Chekov, commenting on my previous blog has said that he seriously disputes that Rodney Connor is almost certain to with the Fermanagh and South Tyrone seat. On revision, I defer to Chekov’s point. Connor has a very strong chance of winning but victory is by no means certain and there is a possibility that SDLP supporters will vote tactically for Sinn Fein in order to prevent Connor from succeeding.
The net effect of Connor’s candidacy is that instead of the decision to elect an MP resting with Sinn Fein supporters, the decision to elect an MP now rests with supporters of the SDLP.
In order to win, Michelle Gildernew needs approximately 90% of the Nationalist/Republican vote. In practice, this means taking approximately 3,500 votes (about 48%) of current SDLP support.
One lifelong SDLP supporter that I know particularly well is my wife. Yes, I can imagine the surprises when people read this. At the very least, I have some insight into the thinking of one type of SDLP supporter that I believe represents a very sizeable proportion of their support base.
Sinn Fein, as I have already observed, has probably taken away all the votes it is likely to have taken from the SDLP in previous elections. Those left supporting the SDLP are still very much culturally Nationalist Irish but they also tend to be disaffected middle-class Catholics. They are unimpressed by the link between Sinn Fein and the IRA and regard that as a complete bar to supporting Sinn Fein. Many of them support academic selection and do not agree with their leadership. Some SDLP activists, recognising the problem are quietly telling their supporters that their policy on academic selection and the abolition of the 11+ was a mistake. Most SDLP supporters are extremely uncomfortable with socialism. Most of all, as far as your average SDLP supporter is concerned, there is no love lost between them and Sinn Fein.
SDLP supporters do not like the Unionists either. They certainly do not like overtly sectarian unionism. They see little chance of progress towards a shared future in Northern Ireland so long as Orangemen dominate unionist politics.
How they will view Rodney Connor’s candidacy, I don’t know. What I do know is that Fearghal Mckinney has already struck up a positive note amongst SDLP supporters. By the day of the election, most SDLP supporters in Fermanagh and South Tyrone will know that they hold the key to who gets the seat.
Rodney Connor is unlikely to attract very many Catholic votes but he can ill afford to be complacent that the SDLP will hold. Should he at least make a strong effort to canvass the Catholic vote, he will turn a few heads. It could just be sufficient to nullify a potential anti-unionist tactical vote.
Filed under: Conservative Party, Fermanagh and South Tyrone, General Election, Michelle Gildernew, Rodney Connor, SDLP, Unionism, Westminster | Tagged: Conservative Party, Fearghal McKinney, Fermanagh and South Tyrone, General Election, Michelle Gildernew, Northern Ireland politics, Rodney Connor, SDLP, Sinn Fein, Tory-UUP linkup, Unionism, Westminster | 5 Comments »