DAVY Adams thinks the UUP and SDLP should go into Opposition – as did a few Slugger readers. Newton Emerson satirises the UUP rejection of a request to join the new ‘United Community’ opposition group in the Assembly, pointing out that the party is “apparently unaware that next time around they might not be worth the bother of asking. Could the UUP now become the first political party in history to fail to get into opposition?” He also notes that an SDLP minister will become a handy scapegoat for the big boys.On the future Executive, David Adams wrote:
Whether or not future DUP and Sinn Féin ministers will be able to form friendly relationships is of no consequence.
Both parties will appreciate that, once partnership is entered into, it will be in their joint interest to ensure it doesn’t fail. Full knowledge of the electoral price of collapse will be enough to ensure that pragmatic working relationships are soon established.
Indeed, it is a matter of concern for some that Sinn Féin and the DUP might find that they have far more in common than previously imagined.
It is the original champions of a devolved powersharing Assembly, the SDLP and the UUP, who have real cause to be concerned about what the future holds.
Both of those parties are entitled to take seats in an executive (one SDLP and two UUP), though it is hardly in either of their long-term interests to avail of the opportunity.
A new administration will be able, at least in its first term, to indulge the electorate. But it is only the two major parties, the DUP and Sinn Féin, who will receive the plaudits. The SDLP and UUP will certainly have some minimal influence on collective decision-making but cannot hope to be credited with any notable achievements. Indeed, there is no escaping the fact that, to the public at least, it is Sinn Féin and the DUP who will constitute the executive.
Rather than clinging to the coat-tails of the two main parties in the faint hope of benefiting from reflected glory, it would be much better for the UUP and SDLP if they relinquished their claims to office and went into opposition.
From the opposition benches and in various Assembly committees, both parties could play a far more constructive role by seeking to hold the new administration to account. Instead of allowing themselves to be overshadowed to the point where they become mere pale imitations of the two larger parties, an oppositional role would help the SDLP and UUP reclaim their own identities with the electorate.
More importantly, by helping to put both a working government and a meaningful opposition in place, they would be creating an Assembly that bears more than just a passing resemblance to an elected legislature in a normal, liberal democracy.
So farewell then to the Ulster Unionist Party, which incredibly appears to require one more kick up the backside to appreciate the scale of its problem, yet which has now passed the point where it can possibly survive one more kick up the backside. Party grandees grandly rejected an invitation to join the new ‘United Community’ grouping in the assembly, apparently unaware that next time around they might not be worth the bother of asking. Could the UUP now become the first political party in history to fail to get into opposition?
The SDLP has an even better reason to avoid a Stormont executive. With only enough MLAs to nominate a single minister, the Stoops can do little more than provide everyone else with a useful fall-guy.
Warning signs are not hard to discern. According to recent press statements from both Sinn Féin and the DUP, Mark Durkan was solely responsible for introducing water charging while finance minister in the last assembly.
If Sinn Féin and DUP memories are that imaginative, they won’t have any trouble blaming a lone SDLP minister for everything that goes wrong in the next assembly.