“DUP Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds MP has reiterated his party’s belief in Unionist unity and co-operation. The DUP MP said that by working together Unionists could ensure that South Belfast and Fermanagh and South Tyrone were returned to the pro-Union fold.”But not a word about Dodds’ own local problem – North Belfast – the real reason why he wants ‘unionist unity’.
“Today, it has emerged that the UUP were prepared to seek some breach of the UCUNF arrangement in order to try and keep Lady Hermon on board and running as a UUP candidate. If they were prepared to do this in an 80+% Unionist constituency like North Down where there is no prospect whatsoever of a nationalist being elected, they should do likewise in South Belfast and Fermanagh and South Tyrone.”But what about a constituency where unionism has a mere 47.0% of the vote (2007 Assembly election), compared to nationalism’s 44.3%. In the last Westminster election (2005) unionism managed 52.7% to nationalism’s 44.8%, but it is close and getting closer!
In 1992 nationalism got only 34.2% of the vote in North Belfast; in 1997 40.6%; in 2001 it got 46.2% (in the absence of an Alliance candidate).
The constituency is getting greener, and the age profile of Dodds’ voters (almost entirely Protestant) is unfavourable – they are very much older than the average, and new voters reaching 18 in North Belfast are more likely to be Catholic than Protestant. The last thing Dodds needs in a split unionist vote!
This blog has previously predicted that Dodds has, at best, one more electoral victory in North Belfast before his days – and those of unionist dominance in the constituency – are over. But if the TUV and the UUP (disguised as UCUNF) split the unionist vote sufficiently in 2010 his days might be over sooner than expected. If Gerry Kelly improves on his 2005 vote (28.6%) if Fred Cobain improves on his pathetic 7.1% (with the help of Tory cash), and if the TUV stand in the constituency, the result will be unpredictable.
So Dodds, more than any other DUP MP, wants and needs unionist unity – and a pact that allows him a clear run.