Two SDLP Councillors resign from the party in West Tyrone.

The SDLP are launching their election campaign this morning and they have some bad news greeting leader, Colum Eastwood as the BBC’s Gareth Gordon tweets;

SDLP councillors Josephine Deehan& @PatsyKellySDLP resign and will stand as indsocial democrats in W Tyrone. Blow for @columeastwood

— Gareth Gordon (@BBCGarethG) April 5, 2016

Ryan McAleer from the Ulster Herald follows up with;

StrabanecllrPatsy Kelly and OmaghcllrJo Deehanhave blamed “unconstitutionalpractices and cronyism” within @SDLPlive locally. #AE16

— Ryan McAleer(@RyanMcAleerUH) April 5, 2016

John Manley in the Irish News reported back in October the problems within the SDLP over the West Tyrone selection convention , so this has been building for a while.

Both former SDLP Cllrs will contest the election as independents.

David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs

  • John Gorman

    It wouldnt be an election without the SDLP tearing itself apart in West Tyrone lol. In fairness most of the other parties have had their probs too. SF in er West Tyrone again (must be the air) and the DUP in Foyle. The UUP seem OK this time but have had 5 years of infighting since the last election. History shows that those who leave who are genuinely aggrieved such as McClarty can stand as an Independent and win/retain their seat those that are just careerists and spitting their dummy out will do well to scrape a few hundred votes ie their extended friends and family.

  • I’m confused… as must be Patsy and Joe.

    They are blaming unconstitutional practices. Its my understanding that a decision was taken to hold a selection convention, which they refused to turn up to because they didn’t have the numbers. Im not a party member (though I admit to voting for SDLP) but even I knew Mr McCrossan wanted to run for MLA as far back in 2011, if Jo or Patsy didn’t see that coming then that is their own fault. you need votes to get selected, they didn’t have them.

    Joe is my local Councillor, does goo work and would make a good MLA but this is just desperate stuff and quite clearly personal. Patsy Kelly has always been seen as a fool, certainly not someone you would want anywhere near Stormont (and that is saying something) he wont be a loss to the SDLP

    I see Joe makes a good point about no women being run west of the ban for SDLP (She must have forgot Karen McKevitt) would have sounded a lot better had she not been running with Kelly.

  • murdockp

    Nor in Newry and mourne. The antics of the Bradley’s are worthy of discussion down here.

  • bogball88

    Makes West Tyrone very interesting indeed. SF were pushing hard for the 4th Nationalist seat and a couple of weeks ago to me it was the toss of a coin between them and SDLP. Sorcha McAnespy’s defection from SF swung the seat in favour of the SDLP, however this further twist may have handed the initiative back to SF. Starting to become a very crowded field-anyone’s guess as to where the final Nationalist seat will go. Am I right in suggesting SF have approximately 3.5 quotas in West Tyrone?

  • Im also a candidate in West Tyrone (Cista) im ex SDLP (pushed out by Danny boy, once he realised he could take control of the MLA post). Im just surprised with the timing and that they waited as long as they did (same with Sorcha from SF )

  • bogball88

    What’s the inside track on Dan, Barry?

  • Msiegnaro

    Alliance have had a few problems too particularly in EB with Judith Cochrane effectively being forced to stand aside for Naomi Long.

  • bogball88

    How many candidates Alliance fielding in EB?

  • mjh

    Three candidates this time. Currently they have two seats. And although they have a possibility of taking three seats, those chances would almost certainly have been higher with Cochrane on the ticket. So unless someone has some evidence to contradict her given reasons for not standing again……

  • bogball88

    Yeah would have assumed that Long, Lyttle and Cochrane would have been a strong ticket

  • mjh

    In the 2011 Assembly SF had 3.5 quotas and SDLP 0.6. However the SDLP appears to have been pulling back ground since then. The 2014 Local Government elections was equivalent to about 1.1 Assembly quotas for the SDLP with SF down to 3.1. This trend continued in the 2015 Westminster with the SDLP up to 1.2 equivalent quotas and SF down to 3.0.

    On this basis the most likely result would be for the SDLP to retain their seat. The multiplicity of nationalist candidates obviously complicates things – but unless the ex-SDLP candidates capture the majority of the SDLP’s former First Preference vote (which is a long shot) PLUS transfer almost perfectly between themselves (which is virtually unknown between two independents)- the end result will almost certainly still be no change.

  • How can people be pushed out of party Barry? Can you not go out and bring new/old members like every other candidate does??

