SDLP: strengths and weaknesses made public…

I had a heads up on this story last week, but by the time I looked it had been swamped by Daily Ireland’s notoriously unnavigable archiving system. But it’s a fascinating read and an excellent piece of journalism. It seems they’ve got a hold of a confidential consultant’s report suggesting to the SDLP that it was increasingly becoming an irrelevance to the Nationalist community, and that the only way it might recover ground would be in linking Sinn Fein to criminality.According to Daily Ireland, New Imprint, New Impetus: Political and Marketing Initiatives was issued last February. It’s SWOT analysis reports that the party is perceived as:

The main weaknesses found were “poor organisation”, “perception of being weak, irrelevant, old”, “whingeing”, “not on the ground”, “apparent lack of representative talent”, “lack of charisma”, “culture of indiscipline”. The main strength was identified as “John Hume”.

Major opportunities identified were “middle-class Protestant voters” and “create a system of punishment and reward”. The report acknowledged that the SDLP urgently needed new faces. “More young people,” it said. “More women. More people rooted in the community, working for the community.”

It called for a stronger role for the leadership:

It recommended that party leader Mark Durkan and his deputy Alasdair McDonnell put their imprint on the party, “rather than continuing with an inherited spirit of decline”.

The report added: “In order to do this, a new energy will need to be generated if the party is in any way to get close to the discipline, intelligence and enthusiasm of rivals.” The marketing strategy implicitly criticised the party on its narrow publicity strategy of favouring a single newspaper and recommended thinking “about how to extend it appropriately for each campaign”.

There is even a hard snap of reality, in that it highlights to the party faithful that as many as eight of the seats it currently holds (18), could be in danger in the next Assembly election.

Here, we may find one of the reasons Eddie Espie jumped ship earlier this year:

“In 1969, the main opposition party in the North was the Nationalist Party,” Mr Espie said. “Two years later, it was gone. A precedent was set back then, proving when the critical mass of electoral support drifts away from a party and reaches a certain point, the end becomes unstoppable.”

Espie’s allusion to the old nationalist party is an interesting benchmark. Arguably it was a combination of the Nationalist Party’s rank amateurism and ineffectiveness at Stormont that blew it away in the tumult of 68/70 – it only established headquarters and a staff in the sixties. Few would argue that that amateurism still exists within the SDLP (check out that hideous website), but in recent years it has scored a number of very palpable hits on its old tormentors in the Republican movement, despite regular predictions of its imminent demise.

One of the things that has marked the decline of both the UUP and the SDLP has been complacency: the sense that our ‘decent’ voters will always prefer us to the ‘extremes’. It may well be a sign of recovery when internal documents begin to reflect internally what’s being said outside the confines of the party’s inner sanctum. Like Sinn Fein’s Guladuff paper, this has afforded us a closer look at the thinking inside a major political party.

Northern Ireland’s politicians can afford to be more open about their plans, hopes, weaknesses and strengths. It would make them more interesting, initiate debate on their terms and (perhaps the reason they generally don’t do it) allow the rest of us would have something tangible to read against final delivery.

  • heres hoping

    It recommended that party leader Mark Durkan and his deputy Alasdair McDonnell put their imprint on the party,

    Its no secret that these two barely speak never mind be part of a collective leadership. So the chances of a unified imprint will be unlikely.

    The reason for my signature was an earlier thread when we were discussing the possibility of Alex Attwood losing his seat in West Belfast so things can only get better.

    On a broader point any political party organisation can find it faults but if they have the will or the abilty to rectify them thats the question. And if this report is six months old I haven’t seen anything in recent times to suggest that they have.

  • John Maynard

    Give it up Mick.
    Daily Ireland hasn’t the money to pay for you for a column, even if they had the inclination to hire anyone who might not always be completely on-message.

  • True Irishman

    The SDLP could never out green SF. Though equally,

    SF could never be more moderate the the SDLP.

    Irish politics has always heard a moderate voice and I say, as an Irish Republican, any party that tries to justify killing fellow countrymen will NEVER get my vote. And if a UI depended on me voting SF, I’ll be prepared to wait. The UI I want to see will not be achieved or built on poor foundations.

  • Mick Fealty

    John,

    Credit should go where credit is due. That’s all!

  • John Maynard

    Bollocks. An “excellent piece of journalism” would have examined Eddie Espie’s motivation for leaking the report to Sinn Fein’s in-house paper, rather than just slapping it up on the page.

  • John East Belfast

    True Irishman

    That’s an encouraging post – thanks

  • Keith M

    The SDLP has gradually painted itself into a corner of being a paler version of SF. They are now dependant on a series of well known faces for personality type politics rather than one one distinct and coherant message.

    As for Durkan, for someone who was so obviously primed for leadership for so long, he has done one piss-poor job.

  • Mick Fealty

    John,

    The motivations of anyone in this is not as important as the substance.

    Had this come out 18 months ago, it would almost certainly have damaged the SDLP. But in the context of a moderately successful fight back, it suggests the party is getting more professional in its approach to strategy. It is also right to recommend the assertion of the leadership team over what had been, certainly in 2003, a ramshackle party. The North Antrim story does points to the legacy of the party’s aging profile. McGuigan is more likely to take the single nationalist quota than Sean Farren’s replacement, if only purely on terms of public exposure.

    We should all mark that 18 seat figure for future reference. On current showing, I would not be surprised to see some stablisation around the figure.

