Continuing on from yesterday’s post about the average returns offered by Paddy Power for each party’s full candidate list in the 2017 Assembly election, now I think would be a good time to look at the likely fallers, to use gambling parlance.
In the 2017 Assembly election, there will be 5 candidates returned for each constituency, compared to 6 in previous elections. This will bring the total number of MLAs down from 108 to just 90. There are some who suggest that this will potentially hurt the smaller parties more than the larger ones, whilst that is true of sorts, it’s not the whole story. Yes, People before Profit might lose 1 seat, and the DUP might lose 8; the DUP obviously will be losing more MLAs, but that 1 loss for PBP will be 50% of their total MLAs, whereas the DUP would only be losing 22%. Swings and roundabouts, perhaps, but plurality of voice could be hit in this election.
So, let’s see which notable figures, according to Paddy Power, are outside of the top 5 favourites in this election.
Straight off the bat, in with a potential big faller. The under-siege Speaker of the Assembly, Robin Newton.
Currently sitting at 5/6, as the sixth favourite, still odds-on to be returned, but outside of the 5 strong favourites. Following yesterday’s article, a point was made to me that these odds are likely based on the form of the candidates from the 2016 Assembly election, and this is likely a big influencer on the odds given, however – the third favourite in this race, is David Douglas, at 1/33. Douglas wasn’t a candidate in 2016, appearing in this election following his father, Sammy Douglas, stepping aside from Stormont politics. It’s interesting to see the strength of support indicated in these odds for David Douglas, one might assume that the DUP would put more effort into supporting the re-election of their 2 outgoing MLAs in the constituency, Joanne Bunting (1/200) and especially Speaker Robin Newton, however the odds suggest a direct like-for-like switch in effort and support for David Douglas. One wonders if the Charter NI/Social Investment Fund scandal, coupled with the questionable decision making of the Speaker in the final days of the Assembly might have influenced the odds-setters at Paddy Power on this one.
A tight race here and no mistake. Both Carál Ní Chuilín (Sinn Féin) and Nichola Mallon (SDLP) are joint fifth favourites at 8/11. With less than 100 votes separating the pair on the final count in 2016, this does promise to be a close fight. Of course all this could be irrelevant and someone from slightly further out in the field, well-tipped outsider, Nuala McCallister of Alliance (11/4) is looking one of the stronger bets if you’re looking to put money on Alliance picking up a seat anywhere in the 18 constituencies. However, if the bookies are to be believed, it should be between Ní Chuilín and Mallon for seat number 5.
The DUP look almost certain to lose their second seat in Belfast South. Having got Emma Little-Pengelly (1/33) and Christopher Stalford (5/4) over the line in 2016, repeating this feat with a 5 seater instead of a 6 seems almost impossible. There have been rumblings about internal division within the constituency DUP members, over who should have more support in their re-election campaign, the odds, and past form, suggest that the answer is clearly Little-Pengelly.
Paddy Power seem pretty certain about the biggest loser in this race, Alex Attwood of the SDLP (11/4) is up against 5 candidates with shorter odds than his, the closest competitor being Órlaithí Flynn, at 1/4 – hardly comparable at all, really. Still, if you’re a hardcore SDLP supporter with a real dedication to former Minister Attwood, £20 staked on his return as an MLA would see a tidy £55 returned to your pocket. Although with odds like this, you certainly wouldn’t be likely to see that £20 again.
An almost certain Sinn Féin loss here. Outgoing MLA Oliver McMullan, elected well below quota in 2016, is 7th favourite in this constituency at 2/1, with John Stewart of the UUP sitting above him in 6th place at 6/4. All 5 others are odds-on favourites, including a likely new face to the DUP benches, Cllr Stephen Ross. Interestingly, East Antrim, more than any other constituency, could show a benefit of cross-designation transfers; if the SDLP candidate, Margaret McKillop (33/1) manages her transfers to move directly to John Stewart, it could see the UUP man over the line. In 2016 he tagged out with just 2071 votes. When McKillop was eliminated, she had 1380. Combining the 2 would get Stewart close to the end-game, and with a 5-10% increase in support from elsewhere, or potential transfers from UKIP if and when Noel Jordan (9/2) goes, who knows what might happen.
