Belfast Telegraph

All parties put brave face on things at half-time

By Liam Clarke

Last night we were still at the stage where the impossible was being claimed – every party was doing as well or better than before.

Alliance hadn't faced meltdown, in fact it made progress; the UUP had turned the corner under the leadership of the Mike Nesbitt; and the DUP was doing well, just like Sinn Fein.

Any losses the SDLP made in its Derry heartland would be more than made up for in places like Fermanagh, its leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell said.

The tiddlers were also doing OK – Billy Hutchinson topped the poll for the PUP, the TUV's Timothy Gaston was another poll topper in Ballymena and the party is on a bounce, and in Londonderry independents scored well.

Unfortunately, these upward trends can't all continue; one party's gain has to be at another's expense. However, there are a few points of interest.

The fall in the SDLP vote in Foyle could presage the loss of Mark Durkan's Westminster seat, which has been held by the party since the constituency was established in 1983.

The UUP revival seems to be strongest west of the Bann. In Belfast it is more or less holding its own – a low base. And the promised shredding of Alliance vote hasn't materialised, even in East Belfast.

On the other hand, there is a higher than usual turnout in loyalist working class areas, possibly a spinoff of the flag protests.

That will create interest in the East Belfast Westminster seat next year – Naomi Long now looks quite good to hold it and there may be a drive for a unionist unity candidate to try and beat her.

The TUV bounce may go into double figures for councillors, which will make people watch Jim Allister very carefully if things are tight in Monday's Euro count.

Belfast Telegraph

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