    Interestingly it seems to reflect the lessons learned Durkan’s convincing Foyle victory over Sinn Fein: get in on the ground early and consistently, and talk to your supporters well in advance of the elections.

    The criminality tag is potentially their biggest vote winner. The party’s problem is no longer lost converts to SF (that battle is well and truly lost), but the acquiescence of the middle class voter over the SDLP’s lost mandate to speak for most Nationalists.

    The Northern Bank robbery marked a change point in that dynamic. They are too far behind to catch up in the near future, but the robbery has clearly segmented the market for Nationalist votes. Only the SDLP’s performance in the next Assembly elections will tell us whether that segmentation is politically significant, or not.

  • Bushmills

    Mick

    Moderately successful fightback? Performing slighly better than the predictions given by the likes of Brian Feeny is hardly what one would call a fightback. The SDLP vote went DOWN in the local government elections and it went DOWN in the Westminster poll also. The only things that disguised just how badly the SDLP did were (a) the UUP stole the headlines in terms of disastrous election results (though they were still out in front of the Stoops) and (b) the Unionists managed to fluff South Belfast – a mistake which will not be repeated.

    The fact that DI covered this story shows it up for the real Der Sturmer that it is, however, it would be foolish to suggest that the SDLP has even flat-lined yet. I think they have further to fall yet.

  • Keith M

    Mick “We should all mark that 18 seat figure for future reference. On current showing, I would not be surprised to see some stablisation around the figure.” and “Only the SDLP’s performance in the next Assembly elections will tell us whether that segmentation is politically significant, or not.”

    As I see it there’s a flaw with this arguement. IF (big if) there’s to be another assembly election, then it can only come in the aftermath of one of two scenarios.

    The first scenario is that the SDLP stops acting as a political bodyguard for SF/IRA, and agrees to enter a voluntary coalition with the other democratic parties. Everything that I’ve seen and heard from Durkan suggests that this is not going to happen.

    However in this scenario (and assuming a successful return of the executive) then there would clearly be a political faultline between the SDLP and SF/IRA. It’s very difficult to anticipate how this would impact the SDLP electorally.

    The other scenario is that SF/IRA make sufficient moves to allow the DUP to enter an executive with them. Were that to happen, then it’s hard to see the point of the continued existance of the SDLP. They could and probably would continue as the green version of APNI, but the that’s hardly an appetizing option.

    In summary, there will be such a major transformation before there is another assembly election, that comparing it to what went before, and thinking that the SDLP are in any real control of their own destiny is very questionable.

  • Bushmills

    Keith

    How do you think the nationalist electorate would respond to the SDLP going it alone in terms of an executive? Personally, I think it’s hard to call, but most SDLP members I know think they would be crucified, so to speak, by their electorate.

  • Keith M

    Bushmills, I’m not close enough to nationalist feeling to make a call on that one. I think that having missing previous opportunites (the Northern Bank job, the McCartney murder, the Colombia 3, and of course the whole decommissioning debacle) to show a bit of backbone, people would now be very cynical if the SDLP were to cut SF/IRA loose.

  • Bushmills

    Hmmm…

    Probably correct. I can’t help but feel sorry for the decent people in the SDLP – Denis Haughey, Eddie McGrady, Pat McCarthy, who have all been prepared to stand up to Sinn Fein in their own areas. They have been badly let down by the current leadership. Though to be fair the SDLP as a brand was sacrificed by Hume, Durkan merely is continuing in JH’s disastrous footsteps, ably assisted by the loathsome Attwood’s.

    Steady as she drifts….

  • lib2016

    Why on earth do unionists think that unsubstantiated allegations about the Northern Bank etc. mean anything to Northern republicans which category includes the SDLP?

    We’re talking about people with local knowledge who recognise Special Branch dirty tricks for what they are.

  • Bushmills

    “unsubstantiated allegations about the Northern Bank”

    Forgive us Lib if we take the word of the IMC and Hugh Orde over P.O’Neill. The allegations are not unsubstantiated – as to their affect on the nationalist electorate, maybe nationalists are happy enough to turn a blind eye to criminality just so long as their kids aren’t getting knee-capped round the back of the Sinn Fein office any more.

  • Keith M

    Lib “Why on earth do unionists think that unsubstantiated allegations about the Northern Bank etc. mean anything to Northern republicans which category includes the SDLP?”

    Because (unlike SF/IRA) we give them credit for thinking for themselves and not having been dropped in the last shower of rain? Just a thought.

  • maura

    ‘Forgive us Lib if we take the word of the IMC and Hugh Orde over P.O’Neill. ‘

    Just like you are forgiven for taking the word of various state secretaries and heads of RUC, throughout the ‘troubles’ that collusion was but a figment of the imaginations of Nationalists? Ok.

  • Bushmills

    It was a figment of the nationalist imagination.

  • maura

    Bushmills:’ It was a figment of the nationalist imagination. ‘

    And there you have it!
    Bushmills you might want to check what Hugh Orde has been saying lately!

  • DK

    I am not sure that the SDLP can gain themselves over Sinn Fein, I think that they need Sinn Fein to slip up further on the criminality issue.

    Assuming that the IRA hold off from robbing banks and stabbing people, one way for the SDLP to do this is to act as a barrier for Sinn Fein to join the policing boards. The way they appear to be doing this is by the demonisation of CRJ. I cannot see Sinn Fein joining policing without getting CRJ involved as a main alternative. If SDLP make this as hard as possible, then Sinn Fein’s continued reluctance to join the police may prove a vote loser. Especially as it will hold up further progress and the police are becoming increasingly acceptable to nationalists (up to 20% catholic now & plenty of anecdotes of good behaviour).

