy power sharing TUV need over half the unionist first preference votes, or at least over half the unionist assembly seats. This they will never get.

I do agree though that a SF first minister would be bad news for power sharing, although it beggars belief that as few as 7 TUV seats could bring down the assembly, given the fact that all other unionists elected are theoretically in support of power sharing.

As regards unionist attitudes towards SF, I think you might be wrong. Many unionists can differentiate between sharing power with ex-IRA (or suspected ex-IRA) members and those not suspected of personal IRA involvement. This ambiguity will increase as SF itself moves towards a position where none of it's members (or at least none of it's senior members) are suspected of IRA involvement. This will happen over the next ten to twenty years. The new SF will absorb the 'green' SDLP supporters who will no longer fear it's IRA connections, just as the SDLP's ultra-Catholics drift rightwards into the Conservative party and it's socialist wing drifts towards UK Labour. At this point, if a power sharing assembly is still alive (and voluntary), SF could share power with UK Labour (socialist alliance), or the Conservatives could share power with UK labour (unionist alliance). Time will tell.

Anonymous said...

Laughable wishful thinking here about the nationalist vote being divided along traditional British lines. For one thing, Labour are about to be cast into an outer darkness from which they will not recover before a nationalist majority is a reality.

What will make SF an irrelevance is a united Ireland.

Watcher said...

Which will never happen. There will never be a large enough Catholic (as opposed to Nationalist) majority in Northern Ireland to outweigh those Catholics whose self interest dictates voting for the status quo in any border poll - especially those who work directly for The UK state. In any case the picture I paint does not say Nationalism in Northern Ireland will disappear - it will still achieve 30/40% in elections. But the rest of the vote will be pro-union (with a small 'u').

People like yourself are becoming an anachronism, as Northern Ireland opinion polls show. That's not to say you and your ilk will disappear, after all there are those in Ireland who yearn for a socialist state - something else that will never happen. Yours are what I call hobby politics, devoid from the realities of power.

Are you from Northern Ireland yourself?

picador said...

Are you confident the current Assmebly will hold out until 2011, Horseman?

Anonymous said...

If a united Ireland "will never happen" why do you need to show up here and say it will never happen?

It will certainly happen. The British have no interest in holding onto it and will pay A PREMIUM to be rid of it. Don't kid yourself. The British will be paying the Irish govt. to take it off their hands and the idea that Catholics/nationalists will vote AGAINST their desire for reunification because they feel economically held hostage.... will be a non-runner. Try again.

hoboroad said...

I see the Tories in England could be ready to de-select a candidate because she had a affair with a married man.


which a sizeable section of Unionism will not be rolling over... blah... blah.. blah...




hoboroad said...

Miss Truss won her de-selection battle and will be the Tory candidate in South West Norfolk.

Watcher said...

Anonymous said:

"If a united Ireland "will never happen" why do you need to show up here and say it will never happen?"

I turn up here for the same reason you do, to chit chat about Northern Ireland politics. Why, you're not actually here to campaign for a United Ireland are you? LOL. Try PULSE mate, if your looking for converts. LOL.

"It will certainly happen. The British have no interest in holding onto it and will pay A PREMIUM to be rid of it."

Sorry are you British? I don't recall you saying where you're from. You're not one of those on site plastic paddies are you?

"Don't kid yourself. The British will be paying the Irish govt. to take it off their hands "


"and the idea that Catholics/nationalists will vote AGAINST their desire for reunification because they feel economically held hostage.... will be a non-runner.

Ye, that's right pal - they'll cut their own throats and masturbate over Pearses grave.


You're not from Northern Ireland are you?

bangordub said...

May I suggest that some ground rules be established for comments a la Slugger?
I don't mean censorship of dissenting views but some comments are ridiculously personal

Anonymous said...

Bangordub :

Presumably your latest post is a reference to the vomit-inducing muck posted by some unionist commentators on this site.

Bear in mind these kind of posters only serve to discredit both the author and any views they purport to support.

