Election Opinions: Alliance Party

Friday 8 November 2019

Each in the run up to the election, I'm going to be giving my view on the state of each political party. First up, it's Naomi Longs' Alliance Party.

It's been a pretty decent year for Alliance: they won 53 seats in the local council elections and got their leader, Naomi Long elected to the European Parliament in the European elections as an MEP (Member of the European Parliament). So it's pretty hard to dispute that they've done reasonably well and that's why it's been labelled the "Alliance Surge". However despite all that, there is no guarantee that this "Surge" will continue.

The biggest challenge for Alliance is to get elected to Westminster for the first time since 2010 when Naomi Long famously won the East Belfast seat from former DUP leader Peter Robinson. A lot has changed in those nine years since, not least the fact that we have no devolved government in Northern Ireland and of course we have Brexit to add into that picture as well; really things are quite uncertain.

Secondly, the other four major parties, the DUP, UUP, SDLP and SF have announced that they will help each other in trying to get more unionists elected or more pro-EU MPs elected in what we call electoral pacts. For instance, the DUP have pulled out of the running in Fermanagh and South Tyrone to help the UUP try and win the seat from SF while the Ulster Unionists did the same for the DUP in North Belfast. Something similiar has happened between the SDLP and SF. The biggest problem for Alliance is that they've decided not to do any pacts for a number of reasons:

- they know that their voters don't like them doing pacts.

- They fear becoming involved in a "sectarian headcount" i.e unionist v nationalist, orange v green contest.

- They don't think pacts will benefit them in any way.

The party have mainly claimed that they want to offer voters an alternative to what they say is the DUP's failure over Brexit and SF's abstentionism (not taking their seats at Westminster) despite what's happening with Brexit. While this may pay off in some respects, in others it carries big risks that they mightn't win at all.

Alliance are a small party and after two elections already this year, they have to use their resources and cash widely. Standing 18 candidates across 18 constituencies means it's essential to do that. The party also has to overcome the "first-past-the-post" electoral system which means you can only vote for one candidate, meaning people will always vote more tribally. This compares to the Single Transferable Vote system used in the council and European elections where you choose as many or as few candidates as you want and where of course the party can transferred votes from other parties. So to sum up, lots of challenges to overcome for what is still Northern Ireland's fifth largest political party.

While Alliance do face a lot of challenges in this election, it's important not to write them off completely. They are contention of winning potentially around 4 or 5 out of the 18 seats and even winning one for them would be a big success. Just as it's become so hard to predict what will happen in politics recently, we would all be wise to watch this space when it comes to parties like Alliance.

Signing off,

Peter Wilson

This general election will be massive for Northern Ireland

Friday 1 November 2019

Yet again, we've found ourselves in another early general election. To add to that, it's just two weeks before Christmas! It isn't exactly ideal to be going out and voting on a cold, dark winter night! Anyway in all seriousness, let me summarise why it will be massive for Northern Ireland.

So we're now gonna have a general election on December 12. How fun! By the way, I am only being half-serious. Elections are interesting in terms of finding out who wins where and what it means for politics more widely; that'll certainly be the case here in Northern Ireland. Last time out in 2017, the DUP were the largest party with 10 seats while Sinn Fein were second with 7 and there was one independent unionist in mix as well, Lady Sylvia Hermon. Yet what makes this election so interesting is a couple of things:

1. The election's taking place against the backdrop of Brexit- This means that politcal parties' positions on Brexit could determine their fate when it comes to how they perform i.e. pro-Brexit v anti-Brexit. It will make for a very interesting contest.

2. It doesn't look like there's going to be any electoral pacts- To translate, that basically that means there's no sign of for example the DUP and UUP working together to try and stop Sinn Fein candidates winning certain seats by maybe pulling out in certain areas to help each other win. In previous years, electoral pacts have helped to creat a fairly even split between the number of unionist and nationalist MPs. Without electoral pacts, that could be about to change.

3. A rising number of voters in Northern Ireland don't identify as unionist or nationalist- For many years, it's been all about green v orange, unionist v nationalist. While that's still the case to an extent, more voters are identifying as non-unionist and non-nationalist meaning this could certainly shake things up a bit come election time.

In short, this election campaign's gonna be an exciting one and we still have at least 5 whole weeks until election day. Anything can happen come election time and in these weird times, that's definitely the case more than ever.

