Two men are probably feeling pretty cheesed off this morning. Alastair McDonnell was on TV the other day explaining that reducing Belfast from four constituencies to three would be bad for the city’s political clout. Maybe, but I’ll bet the truth was more like an earlier judgement Alastair made: South Belfast, the constituency he had carefully and successfully built up, was now to be shredded. Cheesed off. Alastair probably say “Totally pissed off” except that’s not the kind of language doctors use.
The second miffed-off man is Gerry Kelly. In North Belfast in 2001, he was some 6,000 votes behind Nigel Dodds; in 2005 he was around 5,000; and in 2010 he was just 2,000 behind. You don’t have to be an Einstein to see what’s about to happen: Kelly was getting set to take Dodds’s seat. How good would that have looked for the DUP? Their leader loses in East Belfast, their deputy leader loses in North Belfast. But with the proposed constituency changes, that’s a longer shot. Much longer. Gerry Kelly’s not a doctor so you can imagine what he’s saying.
On the upside for republicans, they should come out of the changes across the north as they were or even a little better. And if they were into schadenfreude (perish the thought), they might be thinking about how much worse the changes will be for the SDLP.
But I have a word of consolation for the good Doctor, for Gerry Kelly and for the SDLP: it might never happen. Remember MacMillan and his famous warning about the political impact of “Events, dear boy, events”? Think what happened to that plan for seven or was it eleven supercouncils that was going to change the way power operated in the north? Beginning to gather dust on a Stormont shelf. Besides, the earliest these boundary changes could happen is in about two years’ time. Events, dear boys, events…