Unlikely however. McMullan the loser in this race.
Much like Belfast North, this seems to be a straight shoot-out between nationalists for the final seat. Surprisingly, Paddy Power are allowing Justice Minister Claire Sugden (4/9) a lot of leeway in her re-election bid, probably as much an indication of her previous form as opposed to being reflective of likely result of the 2017 vote. For my part though, I think Sugden could surprise many people and keep her seat. Losing out, however, according to Paddy Power, one from Caoimhe Archibald, Cathal óhOisín (both 4/6, both Sinn Féin) and Gerry Mullan (5/6, Independent). The SDLP candidate, John Dallat (11/4) has seen the SDLP split in the constituency, leaving outgoing MLA Gerry Mullan to run as an independent against his predecessor in the seat for the party, Dallat. How this seat goes, according to the odds, is an interesting one indeed. If the SDLP split isn’t too acrimonious, it could see one of them elected and one of Sinn Féin past the line, leaving Sugden out in the cold. Don’t rule out throwing a few pennies at Dallat in this race, with the party supporting him, at 11/4, it’s not one to turn your nose up at. Any one of 5 could get the final 2 spots here.
Fermanagh & South Tyrone
No two ways about it down here, it’s looking like Richie McPhillips of the SDLP is on his way home. With 6 candidates in the odds-on range, and McPhillips (9/4) sitting in 7th position, it could be a tough fight for re-election. McPhillips only got in on the final count in 2016, and with the discipline of Sinn Féin, who are showing none of the chaos of the 2016 campaign, where I’m not even sure they knew who the candidates were half of the time, McPhillips looks set to fall foul of the reduction in seats in F&ST.
Taxi for McCann? People Before Profit’s Eamon McCann is the bookies favourite to be the final candidate to miss the cut at 10/11, still odds-on, of course, but compared to his 5th placed rival, Elisha McCallion of Sinn Féin (1/9), the Irish odds-setters don’t seem to be counting on McCann? His position as an outspoken supporter of leaving the EU could hurt his chances, on the other hand, for those wishing to transfer down the ballot, McCann’s forthright views and everyman-approach to media appearances could see him pick up some transfers from unlikely places. Not a definite faller, but depends on how the ground is.
Unionist journey-woman, Jenny Palmer (1/4 – UUP) is in 6th place here, but all except Paul Givan (1/25 – DUP) are within gambling reach. Brenda Hale (1/5, DUP), Edwin Poots (1/9 – DUP), Trevor Lunn (1/9 – Alliance), Robbie Butler (1/9 – UUP) – any one of these could fall. Lunn should have enough support and transferability to see him comfortably through, then it becomes one-from-four is out. The SDLP have been making much noise about Pat Catney, but at 10/1 in 7th favourite position, he seems more tokenistic than a strong bet. Although, if you have the inside scoop on this one, putting your money where your mouth is at 10/1 could see a tidy sum returned.
Another Unionist faller, 5th position in the betting is held by Keith Buchanan of the DUP, at 1/8, with Sandra Overend (UUP) further out at 4/6. Frankly, those odds for Buchanan are farcical, Overend doesn’t really stand much of a chance here. The DUP had 2 candidates in 2016, and when their then-outgoing MLA, Ian McCrea went out, transfers weren’t counted as the show was over – this time though, the DUP stand to sit around the 8000+ vote mark. Comfortably in. Overend likely to fall at the last.
Newry & Armagh
This is a shocker, from the odds alone… Or a sure fire bet, if you’re so inclined. In fifth place is former UUP Minister Danny Kennedy at 1/5; outside of Kennedy, in sixth, is Sinn Féin stalwart, Conor Murphy (1/3), the man expected by many to have been the next Sinn Féin leader in the North, before losing out to Michelle O’Neill. A tight field, with only 9 candidates, so you’ve a better chance of being elected, than not, in Newry and Armagh, but outside of Murphy, everyone is 100/1 or higher. Put quite simply, if CISTA, Green, and Alliance transfer to Kennedy, Murphy goes. Not impossible to see happening. A risky move here by Sinn Féin.
