Tuesday, April 27, 2010

General Election: Alliance for All?

The Alliance Party of Northern Ireland's candidate in the East Belfast constituency is current Lord Mayor of Belfast, Naomi Long. However, I'm not sure that she actually wants my vote.

You see, her recent election communication came through the post, and was only addressed to my good lady wife. So maybe I shouldn't even be reviewing it, seeing as I didn't get one myself!

Much smaller than the Conservative and Unionist candidate's paper, Long's is an A4 glossy sheet (carbon neutral, we're assured), folded into three. Just three pictures of Naomi, a portrait, one at the Tall Ships Festival, and one with her fellow Alliance candidates (or is it their MLAs?)

As with their election posters, Alliance are working through a series of contrasts - sharing works, segregation costs; partnership works, deadlock costs; justice works, crime costs; respect works, bigotry costs. Given that Alliance currently don't have any MPs, they instead choose to focus on the things that they're doing in the Northern Ireland Assembly for us, which, while possibly interesting, aren't really the things that are at stake in this election. (Like other parties, perhaps they need a basic education in the different decision-making bodies and which powers are enjoyed by Councils/Assembly/Westminster.

There is also quite a lot on the person and experience of Naomi Long, who perhaps has an even higher profile at present thanks to her time in the Lord Mayor's chair in Belfast City Council. Perhaps this is the reason she's standing, to ride high on the publicity generated from her Council job - but with no word within the literature that she would give up her Council and Assembly seats if elected to Westminster.

She also includes sections in Chinese and Polish, to reach the local ethnic communities - perhaps something unique for the Alliance party in this campaign? However, there is just the general Alliance website, with no reference of an address, email address, Facebook or Twitter at all. Indeed, it took a bit of searching to find out anything about the election, as the Elections section on the website is from the 2005 elections!

There is one possibly misleading section which seems to inflate her chances of winning the election, on a dubious political premise. I'll quote the section, then take it apart.

"Your vote is crucial. This is the most open Westminster contest in East Belfast in a generation but if you want change, only Alliance can deliver. Naomi was elected 52 votes behind Peter Robinson and over 1400 votes ahead of Reg Empey in the last Assembly election. Alliance can win in East Belfast, but your support is crucial. On the 6th May, make your vote work for you. Vote Alliance."

On the face of it, Naomi only needs 53 more people to vote for her and she would take the seat. That sounds doable, doesn't it? Except it's not quite as it seems. Either Alliance don't understand statistics and election results, or else they are deliberately using them in this way to present a false impression.

You see, while Naomi was just 52 votes behind Peter Robinson himself, in the constituency of East Belfast, for their three candidates combined, the DUP received 11,155 first preference votes. (Peter Robinson got 5635, Wallace Browne got 3185, and Robin Newton 2335). Alliance has one candidate, Naomi Long, who received 5583 votes. That is, just about half the number of DUP first preference votes, or 5572 votes behind. That's a lot more than just the 52 votes being presented in the campaign literature.

Indeed, taken as a whole, while Naomi Long's personal first preferences outweighed Reg Empey's, the UUP as a whole (with three candidates and a poor balancing of first preferences across the constituency) received 6516 first preferences. That is, 933 more than Alliance. So Naomi Long and Alliance come into this General Election in third place, with a long way to go to beat the Conservatives and Unionists, let alone the DUP.

Her best chance may come if thousands defect from the DUP to the TUV and UCUNF, so that the three unionist parties are fairly evenly split, and she sneaks ahead by a couple of votes. Otherwise, despite this bigging up of her chances, I think it's safe to say Long won't be heading to Westminster, unless on a holiday.


  1. Using the electoral register only one item of election literature can be directly addressed to each constituent. By assuming that most people in each house will probably have the opportunity to view the literature, a second piece of literature can then be sent to a second person residing there to maximize the opportunity of getting out the message. You have shown that this works with Naomi Long's leaflets. Some parties just decide to send them unaddressed. This is also fine.

  2. Thanks for your comment - I didn't realise there was that restriction. Yet why have several different forms of election literature and not just one sheet/booklet which goes out to everyone? Surely it just breeds more waste paper?

    I particularly had to write about Naomi's leaflet due to the information contained within it which doesn't seem to be reflecting the actual situation as she goes into the election.