SDLP’s manifesto hits opponents with actual social policy 48 hours before UTV Debate…

I’ll leave the rest of the manifesto details to others on the team, but it is worth noting that the SDLP’s launch was much crisper and clearer than normal. This time, by contrast with past documents, the clarity of just one or two points got serious media cut through.

They clearly loved the Good Start proposal: an old IPPR policy brought in by New Labour as a softener for the introduction of university fees.

£250 may not sound like much – and, since it’s being funded out of current gaps in unused budget and Barnett differentials, it cannot be – but it does raise the prospect of government above the inchoate depths of tribalism or endlessly provisional theory in which it has languished since 2007.

As a modest bridge (albeit a symbolic one) between those struggling even with the idea of sending their brightest to university it also emphasises the importance of higher education to the case the party is slowly building for the economic regeneration of Northern Ireland.

As I’ve argued here before, popularity does matter, but so does policy. It matters even more in Northern Ireland, the land where the bait and switch is now our primary post-Peace Process™ diet since the old tropes of tribalism began to fail to sustain turnout.

The timing, just 48 hours before the first UTV Leaders Debate, doesn’t really give their opponents a lot of time to scramble a defence.

, , , , ,

  • Gopher

    “£250 may not sound like much – and, since it’s being funded out of current gaps in unused budget and Barnett differentials, it cannot be – but it does raise the prospect of government above the inchoate depths of tribalism or endlessly provisional theory in which it has languished since 2007.”

    If you read down the manifesto there is quite a bit on tribalism. Giving a vote in the Irish Presidential Election, A commission to look at a united Ireland (New Ireland forum anyone……) A North of Ireland ministry down south. More power divsested to a local level from Westminister (saints preserve us poor citizens) and London to provide the money to make a united Ireland possible ( do they test leaders for drugs)

    As for the £250, why are we subsidizing immigration to NI when it is happening quite naturally.

    The rest of the manifesto is un-costed nonsense. Then when we get in to the practicalities and logistics of it the SDLP is simply not running enough candidates to deliver any of it (in their utopia) even if they were all elected. Everyone know how Stormont works now,.

  • Jag

    3 pages on Europe, setting out clearly the position of the SDLP on Brexit.

    Contrast with DUP where Brexit wasn’t once mentioned. I hope rivals wallop the DUP over Brexit; the urban and more senior members want “out”; the rural want “in” and the grassroots appears split. It’s a weak point for DUP. Keep hitting them with it, and maybe they’ll discover the courage to articulate their position.

  • OneNI

    ‘current gaps in unused budget and Barnett differentials’ to pay for a policy that’s going to cost £7m+ PER ANNUM!
    I agree with Gopher it’s all uncosted nonsense. SDLP are abolishing fees AND increasing students numbers – how is this being paid for?
    DUP manifesto equally uncosted.
    Does anyone from the media turn up at these ‘launches’ and ask any questions? Or is it just ‘soft focus’ TV pictures?
    Really disappointed that Slugger seems to have fallen into the same rut.
    What is the Blogshpere for if not asking awkward detailed questions?

  • barnshee

    Brexit what`s that? –its still all orange and green

  • chrisjones2

    Our party will not foolishly promise to give citizens free money ……. Instead we will give every person a printing press so they can just print their own

  • mickfealty

    Wow, hold your horses big lad. I did NOT post on the whole manifesto. What actually impresses me here is that someone is at least trying to think about how policy can connect with a broader electorate.

    That, and that alone is worth considering as a significant departure here. Just getting the MSM to think about social policy over tribal identity never mind giving it some houseroom on prime time news, is an achievement.

    The DUP’s, and SF’s (which is being left to the very last moment so as to not leave any hostages to fortune) are uncosted. Heard Nolan pushing Hamilton for specific targets which he refused to bite on.

    We’ll have to wait for the Alliance Party and the UUP to see if they set the new sort of standards you are asking for here but uncosted manifestos is the NI norm.

    Let’s be honest, manifestos are a political art not a science. The main economic promises (and indeed the coalition’s Programme For Government) contained within the 2010 Tory manifesto remain unfulfilled to this day.

    Andrew Lansley’s NHS reforms barely got a mention in that book either, yet they were rolled out with gusto shortly afterwards.

  • murdockp

    Seems to me a document produced by Eastwood and Co following a study of Blair and Cameron videos with the sleeves rolled up and jacket off and lots of women allowing his sensitive side to come out of the page. Even the clichéd baby kiss was in there. Nice one.

    However the document very lacking in detailed policy as the document is short indeed.

    Business policy is very limited e.g.nothing of addressing entrepreneurship and helping SME’S to succeed, banks not lending, business failures and completely silent on business rates reform. A lot more could be written on retaining our brightest and best from emigration but gets a one liner.

    The costs of doing business in NI are now so high compared with the rest of the UK the lack of policy to kick-start the economy from all the political parties not just the sdlp is deeply worrying.

    Am also confused by the integrated education policy and the save st Mary’s photo. Some on please explain as a genuinely confused on this one

    All the parties are gunning for the spend Westminster cash we do not have ourselves model which the civil service employees and unemployed and pensioners lap up

    The private sector electorate yet again cries into our hands on overall policy as we are the mugs expected to pay for a big part of the bill.

