The indications are that the DUP’s core vote has slumped in Thursday’s European elections. The intervention of Jim Allister has resulted in a great swathe of voters returning to a clearly anti-Agreement and anti-Sinn Fein agenda. Rumours from the hills suggest that a significant cohort of voters has become very disenchanted with a DUP that has lost touch with its voter base and is milking the system through power dynasties and double/triple jobbing.
The indications are that the Conservative/UUP vote has held up. However it has not grown to the extent that many would have hoped given the intervention of the Conservative campaigning machine and the support of Conservative big-hitters like William Hague and David Cameron.
Whether Jim Nicholson is elected remains to be seen. It’s likely to be a close-run thing if he is. However the closeness clearly shows that there is a significant opportunity for the Conservatives moving forward.
The TUV is unlikely to be able to muster much in the way of political talent other than Allister. Whereas there is every possibility that the Conservatives can find a good number of very articulate and talented candidates for the Westminster elections. The challenge is to ensure that the candidates are more articulate than Jim Nicholson and more clearly define the advantages of a move towards political inclusion in mainstream UK politics. Nicholson was unable to do this adequately during his campaign. That is a great pity. But the more encouraging conclusion is that there is a strong Conservative voter base in Northern Ireland.
Now we need to step up a gear and sell the project with much more conviction than Jim Nicholson could muster.
I exercised my democratic right and voted last night in the European Election. However, judging from the electoral register in front of the official who issued my voting form, I was one of a tiny minority. She also indicated that, in my Lisburn ward at least, turnout was awful. Given the number of lines through voters on her sheet I’d estimate turnout of around 30% max at my time of voting (around 9.00pm).
The line-up of candidates is part of the explanation. The ‘headline’ DUP candidate, with her excruciating voice, was an utter voter turn-off – not just against the DUP but for local politics in general. Allister came across as a nasty little man, wittering on about the Protestant community. The Shinners obviously just regard the whole EU enterprise as a money spinner. And Jim Nicholson of UCUNF never really mastered the ability to sell the Conservative and Unionist project as anything other than a repackaging of the UUP. A real opportunity missed and a very dull candidate (regardless of his EU experience).
However young Ian Parsley came across as competent in the campaign (despite an awful Alliance PEB). And the Green candidate, Agnew, gave a respectable performance – setting himself apart from the tribal antics of the other candidates very well (just a pity the Greens’ manifesto is up the left).
However, none of this was enough to shake the electorate out of apathy for politics. No-one cares about the EU – it’s too distant to get enough people away from the opening night of Big Brother and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Throw in the expenses scandal, the terrible line-up of mainstream candidates, a Westminster government in disarray, and an Assembly that gets little if anything done, who could blame people for sitting at home?
Perhaps if we added a “None of the Above” box to the voting paper turnout might improve.
There’s a lot of very angry stuff on Jim Allister’s web site. He condemns a lot, he slams, hits out, challenges, attacks, denounces, repudiates, oh and warns…and criticises…names and shames.
I sense he’s not in touch with his female side. He’s angry about something, everything perhaps. Something in particular, or everything in general, has made him mad. Hopping mad.
And he doesn’t seem to like certain types. I suspect he wouldn’t like me. He doesn’t like soppy “liberalistos” – to nab one of David McNarry’s words. He wouldn’t like Conservatives, Socialists, Liberals, Libertarians, Greens. He likes rules, and order, I suspect. He isn’t too fond of namby-pambies.
I think, deep down, he’s a likeable chap. I just think he may need to relax a little, have a stiff scotch, and settle down to an episode of Corry. Maybe he’d emerge just a tad less, well, angry.