  • Are you really that naive John? Well it was known there would be a co-option of the MLA seat before this election from pretty much the moment the SDLP got the seat back (in 2011) Dan has done his best to “position” himself into this seat mostly by blackballing the actual elected reps even going as far as barring the Strabane councillor from the Strabane offices. Hey its Politics but its dirty politics. (and did Sorcha jump before she was pushed)

  • Sam Maguire

    Pedantism at it’s finest, Newry/Armagh isn’t exactly in the west of the 6 counties. You’re listening to Dan & his mates too much – I think they’re the only ones that consider Patsy Kelly a fool – the West Tyrone hierarchy running 3 candidates in his ward in 2014 was a clear signal from them that he was on borrowed time but the electorate clearly had other ideas.

  • Msiegnaro

    3 and Sinn Fein are fielding 4 in FST. I fail to see your point.

  • bogball88

    Wasn’t really a point in so much that it was a query

  • See here is my problem. Im not a member and I knew that there was going to be a co-option before the full term. If I was a councillor or indeed a member (I remember speaking to you by phone call in the office on an issue, that got sorted of course lol) then surely (Since selection is based on one man one vote) would have been busy for 3 years building up membership, getting votes so that they are all in place for that actual selection.

    Known of Patsy Kelly who actively told people not to vote for his running mate, who endorsed a SF candidate against his own party… why would I want him as my SDLP rep.
    Deehan I have sympathy for, good rep…always SDLP, never ran to the papers like Kelly. She will be missed.
    But if anyone wanted the MLA seat… why didn’t they put the work in.

  • Gopher

    Running one candidate for a party that makes such ostentatious noises about being a potential party of government is political cowardice. Especially when the DUP are running two! Just says to me I’m standing for the wage not for the principle. SF only running two in North Belfast has the same smell given their wild claims at the Westminister election. it’s funny how the threat of failure amongst the big names causes a certain rationalisation.

  • Msiegnaro

    Apologies I thought this was a point towards Alliance strength. In fairness the party in now under the control of the Longs, Michael was able to outflank the leader David Ford on the 1916 issue, while Naomi has removed all the “undesirable” members who don’t abide by her views – Judith being a prime example.

  • Granni Trixie

    Three:Tim Morrow,Chris Lyttle and Naomi Long.

  • Msiegnaro

    Internal spat with Cochrane. Cochrane has been a lame duck since the Westminster elections and her work-rate on the ground has been very poor. The spat has centred around her opposition to gay marriage which Long took exception to.

    I think in EB Andy Allen of the UUP is likely to poll very well, his military service credentials along with being co-opted at the right time are likely to help.

  • Granni Trixie

    Judith Cochrane decided to stand down and I think I would have heard if she had been “forced” to do so (how would that happen ,btw?). I am absolutely certain however that she did not “stand aside” to let Naomi stand. The way it works you see is that candidates put themselves forward for selection to their local constituency. With three places Naomi would have been a shoo in for one of them – she is v popular within and without the party.

  • Granni Trixie

    Tim Morrow is a long standing member,Councillor,farmer in the area so quite an asset to Long and Lyttle team.

  • Msiegnaro

    Yes Naomi is the leader in waiting,

  • Gopher

    In the interest of fairness I seem to remember a photo of Long and Cochrane after the gay marriage vote with the caption friends before and friends after to answer rumours of schism at the time. Anything other than speculation to offer?

  • Msiegnaro

    They did the same after the Westminster election, weird how they need all these photograph opportunities. I’m under no illusion that the Alliance will take three and possibly four if they fielded that number in EB, however that doesn’t hide the fact that there is internal division.

  • Gopher

    If Cochrane stood as an independent like the SDLP and SF former members, internal division it would be definite and worth comment. As it is we have three Alliance candidates and no former party member is queering their pitch. Idle speculation .

  • Msiegnaro

    As if as an independent she would have a chance, Long rules EB will an iron fist, it will be her way or no way.

  • Jollyraj

    “unconstitutionalpractices and cronyism”

    Have the SDLP no ideas of their own? Why the slavish imitation of Sinn Fein best practices?

  • J Kelly

    There is nothing new in candidates or individuals not getting on ticket and then going as independent. It seems Colum Eastwood had promised Jo and Patsy that following the removal of the previous leader he would sort out West Tyrone and in their favour, obviously he didn’t. They jumped and spoiled his day at the MAC. Good timing.

    Not that far away in Foyle there is a similar situation that has gone unnoticed, Ann McCloskey and Eamonn McCann were both to be endorsed by the independent/dissident councillors in Derry as far back as last Halloween. It seems that the dissident/RAAD element of the independent camp weren’t too happy to endorse McCann and asked him not to stand and give the Dr a free run. Again he threw his hat in ring and now the field is getting crowded with 4 independents in the race including Maurice Devenney from the DUP gene pool as they say down south.

    So as in WT the race is wide open for the 6th Seat in Foyle. Previously it was looking possible for an independent/dissident not that sure now.