Signing off,

Peter Wilson

It's now a truely scary Halloween for Boris Johnson

Friday 25 October 2019

When he became PM back in July, Boris Johnson boasted about his determination to deliver Brexit by Thursday 31 October- on Halloween. Yet now he has spectacularly failed to do so and will be humiliatingly forced to accept a three-month delay to Brexit from the EU. To top it all off, he has now said that he wants a general election on 12 December, 13 days before Christmas. Not so much 'get Brexit done' and more like 'dither and delay'.

To give a wee bit of background to all of this, Bojo brought back his deal from the EU and managed to get outline support for it from MPs earlier in the week. Despite this pretty big success, a lot of MPs felt that the PM was trying to rush his deal through with very little scrutiny and so voted against his idea of getting through all the scrutiny of the deal in just three days. This meant that Bojo had to beg the EU for yet another Brexit delay which under a law passed by MPs last month, he has to accept regardless of the length of the extension. It's likely that the EU are gonna give a three-month delay meaning we can either have another referendum on Brexit, hold a general election or try and push Boris's deal through once again. Guess what, Boris decided to go with the second option: an election to try to give him a super massive majority to 'get Brexit done'.

Course, there's one slight problem with Bojo's plan: two-thirds of MPs have to vote for a general election in order for it to take place and that will mean that it will be essential that Jeremey Corbyn's Labour Party vote for it. Corbyn has said that he won't back an election unless Johnson takes the threat of a no-deal Brexit off the table. Boris wants his election for 12 December, just before Christmas meaning the UK will be getting a not-so-nice Christmas gift. Ther are a lot of questions around who might win an election or whether there will even be an overall winner? All interesting questions but only time will answer them.

To sum it all up, as usual with Brexit, no-one can be totally as to what'll happen next. The next couple of weeks will involve a lot of argument and debate over the direction of Brexit and the direction of the UK as a result. Have a great Halloween whatever you're doing and don't forget that Brexit's always just around the corner.

Big PW

It's been nearly 1000 days since Stormont collapsed and it shouldn't be tolerated!

Friday 11 October 2019

It's been nearly 1000 days since our government and our political institutions collapsed in January 2017. Just that fact forces me to sit back for a minute and fully appreciate that it has been almost three years since we last had MLAs up on the hill at Stormont. It really is an absolute disgrace to put it simply.

#This week, I'll be going to a protest at Stormont to highlight the fact that we have no government in Northern Ireland which means we can't sort out our NHS, we can't give more money to schools, we can't invest more in the PSNI and we can't do many other things. It is badly affecting all of our public services and things will eventually start to fail. Of course, with no government, we can't prepare for Brexit either. Believe me on Sunday, I will be making sure that we hold the DUP and SF to account for their failures and urge them to get their act together.

To finish, it's so important for our peace process and for future generations that we deliver good government in Northern Ireland and give hope of healing our divided society. We can't sit back and allow our people to suffer because of politicians' indecision, inaction, selfishness and greed.

Cheers for reading and see you in two weeks time.

Big PW

We need to get decency and respect back into politics

Friday 27 September 2019

Hi guys. I know you're probably expecting me to give a reaction to the decision by the Supreme Court- the highest UK court- that Boris Johnson's decision to suspend Parliament for five weeks was illegal. But I'm not. Allow me to explain. Basically, after the decision by the Supreme Court, Parliament was then brought back from suspension on Wednesday. Now you'd expect MPs to be pretty keen to get down to discussing the nitty-gritty of Brexit. It's certainly what I expected. So you'll be surprised to hear that I was downright shocked and appalled when the debate descended into some toxic, ill-tempered cesspit of hate. In short, it wasn't good enough from the people who are sent to Westminster to represent us!

The sort of language I was hearing from all sides was nothing short of disgraceful: Boris Johnson dismissing an MP's worries about her and her colleagues' safety as 'humbug'; words like 'traitor', betrayal' and surrender' being used to describe people who apparently block Brexit; phrases like 'tin pot dictator' and 'liar' being used as personal attacks on the PM. It just seems that we're all losing the ability to disagree with somebody in a respectful and decent way and it is the Brexit debate that has caused and is causing this. So what can we do about it?

Well, the simple answer is that we can all tone down the language a wee bit and learn to listen to the other person's arguments and points- even when we disagree with them. If our politics and democracy is to work properly, then the art of debate has to return. As is clear from other parts of the world, when political debate turns nasty, the effect can be tragic.

Cheers for reading and have a great week wherever you are.

Big PW.