PoliticsBelfast South & Mid Down Report

SDLP’s Claire Hanna re-elected in renamed Belfast South & Mid Down constituency

UK election: Strong personal vote sees Hanna securing 49 per cent of the vote and 21,345 votes

UK election: Claire Hanna of the SDLP celebrates at the Titanic Exhibition Centre count centre in Belfast after being re-elected. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Of all Northern Ireland’s 18 constituencies, this was the only one in which the boundary changes were sufficient to merit a new name: the old constituency of Belfast South became Belfast South and Mid Down.

In practice, it lost around 10 per cent of the old constituency, which moved into Belfast east, in return for gains from Lagan Valley and Strangford; there was no change in the constituency’s representation, however, with the SDLP’s Claire Hanna again returned as its MP.

Ms Hanna’s posters have been prominent on the lamp-posts of South Belfast since almost the moment the election was called; it said something of the scale of her personal vote that it was her name and picture that was emphasised, ahead of her party allegiance.

This was borne out in the size of her victory, polling 49 per cent of the vote and taking 21,345 votes – roughly two-and-a-half-times as many as her nearest competitor, Kate Nicholl of Alliance.

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This is all remarkable because of the four-way split in the constituency at Assembly level – two Alliance and one each for the SDLP, DUP and Sinn Féin; it would seem that, at Westminster, Ms Hanna’s reputation is the unifying factor.

In the wake of the Labour landslide in Britain, Ms Hanna predicted a “step change” in London’s attitude towards the North, saying Labour leader Keir Starmer – who previously worked for the Northern Ireland Policing Board – “clearly has a institutional memory and an attachment to Northern Ireland, as do many others”.

“I think there’s a keenness to understand and to help,” she said.

Additional reporting – PA

Freya McClements

Freya McClements

Freya McClements is Northern Editor of The Irish Times