This is the 6th post of this series. The previous posts have covered all five main NI parties in the order of the number of seats they are likely to win. Each post has tried to dig beneath the surface and introduce the complex world and historical context of Northern Irish politics. The seats covered are all likely to be hotly contested.
The five main parties with key seats are:
- The DUP and North Belfast.
- Sinn Féin and Foyle.
- SDLP and South Belfast.
- Alliance and E. Belfast.
- The UUP and Fermanagh, S. Tyrone.
This penultimate post will make recommendations consistent with preventing a Tory majority and Johnson becoming PM. They are not a comment on the NI constitutional issue. It will be followed by a final one with seat predictions.
This is or should be a Brexit election. There are of course other issues, in NI, in particular, the NHS. The NHS is near breaking point in NI and unsurprising that it comes top of the list of issues in the Lucid Talk November ‘Tracker Poll’ (Fig. 1).
Another interesting result is that of those who chose the NI constitutional status as a key issue, 35% wanted a United Ireland and 28% wanted to remain in the UK. It seems that a United Ireland is becoming more popular.
Northern Ireland has swung further towards ‘Remain’. Those considering Brexit a key issue chose 63% ‘Remain’ but only 6% ‘Leave’. Even the Unionist community (which was initially very pro-Brexit) is now marginally anti-Brexit with a 41% ‘Remain’ and a 38% ‘Leave’ split.
The Johnson deal is very unpopular and has only 6% support. This is cross-community, there is little difference between the Nationalist support at 7% and Unionist at 6%. Strangely the deal is even less popular with “others” with 2% support, but this may be simply statistical uncertainty.
The RHI and other scandals, which have been discussed in our December BoM and in a guest post by Rogue One, only scores 34% in terms of being a major issue. Even in the Nationalist community, the score is only 39%. In the Unionist community, the score is 23%. This is one of the few bits of good news for the DUP. In a more normal society, such incompetence and moral bankruptcy would cause immediate resignations and a party to be out of office for a long time.
Basis of Recommendations
Progressive Pulse believes leaving the EU will be disastrous for the UK and recommends that everyone votes tactically in order to prevent a Tory and Boris Johnson majority.
In the NI context, the parties’ remain credentials are ranked as follows:
- Alliance and the SDLP. These are both rock-solid remain parties who will sit in the House of Commons and will vote against Brexit (10/10).
- Sinn Féin. Even though they have had Lexit tendencies in the past they are now solidly behind the EU. The disadvantage is that they are abstentionist and will not sit in the HoC (5/10).
- The UUP are currently anti-Brexit but have been all over the place and could easily change their mind. They have also deep historic links with the Tories and may be persuaded to cut a deal with the Tories (3/10).
- The DUP have been consistently hardline Brexit. A No-Deal Brexit, irrespective of how much damage it does to NI or the wider UK, is preferable to the Johnson deal or even the May deal (0/10).
There are a large number of safe seats in NI. @326pols have produced a nice graphic showing the predicted results in terms of doughnut charts, based on probabilities (Fig. 2). Some of the probabilities are debatable, nevertheless, it is very useful for determining seats for which there is a genuine electoral battle.
Six seats, three DUP and three SF are essentially impregnable. These are North Antrim, Lagan Valley and Strangford for the DUP and West Tyrone, Mid Ulster and Belfast West for Sinn Féin.
The seats where there are keen battles are South Antrim, Foyle, Belfast East, Belfast North, Belfast South, Fermanagh and South Tyrone, North Down and South Down.
List of Northern Ireland seats with “Remain” tactical Recommendations.
The table below shows the eighteen NI seats and recommendations.
|Belfast North||Sinn Féin|
|Fermanagh and S. Tyrone||Sinn Féin|
|Londonderry East||Sinn Féin|
|Newry and Armagh||Free|
|Upper Bann||Sinn Féin|
Constituency with Free Recommendation
These are constituencies which are ultra-safe. A political earthquake would be needed to change the seat. You can feel free to vote according to your conscience.
Constituencies with Alliance Recommendations
Belfast East is a straight head to head fight between the DUP and Naomi Long of Alliance.
North Down is Lady Sylvia Hermon’s old seat and will be a three-way battle between the DUP, the UUP and Alliance. Both word on the ground and the bookies put Alliance firmly in 2nd place.
Constituencies with SDLP Recommendations
South Belfast is a three-way battle between Alliance, the DUP and the SDLP. The SDLP candidate, Claire Hanna, has been recommended above the Alliance candidate, Paula Bradshaw, simply because she is clear favourite to win the seat. Both word on the ground and the betting odds (Hanna 1/6, Bradshaw 11/2), put Hanna well ahead of Bradshaw. If the votes are split the DUP candidate may get through the middle.
The other two constituencies where the SDLP is recommended are Foyle and S. Down. Both are ‘Remain’/’Remain’ fights, with ‘Leave’ candidates far behind. Whereas the SDLP will sit in Westminster, SF will not. In terms of denying the Tories a working majority, an SDLP MP is more valuable.
Constituencies with Sinn Féin Recommendations.
These are Remain/Leave battles where SF is in the best place to take the seat from the DUP or in the case of Fermanagh South Tyrone (FST) hold the seat.
Constituencies with UUP Recommendations
There is only one, South Antrim. This is the only seat where the UUP have a realistic chance of toppling the existing DUP MP and the other candidates are so far behind to essentially have no chance. Even though the UUP have far from a perfect record on Brexit, They are now moving towards Remain and are much preferable to the DUP.
Tactical voting in NI is very straight forward. In practice, there are only three seats in which there is a Remain/Remain choice. The SDLP has been chosen in all three cases. In S. Belfast because their candidate is much more likely to win. In Foyle and S. Down because it is a straight SF/SDLP fight. Because as the SDLP sit in Westminster they have a greater chance of blocking a working Tory majority.
The final post will make predictions. Will it be a night where few (only two) seats change hands, or will there be a historic change where up to eight seats change hands?