Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Popularity poll results give fractured unionist parties food for thought

DUP leader Peter Robinson
DUP leader Peter Robinson
UUP leader Mike Nesbitt
UUP leader Mike Nesbitt
NI21 leader Basil McCrea
NI21 leader Basil McCrea

Politically the poll results on popularity have the most implications for unionist parties, where the DUP is fighting for dominance and new contenders are edging closer.

On the nationalist side things are more or less unchanged.

The SDLP has shown a modest rally in our polling, which was conducted just before Conall McDevitt's dramatic resignation.

Dr Alasdair McDonnell appears to have halted the party's long-term slide but the fact that he is less popular than his party will be a disappointment.

No great decisions hinge on any of this.

The DUP, on the other hand, will be considering whether to run two candidates or one in Europe.

The choice is basically between trying to finish the UUP off once and for all or to bide their time.

They know that a fair chunk of the UUP's headquarters funding depends on Jim Nicholson's European contributions.

Losing that would be a financial blow and it would also be a blow to morale after the party lost all its Westminster seats.

Some observers feel that if the DUP run a second candidate alongside Diane Dodds, the party's current MEP, it would risk letting the SDLP reclaim the seat.

Not everyone agrees.

On paper Mr Nicholson looks good, he got nearly as many first preferences as Mrs Dodds who was a new runner in 2009.

She was actually the last to be elected without reaching the quota.

Then, however, Nicholson ran under the Unionist/Tory UCUNF banner and was publicly backed by David Cameron at his rallies.

Next year the Tories will be running separately. So will Ukip on the right and NI21 on the more liberal wing, both formed from splits in the UUP.

The DUP feel that Ms Dodds will increase her vote second time around and is encouraged by the poll.

Nevertheless, this will be a difficult calculation for the DUP Executive and it must be made fairly soon.

 

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