David Ford to step down as Alliance leader – new leader to be elected on 26 October

David Ford - February 2016 - sidewaysDavid Ford has announced that he will step down as leader of the Alliance Party tomorrow (Thursday 6 October) at noon.

It will be the fifteenth anniversary of his election to the position back in 2001. He will continue to serve as MLA for his South Antrim constituency.

The news isn’t entirely unexpected. Back in February when he indicted before the Assembly election that he would not be putting his name forward to be Justice Minister [before the party decided not to put any name forward], Ford said:

When I became the leader of this party I said [within days or weeks] “when you lot think it’s time for me, don’t bother summoning the men in grey suits, just tell me”. Nobody has yet told me and I think that’s because Alliance has had a degree of stabilisation and then growth in that period of time. Parties are much more inclined to change their leaders when they’re going through bad times – look at the British Tories a few years ago, the SDLP, look at Labour now except they don’t quite know how to get the next leader … Because we have been seen to be in a good position nobody has yet knocked my door but rest assured at the point when my senior colleagues tell me “thanks very much, go” I will not need to be dragged out kicking and struggling.

Whether the (wo)men in grey suits or senior colleagues came knocking on the former Justice Minister’s door, the news isn’t entirely unexpected. With two and a half years before the next expected election campaign, there is time for the next leader to settle in before being tested at the polls.

Commenting on his imminent resignation as leader, Ford said:

“With my 15th anniversary, I felt it the most appropriate time to step aside and pass the reins to a new generation of leadership for the party.

“Alliance has a well-established new Assembly team, which has hit the ground running by successfully submitting a number of private member’s bills and continuing to provide the effective scrutiny of the Executive others have so far failed to do.

“I am proud to represent the people of South Antrim, who most recently re-elected me for my fifth Assembly term in May, and I will continue to do that in Stormont and in the constituency.

“Whoever succeeds me as Alliance Leader will be taking over a party on the rise. I am confident they will continue that upwards trend of growing the party, while providing leadership for everyone in our community.”

Slugger will post an interview with the outgoing leader later this afternoon.

The new leader will be elected in just three weeks time.

While speculation about his successor will begin immediately, the nomination process will open when Ford’s resignation letter takes affect at noon tomorrow and close at 5pm on Wednesday 12 October. In the meantime, deputy leader Naomi Long will step up to be the party’s Acting Leader.

The new leader will be elected by the 250 members of Alliance’s Party Council at a special meeting on Wednesday 26 October at 7.30pm in the Park Avenue Hotel.

Alan Meban. Normally to be found blogging over at Alan in Belfast where you’ll find an irregular set of postings, weaving an intricate pattern around a diverse set of subjects. Comment on cinema, books, technology and the occasional rant about life. On Slugger, the posts will mainly be about political events and processes. Tweets as @alaninbelfast.

  • Croiteir

    Never was there a more ineffective and useless minister. a supercilious, arrogant incompetent.

  • jeep55

    Who took a cross community party from the verge of extinction to being the first of it’s kind to elect a Westminster MP. Not bad on a CV!

  • Kevin Breslin

    Ard Mór a Dáithí Áth!

  • SDLP supporter

    A committed democrat, who led his party with some success. As a political opponent I disagreed with some of the positions he took, but he always came over as a decent human being. I wish him and his wife, Anne, well.

  • Croiteir


  • SDLP supporter

    Is there any more misanthropic a contributor to this site than you, Croiteir? Your avatar suggests that you are Pro-Life, as am I, and you seem anxious to protect human life within the womb. It seems, however, that you hate a lot of people once they are born.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    I guess original sin doesn’t yet apply to the unborn. Any theologians about?

  • Declan Doyle

    A decent sort. Wish him well. go n-éirí an bóthar leat

  • Croiteir

    hate the sin and love the sinner

  • Dan

    From a party which most would have harboured some goodwill, under Ford it has become so self righteous and smug, there’s nothing it could possibly do to deserve even the last choice on my Ballot paper. Insufferable at best.
    No doubt they’ll elect Miss ShoutyLectures as his successor, unless the man with the most vacuous tweets on the face of the planet, Dickson, throws his hat in to make a contest of it.

  • Gopher

    Decent individual walked over by every other party and the legal system.

  • NotNowJohnny

    I note you didn’t provide anything to support your statement. I expect we can draw our own conclusions on that.

  • notimetoshine

    As much as it galls me I can’t find anything to disagree with you, even though I really wanted too. I suppose I’m a natural alliance party, but I’ve been bitter disappointed by their inertia. They aren’t aggressive enough, there’s been no innovation and I fear Naomi Long will be just the same.

    What really gets me about David Fords tenure is that they never took advantage of the myriad of opportunities to challenge the sectarian stupidity of the main parties. It’s not like they didn’t have alot to work with here, the Stormont clown show always provides.

  • Croiteir

    once more unto the breech – Maghaberry

  • Brendan Heading

    This is just the usual laundry list of ill-considered clichés about Alliance. I’ve heard each and every one these talking points mindlessly and uncritically repeated over and over and over again, ever since I first joined in 1994, and at this point it’s boring for everyone to hear them being refuted again.

    When you publicly announce your new non-sectarian non-tribal party which will quickly rocket up the polls, build representation in rural areas and winning support among the millennials, you’ll be well placed to make criticisms of this kind castigating the poor job done by others. I won’t hold my breath.

  • NotNowJohnny

    It’s actually ‘breach’ ……

  • tmitch57

    There have only been two other non-sectarian parties in Northern Ireland’s history: the Northern Ireland Labour Party, which not only didn’t get beyond Greater Belfast but was not really effective outside of Belfast, and the Northern Ireland Women’s Caucus, which was dependent on the special “topping off” franchise of the 1996 election for its representation in the Assembly. Alliance has long out-performed both of these rivals. Unfortunately the Alliance leadership didn’t take advantage of the existence of the NIWC to create some “horse-racing action” in the media between the two parties and get publicity and support for both of them. But that predated David Ford’s tenure of leadership.

  • LordSummerisle

    It does if you follow the Augustinian model which Croiter and the majority of Western Christians do. Original sin anyone ?

  • Barneyt

    Add to this the fact that the UUP almost became irrelevant at the hands of the DUP and many traditional UUP voters were offered no alternative. This seems like a missed opportunity as the Alliance should always look at mopping up the moderate unionist vote.

    The Alliance I feel continues to be judged as unionist by republicanismnationalism and as downright traitors by loyalism. They are not going to capture much from these sectors, not even from the more conservative SDLP followers.

    They may have lost their opportunity as a more resurgent and (potentially) outward looling UUP will attract Alliance supporters and as the UUP also can play the unionist card with more plausibility than the Alliance (not impacted by #fleg) they have the ability to eat into DUP territory too. This is not good for the Alliance.

  • Brendan Heading

    Nuclear physicists have been promising nuclear fusion since the 1950s. Is the fact that they haven’t delivered it yet due to their incompetence, or is it because they’re trying to solve a very very hard problem ? How do you think a theoretical physicist would react to someone who was not a theoretical physicist accusing him of being an idiot for not solving the problem yet ?

    It’s not fair to single out one particular party on arbitrary grounds for its failure to solve an intractable problem. If you, or someone else, think that this problem could have been easily solved a long time ago, please hurry up, start your political party. Once you have achieved 15% of the vote and have won a couple of rural assembly seats, give me a shout and I’ll sign up immediately. Until then, perhaps a more nuanced perspective of the difficulty of some of these things might be appropriate.

  • Brendan Heading

    I responded more or less in kind.