Poor Jim Allister. His impatience for the election – an election – any election – is becoming almost too much to bear.
Today he returned to Castlereagh, where his previous impatience had earned him a ticking-off from the Chief Electoral Officer. This time he takes only an oblique swipe at the Electoral Office, and effectively accuses the DUP-controlled council of feeding false information to the Electoral Office to avoid a by-election before the Westminster election.
But unfortunately for Allister, even if the Electoral Office was to publish the Notice of Election before the latest date, it still might not mean that the election would take place before the Westminster election if this occurs on May 6 as expected.
Allister and the TUV know that a by-election for Iris Robinson’s council seat, just before a Westminster election, would focus uncomfortable attention on the DUP, and allow the TUV an extra moment in the spotlight. There are probably no hard and fast rules for such situations, but it is likely that the Chief Electoral Officer will try to find a solution that bridges the desires of the TUV and the undesirability of influencing the Westminster election. The problem for the Chief Electoral Officer is that he is obliged to publish the Notice of Election by 26 March at the latest, and this is before Gordon Brown will probably announce the date of the Westminster election – so the Castlereagh by-election might, in fact, have to take place right in the middle of the Westminster campaign.