  • Granni Trixie

    Two points. In Alliance people put themselves forward for selection at constituency level – therefore No one can rule with the iron fist (as you allege). Judith could have put herself forward had she chosen to. Members think for themselves Incase you hadn’t noticed.
    Secondly I actually agree with you – from what I’ve seen and heard of Andy Allen he is admirable and should poll well ( and without the help of a pact).

  • Msiegnaro

    Well why did Long engage in a Social media conversation condemning Alliance members who didn’t support gay marriage?
    As I’ve said before Alliance will easily sweep to victory here with three candidates but it’s a worrying development.

  • Granni Trixie

    We’re a cross community, broad-church-of-opinion kinda party so ofcourse we have to work at getting consensus. Doh.

  • Msiegnaro

    Our way or the high way – I assumed from your tone you were Alliance.

  • mickfealty

    It’s become an epidemic in the south. But I think Colum has made exactly the right call here. There’s no second seat in WT, and McC is ballsy and impactful.

    Far better to have a Strabane based MLA than to keep Patsy on board by spending scarce resources to spend on a second candidate who cannot win.

    It’s one of those controversies that hints at the right kind of change. That said given the party’s struggle to break through with media they could do without it. And yet I doubt it will do McCrossan any harm if he has retained support in Omagh SDLP, since it signals the end of the kind of trickle down effects they hoped for when they ran three and gave away the one seat they should have had (in 2007?).

  • Gopher

    Where are the SDLP gains Mick? Alliance, Greens and PBP are on the offensive, DUP are on the offensive even the UUP have thrown caution to winds in several seats. I can understand SF having a defensive election they need the money from the North to fund campaigning in the South. But surely the time is ripe for the SDLP to make some move while SF are stretched? Instead as I predicted a candidate is dropped in Foyle to protect the leader,, Attwood runs alone in West Belfast, McGlone in Mid Ulster and lonely pint in West Tyrone.

    The SDLP send out the message before the election that they are beaten. Answer me this if they dont believe in their own message enough to make a game of it why should anyone else?

  • Brendan Heading

    This is funny.

    Nobody is “forced”, effectively or otherwise, to stand aside for anyone. There is a selection convention, representatives are selected. Judith chose not to put her name forward.

  • Brendan Heading

    Politicians appearing in photo opportunities certainly is very strange. Normally politicians are so shy about publicity.

  • Brendan Heading

    Party leader tells members who oppose party policy that they’re wrong. That’s an extremely worrying development. Someone get the President on the phone.

  • mickfealty

    Eastwood is not delusional enough to run directly at the opposition. I’d characterise his approach as ‘forward defensive’.

    – Objective one, try not to lose anything. If they do that it’s a win. No question.

    – Objective two, raise profile, and conversations which weaken the appeal and spread the resources of your opponents.

    – Objective three, be clear where the wide falls may come and keep focus on that.

    The one weak spot not alluded to publicly is Newry Armagh. Co Down people don’t do Armagh and vice versa.

    There’s a few extras where stuff could fall to them, like S Antrim, Strangford, possibly, even E Antrim.

    But he needs cut through for that to happen. Up to now, that’s not happening. A decent campaign though could make all the difference.

    I’d be looking to the debates for a differentiator. No question that’s an opportunity to switch the narrative for a youngster who wants a policy debate with an old timer who’s barely at the races.

  • mickfealty

    No not cowardice, just not being congenitally stupid. If u poll less than 1.4 of a quota you’re just being terminally self indulgent.

  • mickfealty

    Thanks MJH!!

  • Granni Trixie

    I wear my allegiance to APNI on my sleeve. Keep up.

  • Acrobat_747

    Sinn Fein are only running one candidate in South Belfast. It’s not cowardice, it’s logic.

  • Old Mortality

    A ‘local’ farmer in East Belfast? How far out do the boundaries go?

  • Granni Trixie

    So she “made” 16 thousand people vote for her? Magic!

  • Ach Gopher now come on,

    Foyle will only elect 3 candidates, why waste money and risk that with 4?

    in Mid-Ulster they blooded a new candidate last year in the WM, but again only one seat is up for grabs (especially since SF are only going with 3)

    West Belfast the SDLP are just about hanging on to 3, and will probs need PBP transfers to get over the line. why risk with 2.

    Mick is right with “forward defensive” idea.

    SDLP look set to gain in F/ST….. possible gains in Newry/Armagh…Strangford…outside chance for 3 in South Down.

    Disagree with East Antrim there Mick…Alliance more likely for 2. South Antrim perhaps..

    If SDLP hold and gain…perhaps back to their 2003 numbers then its hold different ball game…espeically if SF drop 2/3 seats.

  • Gopher

    I did not mention South Belfast.

