Looming Elections & Political Futures – Slugger’s event on 22 March at #ImagineBelfast

DUP's Ian Paisley (Junior) trying to tally the European election ballot papers (which must be placed upside down after verification) back in 2009 - photo by Alan Meban @alaninbelfastThe next 12 months will be fertile ground for election nerds. So we’re convening a panel of experts on Friday 22 March to discuss which way the political wind is blowing as part of this month’s Imagine! Festival of Ideas and Politics.

The next United Kingdom general election must be held no later than 28 January 2025. The deadline for the next Irish general election is 22 March 2025. Both polls are likely to see big political swings and will test out new constituency boundaries. What would be the likely effect of a Labour Government on issues important to Northern Ireland? Can Sinn Féin make enough gains – or find sufficient coalition bedfellows – to get into government south of the border?

June 2024 will see the next European Parliament election with Ireland seeking to elect 14 MEPs … up one due to Brexit! Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone Michelle Gildernew has thrown her hat into the ring for the Midlands-North-West constituency. (If successful, she’d have to resign as an MP, but that might not trigger a by-election in what is currently the most marginal Westminster constituency in the UK if the General Election timetable wasn’t too far away.)

The SDLP will be keen to hold gains in Foyle and Belfast South at the next UK General Election. A rejuvenated Sinn Féin team will be targeting Colum Eastwood’s seat, and seeking to consolidate John Finucane’s majority in Belfast North. Could Claire Hanna’s winning margin in 2019 will be weakened by Alliance’s subsequent boost in the polls and Sinn Féin running a candidate? Alliance say that they see “significant opportunities” in Belfast East, Lagan Valley, and the extended Belfast South and Mid Down constituencies as well as hoping to hold onto Stephen Farry’s seat in North Down. The UUP fancy their chances running Robin Swann in South Antrim to flip Paul Girvan’s DUP seat. We might see some long-serving DUP MPs not seeking re-election. Elsewhere there will be changes of personnel in (at least) two safe Sinn Féin seats.

Not to mention the US Presidential poll due in November … and don’t forget Vladamir Putin’s re-election as Russian President week after next.

On hand to offer their analysis will be University of Liverpool’s Professor Jon Tonge (a regular Mystic Meg of political predictions and one of the academics behind the imminent publication of the Oxford University Press book about the Alliance Party), deputy director of political consultancy Stratagem Anna Mercer, and the Belfast Telegraph’s Northern Ireland Editor Sam McBride. And Slugger’s resident election guru David McCann with his encyclopaedic recall of results and margins will be in the chair.

There are still a couple of tickets left for the event which starts at 5pm on Friday 22 March in the Europa Hotel. The Linen Quarter Business Improvement District are supporting the event … if you’re there in good time and the bar tab hasn’t been blown quicker than a big party can collapse the Executive, you’ll get a free drink upon arrival.

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