Harry Hayfield’s guide to tonight’s by-elections

Harry Hayfield’s guide to tonight’s by-elections

Ulster Mid (Sinn Fein Defence)

1992: Democratic Unionist 19,274 (41%) SDLP 14,360 (31%) Sinn Fein 11,340 (24%) Alliance 1,229 (3%) Others 770 (2%)

1997: Sinn Fein 20,294 (40% +16%) Democratic Unionist 18,411 (36% -5%) SDLP 11,205 (22% -9%) Alliance 460 (1% -2%) Others 299 (1% -1%) Sinn Fein GAIN from Democratic Unionist

2001: Sinn Fein 25,202 (51% +11%) Democratic Unionist 15,549 (31% -5%) SDLP 8,376 (17% -5%) Others 509 (1% n/c) Sinn Fein HOLD

2005: Sinn Fein 21,641 (48% -3%) Democratic Unionist 10,665 (23% -8%) SDLP 7,922 (17% n/c) Ulster Unionists 4,853 (11%) Others 345 (1% n/c) Sinn Fein HOLD

2010: Sinn Fein 21,239 (52% +4%) Democratic Unionist 5,876 (14% -9%) SDLP 5,626 (14% -3%) Ulster Unionists 4,509 (11% n/c) Traditional Unionist Voice 2,995 (7%) Alliance 397 (1%) Sinn Fein HOLD


Although there has been a Ulster Mid / Mid Ulster constituency since the start of modern electoral history in 1950 (Irish Nationalist 53% Ulster Unionist 47%), the Ulster Mid being defended today was created as part of the boundary changes leading into the 1997 general election by splitting the old Ulster Mid constituency straight down the middle with the eastern part retaining the name and the western part renamed Tyrone West but despite that nothing would have stopped the so called “greening of the west” as Sinn Fein would have won the old Ulster Mid constituency at the 1997 general election (polling 36% against the SDLP’s 27%) which explains why Tyrone West went to Sinn Fein at the following election. Since the election of Martin McGuinness as the MP in 1997, there has been virtually no stopping Sinn Fein. At the assembly elections, Sinn Fein have increased their vote in the constituency from 46% in 2003 to 49% in 2011 and in the elections for the local councils in Northern Ireland held on the same day, Sinn Fein gained control of Magherafelt council (which makes up part of the constituency) making history as the first council ever to have been controlled by Sinn Fein. Despite the decision of the Ulster Unionists and the Democratic Unionists to field a single Unionist candidate (that almost worked in Fermanagh and South Tyrone at the general election, but ultimately failed as the SDLP vote swung behind Sinn Fein), I think it is pretty obvious that the only questions here will be “How big a majority will Sinn Fein get?” and “How many people will be bothered to vote?”. If Belfast West back in June 2011 is a guide the answer will be “At least 20% and possibly as low as 30%”.


Heldon and Laich on Moray (SNP defence)

Last Local Election Result (2012): Ind 10, SNP 10, Con 3, Lab 3 (No Overall Control, Ind and SNP short by 4)

Last Result (2012): Ind 1,560 (39%) SNP 1,475 (37%) Con 688 (17%) Green 262 (7%)


Moray is a strange council. It matches exactly the Westminster parliamentary constituency of Moray (won by the SNP in 1987 from the Conservatives, and which had an SNP majority of 5,590 at the last election) and yet the SNP seem to have problems at the local election level. When they did win it in 1995 they had an overall majority of 8 (over three Labour and two Independent councillors) and yet somehow in 1999 (the year of the first elections to the Scottish Parliament when Margaret Ewing, darling of the SNP and winner of the Hamilton by-election back in 1967, won the constituency with a majority of 4,129) the SNP lost control and lost all but two of the councillors (Ind 13, Lab 6, Lib Dem 2, Others 2, SNP 2, Con 1) and in 2003 (despite holding the constituency again) the SNP made very little headway (Ind 16 (+3), Lab 5 (-1), SNP 3 (+1), Lib Dem 1 (-1), Con 1 (n/c)). In truth it was only the introduction of the Single Transferable vote in Scotland that allowed the SNP to get back to their winning ways. In 2007 they came within four of becoming the largest party(Ind 12, SNP 9, Con 3, Lab 2) and at the last elections held last May they tied with the Independents for largest party status. No doubt, Kristopher will be able to explain why greater detail why the SNP have a terrible time of in Moray and perhaps answer the more important question “Is the council called More Ray or Murray?”



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