    Watch this space I guess. But my conclusion is no real changes and more of the same.

  • Nevin

    “a broader electorate”

    Perhaps ‘a broader nationalist electorate’; unionists and others need not apply:

    Two snippets to illustrate:

    We cannot risk being the stagnant region of Ireland. ..

    Every parish needs enough young people to produce a football or hurling team, every parish needs the life and energy which young people contribute to their communities.

    NI is a region of the UK as well as the island of Ireland; the GAA is one of many sporting organisations here.

    There’s also the customary contradiction:

    I have articulated a Progressive Nationalism which focuses on making Northern Ireland work whilst building toward our ultimate goal of Irish reunification.

    Spotted one neat little typo: ingenious small and medium sized businesses’

  • Croiteir

    I despair. This is a slow burn buying of the public vote. It is supposedly for the benefit of those children whose families have no assets or savings. Yet it does not target them. Now if it did it would have more credibility, but that would mean means testing which we know is discriminatory and cannot be permitted in an equal society. So we all get it – rich or poor whether it is needed or not.
    And then they contradict a major premise of the raison d’etre of the policy, you know that bit about families with no assets and savings, by saying that the families can contribute to it.
    What this is is a scheme for the middle class. It helps them to save for Torquil’s uni fees. 500 quid will not help the guy who is at the bottom of the pile, at 18 he will not invest in his future. And in 18 years what value will 500 be anyway.
    I was a colleague to a guy who had been part of a social experiment to help the disadvantaged in Bristol. They gave the kids laptops, before a week or two had expired the hard drives if not the laptops themselves had been flogged for whatever could be got. Eat now was more important. It was an affluent solution to a penurious problem. This is similar if you accept its motivation at face value – I do not.
    It is a government run ISA for the middle classes to save for the uni fees.
    If they were interested in the poor they would target it, raise the amounts to something significant, and then tax the rest of us to pay for it.
    But it isn’t. It is a con.

  • Brian O’Neill

    Wow, 48 pages. I wonder who the audience for manifestos is? The electorate don’t read them. Journalists and bloggers skim them. I would say Alan Meban is the only person who reads them 😉

  • chrisjones2

    …and the subtext is clear. ……… Won’t have a prod about us

  • Urban Elder

    Saw John Campbell from BBC saying Barnett Differentials totalling £223 million while Manifesto cost projection is £210-215m.

    Seems like the sums add up.

  • Nevin

    “It was Mark H Durkan who established a planning policy presumption that all applications for ‘fracking’ in Northern Ireland would be refused” .. Manifesto p3

    It seems the Minister and the Department could have been asleep at the wheel re.Woodburn Forest; mind you, he’d only been in post a few weeks and the notification arrived during the summer recess:

    The Irish News reported last week that the Department of the Environment (DoE) gave InfraStrata permission to carry out an exploratory borehole by default after ignoring a request for its views when the company submitted notification in August 2013.

    The Minister responds:

    While that permitted development was granted by the Department, responsibility for it has now passed to the council. During that time, further information has come in. It is a matter of public record that I had written to the council to suggest that it might wish to revisit or at least re-examine the granting of permitted development rights. In any case, what the company is doing there is legal. ..

    I have also made it known to my officials that I would like to look at the issue of permitted development. While it is great that you might not need to go through the rigmarole of the planning process for smaller agricultural buildings or minor house extensions, it is hard to envisage why something of the scale of what is going on in Woodburn should not have to apply for planning permission. Again, that is something that there has been a lot of public interest in.Official Report, 3 March 2016 [pdf file]

  • OneNI

    Were did you get £210-£215m from? Re-opening Knockmore, Lurgan crossing, M1/A1 link – that would suck up over £200m alone
    spin it as you like but this is uncosted nonsense

  • OneNI

    Doesn’t the corporation Tax cost £200m from 2018?

  • Kevin Breslin

    Surely Saint Mary’s could be part of any integration strategy, or is West Belfast integrated enough for you?

  • Kevin Breslin

    There is a Laffer Curve argument that can be made for the fact that a small strategic reduction (not abolition) in university/further education fees and increasing places could bring in more money through more students.

    Due to the Haldane principle, it’s up to universities to decide a lot of these administrative decisions and their priorities in terms of educational costs. If universities are invested in however, they are likely to offer more places.

    Personally, I do feel the university/higher and further education should be looked at in combination. The popularity of university courses might not increase as much as more vocational based qualifications in further education providers.

    I would also perhaps look at “coding clusters” based on a combination of university/higher/further/secondary school even private sector, voluntary and primary school sectors for boosting these skills, not necessarily a centralized space.

  • Kevin Breslin

    “Football” can be interpreted a different way in the unionist community. The parish nature of the GAA was inspired by the sort of grassroots structures that cricket had within Ireland since the beginnings of the GAA. Not all GAA and cricket and soccer teams affiliate to a “parish” these days but it is just one way that these teams can be created.

    The overall policy I believe is highlights the problem of rural to urban migration, mainly the fact that the working population of these regions abandon dependents in order to chase jobs in urban areas.

