Election 2015: North Down

Bangor Marina
Bangor Marina
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There are more candidates standing for election in North Down than in any other constituency in Northern Ireland.

Ten people have put their names forward for the contest to represent the affluent seat at Westminster.

Lady Sylvia Hermon is by a distance the favourite to come out on top, having represented the constituency since 2001 when she unseated Robert McCartney.

Lady Hermon shares some qualities with her predecessor Mr McCartney, and his predecessor Sir James Kilfedder.

All three left the Ulster Unionist Party, and ended up as, in effect, independents (albeit the two men fought under small party banners).

All three won their elections with a broad backing, ranging from moderate non-tribal voters to emphatic unionists, and from liberal voters to more right wing ones (both Mr McCartney and Lady Hermon even have some left-wing support, on the basis of their alleged left-leaning views on some national matters, despite representing a constituency that would probably be safely Conservative in England).

And all three MPs came to be seen as representing the essence of North Down .

In Mr McCartney’s case, that sense came to an end in 2001 when he was ejected after he lost the support of the large moderate majority in the seat, following his determined opposition to the 1998 Belfast Agreement while representing an area that overwhelming backed the deal.

The seat has always been overwhelmingly unionist, while repudiating hardline unionism.

It is a sign of the changing nature of the DUP that that party is now emerging as the future favourites even in a constituency where it generally did poorly to modestly in non-council elections (in the 1992 general election, it won a mere 4,400 votes out of more than 40,000).

The candidacy in this election of Alex Easton, a DUP MLA, is being interpreted as a bid to make DUP victory more likely whenever Lady Hermon stands down.

Alliance has polled strongly in North Down since the party was founded. However, it has not recovered in Westminster elections in the area since it stood aside and urged its supporters to back Lady Hermon in that 2001 contest against Mr McCartney.

Even two of its most senior members, David Alderdice and Stephen Farry, polled badly against her in the Westminster elections since that decision. This time the former Mayor of North Down Andrew Muir will be hoping to build a recovery.

The Ulster Unionists had intended to run Carl McClean, a young professional who is newly elected to the council, as its Westminster candidate, but then stood down. The party later seemed to be wrong-footed by the DUP decision to stand.

Many of the other candidates, including Green, TUV, and Conservative, can expect a respectable poll, but none are serious contenders for victory.

The SDLP, Sinn Fein, Ukip and the Cannabis candidate will be doing well if their vote is measured in the thousands rather than the hundreds.

CANDIDATES (10):

AGNEW, Steven (Green Party)

BROTHERSTON, Mark (Conservatives)

CUDWORTH, William (TUV)

DONNELLY, Glenn (Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol)

EASTON, Alex (DUP)

HERMON, Sylvia (Independent)

LAVERY, Jonny (Ukip)

MCCARTNEY, Therese (Sinn Fein)

MUIR, Andrew (Alliance)

WOOLLEY, Tom (SDLP)

PAST RESULTS:

2010:

• Sylvia Hermon (Ind): 21,181, 63.3%

• Ian Parsley (UUP-Con): 6,817, 20.4%, down 30% on 2005

• S Farry (Alliance): 1,876, 5.6%, +2%

• Mary Kilpatrick (TUV): 1,634 4.9%

• Steven Agnew (Green): 1,043, 3.1%

• Liam Logan (SDLP): 680, 2%, -1.1%

• Vincent Parker (SF): 250, 0.8%, +0.2%

Electorate: 60,698

Turnout: 55.3%

2005:

• Sylvia Hermon (UUP): 16,268, 50.4%

• Peter Weir (DUP): 11,324, 35.1%

• David Alderdice (Alliance): 2,451, 7.6%

• Liam Logan (SDLP): 1,009, 3.1%

• Julian Robertson (Con): 822, 2.5%

• Chris Carter (Independent): 211, 0.7%

• Janet McCrory (Sinn Fein): 205, 0.6%

2001:

• Sylvia Hermon (UUP): 20,833, 56%

• Robert McCartney: (UK Unionist Party) 13,509, 36.3%

• Marietta Farrell (SDLP): 1,275, 3.4%

• Julian Robertson (Con): 815, 2.2%

• Chris Carter (Ind): 444, 1.2%

• E McConvey (Sinn Fein): 313, 0.8%