Centre failed to hold SDLP and UUP together…

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.

  • Aodhán O Coileán

    Many years ago I did an MA study on the collapse of the Irish Parliamentary Party – John Redmond’s baby. I cannot help being struck by the similarity of events unfolding now. My research showed that Redmond’s party’s strength was fictional. It was all paper-based. The machine had been allowed to decay; the party base negelected. When they came up against a vibrant SF party their weakness was exposed. The years of neglect (and arrogance?) had caught up on them. There’s a lesson in there somewhere for Mark Durkan.

  • Comrade Stalin

    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.

    I don’t believe it’s because they’re thick. Instead I’d suggest some kind of in-fighting in the local association combined with a weak HQ. SDLP HQ should know what is winnable and what is not across NI, and they should have stepped in to put a stop to this. IIRC, didn’t they intervene in the selection process in at least one other place ?

    BTW Slugger radio is very enjoyable (even last nights truncated show), I hope you keep doing it. It’s a world away from the often bear-pit style discussions that take place here 🙂 It’s also great to put voices to names. I think the show the other week with Gerry McGeough was something of a coup.

  • Glen Taisie

    “SDLP HQ should know what is winnable and what is not …., and they should have stepped in to put a stop to this”.

    The West Tyrone selection convention should have been tasked with finding a “lead” candidate, if a second candidate was to be considered the instruction should have been that if the lead candidate was Omagh based the running mate should have been Strabane based (or vice versa).

  • Fame Seeker

    The SDLP selection process seemed weak this time and accounted for their loss in quite a few areas. The problem was that those who were standing or most of them were thinking about themselves before the party and there didn’t seem to be any control over the way the candidates were behaving.

    The problem with the SDLP is that they do not look for vote winners. They seem to be looking for the same old tired candidates (with the exception of Sharon Haughey) to take the winnable seats and arent thinking about what the electorate would want. Dont they know that a person who has a reasonable level of intelligence can be trained to be a confident public rep if that person is going to pull in votes?

    If they do not change now they may forget about it. I know the voters in my area do not want to vote for middle aged middle class men and women. If the stoops continue to put them forward as the only choice then the Shinners will slaughter them over the next few years and they can kiss goodbye to any super council seats.

    There were a few Shinner candidates this time around who I had never even heard of yet a number of them got in on the first count – what does that tell you compared to the likes of Alban Maginnis, Alex Atwood and Declan O Loan who found it hard to reach a single quota?

  • páid

    Yep, Shinners are young and hungry and idealistic and selfless.

    But they age as fast as anyone else.

    And power will corrupt them.

    I read Nollaig Ó Gadhra’s ‘Civil War in Connacht’ lately. To read the last letters of the young selfless men about to be executed would draw tears from a stone.

    And when I look at those who have inherited their political legacy…the scheming, bent, mé féiners of Fianna Fail…………

    Time for bed.

  • Damien Okado-Gough

    I tend to agree with Comrade Stalin above, when he says that the West Tyrone failure was more a result of people putting themselves before the needs of their party and a weak HQ being unable to put the foot down to set things right.

    It should be community first, party next and self last. If it’s not then you’re in party politics for the wrong reasons.

  • J Kelly

    I believe that Mark Durkan and his clear lack of b**** to take on seemingly party heavyweights is the reason that the SDLP are in the state they are in. He pushed Eugene McMenamin onto the ticket without removing one of the others bad mistake. In Derry it was obvious he wanted Helen Quigley and Gerard Diver but ended up with the same old same old. Ramsey and Bradley who both despise him and if a leadership challenge come will vote for Allistair.

    Allistair will demand the leadership or the ministry to keep South Belfast either way its a mess for Durkan.

  • North Downer

    UUP and North Down

    Can anyone explain why the UUP did not run its sole MP Lady Sylvia Hermon as an assembly candidate in North Down?

    Sinn Fein and the DUP made full use of their Westinster MP’s by mobilising the assembly vote around them.

    If she had stood, Lady Sylvia would have likely topped the poll and could have brought in another two UUP MLA’s on her surplus. As it stands, she
    now finds herself in the embarrassing position of being a UUP MP in a constituency which has returned more DUP than UUP MLA’s!

    If it turns out that Lady Sylvia deliberately chose not to stand, then one wonders why she was so outspoken in criticising her party’s electoral strategy.

  • Valenciano

    “If she had stood, Lady Sylvia would have likely topped the poll and could have brought in another two UUP MLA’s on her surplus.”

    Doubtful that the votes would have been there for that, more likely she’d have unbalanced the ticket and they’d have won two seats anyway.

    “she now finds herself in the embarrassing position of being a UUP MP in a constituency which has returned more DUP than UUP MLA’s!”

    Er, the UUP won 2 seats in North Down and the DUP won two seats in North Down, so how do you work that out?

  • Inspector Clouseau

    Reference North Down

    Previously the Alliance party stood back to inflate the UUP vote, to the dismay of some of their activists. Assesing the past election campaign and the present mood of the Alliance party I don’t see them doing that ever again. So they’ll be pushing hard for growth in ND squeezing and squeezing the UUP vote. This means that at the next assembly election the DUP will likely bring home three MLA’s with more finessed vote management being a cert.