  • dantheman

    Stay off the Bushmills, bushmills!

  • heres hoping

    DK
    Policing only becomes an issue for voters if they need them and how many people are unfortunate enough to need the police everyday of the week. At the last couple of elections the SDLP have attempted to use policing as an issue and it hasn’t worked and it could be argued it has even backfired Attwod scraped home and wouldn’t fight a council seat and Joe Byrne lost both his seats.

    The SDLP need to establish what are they about rather than what are they against. IMO a political party that see its key strenght a former party leader who resigned five years ago are in big trouble. What about policies and making a difference in people lives or am I being old fashioned.

  • Urquhart

    ‘an excellent piece of journalism’? Come on Mick.

    Eddie Espie comes back to SF’s daily rag leaking more information he was given on trust. They escalate it out of all proportion, trying in the process to suggest that provo criminality is little more than a consultant’s strategy to give the SDLP a leg-up.

    Excellent journalism? It’s DI continuing to do what they can to undermine the SDLP as it becomes increasingly successful landing blows on PSF and Eddie Espie trying desperately to stay relevant.

    To round it off, there was also a letter the next day from an anonymous writer ‘in Derry’ congratulating the paper on an excellent article and reminding us that Marty Morgan was a great fella too.

  • godsdog

    The problem for me with the SDLP focussing in on alleged IRA criminality to garner electoral support is that this criminality doesnt exist. It is a figment of the medias imagination. Yes we could talk about smuggling but sure isnt that a way of life existant around the border long before the RA, The Northern Bank ! even if the RA did it (and I, like many, suspect dirty tricks by proxy) no one gives a toss, and before someone mentions the murder of Jean McConville it was a dreadful thing but it happenen some thirty years ago and can hardly be reflective of the current SF activist or supporter.
    For the SDLP to pin all their hopes on this is really lame, it will appeal only to Indo readers and impact only on those who know no better. They would be better deciding what they are for and try to have a common agenda with SF on these issues, showing principled leadership to the nationalist community.
    But then that would be a challenge

  • carlosblancos

    Most people in the SDLP would agree with most of what’s in this report, except for DI’s anti SDLP rent-a-quote at the end.

    Sinn Fein’s success is not hard to explain. They knock doors, have a driven hard-core motivated by post traumatic “those years in jail had to be for something” stress disorder, whose nationalisam gets out of the wrong side of the bed EVERY morning.

    Add to that the able assistance of M15, the NIO, the Department of Foreign Affairs, and various elements in the SDLP, and an inventive approach to fundraising, and the surpassing of the SDLP, who fell asleep on their watch, is no surprise

    But, beyond ‘getting you a house’, ‘sorting out your DLA’ SF can’t deliver for their constituents. Across the island they are experts at motivating the disaffected, but its a case of bringing them up to the top of the hill and right the way down again. The Grand Old Duke of Andersonstown in a sense.

    The SDLP is far from perfect, in fact is very weak, in its operation. But I challenge anyone to demonstrate how its fundamentals differ hugely from the vast majority of the nationalist electorate. They just need to be better and tougher at selling.

  • Irish republican

    In recent years, the Nationalist people of the Six Counties were faced with a fundamental decision. Which of the two nationalist parties best represents their views, the physical-force Republicanism of SF or the middle o’ the road moderates SDLP?

    I am an unapologetic Irish Republican who has never and will never supported SF. However I am no SDLP sycophant. I accept the valid criticism of the SDLP leadership and agree that the party still has much to do. What I refuse to accept is the arrogant hypocrisy of the treasonous SF who still try to justify the murder of their fellow countrymen as some kind of sick patriotic act. Who are the PROVOs to say who should live or die? What democratic mandate did they ever have? This Irish Republican supports the work of the Socialist Democratic and Labour Party. An honourable party for supporters of Irish nationalism. Thank God that criticising the SDLP won’t mean you, your house or your family will be attacked! So all you supporters of the treasonous SF are safe to blog your shallow plastic-Irish rants and blogs.

  • TAFKABO

    Why on earth do unionists think that unsubstantiated allegations about the Northern Bank etc. mean anything to Northern republicans which category includes the SDLP?

    Well, according to Brian Feeney no less, most nationalists seem to believe the allegations, but pretend otherwise out of some sense of sectarian solidarity

    Is he wrong.

  • Too, too funny. Hire Steven King – it’s like the kindly nurse in the inoperable cancer ward who’ll do what needs to be done with your pillow and a stout pair of elbows. End their suffering.

  • Seamus Drey

    Karl Rove, you identify yourself well :-

    ..supporters of the treasonous SF are safe to blog your shallow plastic-Irish rants and blogs.

    ..but do you have anything to say that is worth reading?

  • s.o’r

    Irish republican,

    i think you are right. I know many people agree with what you are saying but tell me, why don’t they come out and vote SDLP when the party needs them?

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin

    It’s worth pointing out that the original article seems to have drawn on (at least) two separate sources for its information: the report mentioned above; and then another one which presumebly is the kind of warts and all report you’d expect to find in any well organised party organisation.