    The much maligned European Rural Development Fund part of the Common Agricultural Policy that gets spent on GAA grounds etc. and other community ventures is to ensure rural communities can become self-sufficient, and have young people who can drive their elders to the nearest hospital rather than taking up ambulances.

    I am happy if Orange Halls and their marching bands or indeed any other form of legitimate cultural organisation keep younger working people and their families active in rural villages and rural life too.

  • murdockp

    I do believe the sdlp made sure integration did not happen? Double think it is say one thing and do another.

  • murdockp

    Gaa and soccer are well down the sports participan lists. This is policy based on ethnic heritage and culture not evidenced based. If it was he would refer to walking swimming cycling and general keep fit which have far higher participation levels than soccer or gaa sports.

    Evidence based policy is what we want

  • Kevin Breslin

    Alliance had executive power over Higher Education, they could’ve done this unilaterally and without consultation the way Sinn Féin dealt with the 11+. Instead they opted to simply reduce the prima for both Stranmillis and Saint Mary’s.

    So “Integration” was stopped by Alliance through their minister Stephen Farry.

    Why would a minister from the least Catholic constituency in Northern Ireland need to blame the SDLP for his inability to merge/integrate St Mary’s with Stranmillis?

    Maybe the policy is integration on a faith/ideological basis not an action basis.

  • Nevin

    Kevin, surely it’s fairly clear that Colum is referring to Gaelic football, not any other form of football.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The access to funds is on a tender basis on a broad range of activities not just sports, however Cycling, Athletics and Swimming heck even Bowling clubs can compete for these funds and do.

    The “evidence” will show what you would naturally suspect … the ratio of those who participate to those who compete in these sports is very low in comparison to most team sport for example. There are plenty of people who participate in team sports and running/cycling clubs.

    Another factor is around what is the “working age population” … as our population gets more disproportionately older it’s natural to assume that the likes of running, swimming and cricket would beat rugby (both codes), soccer, GAA sports and boxing. Investing in the latter ensure a younger demographic remains, and many of these sports do bring in a lot of their own investment anyway.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Probably did jump to assumptions about how things are in other constituencies, the Brian Óg GAA club is a short walk from his constituency office. The other extreme there are unionists and non-nationalists East of the Bann who wouldn’t acknowledge any positive contributions organisations like the GAA clubs make to towns and villages in the West of the Bann, simply labeling it as a Green issue.

  • Nevin

    Kevin, I was just qualifying Mick’s reference to ‘a broader electorate’; the GAA is part of the nationalist family.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Well Eastwood is entitled to compete with Sinn Féin to get nationalist voters, but I don’t think there’s a need for a tribal dichotomy that you either have to focus on one community or the other, and the only way to focus on unionism is by a relative ignorance of nationalism and/or vice versa.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Unfortunately the media love in with social policy might only be confined to yourself Mick. Even the constitutional questions are reduced to bland flag waving and parades matters.

    How much “social policy” actually comes up in a debate that might be hijacked by the “Old Familiars” really depends on the discipline of our media and inquisitive audience to ask questions on these maters.

  • aquifer

    Big ambitious document, great to see a party do this stuff. A rail link to the airport and all the way to Armagh, wow. And plenty for young families and students. Clever.

  • Reader

    Kevin Breslin: …they could’ve done this unilaterally and without consultation the way Sinn Féin dealt with the 11+.
    And resulting in the same sort of mess, most likely. However, ministers have been reined in by the changes in the St Andrews Agreement, precisely because of Martin McGuinness’s 11+ solo run under the old rules.
    It’s not really fair to get a dig in to Alliance because they failed to push a half-formed plan through a hostile executive.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Well actually I think it is very fair, overly generous to say so if they think they are moving integrated education any further by playing the blame game.

    Their decision to reduce the prima would really have resulted in no additional integration of education and has got condemnation from parties on both sides and from both schools of course.

    The 11+ example is very appropriate because the Alliance party seem to think that doing the same thing as that and expecting the same result is the only sane option they have left. Integration in schools can no easier be introduced at a stroke of a pen than academic selection can be removed at a stroke of a pen.

    This bitter hatred that some in the Alliance Party have towards St Mary’s in the same way Sinn Féin has a bitter hatred towards academic selection deprives them of any objective logical ability of finding a worked through solution of combining teacher training practices and resources using the expertise of educational policy experts from both institutions.

    Alliance could at least admit the actual truth that even if they could merge the schools, nothing causes more division in this place than forcing a union, imposing a “non consented” agreement, unity/integration needs to built from the ground up through genuine partnership and forcing the merger of St Mary’s and Stranmillis could easily lead to less integration rather than more, even undo some of the hard work that has been done.

    Stop the ideological prejudices about sectors within our education system and encourage the hard work to get real partnership and support for integrated education, which is increasing in demand.

    In the same way that forcing the end of the 11+ has lead to more academic selection papers. To quote Pearse out of context on the opinion that the 11+ and Stranmillis-St Mary’s merger could simply be fixed with a single executive decision…

    “They think that they have foreseen everything, think that they have provided against everything; but the fools, the fools, the fools!”