2016 election: Strangford battleground a test of Mike Nesbitt’s leadership

Scrabo Tower above Strangford
Scrabo Tower above Strangford

This constituency has seen the DUP hold sway for over a decade.

The constituency is heavily unionist; over 71% ticked a box describing themselves as ‘British’ in the 2011 survey, and 73% of people are (or were raised) Protestant.

In 1998, the first post-Good Friday election, the UUP and DUP took two seats each.

However the UUP had a slight edge, winning roughly 29 per cent of the vote to the DUP’s 28 per cent.

In every Assembly election since then, the DUP has emerged stronger (even despite the ignominious departure of the seat’s most popular candidate, Iris Robinson, in 2010).

In the 2011 Assembly election, the DUP won three seats and the UUP won two.

With three DUP candidates going up against two UUP ones this time, it seems the UUP hopesS to consolidate its existing position, rather than extend its reach,

Perhaps the most important aspect of the campaign will be the personal vote received by Mike Nesbitt. A large spike in his share of the vote is likely to be seen as an endorsement of his ongoing leadership of the party since 2012 – while a dip will cause unease in the UUP camp.

It will also be interesting to see if the absence of Kieran McCarthy – Alliance MLA for the area since 1998 – will cause a dip in the party’s typically-strong Strangford vote.

In addition, UKIP will hope that having had David McNarry (who became party leader after winning his seat as a UUP man) as an MLA in the area – plus the party’s key role in the upcoming EU referendum – will improve its weak 2011 showing.

More stories from the election will be put on here later on Thursday and on Friday

2016 CANDIDATES:

• Kellie Armstrong (Alliance)

• Jonathan Bell (DUP)

• Joe Boyle (SDLP)

• Stephen Cooper (TUV)

• Stephen Crosby (UKIP)

• Georgia Grainger (Green)

• Simon Hamilton (DUP)

• Harry Harvey (DUP)

• Dermot Kennedy (Sinn Fein)

• Rab McCartney (Independent)

• Michelle McIlveen (DUP)

• Bill McKendry (Cons.)

• Jimmy Menagh (Independent)

• Mike Nesbitt (UUP)

• Philip Smith (UUP)

RESULTS OF 2011 ELECTION:

Michelle McIlveen (DUP) 4,573 (15.4%)

Kieran McCarthy (Alliance) 4,284 (14.4%)

Jonathan Bell (DUP) 4,265 (14.4%)

Simon Hamilton (DUP) 3,456 (11.6%)

Mike Nesbitt (UUP) 3,273 (11.0%)

David McNarry (UUP) 2,773 (9.3%)

Joe Boyle (SDLP) 2,525 (8.5%)

Billy Walker (DUP) 2,175 (7.3%)

Mickey Coogan (SF) 902 (3.0%)

Terry Williams (TUV) 841 (2.8%)

Cecil Andrews (UKIP) 601 (2.0%)