    I have no idea whether the party’s strategy of building sustained campaigns focusing on key issues will turn round the situation on the ground, but it has clearly inflicted significant reverses in British government strategy, firstly with the dropping of the OTR legislation last November, and latterly, (despite strong doubts expressed by the Irish government that it would work), this extended review of the CRJ proposals.

    By simply sustaining focus on a single issue over a period of time, the party has created itself credibility in political circles where only a year ago it had been dismissed as irrelevant.

    Whilst I agree those who have stated that crime is not a key issue of concern for nationalists, these set pieces are quietly slotting into the (previously empty) SDLP victory column. Interestingly, it is the British Government rather than Sinn Fein which remains exposed on much of these issue: something that ironically might play well for the SDLP.

    Whilst there is no call for anyone inside SF to panic or act rashly, neither is it wise to continue playing the policing issue as a ‘no brainer’. The character of the policing issue is changing rapidly. In the emerging reality old certainties simply may not hold.

    Mick

  • DMC

    Eddie espie and martin morgan have it spot on about the SDLP, they are both men who saw that the SDLP had lost it focus and left the party.

    I personally have found it more people agreeing with Eddie and Martin ton the SDLP than people agreeing that the SDLP are not in bad shape.

  • binlid

    “Forgive us Lib if we take the word of the IMC and Hugh Orde over P.O’Neill”

    For once I’m looking forward to the next IMC report in order to measure certain posters reaction.

  • endgame

    I think a merger or association of the SDLP with either Fianna Fail, Fine Gael or Labour should be the way forward in order to better compete with Sinn Fein for the nationalist vote.

  • kensei

    “But, beyond ‘getting you a house’, ‘sorting out your DLA’ SF can’t deliver for their constituents. Across the island they are experts at motivating the disaffected, but its a case of bringing them up to the top of the hill and right the way down again. The Grand Old Duke of Andersonstown in a sense.”

    So beyond the actually nitty gritty of actually improving their lives for their constituents, they can’t get anything done. Oh, and the concessions they wrung out of the British Government (the side deals the SDLP keep going on about). And the community stuff, like Feile which they are heavily involved in. Oh. Your point has just looked stupid.

    Of course, we can’t say anything beyond that, because they current kept out of power North and South. While they were briefly in power in the North, they were fetted for taking tough some decisions. I certainly can’t remember a single SDLP Minister doing anything of note.

    “The SDLP is far from perfect, in fact is very weak, in its operation. But I challenge anyone to demonstrate how its fundamentals differ hugely from the vast majority of the nationalist electorate. They just need to be better and tougher at selling. ”

    Post Nationalism. Truly Kryptonite for a Nationalist party. Without SF to keep them right, that is what the SDLP means. Nevermind the weak negotiation and blind acceptance of whatever Unionism or the British Government throws. That’s why the SDLP have got a kicking, and will get further kicking as the whiff of cordite disappears from SF. Some decent choice in Nationalism would be good for a change, but the SDLP seems to spend all it’s time attacking SF. Fantastic for the Nationalist cause, that.

  • Flipping heck Urquhart you don’t hang your colours to the mask by half do you, or let a small thing called fact or outright corruption of the truth stand in your way. Never mind, fact or the truth or even the uncomfortable reality, eh Urquhart. Your contribution like your short lived pathetic little site the impressively named, “North Report” is full of bile, innuendo, illusion and downright lies. Your comments are akin to the SDLP they demonstrate the worst possible mindset in modern Nationalism. However let’s scrutinize what we do and don’t know.
    Daily Ireland is newspaper widely distributed throughout Ireland. Just because you have an issue with any publication which differs form your dwindling mindset doesn’t mean the tabloid should not exist. Indeed in the new pluralist society many more of these newsheets should hit the shelves and anyway, the circulation figures are increasing despite you hopes/fears.

    Your opinion on what is and isn’t, (Excellent journalism) is equally debatable when a highly acclaimed investigative journalist the caliber of Anton McCabe’s reputation is questioned by an unknown, incompetent, inefficient, ineffective and unsuccessful activist who never in a million years would have the courage McCabe has is laughable. It is beneath contempt completely and utterly. Anton McCabe has been threatened with all sorts in pursuit of journalistic excellence. His reputation, unlike yours, is outstanding.
    Nowhere in the article is there any suggestion that Eddie Espie leaked any information given on trust. So much for your parties’ policy on openness and transparency. The party that infers that it is, “Stronger” on its, (hideous website). So why do you continue to attempt to dishonor the man. Or are you a member of the sdlp cabals attempting fate, yet again. This is the same party officer, the Vice chair, who headed up the sdlp’s election campaign last year Indeed the only time his name was mentioned was a quote in the last paragraph.

    And finally for now. The letter which you attempted to associate with the former Vicechair was almost certainly written by an equally dissallusioned sdlp member. One of the sixty thousand voters and supporters who like Eddie Espie and Martin Morgan will no longer vote sdlp. They may have more supporters than your worse fears. After all was Martin Morgan not described as, “A man with the utmost integrity” by none other than the widely reported out of touch with the electorate, the pathetic party leader Mark Durkan. Durkan inherated the now dwindling party when it was the 2nd largest party in the north.

  • Southern Observer

    The SDLP,warts and all,are untainted by paramilitarism.