  • Gopher

    Then the narrative of North Belfast is a busted flush and if the narrative of North Belfast is a busted flush then the Marty for First Minister is a busted flush. Take the DUP they are full on three to gut the UUP. Notice the difference.

  • Gopher

    Elections in my opinion are about momentum and convincing people you can win. Once you start having to defend seats across the board you look like a loser. The DUP are the largest party and they are demonstrably trying to win more seats, they are also trying to destroy the UUP.

    Since 2003 alot of people have died, alot of people moved to the suburbs, alot of people got skint, alot of people emigrated and alot of people turned 18

    The upshot is those SDLP figures in 2003 are ancient history, SF is scooping up most of the 18 year olds of a nationalist bent that vote which incidently is just enough to keep their vote steady. The new voters that arnt just so excitable and actually vote are going to Greens, Alliance , PBP

  • Gaygael

    It’s called party policy. It was decided after shenanigans at Belfast city hall, when Long led a party wide consultation on marriage. 5 failures later they had reached 7/8 MLAs following party policy.
    There is lots more to it.

    Should a political party not follow policy?

  • Gopher

    He has to hold in Upper Bann, South Belfast, North Belfast, Foyle and West Belfast. There is no strategy for winning here.

    I’m not sure the SDLP actually has a conversation and what exactly is their profile, The Greens, PBP, and Alliance are dynamic (apart from a few obvious exceptions in Alliances case)

    Newry and Armagh was the salient bright spot for nationalism in the Westminister election ., but at the end of the day SF romped home. The excess unionist quarter quota will be Kingmaker here.for any party that can tap into it.

    South Antrim is difficult, Strangford nearly impossible and on the general election figures East Antrim will be an incredible hold for SF.

    He has no penetration, the perception is he was elected to preserve those that still had seats west of the Bann with traditional Hibernia party policy.

    What do you want him to say?

  • mickfealty

    Holding has to be their first objective. Lucid Talk have them busted to 11 in their last panel, but I don’t see how they get that low (unless they lose everything that’s in anyway vulnerable and don’t take FST).

    The fact that so many of the great and the good have written them off is a bit of lead weight to carry. This time I think the debates could make a difference. Eastwood’s taken his time getting this campaign set up, which means he starts behind to begin with, but it does mean he has something to say.

    The face to face with Martin will provide him with an opportunity to shift the burden of the electoral narrative from SDLP shoulders and onto SF’s. The line on talking dissidents is not one the SF party can find a ready answer to for instance.

    I’d expect some attack lines on FDI and Higher Ed too, with the purpose of setting up a post election spat over the Programme for Government too.

    There’s been no air war in NI since the fuss at the bus election in Nov 2003. The SDLP clearly need one (in addition to an exemplary ground war) for this forward defensive campaign to click.

  • mickfealty

    Yes. I agree. But running too many candidates when you’ve very little cash and too few constituency volunteers is not wise either. I’m sure Sun Tsu says something about how it’s better etter to recognise your weaknesses, flip them and hold on for unexpected gains. The UU campaign of 05 was a good example of walking into a real with sublime optimism thinking you’re getting two gains when in fact you lose four out of the seats you held at the start.

    I wouldn’t characterise Mikes approach as that this time, but he’s longer in the job and already on his way down the road to revival. But playing the optics in too may places could lose him gains if not actual seats.

  • mickfealty

    You’re right about lack of penetration. As I’ve argued here before that’s the price you pay for swapping leaders 6 months out from an election. As I’ve said before on this thread, they need a quality air campaign to make the right kind of weather.

  • J Kelly

    They have been in serial decline since 2001 and have had 4 leaders since 2010, a bit like a football club harking back to the good old days. You don’t win elections or football matches because you used to. Alongside this a party that threatens to go into Opposition is really a party in decline and attempting to dress up defeat as strategy.

    Colum continues to leave himself a hostage to fortune, betting
    on Attwood in the Euros, he is fed up losing and possible opposition. All of these sound to me a bit like someone grasping at straws. The big relaunch at the hastily organised conference didn’t deliver the mood they hoped for the media reports it was lackluster or lacked spark.

    The big issue for SDLP is that they haven’t defined what they are about since 1998. You argue that a good air campaign could reap rewards but the message for Strangford wouldn’t really be heard in the Bogside or Ballymurphy where they have been losing votes consistently.

    Still waiting on the big idea or shift in policy.

  • Gopher

    Mike knows he is in last chance saloon after this election it’s 5 seats and oblivion in 2021′ if you aren’t making quotas with six seats it’s extinction come 2021. He has decided to give it a go . My gut feeling here is post election merger will be unavoidable

  • Gopher

    Like the UUP post this election merger will be the SDLP’s only viable option. With 5 seat constituencies coming in 2021 you can only accommodate one overt nationalist party. By that stage Alliance will be near voter parity