With all the media frenzy (not to mention the public voyeurism) concerning Iris Robinson and the knock-on effects of her surprising revelations, it is easy to forget that normal everyday politics also goes on in Northern Ireland.
One such example comes tomorrow, with the by-election in Lurgan DEA of Craigavon Borough Council. In itself this by-election is interesting – though rather overshadowed by the Robinson saga. Unfortunately for those hoping to garner some pointers towards how events are impacting on the DUP this election will not help, as the DUP are not even standing.
The election is between an unpopular TUV candidate and an unknown UUP candidate. David Calvert, the TUV candidate who failed to get co-opted back in November when an apparent deal between the DUP and the TUV came slightly unstuck, will try to get elected – despite personal unpopularity and past electoral failure. In 2005, before the TUV was formed, Calvert stood as an independent candidate – and received 626 votes (6.4% of the votes cast in Lurgan). His opponents tomorrow, the UUP, received 3,928 votes in 2005 (40.2% of the votes cast in Lurgan). On the face of it, then, Calvert has no hope.
Tomorrow, though, the DUP is not standing – and even if it did, the TUV could expect to peel away a section of its support. It could be argued, of course, that Calvert had already peeled away much of the rejectionist vote from the DUP in 2005, and that there isn't much left he could steal. But even if he did take a slice of the DUP vote similar to that taken by the TUV in Dromore in February 2008, and in the 2009 European Parliament election, he would still be well behind the UUP.
The real winner tomorrow, however, will be apathy. Local by-elections rarely attract a high turn-out at the best of times (Dromore had a 39% turnout, and the more recent by-election in Enniskillen barely topped 50%). Without a DUP candidate, a lot of voters will stay at home tomorrow – the DUP voters because they have no candidate, the TUV voters because they have no DUP candidate to vote against, and also because they know that their own man is a no-hoper. Nationalists, only 14% of Lurgan's electorate, have no incentive to vote in a by-election. Even the UUP voters, safe in the knowledge that their candidate will probably win, have little incentive to go out on a cold day to vote.
So this blog expects a very low turn-out – 40% at best, perhaps significantly less – and a fairly easy victory for the UUP's Jo-Anne Dobson. Anything else would be a surprise.