  • DMCM

    The SDLP delivered the Republican mindset to the negotiating table. Since then what most Unionists thought was impossible has happened (decommisioning etc). The SDLP sacrificed their vote for peace. When the peace is won the SDLP will rise to the occasion and gain support. Until then they will remain on the backburner.
    The ONLY thing holding up political progress is the bare naked racism of the bigotted DUP. They have a real fear that setting up Stormont with Sinn Fein would be too much for them.
    Therefore the Paisley bigots are damned if they do and damned if they dont.
    Sinn Fein have worked very hard to carry the hardliners this far which is why more moderate Nationalists have voted for them.
    When all the huffing and puffing is over the DUP and Sinn Fein will no longer have the political relevance that they do now.
    I suspect the UUP and the SDLP will regain the majorities at that time.
    The SDLP need to work on their finances. Sinn Fein, their main rival, has 10 times more money than them.
    Also, when the threats and intimidation days are over more people will get active within the SDLP which will see them build more active support.

  • Bushmills

    DMCM

    Wishful thinking to say the least – West Belfast, West Tyrone, North Antrim, Fermanagh and South Tyrone, North Belfast, Mid Ulster – all areas with high concentrations of nationalists, where the SDLP was once in contention – all areas now were the SDLP is a total and utter irrelevance. Is there a sufficient party machine in those areas to lead a fight-back? Doubtful.

    As to the Ulster Unionists – I live in a seat which is obviously a DUP heartland, but even there the UUP could always be relied upon to come a good second, behind the big Doc – now they are down to 2 councillors in Ballymoney and fatters McCune trailed in third place behind the Sinn Feiner. Outside of North Antrim, look at East Antrim, North Belfast, Fermanagh and South Tyrone, East Belfast, Upper Bann – what sort of organisation/individuals do the UUP have who can take the fight to the DUP?

    To demonstrate the absurdity of your position consider the following statement:

    “The UUP and SDLP Parliamentary parties have had a joint meeting at Westminster today: The UUP delegation consisted of MP’s, Reg Empey, Tom Elliot, Roy Beggs Junior, Fred Cobain, David McClarty and Sylvia Hermon. The SDLP delegation was comprised of newly elected MP’s Alex Attwood, Dominic Bradley and Eugene McMenamin.”

    Come on.

  • carlosblancos

    Kensei,

    “So beyond the actually nitty gritty of actually improving their lives for their constituents, they can’t get anything done?”

    Getting people houses and DLA is purely cosmetic and doesn’t improve anybody’s life, but is simply a sticking plaster solution to the deprivation which exists many areas. Attracting businesses and generating employment is the solution, and SF are the 1st to admit their huge weakness in this area. Go ask them.

    “And the community stuff, like Feile which they are heavily involved in. Oh. Your point has just looked stupid.”

    The Feile is grand, but Feiles exist across the island, North & South, without any SF involvement. I don’t think Connolly House has the patent on running successful Feile.

    “Post Nationalism. Truly Kryptonite for a Nationalist party”

    This comment was wrong, and I’m sure many in the party felt aggrieved.

    Braveheart,

    Igorning that rant, and addressing your points:

    1. Your assertion that Daily Ireland/Pravda is distributed across the Island is correct. Its circulation of around 10,000 in 32 counties averages out at 312.5 copies per county.
    QUESTION: While many branches of provisionalism have relied on British subsidy over the years can you provide a rough estimate of how Pravda’s circulation would increase if it received British subsidy in the form of advertising?

    2. If only Espie and Morgan were the tragi heros you describe. Disaffection with position might have more to do with their departure than anything else. Plus the SDLP kept all their seats in North Belfast following Morgan’s departure so “the thousands of voters who will no longer vote sdlp” deserve more credit than you give them.

  • Bushmills

    carlos

    Why did Morgan leave?

  • carlosblancos

    I don’t know why he left. But I know it wasn’t to do with any macro concern about the direction the party/nationalism was taking.

    He’s gone, they’ve kept their seats. Such is politics.

  • Bushmills

    Yes. I know they kept their seats in North Belfast, I also seem to remember that just after Morgan spat the dummy, he asked to join again. Was there not some suggestion by both Morgan and Espie that the Attwood’s were using the party for their own agenda rather than a wider nationalist one?

  • Bushmills

    “I don’t know why he left. But I know it wasn’t to do with….”

    So you do know?

  • carlosblancos

    Bushmills,

    I’m not an expert on internal SDLP politics. If I was, I wouldn’t be posting here. So, no, I don’t know.

    But, as an observer and supporter I’ll say this:

    I think Morgan’s departure was more to do with how he felt he was being treated that anything bigger. I think he regrets it still today.

    Espie, I honestly must admit, I hadn’t heard of until his departure.

    The point about the Atwoods has been made before; all I can say is I fail to see how 2 brothers who have worked so hard for so long for the party, with much personal sacrifice, could be using it for ‘their own agenda’ whatever that means.

  • Bushmills

    Carlos

    When you say “how he was being treated” what do you mean? Do you mean Alban and his uber-middle class Antrim Road supporters were blocking Morgan’s path to an assembly seat or do you mean he felt he didn’t get sufficient party support during the 2004 European Election campaign?

    Or do you mean both?

    As to Espie, I think he just comes across as embittered and twisted.

    Re. the Attwoods. It’s some feat to turn a constituency which you held at Westminster into one were the assembly seat is considered vulnerable! If that’s the type of party service the SDLP rewards, then it’s no wonder they’re in deep doodoo!

