Sunday, 8 May 2011

Election thoughts 1: SF & DUP Transferring to each other?

There's quite a few things I want to write about after the election so instead of one huge post I'll just kick out a few smaller ones on each subject. I'll start with this purely because it's the first thing that came to mind.

There were a few tales over the last few days of several instances of Sinn Fein votes transferring to the DUP on second preferences. There were also tales of it happening the other way around but not in the same quantity. Because of a startling lack of data being made available I haven't yet had the chance to verify the exact numbers but I will at some point. However, if this is the case then it is certainly one of the most interesting aspects of this election.

I had to ask (and indeed did, on twitter) just how such a thing can happen? Put aside for one minute, if you can that Sinn Fein are Nationalists with an enormous capital N and that DUP are Unionists with an even larger sized capital U, the two parties are worlds apart on basic ideology with Sinn Fein being openly socialist and the DUP being to the right of the Conservative Party. Peter Robinson has spoken recently of his belief that many Catholics would identify with the conservative, right wing ideology of the DUP and he's quite right, but where is the consistency?

It was put to me that this was largely about Sinn Fein voters recognising that their best partners in Govt are the DUP and voters sought to ensure that continued. It makes sense to some degree, but thinking about it in more detail none of it adds up. There was no danger of the DUP losing out on top spot and the areas where this has reportedly occurred suggests that these votes were never likely to be of use to the DUP and thus represented, not tactical voting, but genuine follow the heart voting.

So, is Peter Robinson actually right? Were these the transfers of that small band of Sinn Fein voters who actually are conservative right wingers. If so, this could be a real win for the DUP. Not only does it allow them to demonstrate that they can appeal across the community but more importantly, though they'll probably never say so in public, it would suggest that there are those in Sinn Fein who feel the fight for Irish reunification is no longer relevant and so other policy issues take precedent. Of course, that will only be proven if those second prefs actually turn into first prefs in the future.


  1. How would a conservative nationalist vote anyway? After all, neither Fine Gael nor that small Dublin-based party (Fianna something-or-other) contest Stormont elections.

    Perhaps, there are some who vote Sinn Fein first to get a nationalist First Minister and then DUP for a strong conservative voice at Stormont.

  2. Conversely, how would a Unionist socialist vote?

    I'm sure you are right that that is what happens and that was the gist of my post. What I was highlighting was not that it happened but what it could signify.