The DUP’s “wake up call” to unionism following Sinn Fein’s runaway success in the Assembly Election can only help secure Jim Shannon in the seat he has held since 2010, when he replaced Iris Robinson.
As the resigning leader of a declining party, not to mention the recent sensational pictures in which he was sprawled across the foyer floor of the Stormont Hotel, the UUP standard-bearer Mike Nesbitt can probably be expected to siphon some votes to the Shannon camp.
Shannon consolidated his majority in the last General Election two years ago due to a more than 13 % slump in the UUP vote when the candidate was Robert Burgess - although his vote also split almost equally to Alliance’s Kellie Armstrong, who is back in the frame, and the Conservatives’ veteran Johnny Andrews, now replaced by Claire Hiscott.
Nonetheless the DUP share of the vote has gone down from a whopping almost 55 % in 2005 to just over 44 % last time out and in 2010, when Nesbitt was last the candidate, he polled nearly 10,000 votes - well shy of Shannon’s almost 15,000 but still a vote share approaching 28%.
It is a constituency, taking in parts of three councils (the southern half of North Down and Ards District Council, the Saintfield area of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and a corner of Lisburn and Castlereagh District Council) in which the nationalist contest between Sinn Fein’s Carole Murphy and Joe Boyle for the SDLP is essentially a sideshow, and the remainder will be shared between Ricky Bamford for the Greens and Claire Hiscott of the Conservatives.