Wednesday 21 April 2010

First thoughts on the Westminster candidates

There are too many candidates, and too many of them are well known, for a comprehensive list to be useful – so here are a few thoughts on some of the surprises or lesser-known names amongst them.

Firstly, those who are missing:

Alex Maskey – a surprise pull-out by Sinn Féin in South Belfast. Clearly Maskey was never going to win the seat, but Sinn Féin have obviously decided that it could be to their advantage to be on the side of the angels. Plus, of course, the fact that this makes a McDonnell victory more likely, and conversely a win for either the DUP or the UCUNF non-party less likely. McDonnell is still, of course, far from home and dry.

The TUV candidate in Upper Bann – despite his strong disapproval of David Simpson, Jim Allister decided not to stand a candidate against him, but rather gave a strange and illogical semi-endorsement of the UUP's 'celebrity' candidate.

Adrian Watson in South Antrim. This blog had high hopes that this multiple-bigot would split the unionist vote and shake the race up. But in the end his Westminster aspirations just fizzled out.

Then those who are odd:

Martin McAuley in North Belfast pretends that he is a serious candidate. He isn't – he's a joke. He is like Blackadder's Pitt the (even) younger, as has been cruelly suggested elsewhere.

Lyle Cubitt, an old UKUP candidate is standing in North Antrim, but without any party identification. Given that the constituency enjoys a wealth of unionist hopefuls, from the UUP though the DUP to the TUV, it is hard to understand what market segment Cubitt is aiming at. Some of his supporters have a UKUP history, but since most people of 'that persuasion' will vote for Allister, Cubitt will fail badly.

And those without a hope:

The Alliance Party everywhere and the Green Party in the few places they are standing (Strangford, North Down, South Down, South Belfast). A lost deposit costs £500, so why throw it away when history tells you that you haven't a hope of getting elected. Concentrate on local or Assembly elections first.

Eamonn McCann. Why bother? Honestly? Surely the pen is mightier than the ballot box (when you always lose)?

John Stevenson in Fermanagh and South Tyrone. Who on earth is he? And why is he standing? He has no political history known to this blog, and nor do his supporters. What is their platform, and why do they think people would vote for them? His supporters are apparently drawn from the Protestant/unionist community in the constituency, but it is doubtful if they will draw many votes away from the 'unionist unity' candidate.

Ciaran McClean in West Tyrone – the return of the hopeless leftie! McClean's last outing was in 1996 when he stood for Democratic Left (DL) in the Forum elections. DL were one of the splinters of the old Workers Party, and eventually merged with the Labour Party. Is McClean standing as a Labour proxy? This blog will keep an eye on West Tyrone to see what McClean is wasting his £500 on.

Willie Frazer, the unbalanced 'victims' campaigner is standing in Newry and Armagh. He will take his few votes from the unionist pool only, thus increasing Conor Murphy's majority. One wonders who's side he is actually on.

And lastly those who could really upset an apple-cart or two (though probably won't):

William Ross in East Derry. The man Gregory Campbell beat to take the seat in 2001 now returns on behalf of the TUV to try to turn the tables, at an age when most politicians have long since retired. Ross would probably be the oldest MP if elected.

Michelle Gildernew. If she beats the unionist ganging-up and holds the seat the cheering will be audible as far away as Albertbridge Road and Dundela Avenue.

Caitriona Ruane has an outside chance of defeating Margaret Ritchie – and the more Ritchie opens her mouth the greater Ruane's chances get.

36 comments:

Manfarang said...

History tells us that the Alliance Party does have a chance of winning a seat in a Westminster election.It came very close in Belfast East 1979.
Could it ever come close again?
In the light of the fact that most of the other parties are backward looking,it might.

Horseman said...

But Manfarang, 1979 was over 30 years ago! And you say other parties are backward-looking.

This time around Alliance is going to be squeezed in EB. Thee are few nationalist votes to 'borrow', and UCUNF have a cuddly candidate who might actually attract some Alliance voters.

Now I know Long and her supporters have been trying to big her up for a while, but the fact remains that she did less well than Alderdice (or even Hendron in 1997). What's so special about her this time?

hoboroad said...

Seymour Major the English conservative blogger is voting for the SDLP in the General Election. As there is no UCUNF candidate in Fermanagh and South Tyrone for him to vote for.

Anonymous said...

As always excellent piece :), as a Sinn Féin supporter i Think Ritchie will hold onto the seat with the assistance of 4,000 Unionists. But it will be the last time the SDLP will. The party is in terminal decline in south Down. Tomorrow night's political debate could prove detramental to the SDLP. As one friend of mine put it. Margaret Ritchie - A God send to Sinn Féin.

hoboroad said...

