Another party of Government in Northern Ireland..

The battle between the Labour Party and the members of the party in Northern Ireland has been going on for some time.. and it’s been the threats of legal action against the party that eventually, and repeatedly, forced the issue. Today, though, one of the contenders for the post of deputy leader of the Labour Party, Alan Johnson [current favourite with the betting public – Ed], was in Belfast and seemed to cement the latest deal, as well as being optimistic about the future of the NI Labour Party.From the BBC report

Mr Johnson said momentum towards Northern Ireland party members contesting elections was unstoppable.

The dinner was marking the 100th anniversary of the first ever Labour Party conference, which took place in Belfast.

“It is highly appropriate that on the 100th anniversary of the first ever Labour Party conference which was held in Belfast, we have seen moves to re-establish the link between Northern Ireland and the rest of the party.

“We had a ridiculous situation in the party where people in Northern Ireland could not even join Labour,” Mr Johnson said.

“Thankfully the party has allowed Northern Ireland members to join and under this deal they can participate in conferences and decision-making bodies.

“However, I think an unstoppable momentum is building up which will see party members here, in the not too distant future, being able to contest elections.”

According to the earlier report there are around 120 registered members of the Labour Party in Northern Ireland at present.

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  • slug

    Looks like the Labour party is going to organize at last.

    Will be interesting to see how they get on electorally.

  • This is interesting although an obvious outcome of the GFA, if you set partition in stone, the need for all these small regional parties like the DUP, UUP, PUP, Alliance and SDLP become surplus to requirements as far as the UK state is concerned, to unpredictable and uppity.

    One would have thought the LP must have had talks with the SDLP before making any decision to work in the north, as they belong to the same international body. Could it be that the SDLP tops have plans of their own merger wise, if so will they opt for the British LP or do a deal with FF which allows their big wigs to relocate down south a la Austin Currie, [although he joined Fine Gael not FF.]

  • observer

    this place get more like the rest of the UK every day, poor old gerry n martin

  • SuperSoupy


    The SDLP may be part of the Socialist International and the PES but it’s membership seems equally split between an instinctive relationship to centrist-labour with the ILP and the populist centre-right nationalist politics of FF and the UEN.

    As pointed out by an Alliance member even the PDs canvassed for them in the north despite them being a sister party of APNI through the European Liberals. FG canvassed for them too while being a sister party of the Conservatives via the EPP.

    Labour organising in the north should have little impact as the SDLP already do catch all populism. The only market is slightly less right Unionism.

  • Fergus D

    observer “this place get more like the rest of the UK every day, poor old gerry n martin”

    If this is a good devlopment for “unioinism”(integration into the British political system), why didn’t unioinists go for full integration with the rest of the UK from the word go?

    Why did they want their own home rule in NI in 1921, when no other part of the UK had it? Why didn’t they just join mainstream UK parties? If they had done that maybe the Northern nationalists might have been integrated too. Labour could have had quite a following in NI, from portestant industrial workers and from many catholics too I would think.

    Isn’t Irish Laboir organising in NI now too?

  • SuperSoupy


    As David Cameron’s contribution to the £5 Conservative NI election broadcast shows organising and running doesn’t guarantee it’ll be treated as anything other than a pointless time waster by HQ.

  • prolefodder

    Who gives a monkeys?! Labour in Norn Iron nowadays is about as electorally welcome and popular as a fart in a spacesuit. And by ‘Labour’ I meann either the British or Irish variety – both have links in the province – has Johnston spoke with his fraternal brother Pat Rabbitte in the South?

  • Aquifer

    The threshold for getting elected under PRSTV can be only 10% of first preference votes. Why would labour watch as conservatives, liberals, greens etc build a base here, maybe sufficient to get an MP over time.

    The operation of ‘real’ politics here will reveal the policy and class differences between SF and SDLP. They are likely to be competitive about their irish ‘nationalism’, leaving a space for a social democratic and non-sectarian party.

  • Reader

    Fergus D: If this is a good devlopment for “unioinism”(integration into the British political system), why didn’t unioinists go for full integration with the rest of the UK from the word go?
    Unionists would certainly have chosen that. However, the decision wasn’t made by unionists.

  • Would someone from the SDLP like to give us their opinion on this development?

  • jaffa

    The SDLP could encourage the Northern Irish Labour Forum to run as an internationalist non-aligned trade unionist party with memebership shared between both the Irish and British labour parties. They might also encourage the Southern parties to run up here. After that there’s no need for the SDLP.

    Allowing for the unionist, nationalist and non-aligned / internationalist dimensions and the conservative, centrist and left economic dimension you’ve then got nine boxes to fill with roughly something like the list below.

    It would be interesting to see how transfers move between the parties over time – whether they mainly follow the nationality or the economics route.

    There seems to be a gap for a non-aligned traditional Tory party but I think the Alliance party could straddle both in our circumstances.

    FG – nationalist one nation tories
    FF – nationalist populist centrists
    SF – nationalist left

    UUP – unionist one nation tories
    DUP – unionist populist centrists
    PUP – unionist left

    Alliance – internationalist centrists
    Labour – internationalist left
    Greens – internationalist greens

  • jaffa

    “a gap for a non-aligned traditional Tory party” should probably read “non-aligned pro-commerce”, as “traditional Tory” is probably the opposite.

  • Pounder

    Jaffa the Alliance are left wing liberals. Probably more so than Labour on the main land. and as our last election campain showed we’re more green than the Greens.

  • jaffa

    “Jaffa the Alliance are left wing liberals.”

    Are they! Bloody hell, I want my £15 back!

  • I have a lot of time for Alliance locally, but no way are they left wing, although they are liberals and that’s where their international affiliation lies. And more green than the Greens? How?

    Like Jaffa’s 9 categories, better than calling the last 3 the ‘middle ground’ or ‘centre’, and highlights that both nationalists and unionists are ,er, nationalists.

  • Pounder

    In the last election we used recycled paper for all our propagana, the Greens didn’t even do that.

  • jaffa

    Only a post-modernist liberal would call their own election material “propaganda”.

    I do like Alliance people.

  • Speaking of change did anybody see todays Irish News. It looks like the stoops have sidelined Tim Atwood as their organizer.


    Jaffa’s analysis is as good as I’ve read. The range of options he lays out would also lay the groundwork for a proper challenge to Sinn Fein and their return to the margins where they belong.

  • Gewurztraminer

    Lots of hypothesis here. A number of points.

    DUP – centrists???? Give me a break.

    The Shinners, Stoops and DUPs are now all populist parties – look at the approach to rural planning. For me populism means devoid of principle; this is sadly the only way to succeed politically in STV electoral systems.

    Alliance liberal? Tell that to anyone hoping to have a same sex civil partnership ceremony in spitting distance of Seamus Close.

    Across Ireland we have strange dichotomies in almost all of the parties:

    PDs, FG, socially liberal, economically conservative;

    DUPs, FF, SDLP, socially conservative, economically interventionist;

    Shinners, Irish Labour, Greens – economically interventionist, socially liberal;

    UUs socially and economically conservative;

    Alliance, what way does the wind blow?

    What is the conclusion here – there is room for a political organisation which is socially liberal with responsible and pragmatic economic policies – a new NI, or North of I, Labour party linked to both London and Dublin.

  • jaffa


    You’re added a third dimension – social mores – conservative/christian and individualist/liberal. Does liberal mean free trade or free love?

    I think DUP will show themselves to be “centrist” in economics, depite their claims to be a low tax party. Firstly they don’t mind spending other people’s money to buy themselves votes, second their conservative identity politics attract a working class audience who also require a centrist economic package.

    There’s a link here to the US Christian Democrats who use focus on community / focus on the individual to distinguish Liberalism, Libertarianism, US Conservativism and Christian Democracy.

    I think you’re being a bit harsh saying that Seamus Close’s views on gay marriage mean Alliance forfeits the liberal tag but I agree with you absolutely regarding the Northern Ireland Labour Party – the Forum is already there as a party in waiting.

  • jaffa

    “Alliance, what way does the wind blow?”

    Harsh way of describing liberalism. I prefer a picture of social and political progress as a dialectic sine wave,

    We don’t seem to be able to make progress without tacking left or right but liberals point the way forwards. We’re the X-axis!

    On the tacking front (and to deal with your win-blowing crack), another metaphor might be sailing into a headwind of inertia. Class warriors try to pull us port and starboard, but liberalism (and the shared interests of the greater number)provide the keel that keeps the boat moving in a generally forwards direction.

  • One should not over look the fact that the UK LP is today a very conservative organization, one only has to look at the relationship between Blair and Bush to understand that apart from the Italian, Bush was far to right wing for most of Europe’s conservative politicians, like Chirac for example. Yet Blair had no problem with working closely with Bush, all be it in the role of gofer and doormat.

    ” this place get more like the rest of the UK every day, poor old gerry n martin.
    Posted by observer”

    Around the time of the second ceasefire I asked a leading republican how would we be able to tell when normality has returned to the six counties. He replied somewhat sarcastically, when politics in the north is as boring as that of the English county councils. At the time we both smirked at one and other, but now I have have absolutely no doubt many of the electorate in the north would settle for the aforementioned.

    “Pity those who live in interesting times” [chinese saying]

  • bertie

    about bloody time!