SDLP’s winning messages?

The Sunday Times identifies two clear messages that could reverse the SDLP’s long term decline: Sinn Fein politicians cannot be trusted and that the IRA can be forced to move under pressure.It’s based on this analysis:

Alex Attwood, who is standing against Adams in West Belfast, says: “In February we had the IRA withdrawing its offer to decommission and warning that the situation was serious. Now, after two months of unremitting pressure, you have Adams asking them to make further moves and the IRA considering it. Pressure works and the most effective way to bring further pressure is to vote SDLP.”

Durkan stressed the credibility issue in his election broadcast last week. He said: “I believe you should always tell the truth, you shouldn’t steal, you shouldn’t lie, you shouldn’t leave people to live in fear, afraid to look up, afraid to look sideways at the hard men.”

By contrast, Adams’s broadcast the previous day was defensive. In a brief history of Northern Ireland, the IRA campaign was not mentioned. He only spoke about the IRA in connection with its, and his, ability to deliver peace.

Adams came close to conceding the credibility point to the SDLP when he said: “Others are saying the Sinn Fein leadership cannot be trusted, but negative campaigning will not build peace. A strong Sinn Fein vote will.”

It seemed like a veiled threat that there would be no peace without a strong Sinn Fein vote but Adams is, one Sinn Fein strategist said, “a man who has put his political career on the line”.