One of the great unknowns in Northern Irish politics is 'why does the Workers' Party bother?'
Not because they do not have a right to stand – they do, of course. But because they haven't a snowball's chance in hell of ever getting enough votes to actually achieve anything. The WP – now that the Natural Law Party has given up – represents the last great example in Northern Ireland of the triumph of hope over experience. In fact it represents a good example of the triumph of hope over common sense, rationality, and even the efficient use of resources.
At local level the WP can, very occasionally, get a candidate elected – though possibly the last was in Craigavon in 1993. They have two local councillors in the south, but none in the north. In the most recent local elections in the north they polled a paltry 1,052 votes (0.15% of the total), standing in only 4 Council districts (Belfast (5 candidates), Craigavon (1 candidate), Down (1 candidate), and Magherafelt (1 candidate).
In the Assembly they have never had a single MLA elected, and in 2007 received only 975 votes (0.14% of the total). They stood in all four Belfast constituencies, and in Lagan Valley and South Antrim.
In the most recent Westminster elections (2005) their vote was a respectable (for them) 1,669 (0.23% of the total). Needless to say they lost their deposits in all six constituencies that they contested (the four Belfast constituencies, Upper Bann and Mid Ulster).
Logic would tell a small radical party like the Workers' Party that its chances in elections with a high success threshold are tiny, and that its resources might be better spent on building up a grass-roots organisation. If a party cannot even get a local councillor elected, then its hopes of getting an MP elected are zero.
And yet this year, as in every election year since its foundation, the WP will call on its members to find the £500 deposit required of each candidate – despite knowing that this money is already lost (a candidate who receives less than 5% of the vote 'forfeits' his/her deposit). If the WP again stands 6 candidates this represents £3,000 that the WP is voluntarily contributing … to what? ... the running expenses of the Electoral Office?
Does the WP have a strategy for its participation in elections? Does it have any strategy at all? Commitment is all well and good, but surely wilful waste makes woeful want?