Saturday, 8 May 2010

The Slow Death of the UUP

Although the General Election saw the First Minister of Northern Ireland Peter Robinson lose his Westminster seat to the Alliance, it is the UUP who truly lost in Northern Ireland. This party was once one of the big two in Northern Ireland and now they have lost the little UK representation they had, have we in the last few weeks witnessed a lurch towards death for the UUP?

Before the election the UUP had one seat in the Commons, the much respected Lady Hermon. Then they decided on a Link-up with the Conservatives and all hell broke loss. With Lady Hermon's abandonment of the party and mini rebellions erupting within both the UUP's Council and Assembly seats Reg Empey was admittedly under pressure.

On May 7th, Reg Empey was in serious trouble.

Having decided to run himself in South Antrim he hoped to capitalise on his position as UUP leader to take a seat from the DUP and make the UUP seem more of a threat in the Assembly elections next year. Instead he may have shot his own party in the foot. Lady Hermon kept her seat as an independent, Sir Reg was defeated in South Antrim and the UUP took no seats putting them on par with the TUV and Green party of Northern Ireland. The TUV were disappointed with their lack of seats but they were the new dog in the yard and were not expected to do fantastically, the Greens can take some comfort in the election of Caroline Lucas in England, but what about the UUP, what possible excuse can be given?

Rodney Connor's loss by 4 seats to Sinn Fein's Michelle Gildernew also removed the guaranteed Tory Friendly unionist which makes may make the Tories incredibly peeved at their Northern Irish partner's failure and hurt them even further down the line.

Now look forward to the Assembly elections next year. Sir Reg will have to battle unbelievably hard to increase his seat share with the prospect of Sinn Fein taking the top spot, that is ofcourse assuming that Reg makes it to the election, like Peter Robinson and Gordon Brown, Reg faces possible ousting by his party in an attempt to distance themselves from the abject failure of May 6th.

Depending on when the next General election is held (in case of a coalition collapse or weak majority) next year's assembly will prove crucial for the UUP in ensuring their relevance for the next political cycle.

General Election 2010 - Possible Governments

This year's election was billed as the most exciting in recent history and the result carried on that theme.

Now the deal making begins and as a few pundits and journalists have said there are many different possible combinations for what make up of government we shall be governed by. One fact which has to be remembered is that as Sinn Fein abstain the number needed for a working majority is actually 324 rather than 326. Here are all the various combination that could be formed although some are highly unlikely.

1) Minority - Conservative (306) - If a deal is struck with the Lib Dems to not vote down the Queen's Speech the David Cameron could lead in a minority and deal with other parties on a case by case basis. This would obviously but David in number 10 but as there are very few Conservative friends in Parliament and this could seriously impede a Conservative Government's ability to rule.

2) Minority - Labour/Liberal Democrat (258/57) - If Labour and the Liberal Democrat make a coalition deal they outnumber the Conservatives, they will however still lack a majority. Something which has to be noted is that a Lab/Lib coalition would most likely be supported by the SDLP and the Alliance from Northern Ireland giving them 319 only 6 short of a working government majority of 1.

3) Coalition - Labour/Liberal Democrat/SDLP/Alliance/Celtic Bloc (258/57/3/1/9) - As I just mentioned the SDLP and Alliance support Labour and the Liberal Democrats respectively, if a deal could be reached with the Celtic Bloc we would have a government with a majority of 5. The result of a Nationalist Progressive Alliance as it were could be argued to be quite stable as with a majority of 4 either the SDLP, Alliance or Plaid could disagree with the government on their own and not break the majority. The potential downside would be the demands of the SNP for their continued support. An optional extra could be the inclusion of the Green Party to buffer up the majority to 6.

4) Coalition - Labour/Liberal Democrat/DUP/Celtic Bloc (258/57/8/9) - A slightly less likely option but one which would deliver a much stronger majority of 8, If the DUP could be convinced into joining a coalition with the Celtic Bloc it would likely mean the SDLP would not join but still support Labour and the Alliance may or may not enter with the Lib Dems. Once again if the Alliance and Green were included with their single seats it would deliver a majority of 10 which would mean a single small party could disagree and not break the government.

The list could continue on and on with combinations that become even more unlikely and the negotiations would carry on till the cows come home. My view is that Labour are the more likely to form a Coalition and Conservative to go for the Minority,why? Other than Labour obviously only having the options of Coalition or Opposition is that there is a serious lack of anyone who would side with the Tories. The DUP might but they will make the Tories work for it and their co-operation does not bring a majority. Plaid have said they will talk to the Tories but with only 3 seats and a nationalist agenda they are not likely favourable in Conservative eyes. The SNP are a no go as they to are nationalist. The 3 single seaters of the Alliance, Green and Lady Hermon are all likely to side with a Lib/Lab deal making them useless to the Tories. So really Tory plans are based on some deal with the Lib Dems but don't be surprised if Labour have already ranked every other party in order of preference and are making the calls for talks.