Alliance Westminster Candidate Highlights Changes In Voting Patterns In South Down

Martyn Todd, South Down Alliance Westminster election candidate has commented on trends in voting patterns.

dn_screenHe said: “The electorate in Northern Ireland gave the Northern Ireland Assembly a huge vote of confidence after the Good Friday Agreement. People in Northern Ireland wanted a change for the better and put their trust in local politicians to bring this about.

“This confidence and trust has taken a beating since then. The failure of the Haass talks twelve months ago and the embarrassing debacle of the Stormont House Agreement to be the final straw for many people. There has been a reaction of frustration, pessimism and weary cynicism. A growing proportion of the electorate are coming to the conclusion that things will never change in NI politics. This sorry state of affairs is not helped by the more sensationalist parts of the media, who continually give prominence to our more aggressive and partisan politicians, who certainly will never ever change.

[caption id="attachment_53301" align="alignleft" width="200"]South Down Alliance Candidate Martyn Todd from Saintfield. South Down Alliance Candidate Martyn Todd from Saintfield.[/caption]

“But change is not only possible, it is inevitable. In South Down, forty years ago, Sinn Fein did not even stand in Westminster elections. The Ulster Unionist party was so confident of its vote then, that it could parachute in Enoch Powell, rejected by his English constituents, and see him take the South Down seat comfortably with over 50% of the vote. The last Westminster election that the UUP contested under its own name was in 2005. They received less than 10% of the vote. That is change.

“When Sinn Fein first stood for Westminster in South Down, in 1987, they got 4% of the vote. In 2010 they got 29% of the vote. That is change.

“Even the SDLP, who have held the seat comfortably since Eddie McGrady won it in 1987, has seen its vote go from 47% in 1987 up to a peak of 54% in 1997 and then drop to 45% in 2005. A swing of plus 7% in 10 years followed by minus 9% in 8 years is change.

“But the biggest change in Westminster elections over this period has been in the turnout. In 1974 and 1979, 72% of the electorate turned out to vote. In 1997 this went up to 79% and then peaked at an amazing 81% in 1992. Since then the turnout has fallen significantly at each election, dropping to just 60% for the last election, in 2010. “Most people conclude that it is the failure of Stormont that causes the falling turnout, but it is equally arguable that it is the falling turnout that is contributing to the failure in Stormont”.

Mr Todd explained that 61,577 people voted in 1992. 42,589 people voted in 2010, a reduction of over 30% in 22 years. He said: “That is change, worrying change, change that eats away at the validity of the democratic process.

“So the past decades have seen great change in voting patterns in South Down and significant change in the outcomes of elections. With the electorate’s huge disappointment in the continued failure in Stormont, mostly down to the intransigence of the DUP and Sinn Fein, change in voting patterns is certain to continue.

“What is evident is that declining turn out has not brought about the change that people hoped for after the Good Friday Agreement. Not voting ensures that the status quo continues. In the next elections, if more people value their vote once again but come out and vote differently this time, then a better future for our children is possible once again.”