  • Garibaldy

    Morgan makes me laugh. He was talking at something I was at several years ago and began by describing himself as not a nationalist, but a socialist in a nationalist party. Now he’s busting to get into FF we see how genuine that was. Clearly a case of frustrated ambition. As for Espie, it looks like some of that mixed with hatred of the provos is driving him.

    As for the Attwoods, from what I hear even the SDLP in West Belfast don’t like Alex but they’re stuck with him.

    The major mistake the SDLP under Durcan made was forcing all the veterans to retire at the same time before an election rather than have them elected and then replacing them slowly with susbstitutes who could build their profile. They seem likely to repeat this mistake with people like Farren from what Mick I think said earlier on this thread.

  • kensei

    “Getting people houses and DLA is purely cosmetic and doesn’t improve anybody’s life, but is simply a sticking plaster solution to the deprivation which exists many areas.”

    No, it provides some help to some people that desparately need it. You miss the significance of small practical things along with the big picture. It means they stay in touch with their constituents.

    “Attracting businesses and generating employment is the solution, and SF are the 1st to admit their huge weakness in this area. Go ask them.”

    Indeed. But they haven’t really had the levers of power to do it, as attracting business essentially boils down to patronage and incentives, with a sid eorde rof decent education. The SDLP certainly haven’t done any better.

    “The Feile is grand, but Feiles exist across the island, North & South, without any SF involvement.”

    But not in West Belfast. The SDLP could have organised it, and maybe they would be enjoying something like 90% support in the area.

    “This comment was wrong, and I’m sure many in the party felt aggrieved.”

    And yet they’ll spend at least the next ten years with it on their backs. And while they continue attacking SF ahead of everything else, it’ll stick.

  • Bushmills

    “The major mistake the SDLP under Durcan made was forcing all the veterans to retire at the same time before an election rather than have them elected and then replacing them slowly with susbstitutes who could build their profile.”

    I agree in some areas this has been true but in others they simply selected bad candidates. Personally, I would have thought John Fee was a stronger candidate than Bradley, why was he knifed?

  • bertie

    I am not a nationalist so I am in no position to judge, but I wonder, if aswe keep hearing most people want a local assembly and if the SDLP did aggree to go into coalition with the DUP, to which I think the DUP would jump at, couldn’t this enhnace the SDLP’s reputation as people who actually were key to getting it up and running? They could then be seen as people with power and who are capable of using it and that is attractive in a political party.

  • carlosblancos

    Kensei,

    I miss the significance of small practical things?

    No, I understand that when it comes to sustainability, both in respect of providing employment or uniting Ireland, SF score low.

    And, better still, go ask them. They’ll admit to being useless at attracting business.

    I’ll also stay away from any party who lists ‘organising feiles’ as one of their prime attributes. Its just another way to sort out the post traumatic stress disorder “those years in jail had to be for something, at least the brits are gone” that many Provisionals suffer from.

    Feiles plus DLA plus NIHE housing doesn’t deliver for people Kensei. Real politics, which even when they had the chance, SF didn’t pratice, is what delivers.

    C.

  • Urquhart

    Braveheart

    I hope you made it through the night ok. That kind of stress so late can’t be good for anyone.

    Your criticism of my blog falling behind is well made. Unfortunately the pressures of making a living made it very difficult to keep up (although it did make me appreciate the effort that Mick and the team make here). I will redouble my efforts to get it back on track in coming weeks and let you know when it’s up and running.

    Despite the length of your post, it appears to make only two points:

    1) Daily Ireland and its journalists are a highly acclaimed bunch taking the Irish media scene by storm. Mmmmm. I think Carlos Blancos deals with that one above.

    2) Eddie Espie is a great fellow who would play no part in this dastardly leak. Well, I’m not in any ‘cabals’, but I have been hanging about SDLP events for a few years now and the only time I ever heard of Eddie Espie before he was welcomed into Teach Basil was when he asked for a vote in his bid to be Vice Chair. I didn’t have a vote.

    Not knowing too much about him, all I can do is go on previous form – given his front page series in Daily Ireland, his leaking of a confidential elecion committee report and the crazy ‘wanker’ instant message story, I think it’s fair enough to assume that he (the only quoted person in the report) may have been the source of the story.

    But you’re clearly a man who knows his mind better than I – you write in a very similar style
    (http://www.sluggerotoole.com/index.php/weblog/comments/espie_resignation_letter/) and seem to know his motivation, frustrations with those damn cabals and why he has done what he has done. So I’ll happily defer to you on this one.

    But Braveheart, surely “full of bile, innuendo, illusion and downright lies” is a bit rough?

  • Mick Fealty

    Lot’s of sharp comment there kensei. Digging in makes sense when there is no other option. If imitation is the best form of flattery, the DUP have followed suit.

    But I’m not sure you are right about the post-nationalism comment. FD’s thread on ‘best of both worlds’ is a unionist articulating why his political representatives should not be afraid of pushing an all island economic agenda, precisely because the wider context around Northern Ireland is changing so profoundly. Those overall ‘post nationalist’ conditions are changing for Nationalists too. It fails as strapline, but not as an accurate description for where the ‘western world’ is heading.

    The criminality tag is more powerful for the SDLP because of its ubiquity as a differentiator. ‘Post nationalist’ on the other hand smacked of breaking communual solidarity whereas (given its dominance of the headlines in the last two years) criminality breaks only one way. For chunk of the electorate, it is changing the terms of reference for the overall debate.