Another one that the bookies are uncomfortable calling a favourite for. Fifth and sixth favourites are neck and neck, Philip McGuigan (Sinn Féin) and Robin Swann (UUP) both at 8/15. Neither are too far behind Phillip Logan of the DUP at 3/10, but one of those 3 is going. Are there enough SF votes in North Antrim to see McGuigan home? Being a replacement for Daithí McKay, who resigned during the last term shouldn’t affect his chances too much, but then the whole incident did cause a schism in the North Antrim SF community… If things fall right for McGuigan, it should see him home, then it’s just a case of Logan v Swann. The safe money is on Swann losing out.
No surprises here, the top five candidates are all heavily favoured, in at sixth is William Cudsworth of the UUP (11/4) but with no real chance of making a breakthrough, this seat stays as is – some candidate moving from the DUP should keep this constituency as-was in 2016.
Looking to be a photo-finish between David Ford, former leader of Alliance (4/11) and Trevor Clarke (8/13, DUP), Ford should be much more transfer-friendly than Clarke, but definitely one to watch. With so little between the two candidates in the odds stakes, there’s no knowing how it’ll pan out on the day.
That much vaunted second Unionist seat in South Down could go down to the wire. Sinead Ennis (4/11 – Sinn Féin) is narrowly ahead in the odds from Harold Mckee at 4/9 (UUP), ironically, the decision by Henry Reilly (formerly of UKIP and the TUV), to offer his support to the DUP candidate could see the second Unionist seat go out of reach. Reilly attempting to turn his supports into McKee supporters might see the UUP man over the line. As it stands, it looks like Harold Mckee might have finished his Assembly career after just eight months in the place.
The movement of Peter Weir (1/8) from North Down to Strangford is an interesting bit of politicking, this was already a strong DUP seat, with Simon Hamilton (1/33) and Michelle McIlveen (1/50) – so yes, all DUP candidates in this constituency are Ministers in the NI Executive – why add Weir? Probably to oust Jonathan Bell (Independent) who at 9/4, doesn’t look like returning. Interestingly, even further out is Philip Smith (UUP) at 7/2. If any seat is worth a wee bet, it would be on Smith to pick up a seat here, although at the expense of who, this remains to be seen. As it is though, Smith and Bell miss the cut.
An interesting seat to watch in 2016, no less interesting now that we’re having another go. Dolores Kelly (11/2 – SDLP) seems long odds to get back the seat she lost last year, the battle this time should go down to Doug Beattie in 6th favourite position (10/11 – UUP) and, I guess, Nuala Tomen (2/9 – Sinn Féin), although that hardly seems like a fair fight… what might be more interesting is the intra-UUP battle. Beattie scraped in at the last in 2016, with his party-mate Jo-Anne Dobson (1/16) sitting comfortably on the Stormont benches long before Beattie crossed the finish line. Dobson of course was an MLA in the previous Assembly, Beattie was not. This time however, few could argue against Beattie having had the bulk of media exposure – being one of the few trusted spokespeople by UUP Mike Nesbitt, and little has been seen of Dobson in the Eight-Month-Assembly. As has been mentioned, Beattie is being pegged at these long odds, in part, because of the 2016 performance – depending on how the vote is managed, and of course if there actually is DUP-to-UUP bounce, perhaps Beattie will be the UUP poll topper, or perhaps both will sail in. Interesting battle. Must watch.
Fifth and Sixth place look close here. Alicia Clarke (4/11) of the UUP at same odds as Declan McAleer (Sinn Féin), only one can win… Clarke is the replacement for departing MLA Ross Hussey, who had the fourth highest vote in 2016, I suspect nationalist votes will carry Sinn Féin may battle through the final parts of this count.