The ones who benefit are the good guys.
Nationalism wins - again.

- Munsterman

Nordie Northsider said...

Hoboroad wrote: I see the Tories in England could be ready to de-select a candidate because she had a affair with a married man.

In fairness, Hobo, the objectors say that what angered them was her lack of candour. All candidates are asked to make a declaration about any skeletons they might have rattling around in the cupboard, the kind of scandal that might blow up during an elction campaign. Truss kept quiet about something well known to everyone on the rumour-mill. But, if nothing else, the affair gave us a new buzzword for rural Tories: the Turnip Taliban.

Horseman said...


I agree that some posts on this (and every other) blog are somewhat south of acceptable in normal society. But ... I don't want to censor them for several reasons. Firstly, as Munsterman says, the commenter only serves to make himself/herself look foolish, thereby negating their comments. And also because I think it is useful to try to understand those who disagree with us, even if they have trouble making their points clearly.

I am an optimist and I hope that after a while all commenters will realise that the most effective comments are the reasonable, well-argued ones. After a while I hope that the comments will evolve into a discussion, rather than a shouting match. If I'm wrong then so be it, but then Munsterman's point remains valid.

bangordub said...

Thanks Horseman for your considered response.
Munsterman is absolutely right. I just think it's valuable to get as many opinions as possible without anyone feeling threatened.
After all, I understand the meaning of the word Republican in it's true sense.
Ps. A Munsterman and a Dub in agreement!
Must be a first LOL

Anonymous said...

Wht the hell are their prods on here at all/this should be for IRISH onlylol

hoboroad said...

Did anyone see the programme on Channel 4 last night about the Israel Lobby in Britain? 80 percent of Tory MP's are members of the Conservative Friends of Israel. A lot of them take thousand's of pounds from wealthy Zionist businessmen.

Anonymous said...

bangordub :

"Munsterman is absolutely right...
Ps. A Munsterman and a Dub in agreement!
Must be a first LOL... "

Careful - you might get reprimanded by some "anonymous" for "brown-nosing".....not allowed to agree with other posters - or horror of horrors - tell Horseman what a superb job he's doing.

- Munsterman

bangordub said...

God forbid!
Also, well spotted reference Munsterman.

hoboroad said...

So it is ok to have an affair in the Tory party as long as you tell the selection committee about it. I wonder what the 100,000 born again Christians in Northern Ireland who do not vote thing about that? John Coulter the Unionist Columnist thinks David Cameron needs to reach out to these people.

Watcher said...

Has anyone asked Ulster's real Catholics what they think about adultery?

By 'real', I mean those who follow the churches teachings, not those who happen to come from an RC background and confuse Catholicism with Irish Nationalism...

bangordub said...

That, my friend, is Unionisms common error,
Do you want a list of nationlists from a non RC background?

Watcher said...

I can tell you one thing, there's far more Catholics oppose a UI than Protestants support it - in Northern Ireland. The Nationalist Prods tend to be a small number of idealists, whilst The Unionist Catholics tend to be a much larger group of realists.

Historical Protestant Republicans are of no interest to me, like the above Catholics I live in reality.

Anonymous said...

Please prove.

MPG .....

hoboroad said...

How many Unionist MPs are Catholic?
How many Unionist MLAs are Catholic?
How many Unionist Councillors are Catholic?

Anonymous said...

Some of Ireland's greatest patriots have been Protestants, as have some of the ROI's presidents. There's no neurosis about this in the south, indeed there's pride in the inclusiveness this represents. Just as there is pride when a man in a green jersey scores a try against England in rugby match, no matter what part of Ireland he is from. We see Ireland as one country.

anonymous @15:26 you are an agent provacateur of the sock puppet variety. Try again with a sentence or two in Irish. It's not hard to spot your type. It must be annoying how the other side refuses to take the bait. Confidence in the outcome I suppose.

Horseman, I'm glad you could you could use the T.I. info :-)

Watcher said...

Some of England's greatest patriots have been Catholics - Richard The Lion Heart for instance.