Back in July I argued that a test whether or not the UUP was turning the corner was the approach adopted to the selection of candidates including whether the number selected was sensible. It now appears the Lagan Valley Association has decided to select three candidates to run in the Assembly election. If correct this is a clear fail. (UPDATE A senior UUP source (they'll thank me for the promotion) has informed me that what DR raises is in the comments is "definite" - 2 will be selected from this shortlist of 3).
The Westminster results for Lagan Valley are clear. There is just under one and a half UUP quotas in the constituency. Boundary changes have also made the constituency more unionist overall. The DUP is sitting on well over three quotas. Alliance on about three quarters of a quota with a combined nationalist vote not far behind them (although I expect the nationalist Westminster performance is artificially low and council elections will make it healthier). Finally there is the TUV at just over half a quota. From these figures the last seat battle should be between the UUP, TUV and Sinn Fein.
On that basis the UUP should run two with an equal division of the constituency to have both candidates on about three quarters of a quota. This should have them ahead of the TUV candidate as their starting point. It would then be the number and distribution of DUP transfers that would determine the Unionist battle and the distribution of the SDLP transfers deciding how strong a challenge SF can make. One of the two Unionists will drop out and their transfers should give the remaining Unionist the edge over SF.
This would have give the UUP a chance of a second seat and as a plus an overall gain for Unionism too. To run three means their candidates should be on 0.5 of a quota. This means they start behind the TUV. If the ticket doesn't balance they'll have two candidates starting farther back with it hard to see how they get into the game. Whatever the actual breakdown running three significantly reduces their chances of taking a second seat.
The decision of its neighbouring constituency Upper Bann will be important as well for Unionism but the desire to avoid a bitter selection fight there may encourage them to follow Lagan Valley's poor example.