  • This means that at the next assembly election the DUP will likely bring home three MLA’s with more finessed vote management being a cert.

    Possibly, but that all depends on the DUP increasing and better balancing their vote. If we push the the UUP harder, it being a Single Transferrable Vote election, it does nothing to deflate or split the anti-DUP vote in North Down. For example, if we managed a first-stage quota, it would increase the number of transfers available both to the UUs and Brian Wilson from minor candidates (votes going e.g. SDLP 1 Alliance 2 UUP 3 or Chambers 1 Alliance 2 Green 3 would pass straight through to their third preference at full value).

    Politicians who talk about splitting the vote in an STV election are, to be polite, spinning, especially if voters are encouraged to bring themselves to vote down the paper as far as they can stomach.

  • dodrade

    Can anyone else see the parallels between the DUP’s eclipse of the UUP and the triumph of the National party over the United Party in South Africa in 1948 and the latter’s fading into history?

  • Can anyone else see the parallels between the DUP’s eclipse of the UUP and the triumph of the National party over the United Party in South Africa in 1948 and the latter’s fading into history?

    No, because the DUP are not in a position to introduce the local equivalent of apartheid and the DUP won the election largely because they said they would do a deal.

  • Aaron McDaid

    If either of those parties had run a more realistic number of candidates (i.e. a smaller number) then they would probably be in a position where they wouldn’t be the biggest party in their denomination even if they won all their seats. This would be politically risky, as their opponents would argue there is no point voting for them as they can’t beat SF/DUP anyway.

    But I suppose vote management is the issue here. They could run 6 in each constituency and would perform reasonably if they had all the transfers working.

  • They could run 6 in each constituency and would perform reasonably if they had all the transfers working.

    But they don’t, because voters have minds of their own (look at how many of Gerry Adams’ transfers went to Attwood).

  • IJP

    Re West Tyrone, people seem to forget Dr Deeny has worked blimmin’ hard across that constituency. We shouldn’t be surprised he split the odd SDLP ticket.

    North Downer

    I was told that UU activists held meetings with Lady Hermon trying to persuade her to stand.

    Then I was told they were positive about the likely outcome.

    Then I was told she wasn’t standing.

    Kind of sums it all up.

  • Roisin

    It’s more than simply their indiscipline and lack of central HQ control. There’s a malaise in the SDLP; they lack leadership, respect for each other, and credibility as Irish nationalists.

  • Bearing in mind the widespread criticism of the SDLP’s collapse and also the very poor management of many aspects of their campaign, it staggers me that the media seem to have let off Mark Durkan virtually scot-free.

    The SDLP have become virtually a one-man party, with Durkan appearing almost exclusively on virtually every single political debate on television or radio. I can name at least 10 Sinn Fein represntatives who have appeared on various TV political debates in the past year.

    Durkan either has a very high (and over-inflated) opinion of his own self-worth and appeal, or else the SDLP has simply nobody else capable of giving a reasonable account of themselves.

    One fact is surely indisputable now though. The halcyon days of SDLP election success have gone for good…

  • dodrade

    Can anyone else see the parallels between the DUP’s eclipse of the UUP and the triumph of the National party over the United Party in South Africa in 1948 and the latter’s fading into history?

    No, because the DUP are not in a position to introduce the local equivalent of apartheid and the DUP won the election largely because they said they would do a deal.

    I meant in purely electoral terms, in that the more hardline party defeated the establishment party, with the latter never recovering. I did not mean to imply anything else.

  • Dougal

    “This election has shown that whatever fantasies both parties entertained, there’s now no way back.”

    Really Mick? I disagree. May be you agree with Roisin who alleges the SDLP lack “…respect for each other, and credibility as Irish nationalists.”

    This is little more nothing more than SDLP bashing.

    What about a little perspective here or is Slugger to become a cold house for moderate Nationalism? Even though I shout “IM NOT HERE TO DEFEND THE SDLP”, I don’t think it’s going to count for much. Are posts full of irrelevancies that don’t account of this going to be removed by our impartial moderator?

    I’ll have ago anyway but I don’t have the time for another for another farcical exchange as witnessed on the Sharon Haughey thread.

    http://sluggerotoole.com/index.php/weblog/comments/and-the-oscar-goes-to/”

    In short, Ireland needs the SDLP. I fully agree that this is a party with way too many issues, faults, problems etc. Simply because other parties are riding high at the moment, it is no reason to suggest that political opinions and fortunes will remain constant. To suggest otherwise is simply arrogant.

    Ireland has always had a moderate voice. Times change. New challenges lie ahead. No one knows for what the future holds. I honestly ask the question how can someone vote for SF if they see that party’s endorsement of an armed struggle as treason? How can someone vote for SF if they believe the party’s endorsement of Provo atrocities makes them unfit for government in our country? These are sincere and genuinely held views by many who consider themselves Irish Republicans – just not the type of Republicanism espoused by SF.

  • kensei

    “Even though I shout “IM NOT HERE TO DEFEND THE SDLP”, I don’t think it’s going to count for much. ”

    Er, you can say that, but if then proceed to defend the SDLP and attack SF in pretty much every post you make people might just get the idea that is exactly what you are doing.

  • Dougal

    “Silence is golden.”