YouGov opinion poll

Tories 31%
Labour 26%
Lib Dems 34%

Anonymous said...

Ruane could beat Ritchie, you really are having a wankfest if you believe that!!

Dazzler said...

Horeseman, what do you think of East derry. The nationalist electrate is around the same as upper bann - around 37%(which is considered a marginal seat. With TUV, UCUNF and DUP running could we be in for a shock if SF poll well.

Manfarang said...

There is nothing cuddly about U CUNF.
Massive cuts in public spending: unemployment bankruptcy and poverty.
As I said a backward looking party that would take us to the 1930s.

Anonymous said...

Horseman,

Is Fearghal from FST area?

How close are respective (UvN) numbers?

Could the SF decision in SB be seen by the SDLP nationalists in FST as an olive branch to which they might respond in huge numbers in the circumstances?

Will it galvanise the N side in gereral, remember the early 80s ?

MPG .....

Yer Man Mick McCann said...

Also missing is Billy Leonard in East Derry. Replaced by someone else. As always the runners and riders nominations in Electoral Office is interesting mostly because some of the backers are people I thought might be dead.

Upper Bann is interesting. Simpson will win and I fully expect that at some point he will jump ship to the TUV. Thats what Allister is hoping. Simpson is safe for five years if he wins. And Sunny Jim needs to claim a Parliamentary/Assembly place soon. A Trojan Horse like Simpson is the best bet.
Incidently if (and he will) Allister loses in Noth Antrim, shouldnt he be at least considered as a member of the House of lords (obviously no nomination would be forthcoming but after five years in Europe he could reasonably have expected it)

Horseman said...

MPG,

McKinney is from FST, but does not live there. He is areal carpet-bagger - his nomination paper gives his home address as "Address in Belfast East". That is about as far from the constituency you can get in NI without getting your feet wet!

I showed the evolution of the UvN votes in FST in a post on 13 April ("Connor poses a long-term risk for nationalism"). My best estimate is that there are no more than 22,000 U votes in the constiruency in 2010 (but if turnout is high this could increase). There could be as many as 27,000 N votes. I don't expect Stevenson (who?) or Kamble to make much of a dent in Connor's total, so it's really all about how many votes McKinney gets. The SDLP vote has been declining in the constituency for a while but is still around 7,000. If McKinney retains that then it's game over for Gildernew (until next time!).

FST is an unusual constituency, so I wouldn't discount some N tactical voting, but will it be enough?

Horseman said...

Yer Man Mick McCann,

And yet Allister was so scathing about Simpson in the past. Was it a lovers tiff?

Yer Man Mick McCann said...

Simpson and allister need each other.
One needs a Trojan Horse.
The other needs a Lifeboat.....(mixed images but you get what Im saying) Anyway look at the list of runners and riders and theres a few lovers tiffs which have ended.

The SDLP (Deehan/McMenamin) camps have rallied round Byrne. And in South Antrim the SDLP feud between McClelland and Burns is ended(?) long enough to sign Michelle Byrnes papers

JC Skinner said...

Horseman, I do generally love your work, but on this occasion as on many others, your strange anti-SDLP bias comes screaming to the fore.
Maskey's chickenshit withdrawal is obviously intended to hurt rather than boost McDonnell, whereas the comment about Ritchie Vs Ruane (undoubtedly the worst minister in the Assembly) is beneath you.

Horseman said...

JC Skinner,

Well spotted (my anti-SDLP bias, that is). They're a dreadful party, and seem to be getting worse under Ritchie. Nationalism needs a better alternative - preferably a broad 'Christian Democrat' type of party that can appeal to creators of wealth and people with aspirations. The SDLP does not - it is a begging-bowl state-subsidy-junkie party, and leaves huge swathes of potential suport untapped. I'm not a died-in-the-wool Fianna Fáiler, but I'd early love to see them step in to cater for that part of the nationalist electorate. If SF continue to evolve into a 'normal' party, then they'll occupy the left-of-centre slot.

I cannot see how Maskey's withdrawal could hurt McDonnell. Maskey's voters (or a lot of them) will transfer to McDonnell. If anything, it is designd to hurt McKinney in FST (and I hope it does!).

Ruane may (or may not) be a poor M/Ed, but she's hardly been given a fair chance either, has she? Regardless of ministerial performance, as a politician Ritchie has, so far, failed to shine, and has alienated a great many, even in her own party (notice where the active FF cumainn are in the north!)

Paddy Matthews said...

I'm not a died-in-the-wool Fianna Fáiler, but I'd early love to see them step in to cater for that part of the nationalist electorate.

You're assuming that the Northern nationalist electorate won't have copped on to the fact that Fianna Fáil are now totally discredited in the South.

