Tuesday 15 December 2009

The TUV two years on

Around this time two years ago Jim Allister revealed his new political vehicle, the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV). The party had, in fact, been registered since 10 October 2007, but Allister was being coy about it, initially calling it a 'movement' rather than a party.

On 28 November 2007 this blog commented on Allister's new party, and after a period of two years (and with Westminster elections coming up) it is interesting to revisit the article and to see how the TUV has lived up to its promise. The answer seems to be that it has performed entirely as this blog anticipated.

In 2007 this blog wrote that Allister's strategy appeared to be aimed at "winning enough seats at the next Assembly election (due in 2011) to collapse the whole show". And, as predicted, this turns out to be exactly what he intends.

In 2007 this blog also asked:
"… what can he achieve?

First and foremost, he can split the unionist vote. There may be some constituencies where a split unionist vote will give seats to nationalist candidates, or allow a precarious nationalist to keep his (or her's, in Fermanagh-South Tyrone!). At local level the effect would be strongest, and his impact would decrease the higher up the political food-chain one climbs. Despite his current position as an MEP, it is precisely the European election that he has least chance of disrupting. He will lose his seat, which will go to a 'safe' DUP candidate. Whether Nicholson loses his Euroseat is a question of demographics and turn-out on the day – Allister's 'movement' will not take many of Nicholson's votes."

10 out of 10 for this blog, it seems! Allister has turned out to be a classic unionist vote-splitter, and Fermanagh-South Tyrone is precisely the constituency (along with South Belfast) that unionists are most agitated about. Allister lost his Euro-seat, which did go to the DUP candidate (though on the day, not such a 'safe' one).

This blog also wished Allister luck: "this blog, of course, being strongly anti-unionist, wishes Mr Allister the best of luck. The more unionist votes he attracts, the easier it will be for nationalist candidates at all levels." And that sentiment remains as strong today as it was two years ago. Allister, and the TUV, continue to split unionism and cause unionists to attack each other, rather than nationalism. Allister, along with elements in the DUP of course, continues to portray an image of unionism that is virtually medieval – thereby damaging the image of unionism both within Ireland and abroad. By occupying a political position quite far to the right, Allister ensures that he is anathema to liberal opinion-formers – and they are, in our modern social-democratic Europe, the majority. But by positioning himself on the right, he has challenged the DUP from its vulnerable flank, forcing it to move rightwards and thus also closer to the wilderness. All in all, the TUV has been a boon to nationalism. For nationalists, the role that Allister and his party will play in the Westminster elections is of great interest. His intervention can only damage the unionist cause.


Dazzler said...

If the UUP run in each constituency as promised, do you think the DUP will run anyway (even if it does allow fo a nationalist to be elected)? If both the UUP and DUP run in both FST and SB do you think the TUV will also?

Horseman said...


It's very hard to say. The TUV are giving mixed signals (deliberately?). Sometimes they hint that they won't split the unionist vote in marginal seats, but recently Allister suggested that they would stand everywhere.

The UUP (or rather UCUNF) swear that they'll stand everywhere, despite the DUP's almost-biblical temptations.

The DUP are in a bind. If they don't stand, then they're admitting weakness and failure - especially where they are the larger of the unionist parties. But if they do stand, they'll ensure fewer seats for unionism. I'm sure Robinson et al are having sleepless nights trying to square that circle. Maybe they'll opt for full-frontal competition, knowing that there'll be unionist 'losses' (or non-gains), and try to paint that as the fault of the other parties. If the voters buy that, then they'll be in a stronger position in 2011. If not, it's curtains!

THe real problem for the DUP is not, of course, the two nationalist-held seats (FST and SB) - they're not 'in the family' at the moment anyway - but the fear of losing seats that they currently hold. That would be a real set-back for the DUP. If North Antrim is lost, the whole DUP project is severely damaged. If they lose two or more, they'd become a crippled party.

Interesting times!

Dazzler said...

For what its worth I think the UCUNF will contest all seats. The DUP will contest FST and SB. When nationalists win these seats the DUP will say, well we offered a pact so its the UCUNFs fault. I dont think the TUV will run in SB or FST.

If it turns out like this id say FST is a safe nationalist seat.

SB on the other hand is too close to call. How much has demographics helped the nationalist vote here since the SDLP got the seat?

Any chance (assuming nationalism holds FST and SB) that there could be a nationalist gain elsewhere? North Belfast??

Nordie Northsider said...

Horseman, do you see any potential Westminster gains for Nationalism in the context of a split Unionist vote? I'm thinking of constituencies with a Nationalist vote of 40% or over: North Belfast, East Derry, Upper Bann. It seems to me that there isn't a strong Nationalist front-runner in East Derry, but couldn't Gerry Kelly finally take North Belfast, given that Sinn Féin have a distinct lead there - the kind of lead that might persuade SDLP voters to think tactically?
It would be a real blow to Unionism for the two camps to emerge from an election with equal representation at Westminster, but it would only take one Nationalist gain. It's a long way from the old 'two Unionists for every Nationalist' formula that I grew up listening to.

hoboroad said...

The next General Election could be in March 2010. So if that is the case all the parties need to get a move on when it comes to candidate selection. If Sinn Fein hold on to the 5 seats they already have and add maybe North Belfast and the SDLP hold there 3 seats that means Irish Nationalism has 9 seats at Westminister and Unionism has 9 seats at Westminister.

Horseman said...

Dazzler and all,

I'd hate to get my hopes up for NB, only for them to be dashed (again!). It is the nearest nationalism has to a winnable seat, though. If the TUV stands there, though, they will be seen as total Lundies. I expect that UCUNF will also stand a 'no-hoper' there too, to avoid the seat going to Gerry Kelly. And the unionist votes will, as always, vote overwhelmingly for Dodds.

East Derry is not winnable, IMHO. The DUP vote would have to halve, and this is unlikely. Also the SDLP are not weak enough there to allow SF to take the lion's share of the nationalist 35%.

Upper Bann is, of course, another key seat - and potentially winnable for SF if the TUV shred the DUP vote. Hence my frustration at the lack of a DUP candidate in Lurgan next month. We cannot judge the relative strengths of the 3 unionist parties in the area. I wonder if the absence of a DUP candidate in January is part of a quid-pro-quo - no TUV candidate in March or May? But since the very fact of the election will cost the TUV seat in Lurgan I can't see them being too willing to reward the DUP. If SDLP voters are prepared to vote tactically this one is a strong possibility for Sinn Féin.

Nordie Northsider said...

Nice one, Horseman. I agree that East Derry is not a credible gain right now. Does anyone know who is the (putative) SF candidate for Upper Bann?

hoboroad said...

John O'Dowd could be the Sinn Fein cadidate for Upper Bann.

Nordie Northsider said...

Thanks, Hoboroad. O'Dowd would be a good candidate from what I know of him. Do you happen to know what the relative strength of SDLP and SF is in Upper Bann?

hoboroad said...

2007 NI election results

Upper Bann

DUP 13,466 31.4 percent 2 seats
UUP 9,117 21.3 percent 2 seats
SF 10,851 25.3 percent 1 seat
SDLP 5,450 12.7 percent 1 seat

TUV ARE LUNDIES!!! said...


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