And now we head down to the south-east for another trio of constituencies.
2007 Stormont results: SF 42.1%, 3 seats; SDLP 19.8%, 1 seat; UUP 13.1%, 1 seat; DUP 12.9%, 1 seat; Paul Berry 4.7%; Davy Hyland 4.4%; Willie Frazer 1.2%; Green 1.2%; Alliance 0.6%.
2010 Westminster results: Murphy (SF) 42.0%; Bradley (SDLP) 23.4%; Kennedy (UUP/UCUNF) 19.1%; Irwin (DUP) 12.8%; Frazer (Ind U) 1.5%; Muir (Alliance) 1.2%.
2011 Stormont candidates: Cathal Boylan (SF); Dominic Bradley (SDLP); Mickey “The Stickie” Brady (SF); Barrie Halliday (TUV); William Irwin (DUP); Danny Kennedy (UUP); James Malone (Ind); Conor Murphy (SF); David Murphy (Alliance); Thomas O’Hanlon (SDLP); Robert Woods (UKIP).
This may be the most predictable constituency of all. Since Conor Murphy took the Westminster seat from Séamus Mallon in 2005, the votes here have been very stable, with only minor variances thanks to the 2007 independent candidacies of deselected MLAs Paul Berry (DUP) and Davy Hyland (SF).
The Sinn Féin vote since then has been virtually dead on three quotas, and with halfway competent balancing they should see all three of their candidates home, even assuming they don’t raise the vote share. There are two unionist quotas, with the UUP’s Danny Kennedy being ahead on recent form, but there will easily be enough transfers to secure the DUP seat even if they come in below quota.
That leaves the SDLP marooned with about a quota and a half. So, a return for Dominic Bradley, which is fine – he’s one of those people in the SDLP who I rate – but the running mate left stranded in seventh place. No change is the smart move – indeed, with all six incumbents running for re-election, not even a change in the personnel.
2007 Stormont results: SDLP 31.4%, 2 seats; SF 30.7%, 2 seats; DUP 17.7%, 1 seat; UUP 9.6%, 1 seat; Green 3.5%; UKIP 2.7%; Alliance 1.5%; Martin Cunningham 0.9%; UKUP 0.9%; Cons 0.8%; Lab 0.3%.
2010 Westminster results: Ritchie (SDLP) 48.5%; Ruane (SF) 28.7%; Wells (DUP) 8.6%; McCallister (UUP/UCUNF) 7.3%; McConnell (TUV) 3.5%; Enright (Green) 2.1%; Griffin (Alliance) 1.3%.
2011 Westminster candidates: Naomi Bailie (SF); Willie Clarke (SF); Cadogan Enright (Green); David Griffin (Alliance); John McCallister (UUP); Karen McKevitt (SDLP); Eamonn O’Neill (SDLP); Henry Reilly (UKIP); Margaret Ritchie (SDLP); Caitríona Ruane (SF); Jim Wells (DUP).
Again, the safest projection in South Down is for no change. It’s hard to extrapolate from last year’s Westminster election thanks to the very large unionist tactical vote for Margaret Ritchie to keep out Caitríona Ruane. Such won’t be the case in an STV election.
Nonetheless, the first five seats will go two SDLP, two SF and the DUP’s Jim Wells. Sinn Féin, one feels, are putting up three candidates for the sake of form rather than a realistic prospect, since for some mind-boggling reason they haven’t backed up incumbents Caitríona Ruane (based across the border at Carlingford, but I suppose Warrenpoint counts as her base) and Willie Clarke (based in Newcastle) with a Downpatrick-based candidate, but rather with the Ards Peninsula-based Naomi Bailie who, I suggest, might have been better employed building the SF base in Strangford. It looks like they haven’t really put much thought into this. (Then again, I thought they should have moved O’Dowd over from Upper Bann for the Westminsters, so what do I know?)
The one seat under pressure is the UUP seat, and those boundary changes around Ballynahinch do make things tighter for John McCallister. The question is whether either nationalist party (realistically on recent form, the SDLP) can pick up enough momentum to pinch the seat. But still, McCallister was nearly 4000 votes ahead of the SDLP’s Michael Carr on the final count in 2007, and if we take the boundary change as taking out some 2000 unionist voters and 1000 nationalist voters, McCallister should still have enough of a cushion to see him home. I find it difficult to see the SDLP pulling off a third under its own steam.
Watch out, though, for the Greens’ Cadogan Enright. Can’t see him winning a seat, but this is the area where the Greens have been trying to lay down long-term roots.
2007 Stormont results: DUP 31.4%, 2 seats; SF 25.3%, 1 seat; UUP 21.3%, 2 seats; SDLP 12.7%, 1 seat; David Calvert 3.1%; Green 2.7%; Alliance 1.9%; RSF 0.9%; Cons 0.6%; Suzanne Peeples 0.2%.
2010 Westminster results: Simpson (DUP) 33.8%; Flash Harry (UUP/UCUNF) 25.7%; O’Dowd (SF) 24.7%; Kelly (SDLP) 12.7%; Heading (Alliance) 3.0%.
2011 Stormont candidates: Sydney Anderson (DUP); Jo-Anne Dobson (UUP); Sam Gardiner (UUP); Flash Harry (Alliance); Dolores Kelly (SDLP); Colin McCusker (UUP); Johnny McGibbon (SF); Sheila McQuaid (Alliance); Stephen Moutray (DUP); John O’Dowd (SF); Barbara Trotter (UKIP); David Vance (TUV).
All right, I admit it. I really really want to see David Vance in the Assembly. Not because I agree with him, but to add to the gaiety of the nation, and also bring a bit of critical intelligence to the desperately low-level debates.
Leaving that aside, what can we say about the prospects in Upper Bann? Well, I think certain parties are stretching. The DUP, who should have two quotas, have been sensible in putting up two candidates. The UUP, who on recent form will not have two quotas, have in their infinite wisdom put up three candidates, thus lessening the likelihood of them taking that second seat they were lucky to have last time round.
The SDLP, who should have most of a quota but not a whole one, have been sensible in not saddling Dolores Kelly with a running mate (though Dolores may yet struggle, if the nationalist vote in the constituency continues to drift SF’s way). On the other hand, Sinn Féin are tantalised by that second seat they nearly got last time. They’ve been weakened by the departure of Dessie Ward in the Banbridge half of the constituency, and there aren’t quite three nationalist quotas in Upper Bann. However – remember South Belfast in 2003? – it’s not impossible if there’s severe vote-shredding on the unionist side.
My best guess is for a rerun of last time – the first five going two DUP and one each SF, UUP and SDLP, with the last between a second SF and a second UUP. But what do you know, David Vance could well end up playing a fascinating part in the counts.
Rud eile: you’ll have noticed that last year’s UUP candidate is this year’s Alliance candidate, namely our leading Freddie Mercury impersonator Flash Harry. The core Alliance vote in Upper Bann is so small he’s hardly going to be in contention, but spirited renditions of “Don’t Stop Me Now” can’t hurt the image of Ulster liberalism.