Election Review: Alliance on course for further successes
Stephen Farry MLA outlines why the party’s election results show positive growth for the Alliance message.
Alliance has emerged from the 2014 elections with its credibility and standing significantly increased.
The European election and the local government elections to the new eleven super-councils were the first electoral test in Northern Ireland for just over three years. This was in fact the longest gap between regional elections since the early 1990s. However, arguably more events and developments have occurred in the intervening years to 2014, creating a greater sense of volatility. This was compounded by a new set of local government boundaries — again the first changes since the early 1990s.
In the European election, Alliance achieved its best ever result, with 7.1% of the vote. This was a reflection of the growing strength of the party and the wide appeal of Anna Lo across the community.
It is beyond dispute that a significant number of people were voting for an Alliance candidate for the first time in any election. At the same time, the centre ground was arguably more congested with both the Greens and the first outing for NI21. Alliance notably saw off the presumed electoral threat from NI21, and it is worth recalling that people went to the pols before the real implosion of that new party. This notional centre ground vote broke through the 10% barrier. While this European election was the best ever result for Alliance, it also provided the worst ever result for both the UUP and SDLP.
With respect to the local government elections, Alliance secured 6.9% of the seats on 6.7% of first preferences. While it was disappointing to lose some sitting councillors and also to miss out narrowly on winning some seats, this result stands up well against the 2011 election result, which itself saw the party achieving an almost 50% increase in representation. With a reduced number of seats available across Northern IReland, the party’s number of seats, in what was again a more crowded market, was more or less on a pro rata basis with the 2011 election.
There was much speculation and even anticipation in certain quarters that Alliance would suffer in the aftermath of the flag issue in Belfast. Yet the party gained seats in Belfast, and is now the third largest bloc of seats there, ahead now of both the UUP and SDLP. Notable gains were also made in Lisburn and Castlereagh, and in Newry, Mourne and Down.
These elections were the most professional organised by the party staff. In terms of strategy, tactics and messaging, the campaign will be reviewed and positive lessons learned to position the party for further success in the forthcoming Westminster and Assembly elections in 2015 and 2016 respectively.