UKIP’s Kyle Thompson says his party didn’t employ scorched earth tactics against the DUP to help inflict a 15 per cent drop in the largest unionist party’s vote in the Waterside last Thursday (May 22).
The DUP maintained three seats in the area but its first preference share fell from 43 per cent in 2011 to just 28 per cent - that’s its worst percentage share performance in decades.
Prior to the election the largest unionist party had expressed exasperation at a claustrophobic field of nine unionist candidates.
On Thursday, UKIP and the PUP, tied up a huge nine per cent of first preferences - the best showing from fringe groups in the Waterside since 1997.
Meanwhile, the UUP - which ran two candidates for the first time since 2001 - didn’t seem to suffer from UKIP’s entering the fray and held its seat, elevating its percentage share of the vote to 1990 levels.
When Mr Thompson was finally excluded at stage seven of the count 155.76 of his transfers went to the lesser UUP candidate Julia Kee, putting her within a handful of votes of stealing a seventh seat from Drew Thompson.
Mr Thompson did transfer to the DUP but his 236 surplus was split across four candidates. There wasn’t, however, a deliberate tactic of damaging the DUP, Mr Thompson insists.
He told the paper: “Well, our campaign was our own campaign and it was to give people a voice and an alternative and if that takes votes off the DUP then so be it and if it takes votes off any other party so be it.
“We have seen votes, transfers, our second preference transfers, going to the likes of the SDLP and even to Sinn Féin, so it seems that we’re taking nationalist first preferences as well.”
The unsuccessful UKIP candidate said this election was principally about testing the field prior to future campaigns.
“It was our first time out and we just set out to set a benchmark to build on,” he said. “I think we got a reasonable amount to build on and with the performance throughout the United Kingdom, we’ve definitely set a benchmark and set a precedent for the future.”
The Sentinel queried if the party had considered consolidating all its energies on a single candidate in the DEA given the fact Mr Thompson and running mate David Malcolm had received 511 first preferences between them.
Mr Thompson replied: “Well, it’s a learning curve for us as we’re a new party. We’ll come back and look at the data and draw our own conclusions.”