Personally I think that the current attempt to graft FF in the North will fail for many of the same reasons that those on the opposite side trying to graft the Tory party there have failed.

Looking at the list of supporters of the nominations, I see no sign of Billy Leonard's name in East Derry, or those of Peter McCann and Sheila Davidson (former poster boy and girl for the Achill Mission to the Papists).

Did they not have a Biro handy when their parties called looking for autographs?

Horseman said...

Paddy Matthews,

Yes, FF are suffering in the south without a doubt. But their basic model is still strong - a wide populist ideology-lite party, able to attract support from property developers, farmers, workers, even intellectuals. A bit of a southern DUP, one might say!

They'll bounce back, I don't doubt it - but even if they don't, it is that type of party that northern nationalism needs.

Your short-list of the missing is interesting. Note that the third of that gang-of-three - Deirdre Nelson - is also MIA.

Paddy Matthews said...

Frankly, I can see it taking a very long time for them to bounce back. It took Fine Gael 16 years to make it back into government after their defeat in 1932. I don't think people will forget the crash (or the reckless driving that came before it) for a long while.

And the term "wide populist ideology-lite" party could be accurately applied to the Schoolteachers, Doctors and Lawyers Party - or even to Sinn Féin in its Northern rural incarnation.

As far as Nelson is concerned, she'd already resigned from the Conservatives so I wouldn't have expected her name to appear on any lists.

bangordub said...

PLease note PSNI Chief Constable walkabout in Crossmaglen organised by local Fianna Fail Cumman

hoboroad said...

http://www.derryjournal.com/county/Split-unionist-vote-needed-.6237788.jp

hoboroad said...

http://www.glormhicairt.blogspot.com/

hoboroad said...

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/leading_article/article7103206.ece

JC Skinner said...

Ruane's been a diabolical minister. She could barely be worse if she was trying (sometimes, I think she must be.)
Ritchie on the other hand showed genuine bravery and a break from the past by seeking to prevent the funding of UDA fronts.
No contest.

JC Skinner said...

I ought to have added - anyone seeking to extend rather than eradicate the Fianna Fail franchise in Ireland is, to my mind, a greater enemy of Ireland than any Unionist or British government member.

Horseman said...

JC Skinner,

Ouch

I guess you're not a fan, then?

Tbh, I'm not a huge fan of FF, but I really dislike FG and Labour, so I'm running out of options.

I want new parties, north and south (preferably the same parties in both). I don't agree that 'normal' politics requires a left-right contest, and would be happy with other options, like a socially liberal, economically conservative party (call it the LibDems, if you want), and a better Green Party.

What I like about FF is its lack of clear ideology (apart from mé-féinism), and its ability to change direction when needed. We've had too much of ideology recently, and it is all bad - unionism, state socialism, and so on.

We need to look at Scandinavia and see how they manage things, because lets face it, they do it better than us.

hoboroad said...

Doctor McDonnell thinks that Thomas Conway is in with a chance of winning East Derry for the SDLP.Of course it all depends which way the Unionist vote splits three ways.

Colm said...

JC Skinner said: "anyone seeking to extend rather than eradicate the Fianna Fail franchise in Ireland is, to my mind, a greater enemy of Ireland than any Unionist or British government member."

Cop yourself on with that garbage. Bombastic statements like this do nothing for your cause.

If you have a sound argument as to why anyone not seeking to eradicate Fianna Fail is an enemy of Ireland I'd like to read them.

The people of the 26 counties haven't bought in to the opposition's high moral standpoint against Fianna Fail because every punter knows they weren't complaining when things were going well.

Despite the worst recession in living memory and the worst budget deficit in the EU, there is still no serious talk of an immenent election in the south. Surely people would be looking for their heads on a platter if they really were enemies of Ireland?

They aren't because even the opposition doesn't really think they can do a better job of getting us out of our current difficulties.

*I am not, nor have I ever been a Fianna Fail voter.*

Colm said...

Horseman said "I really dislike FG and Labour, so I'm running out of options.

I'd be interested as to why you really dislike these parties. Surely combined they represent the best hope for left leaning liberalism in the 26 counties (see point below).

Horseman said "We need to look at Scandinavia and see how they manage things, because lets face it, they do it better than us."

Most of the ruling parties in Scandinavia are either former communists/marxist revisionists or liberals. When the people have a lot of resources to share and a liberal/non religious disposition, they're probably easier to manage. That doesn't mean it will work in Ireland.

As for the Green Party, in the south they have six TDs elected, two of whom are senior ministers and two are ministers of state. I don't think they're doing too badly.

Horseman said...

