This week’s blog column from Bel Tel…

10 05 2010

My round up of the blogging week (plus gigantic cranium) can be found on the Bel Tel website here. Have pasted it up below as well…

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Reaction to the election…

9 05 2010

I did a short Q&A with BBC Online earlier – it’ll be a small part of a bigger article. I thought it might be useful to post up my full answers, then I’ll post up the BBC link when it gets uploaded. (I inflicted way more words on the BBC than was necessary.)

[Here’s the link to that piece.]

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If you’re in the UUP, and looking for positives…

7 05 2010

If you’re in the UUP and feeling a bit sore, keep reading. A buddy of mine has pulled together some silver linings – I’m sure there’s more, but these are the one’s he spotted…

1) Ross Hussey doubled the vote from 05 – Assembly seat back in play.

2) Mike Nesbitt took a big swing our way – second Assembly seat territory.

3) In Lagan Valley, a second Assembly seat should be safe enough.

4) Danny Kennedy beat William Irwin by a margin.

5) John McCallister fell only slightly short of beating Jim Wells, and would have done if not for tactical voting – if there is only one Unionist MLA it should now be John.

6) South Antrim is an even stronger marginal than before, and a second MLA is in play.

7) And by no means least, Bill Mainwaring drew out an extra 300 to 500 votes for us in Belfast West, which doubles the 2007 total.

Why did the UUP do so badly, and what comes next?

7 05 2010

I had a short conversation this morning with the UUP’s former communications director, Alex Benjamin. When I asked him what the problem was beinhd UCUNF’s poor showing, he came up with some good insights which I thought were worth sharing.  So, with  his permission, I’ve blogged it below…

1. The most important thing to me was consistency (or lack of). Reg was wobbly and message was wobbly. You can’t pitch at progressive types with the ‘end-the-tribal-politics’ line whilst simultaneously re-enforcing tribal politics with a pact in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

Alliance is consistent in message and you get what you vote for. Ditto with Hermon.

Why, if you wanted to end tribal politics, would you vote for us? Why, if you want a strong Unionist position, would you vote for us?

The message was diabolically mixed. We have McNarry’s and Elliott’s and Ringland’s and Bradshaw’s. No side is in charge, therefore we effectively have two parties in one. People aren’t stupid, they can see that.

In addition, the Cameron cuts line was deeply unhelpful and we overestimated the influence of the Euro result. Europe was not a barometer.

2. As the UUP itself recognises, more work was needed on the ground. It takes more than a few TV shots of Cameron and Hague to swing things. Naomi again, for example, worked her patch really hard.

3. People still have faith in DUP and Sinn Fein after big deals on devolution of Policing and Justice. They have also sung together on dissident activity.

4. The future? The usual navel-gazing will likely ensue and UUP people will fight with each other whilst other parties get on with the job. If that happens, the UUP will be seen to be irrelevant.

5. The DUP will further develop centre-right ground buoyed up by their strength in the hung Parliament; Alliance will build on recent successes and continue to squeeze us further at Assembly level in the soft Unionist seats (where our ‘tribal politics’ line could have worked had it not been so undermined by the unionist pact).

What is the basis for the continued existence of the UUP? The UUP needs to find answer and fast. 

I’ve paraphrased in places, but have preserved the spirit of the opinion.

A question about UCUNF…

7 05 2010

A quick thought on the UCUNF election…

The UUP’s mission goal is ‘strengthen and maintain the union’. The public clearly wants the DUP to do that (8 MPs, to UCUNFs 0 MPs).

What should the UUP’s mission goal be now?

What do the public want the UUP to do next?

NI Leaders’ Debate: BBC got the best out of them

5 05 2010

Below is a brief review which I put together for the News Letter website’s election section.

Only seconds in and it became clear that, sartorially at least, everyone had learned from the last debate.

Gone was Reg’s strangely brown suit, and gone was Margaret’s angry red coat. In its place, nice Tory blues for Reg and a calming, inoffensive mauve for Margaret.

But most importantly for the SDLP leader, she also dropped the handheld prompt notes this time out. Ritchie was much more settled and fluent. Both she and her advisers had done their prep work and it told.

The Sinn Fein leader again was relaxed, but this time he had some bite in his performance. Adams had a couple of decent lines – dubbing the SDLP leader ‘Margaret in Wonderland’, and turning up with blacked out bills for McGrady’s gardening was a decent move.

Reg Empey is naturally cautious, but he’s good at being indignant. Both Reg and Peter Robinson put in strong performances.

The BBC’s bulk, multiple question format might have tripped people up but the increased audience input and the podium set-up made for a more accomplished, engaging spectacle. Politics has been well served by the leaders debate process – they all upped their game.

With polling day only 24 hours hence, all the leaders should be pleased – it was a good night’s work.

Election 2010: Bloggers’ review the campaign

5 05 2010

Here’s the link to an interview I did for the BBC website about the election.

Also check out the blogs of the other contributors: