If ever you visit the great parliament of Northern Ireland at Stormont, Belfast go and take a read at the plinth on the base of Sir Edward Carson Statue which reads “By the Loyalists of Ulster as an expression of their love and admiration for it’s subject”
It has been a long half decade that the Assembly has not had a Loyalist voice echo from within it’s chambers. With the forthcoming Assembly Elections due to take place on 5th May 2016 is there a possibly that the Progressive Unionist Party can once again walk it’s famous corridors.
The PUP shall be standing six candidates and below I will give an assessment of each one and the constituency.
The Party Leader and most well known candidate, Billy Hutchinson stands in North Belfast. Age 61 this may well be his last assembly election campaign, but like the PUP who had been zombified not that long ago within the political arena, never write off this Lazarus to come back.
From the 2014 Council Elections the PUP go in with a base vote of 2846 Castle:657 Oldpark:774 Court:2281 (2of5 wards in NB pro rata:912) Macedon:503
The target will be to eliminate the other and lesser unionist candidates pick up the transfer votes and drive home for that last 6th and 3rd Unionist seat in this constituency.
With a further 11 council wards from Newtownabbey coming into the North Belfast Assembly Constituency the PUP have a great chance of making it from North Belfast.
John Kyle who has been a Belfast Councillor since 2007 stands for the PUP in East Belfast. A very highly and respected candidate who also commands quite a substantial personnal vote in the East.
From the 2014 Council Elections the PUP go in with a base vote of 2992 Titanic:1150 Lisnasharragh:630 Orminston:720 Castlereagh East:492
With a few wards like Tullycarnett and Braniel coming into East Belfast from Castlereagh the PUP shall be striving to increase this vote over the 3K mark and charge for that sixth seat. Back in the 2007 Assembly Elections Dawn Purvis got elected with 3045 fpv (10%)
Russell Watton another PUP Councillor who again is very much respected by all for his tireless constituency work stands in East Londonderry.
Russell topped the poll back in 2014 in his Coleraine ward with 777 fpv (11.84%). He now brings the PUP into all the Limavady Wards and two of the Derry Council Wards of Banagher and Claudy.
Russell shall be targeting holding that 11.84% across the complete constituency. If he can this should see the PUP coming in around the 3K fpv mark and very much challenging for that last 6th seat.
Sophie Long doing a PhD in Politics at Queens University Belfast and aged 28 stands for the PUP in Upper Bann. As the youngest and only female candidate standing in these elections for the PUP it is hoped that this can be a stepping stone for other young females to follow down a political course within the party.
From 2014 Council Elections the PUP go in with a base vote of 1274 Craigavon:411 Lurgan:321 Portadown:542
This will be the first time the PUP has stood in this constituency for an Assembly Election but with a very strong candidate and very strong constituency branch of the PUP they will be disappointed if they do not bust the 1404 votes the PUP got from this constituency back in 1996 Forum Elections.
Jim McCaw a very much respected community activist from Carrickfergus stands for the PUP in East Antrim.
Jim and the PUP received a very credible 705 votes from two wards back in the 2014 Council Elections Knockagh:457 Castle:248
Taking in further wards from Carrickfergus, Larne and part of Newtownabbey the PUP shall be targeting the vote Billy Greer got back from this constituency in 1998 of 1432 votes. This would get the 5% and deposit back and set the PUP up for two councillors in a few years time at local elections.
Ian Shanks again another very strong community activist and well know across the city for his work with the Belfast Homeless stands for the PUP in South Belfast.
From 2014 Council Elections the PUP go in with a base vote of 884 Botanic:351 Balmoral:533
With the two Pottinger Wards of Lower Ravenhill and Woodstock coming into the South Belfast Constituency the PUP shall be targeting increasing this base vote to closer to 1.5K to collect the deposit back. They shall also be making a big effort to increase that Botanic vote closer to the 766 votes that got the last UUP Councillor elected back in 2014.