Colm,

I don't find either FG or Labour 'liberal'. It's a long time ago now, of course, but cast your mind back to the 1973-77 coalition government - the heavy gang, censorship, Conor Cruise O'Bien, and all the rest. Fast-forward to John Bruton and his cringe-worthy West-Britism. Labour are not liberal either - I know/knew quite a few members (even TDs) and they had quite authoritarian attitudes to a lot of things. The merger with the ex-WP people simply increased their anti-nationalism, which I also do not like.

Of course there are good people in both FG and Labour (as in FF and every other party, north or south) but the ethos of the FG/Labour 'coalition-in-waiting' is one I don't like. But as I said, neither is FF perfect. My position is that we need something else - that is not yet in existence.

My point about Scandinavia relates to their social model, and not necessarily their politicians (them I don't know). The south came quite close to Scandinavian levels of social provision during the good years (see all of the international comparisons I blogged a few months back), but I'm afraid that these weren't fully bedded in, and may go backwards now. Ireland still lacks a sense of common good and common purpose, unfortunately - and the north is much worse than the south, of course.

The Green Party in the south are doing OK (for now) electorally, but where are the green policies being implemented? They need to up their game considerably.

Nordie Northsider said...

Colm wrote: As for the Green Party, in the south they have six TDs elected, two of whom are senior ministers and two are ministers of state. I don't think they're doing too badly.

They only have the Ministerial posts as the result of a coalition-forming sharing of the spoils. And they will be lucky to have as much as one Dáil seat after the next election. God knows, they don't deserve any.

hoboroad said...

http://www.tribunemagazine.co.uk/2010/04/22/is-the-dup-about-to-fall/

Ronzer said...

Colm said:

"The people of the 26 counties haven't bought in to the opposition's high moral standpoint against Fianna Fail because every punter knows they weren't complaining when things were going well.

Despite the worst recession in living memory and the worst budget deficit in the EU, there is still no serious talk of an immenent election in the south. Surely people would be looking for their heads on a platter if they really were enemies of Ireland?"


Are you having a laugh Colm?

The only reason there is not imminent talk of an election in the South is that everyone knows that the FF/Green coalition will hang on to power (by their fingernails if they have to) until the last minute in 2012, which is when they are bound by law to have an election.

The fact is that FF support has COLLAPSED in the last two years and shows no sign of reviving. But that ironically makes an election less likely in the short term as long a Cowen can maintain a bare majority in the Dail.


Let me assure you as a Southerner, nearly every person I speak to here wants Cowen's head on a platter, but they will have to wait until 2012 to express their rage.

FF will be blown way when that happens, and it will take them more than one election to recover.

menace said...

'You're assuming that the Northern nationalist electorate won't have copped on to the fact that Fianna Fáil are now totally discredited in the South.'
Mo chara, Republican (and I mean real republican), centrist and populist politics might not be seized on by six county voters?
Come on, SDLP queerly lacking in conviction, SF, still espousing Lenninist ideals in 2010 Ireland which never took to this type of political ideal, for my part I genuinely hope FF hurry up and get ready to contest Irish elections throughout Ireland.

Anonymous said...

FF, Houdini springs to mind.

I would not bet against them in 2012 and I am a public sector employee!

Colm said...

Horseman said: "I don't find either FG or Labour 'liberal'.

Garrett Fitzgerald shifted FG policy in a liberal direction in the 80s. Labour have always been a socially liberal force in Irish politics - favouring divorce, contraception, and gay rights. Pro choice and gay marriage campaigners like Ivana Bacik are becoming more prominent in Labour. One of the first things Labour and FG did when last in government was to call a referendum on divorce.

I agree that the Greens have had limited success in implementing their policies. The bike to work scheme and the carbon levy on cars are two that spring to mind. Their policies were formed when money wasn't in short supply. If they were to demand the implementation of the carbon tax now they would be just as unpopular. They have made sacrifices to support stability.

Colm said...

Ronzer said: The fact is that FF support has COLLAPSED in the last two years and shows no sign of reviving.

The FF vote fell more in the 2004 local and European election than it did last year. The people still voted them into power in 2007.

Ronzer said: Let me assure you as a Southerner, nearly every person I speak to here wants Cowen's head on a platter, but they will have to wait until 2012 to express their rage.

Why aren't these people out on the streets then? If the people really wanted a change in government, they would get it. As Horseman has highlighted in a number of articles, Ireland rates highly among free democracies.

The problem with the (southern) Irish political landscape is not that Fianna Fail are hanging on to power by their fingernails. It's that the opposition aren't up to the job of taking it for themselves.

I'm sure Fianna Fail will get punished at the next election. But not because FG/Labour have convinced people that they deserve power, but because Fianna Fail have proven that they don't.