    Ironically, Sinn Fein is in a fairly unassailable position in NI. I can’t see anything much denting that, so any success for the SDLP will be limited in the short term. The potential damage is in the Republic where the party needs to penetrate a fattening middle class segment.

  • carlosblancos: You’re very wide of the mark. With respect to you, would you look at the comment again? The comment has everything to do with professional investigative journalism and a liberated press as opposed to, hurlers in the ditch, batting aimlessly in the vain hope that someone somewhere, sometime will hit the intended mark. Daily Ireland is also freely available on http://www.dailyireland.com to everyone in Ireland and everywhere else for that matter. The 312.5 averaging copies per county quoted by you could be just the tip of its entire readership.

    To answer your question, “Can you provide a rough estimate of how”, as you refer to the tabloid, “(Pravda) circulation would increase if it received British subsidy in the form of advertising”? How could I, why would someone who is not involved with the management of any publication have knowledge of that sort? Quite simply I don’t worry about things like that. My concern is that all publications are treated to the same level playing fields in terms of governmental advertising.

    Sixty thousand voters is no inconsiderable figure for any party to loose. Let’s not underestimate the potential impact the knock on effect will have in the future. Agreed the sdlp did retain seats in N.Belfast, http://www.ark.ac.uk/elections/lgbelfast.htm. Interestingly the perspective on politico trends illustrates the futily of what was once the largest national party in N.Ireland.

  • carlosblancos

    312.5 average per county isn’t the tip of the iceberg. Thats its readership:

    http://www.abc-ireland.ie/cgi-bin/gen5?runprog=nav/abc&noc=y

    And as for “Professional investigative journalism”. Even its own publisher bemoans its absence in Ireland:

    “Susan McKay lamented the lack of investigative reporting and certainly there’s no argument there”.

    (Source:http://www.apublishersblog.blogspot.com)

  • carlosblancos: Don’t see the point of your argument, it was never questioned. Let me repeat,(Daily Ireland is also freely available on http://www.dailyireland.com to everyone in Ireland and everywhere else for that matter). As ypu are clearly better informed than I am. Would you let us know how many people get the news from or visit the site?

  • Mick Fealty

    They have registered here, but not early enough in the year to yield figures yet.

    I’m almost sorry I made the comment now. What I was trying to point up was that it is good for the media to find out what parties and other potential power brokers are thinking. Too often they rely on the parties’ press releases and teasing the truth out of stiff and defensive set piece press conferences.

    If there was another word I’d ban from the NI political lexicon it would be ‘agenda’. I don’t actually care what the agenda of Daily Ireland is, so long as what it reports is sound. If that makes for a rough ride, then that’s politics.

    And, for good measure, the same goes for the Tribune, the Sunday Independent and Uncle Tom Cobbley and all!

  • carlosblancos

    Not better informed, just a rant avoider.

    Read before you jump

  • carlosblancos. People in glass houses etc. An there’s me thinking you knew everything.

  • kensei

    “Lot’s of sharp comment there kensei. Digging in makes sense when there is no other option. If imitation is the best form of flattery, the DUP have followed suit.”

    Quite. But I am not sure the DUP play it as smart as SF. If they block a deal in November, it will hurt them.

    “But I’m not sure you are right about the post-nationalism comment. FD’s thread on ‘best of both worlds’ is a unionist articulating why his political representatives should not be afraid of pushing an all island economic agenda, precisely because the wider context around Northern Ireland is changing so profoundly. Those overall ‘post nationalist’ conditions are changing for Nationalists too. It fails as strapline, but not as an accurate description for where the ‘western world’ is heading.”

    I disagree. The EU Constitution was categorically rejected throughout Europe. Now, there are several reasons behind this, but the desire to remain as largely independent nations was certainly one of them. No one wants a super state. Try selling post nationalism in the US. There is resurgent Nationalism in Japan due to the rise of China.

    But I’m not talking about the wider world. I am talking about here. If you proclaim to be a post Nationalist party in the six counties while trying to get the Nationalist vote, you’ll get canned. And the SDLP has got canned. Repeatedly.

    The economic agenda is necessarily limited by the lack of power over practically anything of consequence. I am all for the positive benefits of increased integration with the rets of Ireland, but you are kidding yourself you are going to get them all. The idea of economic without political union is an old one. But it doesn’t really work.

    “The criminality tag is more powerful for the SDLP because of its ubiquity as a differentiator. ‘Post nationalist’ on the other hand smacked of breaking communual solidarity whereas (given its dominance of the headlines in the last two years) criminality breaks only one way. For chunk of the electorate, it is changing the terms of reference for the overall debate.”

    Oh, I agree. But the longer it goes without IRA activity, the tougher it gets. I also dislike the SDLP’s attacks on, for example, community justice. Scrunity (even extensive scrunity) is fine, but if implemented right they could provide an important bridge between suspicious communities and the police force, and could help in practical ways to resolve disputes. It seems to me this is part of a pattern to split the Catholic midle class form the working class, which would be incredibly damaging. Aflicting Nationalism with the type of hypocrisy event in Unionism over suchmatters is the last thing I want to see.

    “Ironically, Sinn Fein is in a fairly unassailable position in NI. I can’t see anything much denting that, so any success for the SDLP will be limited in the short term. The potential damage is in the Republic where the party needs to penetrate a fattening middle class segment.”

