Belfast Telegraph

What our findings mean for the parties

By Liam Clarke

One thing is for sure - we will see changes of leadership after this election.

David Cameron has said he won't seek a third term if re-elected, something which risks making him a lame duck, and if he can't form a government he is toast.

Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband are also vulnerable while Nigel Farage of Ukip might not get elected at all and will be under pressure to stand down if he doesn't.

Closer to home, our panel poll shows SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell is 65% likely to keep his seat. If he loses it that is career-ending and it is also close to SDLP-ending. The party would lose a lot of money in allowances if it went from three seats to two.

In the Ulster Unionist Party, Mike Nesbitt has been saying the party "turned a corner" by halting the long-term decline in seats. Yet, it still has no MPs. Mr Nesbitt has done better in the UUP than most give him credit for, but continued exclusion from power would hit the party hard.

In the DUP, the dynamic is different. Peter Robinson is, it is rumoured, looking for a high note to leave on, a legacy issue or two for his successors to exploit. Winning back East Belfast, as we predict today, is just what he needs if he wants to leave on the crest of a wave.

Mr Robinson has also left us the Stormont House Agreement, an unwieldy cross-party deal but the only available way forward for devolution when many felt it would collapse. Ultimately, it may not work - there will be a lot of pressure over welfare reform and budgets after the election - but it bears Mr Robinson's fingerprints and he might leave it to others to implement.

If the DUP wins East Belfast, Alliance must lose, bringing to an end the golden period when it had two ministers and an MP. The party's stock will undoubtedly fall as a result, and there will be pressure to bring Naomi Long into the Assembly where she may challenge David Ford.

Sinn Fein will probably stick together whatever happens but again Martin McGuinness has been around a while and Conor Murphy does look like the coming man.

One new development since we sampled opinion was the DUP's decision to field Alex Easton against sitting MP Lady Sylvia Hermon in North Down.

Bill White of LucidTalk predicts that she is still 100% likely to win, barring any major mishap. However, the DUP will be keeping its vote up for the Assembly elections next year and positioning Mr Easton to eventually succeed Lady Hermon, an independent unionist and former member of the UUP.​

Belfast Telegraph


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