Thursday, 14 February 2008

Dromore result encouraging for UUP

The by election for Tyrone Howe’s Dromore seat on Banbridge Council appears to have thrown up an interesting result. The Ulster Unionist Party candidate Carol Black has retained the seat for her party, despite being widely considered as a rank outsider (the ward is a multi-member constituency). Significantly it was transfers from Jim Allister’s new unionist party, the TUV which enabled the UUP to retain the seat. It appears that voters attracted by the TUV may prefer to transfer to a party which they consider too liberal, but at least honest and open about it, rather than to the hypocrisy of the DUP.

The Dromore by-election has attracted a disproportionate amount of interest simply because it is the first electoral outing for the new unionist party. The poll will be analysed to discern what effect, if any, the realignment of hard-line unionists to Allister’s group will have on the more mainstream unionist parties.

A single local by-election is a poor barometer of how the unionist vote will be affected in an Assembly or Westminster election, but the DUP will be concerned about this result. They have conducted a muscular, high-profile campaign in an attempt to take this seat. Regardless the TUV achieved a creditable showing, attracting 20% of the vote in a solidly unionist area. And perhaps most significantly those voters are so disillusioned with the DUP that they transferred to a party which is perceived as more moderate, rather than aid Paisley’s party.

Whether this trend persists or not remains to be seen, but the UUP will take encouragement from this result. If the TUV begin to eat into the so-called right wing of the DUP vote and the UUP make an effective push to soften up the party’s perceived left wing, the cumulative effect may offer a road to electoral recovery.


Alasdair O'Hara said...

I do not think the UUP has to soften any wing of the party after all Dromore's new councillor is heavily associated with someone that is seen by many as an integral part of the wing you mentioned.

This election is probably not the best barometer, however achieving that kind of vote in the DUP's backyard may prove signifigant when Lagan Vally next goes to the Polls. If this shift has occured accros the constituency it could well be tight.

Chekov said...

I’m not sure I exactly follow your point Allaisdar. I’m merely speculating that if the TUV take a substantial number of more hard line voters away from the DUP and the UUP continue to take back some of the more moderate DUP voters who had deserted the UUP in 2004/05 then there may be significant electoral gains to be had (for the UUP). That appears to me to be the trend in this by-election and I’m simply saying that if the trend continues then it is good news. Obviously you’ll know more about local circumstances in the area.

Alasdair O'Hara said...

My point was this although admitedly I did not explain it very well. I think the UUP must continue to be a broad church, I am not of the opinion that by softening the parties 'percieved left wing' (or indeed its right wing) we will make major gains and I do not believe this by-election shows us a move to do such would be beneficial. I beleive such a move would allow alliance to make gains, stave of returning unionists and 'the garden centre prod.'

Chekov said...

I take your point Alaisdar and I am not advocating a move toward the DUP. I do think though that people who have voted for that party might reconsider exactly what the reasons were which led them to make that decision in the first place. I put left and right wing in apostrophes precisely because I believe those terms are misused when it comes to unionism.