On a foreshortened episode of Slugger Radio we had time to look at some of the party performances last night: neither Sammy nor Chris could understand, never mind explain why the SDLP with over a quota in first preferences effectively gave their seat in West Tyrone to Keiran Deeny by running three candidates. According to Brian Feeney, it is the refusal of both the SDLP and the UUP to play within their means that has brought the two smaller parties, to a crucial tipping point – whether they acknowledge that fact, or not.
First, Farren and Nicholson occupied largely titular roles – responsibility without power. Both the UUP and SDLP are highly undisciplined parties with weak central organisation, if you can use that word. Local candidates paid virtually no attention to either Farren or Nicholson. You might ask who can blame them?
Secondly, SF and the DUP played to their strengths. Did SF stand three candidates in South Belfast? Did the DUP stand two in West Belfast? Why not? It would have been stupid, that’s why.
Third, SF and the DUP could stop local candidates fighting each other. SDLP and UUP couldn’t. In both the UUP and SDLP nothing will happen to change any of this. Both promised thorough-going inquests in 2003 and 2005. The result? Last Wednesday. As Lady Sylvia Hermon said of the UUP’s performance, it was “woeful”. Unfortunately there is no-one in the SDLP with her stature who is critical.
This election has shown that whatever fantasies both parties entertained, there’s now no way back.