General Election 2017: South Belfast vote widely spread

Press Eye Belfast - Windsor Park in South Belfast.  Picture by Jonathan Porter/
Press Eye Belfast - Windsor Park in South Belfast. Picture by Jonathan Porter/

In 2015’s News Letter general election supplement we tipped South Belfast as a seat which might break a record.

It had been clear in a number of elections that support was so widely spread between so many parties that even the victor would probably only get a fraction of the vote, and might even win election to Westminster on the lowest ever share of the vote.

That did happen. Dr Alasdair McDonnell was returned with 9,560 votes, a mere 24.5% of the overall vote – the lowest-ever share by a victor anywhere in the UK in a House of Commons election. More than three out of four voters cast their ballot for someone other than the SDLP man, who first clinched the seat in 2005.

That record could be broken again. In the recent Assembly elections party loyalty was more split than ever, and the party that came top, the DUP, did so on a mere 20.8% of the vote.

The total votes for each party were: DUP 8,975; SDLP 8,353; Alliance 7,648; Sinn Féin 7,610; Green(NI) 4,247; UUP 3,863; Others 2,357.

In theory, this is a straight race between Dr McDonnell and Emma Little Pengelly of the DUP. The big imponderable is the extent to which people will vote tactically to keep someone out, rather than back their preferred party.

This could happen in ways that cancel each other out, and Sinn Fein and Alliance both hope to scrape a win if there is an evenly split overall vote.

The UUP was once dominant in this seat, but has little chance of victory now. Even so, the party polled respectably in March. This has also become a Green stronghold.

Candidates for 2017:

• Clare Bailey, Green Party

• Paula Bradshaw, Alliance

• Michael Henderson, UUP

• Emma Little Pengelly, DUP

• Alasdair McDonnell, SDLP

• Mairtin O’Muilleoir, Sinn Fein

• Clare Salier, Conservatives

2015 results:

Alasdair McDonnell (SDLP): 9,560 (24.5%)

J Bell (DUP): 8,654 (22.2%)

PBradshaw (All.): 6,711 (17.2%)

M Ó Muilleoir (SF): 5,402 (13.9%)

R McCune (UUP): 3,549 (9.1%)

C Bailey (Green): 2,238 (5.7%)

B Stoker (UKIP): 1,900 (4.9%)

B Manton (Cons.): 582 (1.5%)

L Kerr (WP): 361 (0.9%)

Electorate: 64,927

Turnout: 39,140 (60.3%)

Combined unionist vote: 37.7%

2010 results:

Alasdair McDonnell (SDLP): 14,026 (41%)

J Spratt (DUP): 8,100 (23.7%)

P Bradshaw (Ulster Cons. and Unionists): 5,910 (17.3%)

A Lo (Alliance): 5,114 (15%)

A McGibbon (Green): 1,036 (3%)

Electorate: 59,524

Turnout: 34,359 (57.7%)

Combined unionist vote: 41%