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.