The Punts new lapdog

So Nesbitt has finally come out and said what most of us suspected already, that the decision to stand a joint candidate in the Mid Ulster by Election could form part of a broader "strategy" for the UUP.

Mr Nesbitt said he would judge future strategy on the campaign results.

"Let's see how the next three weeks go," he told the BBC's Sunday Politics show.

"Will it work for the benefit of unionism and when we get the result from that and the answer from that, we can look at it."
"It would be foolish to rule anything out at this stage.We've just started a process which to some extent I certainly view as an experiment, let's see how well it works for the benefit of the unionist people."

I will tell you the end result right now; Francie Molly will be elected the MP for Mid Ulster on the 7th March 2013.

When the UUP/DUP/Orange Order and all the other rag tag couldn't get Rodney Connor elected in Fermanagh and South Tyrone with the SDLP fielding "celebrity" Fergal McKinley then they will not elect Mr Lutton in Mid Ulster.

Nesbitt went on to say that the UUP had "listened carefully to the many pro-union voters in Mid Ulster who were calling for co-operation in this election and for the opportunity to end the long drought that has seen Mid Ulster without representation in the House of Commons for 16 long years".

Of course Unionists West of the Bann are calling for more Unionist co-operation, it's now firmly Sinn Fein territory. The key question will be how this plays east of the Bann where the UUP and DUP fight for the majority of their seats.

How will the Unionist associations of both the UUP and DUP feel about having to give up the chance of their man taking a seat so that their political opponents can get a political coronation?

My own view is that it will lead to even greater middle class Unionist apathy east of the Bann and continued lower turnout and that can only be a good thing for Republicanism.

The other benefit will be from the response within Nationalism

They aren't going to sit back and watch the UUP and DUP operate a sectarian carve up between themselves. They will desert the SDLP in their droves and flock towards the strongest Nationalist candidate which 9 times out of 10 will be Sinn Fein with the notable exception of South Belfast.

Let's have a quick look through the various elections to see how this could play out

1. Euros

Sinn Fein topped the poll and then Dodds and Nicholson were elected with the SDLP snapping at his heels. Joint Candidates will not make any difference here unless it is decided that the North will lose an MEP because of the new accession countries in which case the DUP will just supply their own.

2. Westminster

Let's look at the seats currently held by Non-Unionists

Newry and Armagh

Conor Murphy took 42% for Sinn Fein, the SDLP had 23.4% and the combined Unionist vote was 33.1%. A joint Unionist candidate would not get elected here and if they did stand one droves of SDLP supporters would flock to Conor to ensure he was even more comfortable

Fermanagh and South Tyrone

They actually came within 4 votes here. That was with an SDLP candidate taking 6101 votes. The next time out the SDLP will be under serious pressure not to stand and even if they did at least a 1000 of their voters will move to Sinn Fein thus securing Bobby Sands seat for Michelle.

West Tyrone

Pat Doc took 48.4% of the vote, the SDLP took 14% and the combined Unionist vote was 34%. There is a better chance of pigs learning to fly than a joint Unionist candidate winning here.

Mid Ulster

I have already discussed, not a mission of Mr Lutton or any other joint Unionist candidate getting elected.

West Belfast

The bastion of Republicanism

Sinn Fein took 76% at the last election, not a mission of them boys getting elected here.

Now we move on to the SDLP seats.


Mark Durkan took 44.7% for the SDLP and Martina Anderson took 31.9% for Sinn Fein. The combined Unionist vote was 15.1%. The two Nationalist parties will continue to slog this out but there isn't a chance of a joint Unionist candidate winning here.

South Belfast

Sinn Fein didn't stand here last time so as to secure the SDLP the seat because of what the Unionists were trying to do in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

The SDLP took 41%, Alliance took 15%, Greens 3% and the combined Unionist vote was 41%. I would suspect that as South Belfast is quite a unique middle class area that should the Unionists decide to stand a joint candidate support from Alliance and the Greens would leech to the SDLP.

South Down

The SDLP took 48.5%, Sinn Fein took 28.7% and the combined Unionist vote was 19.4%. I'm not afraid to say that Enoch Powell's seat is staying firmly green.

East Belfast

Alliance took 37.2% but the combined Unionist vote was 59.4%. This for me was a once off election in 2010 and a rebuke of Robinson personally. In 2011 the DUP took 44% of the vote to Alliance's 26.3%. In that case, with a different DUP candidate, I don't believe the DUP need the UUP in order to retake the seat. The only interesting thing will be what kind of vote the "fleg" political party gets in the forthcoming Westminster election.

All that joint candidates would do is possibly stopping John O'Dowd from taking the Upper Bann seat off the DUP's David Simpson (Sinn Fein overtook the DUP here at the 2011 Assembly elections) and possibly stop Gerry Kelly from taking North Belfast.

So all in all I really can't see what the whole point of these joint candidate suggestions is. Is Nesbitt only concerned with his own fortunes and a clear run at Strangford in a new DUP?

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