What could the surge of centre ground parties mean for a possible 2020 Assembly election?

The results of the 2019 general election have confirmed that the electoral map of Northern Ireland has been redrawn. The Alliance Party broke out of its traditional electoral stronghold in and around Belfast to make strong gains across Northern Ireland, polling 16.8% to come third in the popular vote behind the DUP (30.6%) and Sinn Féin (22.8%). With possible fresh Assembly elections coming in 2020, the rise of centre ground in Northern Ireland politics is likely to lead to potentially …

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Northern Ireland #GE2019 results roundup

With the results of the 2019 general election in, it is clear that the results of the local and European elections earlier this year were no fluke and the surge of the centre ground in Northern Ireland politics looks here to stay. The chart above shows how the parties performed in terms of vote share at this election, compared with all Northern Ireland elections over the course of the decade. The total unionist vote being at 43% is the “new …

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An hour-by-hour guide to election night

It’s almost over. The fights that didn’t happen, the interviews that didn’t take place, the ice statues that melted, an election campaign that would make even the most hardened election nerd feel like the kid in Matilda that had to eat all the chocolate cake, is nearly at a close. There is little to do but settle in for a long night of bar charts, ridiculous graphics, and the unique sight of watching politicians’ entire careers evaporate live on stage …

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Either side of the border, hospital waiting times in Ireland are the longest in Europe

The crisis with Northern Ireland’s hospital waiting times has highlighted the vast disparity between waiting times in Northern Ireland compared with those in Great Britain. However, the waiting times in Northern Ireland aren’t just atrocious in a UK context, but in an international context as well. Waiting times across the border are the worst of any nation state in Europe, and the situation in Northern Ireland is significantly worse. The chart above shows the number of patients waiting over one …

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Northern Ireland’s healthcare system is broken

Northern Ireland’s hospital inpatient waiting times are atrocious. According to the latest data released by the Department of Health, 41.3% of inpatient waiting times exceeded 52 weeks in the second quarter of 2019. There are no regions in England or Wales where the equivalent figure even exceeded 1% (I could not locate equivalent data for Scotland). By comparison, only 0.06% of inpatients in the Midlands of England waited over 52 weeks for admission to hospital; the probability of waiting over …

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Northern Ireland looks set for the most unpredictable general election in its history

With the names of the candidates for this year’s general election finalized, Northern Ireland looks set to have an uncharacteristically unpredictable election, with seemingly competitive races in 10 of its 18 constituencies. The chart above shows the results of this week’s new LucidTalk poll, compared with the poll from August this year and previous election results. It suggests that support for Sinn Féin and the DUP has fallen back from levels at previous elections, and that Alliance have built on …

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Social media transparency data is giving real time insight on party strategy at #GE2019

The upcoming general election is the first general election in the UK where social media companies are publishing transparency data, showing which political advertisements are being displayed on the platforms, who is paying for them, and the amounts being spent. Facebook is, by far, the largest platform for social media political advertisements in the UK. In the first full week of the campaign to the 4th of November, there was £175k of spending on campaign related advertisements on the platform, …

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…And Teslas for All – the latest plan to break the Brexit deadlock could lead to some interesting opportunities for Northern Ireland residents

Following the meeting between Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar in England this week, hopes have risen for a deal between the EU and the UK over the vexed issue of post-Brexit customs arrangements for Northern Ireland. The previous proposals made by the British government to replace the Irish backstop were that Northern Ireland would align with single market regulations on agri-food, but that Northern Ireland would leave the EU’s customs union, meaning that there would be checks on goods both …

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What Northern Ireland needs to do to decarbonize its economy

Following from the speech given by environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg at the UN General Assembly in New York this week, there has been a significant amount of discussion about the failure to respond to the world’s unfolding climate crisis. Northern Ireland contributes to greenhouse gas emission to a much greater extent than its small size would suggest. The charts at the top of the page show Northern Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 to 2017, compared with the target of …

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Northern Ireland’s fiscal deficit is shrinking, but not in a sustainable way

Given recent polling showing that support for Irish unity is at all-time highs in Northern Ireland, there has again been a significant amount of scrutiny on the Northern Ireland fiscal deficit (also known as the subvention or block grant), the gap between taxation and government spending in Northern Ireland that it is assumed would have to be absorbed by the Irish government in the event of Irish unification. The charts at the top of the post show Northern Ireland tax …

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The NI Department of Justice #EndingTheHarm campaign viewed over a million times on Snapchat in August 2019

