These upcoming elections will see the long awaited electoral debut for the new unionist party. Will electoral birth and death occur simultaneously?
For all the talk of fresh politics and their “Emperor’s New Clothes” approach to policy they are facing a test. A test so important that should they fail it they have little hope of having any future.
The party may be favoured by the media but the media don’t choose councilors or MLAs. With the goal of attracting non voters into polling booths the party has a lot of work ahead.
Perhaps they will succeed and we will see more of the electorate in polling booths. However I don’t think other parties need to be too worried about this. Will those voting for NI21 vote down the list? Will they know to do that or will they stop after NI21? If they don’t then they wont affect the other parties at all unless NI21 get their nose in front of the chasing pack.
At the NI21 conference I seem to remember the (only) two members from South Down constituency being introduced to each other. A sitting MLA and Deputy Leader of the party presides over a branch with only two members? I would have thought the Deputy Leader would have had enough weight behind him to secure a council seat off the back of his name alone but without a campaign engine in place how will that campaign be fought. Make no mistakes the DUP and UUP smell blood in the water of South Down.
The Deputy Leader’s name will surely attract votes in South Down but can he run? He is a sitting MLA and unless NI21 endorse double jobbing I cannot see how it is possible. Can he risk not running? If he were to not run and subsequently lose his assembly seat at the next Stormont election would that be his political career finished?
The same scenario faces their party leader in Lagan Valley. He over extended his ambition financially in Lagan Valley before which resulted in the closing of a constituency office (twice now). Should he or NI21 stand there they will be facing the financial might of the DUP and UUP combined.
The younger generation of NI21 members have been fighting a series of losing battles with Alliance supporters on twitter. A pattern that I suspect will be reflected in election results.
The Euro Elections could be the mechanism to secure some political success on election night. Running a high profile candidate such as the party chairperson as a council candidate in the student area of South Belfast and as the Euro candidate may produce an NI21 councilor.
The party need some sort of success. Any success to keep the party faithful hopeful. At present I can see no evidence that they will make any form of electoral impact. The TUV debuted with 66,000 in Euro Elections and only carried that through to having 6 councilors. Can NI21 do better? I doubt it.