    Indeed. It’ll probably take at least two elections to untangle them from it, and start ot attract any middle class vote. Also, SF are a left wing party anyway, so it will be tough for them there. I think a lot depends if the situation arise where they hold the balance of power. If they go into coalition with FF and perform well, they might break the glass ceiling.

  • kensei

    “I miss the significance of small practical things?”

    Yes, you do.

    “No, I understand that when it comes to sustainability, both in respect of providing employment or uniting Ireland, SF score low.”

    So does everyone else. It has something to do with a lack of power.

    “And, better still, go ask them. They’ll admit to being useless at attracting business.”

    And they’ll admit they are learning and will get better at it too. Being able to admit weakness is a strength.

    “I’ll also stay away from any party who lists ‘organising feiles’ as one of their prime attributes. Its just another way to sort out the post traumatic stress disorder “those years in jail had to be for something, at least the brits are gone” that many Provisionals suffer from.”

    It’s all in the spin isn’t it. A party that makes a practical and positive difference to the community it is in. I believe it is called “Constituency Work”. But of course, as you are only interested in the big picture, improving the little people’s lives doesn’t mean much to you.

    “Feiles plus DLA plus NIHE housing doesn’t deliver for people Kensei. Real politics, which even when they had the chance, SF didn’t pratice, is what delivers.”

    What, when they had the chance they took tough decisions. I seem to remember dropping the Eleven Plus. You can debate the merits of it, but the idea they didn’t practice “real” politics is laughable.

    Honestly, your attitude is why I actively enjoy seeing the SDLP crushed. You are more interesting in attacking SF than representing Nationalism. Can you hurry up and get taken over by FF, and at least give me an option of who to vote for?

  • Garibaldy

    Kensei,

    I agree that the Provos do now do real politics, to some extent anyway. However, when you look at their track record, they’re centre-left at best. Not a serious left-wing party. The 11+ thing notwithstanding. Look at attitudes to PPI etc, the repositioning of the southern economic programme etc. And what is their solution for the NI economy? Drop corporate tax so MNC’s can more easily exploit NI workers, rather than create new industry locally

  • heres hoping

    “No, I understand that when it comes to sustainability, both in respect of providing employment or uniting Ireland, SF score low.”

    So does everyone else. It has something to do with a lack of power. Kensel this is the perfect point the SDLP particularily in Derry claim to have worked wonders for the economy, 47% of the population live in the top 10% deprived wards in the north, the infrastructure around Derry is infamous and this in in a city were the SDLP have had political since 1973. So when one argues that the SDLP are good on jobs and business it not the reality.

    The SDLP are in too many segments for such a small party, you have the Durkan/Attwood cabal, the McGrady/Mc Donnell cabal saying it should have been us and then you have the party stalwarts wanting John Hume and Seamus Mallon back.

    The SDLP had an identity that has become blurred in recent times that identity was we oppose violence, we are hard on the IRA and we sort of want a united Ireland. Now without any major violence or the IRA what are they for sort of a united Ireland as long as protestants dont hear us saying it.

  • kensei

    “I agree that the Provos do now do real politics, to some extent anyway. However, when you look at their track record, they’re centre-left at best.”

    Which is excellent, because I would class myself as centre left.

    “Not a serious left-wing party. The 11+ thing notwithstanding. Look at attitudes to PPI etc, the repositioning of the southern economic programme etc.”

    I think they are the only party avocating putting up Corporate Tax down South. The policy has worked well down South. No one can deny that. The challenge of the Left is to deal with the problems (and certainly the uneven distribution of welath)without messing it up.

    “And what is their solution for the NI economy? Drop corporate tax so MNC’s can more easily exploit NI workers, rather than create new industry locally”

    I thought it was to get a few billion from the British Government?

  • Garibaldy

    What programmes for investment have they produced for NI even if the Brits were to produce the £10 billion? Nothing that I can see

  • kensei

    “What programmes for investment have they produced for NI even if the Brits were to produce the £10 billion? Nothing that I can see”

    I was being flippant :P. If they do get any money, it should go straight into inrastructure, if you ask me.

  • kensei

    “Those overall ‘post nationalist’ conditions are changing for Nationalists too. It fails as strapline, but not as an accurate description for where the ‘western world’ is heading.”

    Actually, the more I think about this the less true it becomes. Serbia has just split again, and Nationalism within the Union is at a high unknown in living memory, even if it still remains low. Even stable like Spain and Italy have sepratist movements. There simply is absolutely no evidence for this assertion.

  • carlosblancos

    “What, when they had the chance they took tough decisions. I seem to remember dropping the Eleven Plus. You can debate the merits of it, but the idea they didn’t practice “real” politics is laughable.”

    ‘They’ didn’t take the decision Kensei. McG commissioned a group of non-elected ‘experts’ who came up with a system no-one wants.

    “Honestly, your attitude is why I actively enjoy seeing the SDLP crushed. You are more interesting in attacking SF than representing Nationalism. Can you hurry up and get taken over by FF, and at least give me an option of who to vote for?”

    Stick with SF. Sounds like they suit you.

  • kensei

    “‘They’ didn’t take the decision Kensei. McG commissioned a group of non-elected ‘experts’ who came up with a system no-one wants.”

    Except it gave exactly the result SF wanted. Oh, go watch Yes, Minister. That is exactly real politics.

    So, basically, “real politics” = whatever you think.

    “Stick with SF. Sounds like they suit you.”

    I believe in democracy more than anything else. Lack of choice isn’t good for it.