Transparency data released this week by ephemeral messaging app Snapchat has shown that the NI Department of Justice #EndingTheHarm campaign made over a million impressions over an 18 day period last month. The campaign, part of the Tackling Paramilitarism programme, made 1,138,048 impressions over the course of the campaign. Of the 15 organizations who had political campaigns on the social network in the UK over the course of 2019 so far, it ranked 8th in terms of impressions behind Police …

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The Conservatives are failing to make headway in the Brexit supporting North and Midlands

At the next general election, the Conservatives’ hopes of regaining the overall majority in the House of Commons will rest on winning a substantial number of seats from Labour in Brexit supporting areas in the North and Midlands of England. This is especially true given that they can expect to lose seats in Remain voting areas in London, the South East and Scotland. The map above compares the results of the 2016 EU referendum on a constituency basis (with seats …

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A “likely” story – the Secretary of State needs to explain under what circumstances he would hold a border poll

Following the release of Lord Ashcroft’s poll earlier today, showing that a narrow majority of Northern Ireland voters are in favour of Irish unification once those not expressing an opinion are excluded, it is worth exploring the crucial role that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has on the question of whether a border poll is held. Schedule 1, paragraph 2 of the Good Friday Agreement states that “the Secretary of State shall exercise the power under paragraph 1 …

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The Alliance Party surge could spell trouble for the DUP at Westminster

With a UK general election expected to be weeks away, local parties are bracing themselves for another round of elections, on what would be the eighth occasion that Northern Ireland has gone to the polls since 2015. Given that the Conservative government relies upon the DUP’s 10 MPs for their wafer-thin majority, the battle for Westminster in Northern Ireland is likely to receive more attention in Great Britain than historically has been the case. The big story of recent elections …

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A bridge across the Irish Sea is a ridiculous idea, but the ferries between Northern Ireland and Scotland are the most expensive in the UK

When Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service, Minster for the Union and Novelty Infrastructure Tsar Boris Johnson visited Belfast last month for a Conservative Party leadership hustings, he re-iterated his previous support for a bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland. It was “the kind of project that should be pursued by a dynamic Northern Ireland government”, as he optimistically phrased it. It is worth re-iterating just how stupid this idea would be. Such a …

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What would happen at GE2019 if it is more like the 2019 European election than the last general election?

Previously, I looked at what might happen at a future general election using the 2017 general election results as a base and a YouGov poll to redistribute votes to see how a new general election might pan out. This poll gave the Tories a 9 point lead over Labour in second place, and accordingly in such a scenario the Tories would win a majority despite a historically low vote share, albeit with a smaller majority if the Lib Dems, Greens …

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The Unite to Remain alliance will have a mountain to climb to prevent a Conservative victory at the next general election

After several months where the Brexit Party, the Liberal Democrats, Labour and the Conservatives have been locked in essentially a four-way tie in the opinion polls for the next British general election, the election of Boris Johnson as Conservative party leader and prime minister has led to the Tories having a consistent lead over their rivals. The Tories have a lead of around 10 percentage points over Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who remain essentially tied on around 21%. The …

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Donkeys led by aardvarks – having a surname start near the beginning of the alphabet is a big electoral advantage

In preferential voting systems, such as the electoral system for European, Assembly and Local elections in Northern Ireland, voters have to rank candidates in order of preference (1 for first preference, 2 for second, and so on). A flaw in the system is that voters frequently list their preferences from top to bottom in the order that they appear on the ballot paper, i.e. in alphabetical order of the candidate’s surname. This phenomenon is known as donkey voting. In Australia, …

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General election seat forecasts are no longer useful

For much of the last century, general elections in Great Britain have been largely predictable affairs. Aside from the odd Liberal, SNP and Plaid Cymru MP returned here and there, Westminster elections were a battle between Labour and the Conservatives. The relationship between the opinion polls and election results was straightforward; most constituencies were either safe Labour or Tory seats, and it was well established that a few points gained or lost in the opinion polls could predict the winner …

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The Alliance Party’s gains in the local and European elections won’t necessarily lead to Assembly election success

As expected, Naomi Long won a seat in the European Parliament following the Alliance Party’s success at the local elections earlier in the month. However, it isn’t necessarily a given that the Alliance Party’s success at the local and European level will translate to success in any future Assembly election. This is because the areas that Alliance increased their vote in aren’t optimal from the point of view of maximizing their representation in the Assembly. Unlike the system in Israel, …

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