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.