My greatest political nightmare is one in which the 2016 Stormont Elections return the Government. And only the Government. Within the majority of democracies this dystopian vision would be brushed aside as the ramblings of a madman. But in Northern Ireland the scenario, although unlikely, is not entirely improbable. Within 2011 we were three MLA’s short of such a scenario. One in which the only opposition to the Governance of Northern Ireland would have come from internal power struggles.
However, with only three lone voices shouting into the quagmire of insanity known as Stormont, what could possibly be achieved? In the end we were provided with scrutiny, legislation, and most importantly an alternative. The ‘naughty corner’ grew to six within the life of the Assembly, and the UUP dramatically withdrew to Opposition. The momentum is in line with the Opposition, hoorah!
But reality doesn’t care for Optimists and any limited amount of scrutiny will indicate that May provides the perfect scenario for the Stormont Establishment to hit back. The UUP has already indicated they could potentially be wooed back into Governance, whilst the ‘naughty corner’ is likely to be targeted by Executive parties looking to expand their numbers.
If the small parties are unable to rally their vote in May it will not only act as the death of any current momentum, but could also leave the Opposition in a weaker position than 2011. All that work for naught. In reality, it is unlikely that either Jim Allister or Steven Agnew’s will fail to pass the threshold, but there is no obvious third ‘safe’ seat. Minus a miracle, such as the SDLP withdrawing from Government, this would be the only voice for all those who oppose Stormont. Two men.
This is why your vote matters. Although I have heralded the doom of the ‘Maybe’ future, this an exciting election for smaller parties. Within a number of constituencies that sixth seat is vulnerable, ripe for the taking. Whether it be ‘People before Profit’ or the ‘Conservatives’, smaller parties have caught the scent of electoral success. And every vote counts.
This is why my message for 2016 is ‘Vote Small’. Is it tactical voting? Hell yes! But if it’s the only method to ensuring we have a viable opposition then so be it. In May I will order the smaller parties in preference on my ballot, and hope my political nightmare doesn’t hold any semblance to the truth when the dust settles. So let’s not repeat our qualms with the lack of impact in one vote, or how the parties don’t replicate your exact brand of politics, but send a clear message to the Stormont Establishment. And in the process, let us ensure our mini-Opposition for at least another few years.
Andrew is studying International Politics and Conflict Studies Queens University Belfast. He is a member of Conservative Future Northern Ireland. Follow him on Twitter: @
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty