The state of the SDLP is leading to a crisis in Nationalism

I think Mark, in common with others, has underrated the Sinn Fein performance in the North. Brian lamented parties playing up the significance of topping the pole, but seemed miss that whatever Chris or commentators here might have posted, the SF leadership assuredly did not do it. They also largely resisted the temptation to cause difficulties for their coalition partners or expend large amount of resources in pushing their vote as high as possible in a vanity project. It was notable that there was no SF presence at our polling station as there has been at every other election we have been to. Furthermore, they continued to play down the significance once the election results were in. It was a mature and businesslike performance by a party assured of their position. Talk of stagnant votes is utterly misleading; like the best football teams, it is clear there was another gear if needed. The SDLP weren’t even relevant.With the split in the Unionist vote, there was a definite chance of the SDLP picking up a second Nationalist seat. The SDLP ran a decent candidate and a competent but unspectacular campaign and still could not manage more than complete stasis. This is troubling for a number of reasons.

Fortunes can and do change and even seemingly invincible parties can lose status pretty quickly; the DUP are a telling case in point but Labour were also flippantly talking about further decades in power after the last election. But SF have received some fairly hefty hits from the DUP in this Assembly and at least one really bad minister and have just kept on going. It is really looking like SF might fill the role that FF have traditionally done in the South. That gives them almost total leadership of Northern nationalism / republicanism and in a real sense the SF vision of a United Ireland will be the one imprinted on Northern nationalism, sold to unionists and shown to the outside world. I am sympathetic to many of SF aims but differ in many places and despite being listed as a “politico” on this site I have no connection to anyone. And that role is too important for any one party. A diverse state needs a diverse civic nationalism and a diverse range of views. Single party dominance leads to stagnation and suffocates ideas; no single party has the energy or vision to sustain the growth needed indefinitely. The Unionist attraction to the Single Voice has always baffled me. Mick sees danger in the current Unionist jostling, but that dynamism will drive debate that may not help the individual parties, but will certainly help Unionism.

It will also help drive Unionist votes. It already has to an extent; the Unionist drop in turnout was slightly noticeably less than the nationalist one. The SDLP have held on, but there is the frightening prospect of a collapse in their vote. Take the results of the Fermanagh Council By Election last year.

Foster, Arlene (DUP) 1,925 votes (30,5%)
Coyle, Debbie (SF) 1,815 votes (28,8%)
Johnston, Basil (UUP) 1,436 votes (22,8%)
Flanagan, Rosemary (SDLP) 739 votes (11,7%)
Kamble, Kumar (APNI) 231 votes (3,7%)
McHugh, Karen (Ind Rep) 158 votes (2,5%)

It seemed to me overlooked at the time that Sinn Fein got their vote out. But the SDLP’s didn’t turn up. They had little hope of winning, so didn’t bother. And without their support Nationalism had absolutely no hope of winning the seat. If this is a vision of the future, even a partial one, big big problems lie further down the road. If those results are repeated on any scale, there will be a full blown electoral crisis in Nationalism to match the crisis in ideas such a situation would bring.

I know in posting this that I will get a chorus of people lining up to back the SDLP: it happened the last time I posted on them. They manage to hold their vote and stave off further decline; the chances of getting a seat where remote; they have lots of good ideas; X will do will in this constituency; SF have stagnated, will run into difficulties and the scales will fall from the electorates eyes. I am sorry but this is simply superficial congeniality. And it is long past time to start facing reality.

The first thing is to accept that continuing on the same path will not lead to a changed result. People in the party have got to start saying it out loud and flagging a desire to change. To at least start a debate. They then need to work out who they are, and what they are for, and what electorate they are going for. Are they serious about post nationalism? Those pull in differing directions. Can they do the vision thing? Come up with new policies? These are fundamental questions but the SDLP seemingly have no answer to many of them and that is not a luxury that can afforded in a downward spiral. To make any gains forward within nationalism, they don’t just have to match SF, they have to significantly better them to make traction.

These are big questions and it falls to the leader to set the tone and direction of the party. Durkan has been a long time in the job now. If he cares about his party, his politics and his country, it’s time for him to step up or step aside.

  • Kensei,

    I think your first paragraph makes a lot of sense.

  • Kensei

    Shame about the rest then? lol

  • I wouldn’t want to be accused of defending the SDLP :p

  • jade

    knoock it off kensai – the news from this election is the utter failure of the adams strategy – the south is now a lost cause and all they have left is stormont – the dup will now screw them and there is little they can, or will do about it – compared to the sdlp’s woes, the shinners are the real big losers – in only one way are you right, that if the sdlp had a decent leader willing to taske adams on, then sf would be in trouble in the north too.

  • barnshee

    “Furthermore, they continued to play down the significance once the election results were in. ”

    Coyness might also be related to being shit upon in the ROI, having to worry about their “partners” in the DUP being comprehensively shit upon, not to mention a ruling in court today on their former associates ( and class actions pending

    http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/law/article6458198.ece)

    A good dsy all round for SF the DUP (and SDLP) –don`t think so

  • Mark McGregor

    I love this idea of no SF presence at a polling stations they were normally at as sensitivity to Unionism and not lack of manpower. They were sensitive to Unionism where I live. In fact the local cuman has being so sensitive to Unionism in recent years it dissolved like many others ;0)

  • Mark McGregor

    ~ been not being

  • LURIG

    Good attempt to try to shift the emphasis away from the civil war within Unionism but it won’t work. Sinn Fein had a good election in the North but the SDLP did OK and will return a lot of councillors and MLA’s on that result. Many Nationalists were well pissed off at Diane Dodds and Jim Allister trying to outdo each other in the ‘hate Sinn Fein stakes’ AND voted for the Shinners to spite them. I heard people saying they were originally going to vote for the SDLP but were so angry at the antics of the DUP & Allister that they had changed their minds. Allister & Dodds were the greatest electorate asset Sinn Fein had as many within Nationalism were miffed at the Shinner’s performance in the Assembly.

  • Kensei

    Gari

    By all means have a go. But at least read up on superficial congeniality.

    jade

    Forever is a long time. When Adams took over, SF were almost totally abstentionist and no representation anywhere. He’s moved them to democratic politics, the top party in the North and a small but significant base in the SOuth. Many leaders have achieved a hell of a lot less.

    It’s opened up new challenges. Perhaps Adams is not the man to tackle them – at a minimum in the medium term, his time will pass. But I’d rather be SF at the moment than the SDLP.

    barnshee

    More to follow on SF in the South. Hopefully with a little thought and not the knee jerk bollocvks from well… you know.

    Mark

    I didn’t suggest it was anything to do with sensitivity to Unionism. Do you reckon there would have been a lack of man power in a General or Assembly election? Like fuck there would have.

  • Kensei

    LURIG

    Sinn Fein had a good election in the North but the SDLP did OK and will return a lot of councillors and MLA’s on that result

    They are nowhere. Dangerous to extrapolate from the Euros anywhere else, especially on tight margins.

    And if anyone is happy with distant second and lethargy, then it is big loser talk and loser thinking. Guarantees the SDLP stay where they are.

  • GavBelfast

    Sinn Fein is plainly a partitionist project that needs the border.

    It’s irrelevance in the South is indicated by its retreat in crisis circumstances that ought to have been ripe territory for a truly radical party.

  • Kensei,

    I wasn’t interested in having a go. Just delivering some praise about the fact that I thought your characterisation of the Provo performance in the north was fairly spot on.

  • James

    The problem the SDLP have, is that they are almost nonexistent on the ground. As the electorate demand more openness from their politicians, more accountability and more of a coalface presence from their elected reps., the SDLP only appear at election time, if you are lucky.

    And while they are not alone in that respect, they remind me of the old Unionist party who ruled from the big house on the top of the hill, with the local MP only appearing now and again to show his/her face.

    This will stifle any chance of progression in the future & will more than likely see further slips in later elections.

    Nationalisys/Republicans who i have spoken to over the last few days, who are unhappy with Sinn Fein for whatever reason, simply stayed at home and saw no benefit in giving the SDLP a vote.

  • Eurocrat

    “Many Nationalists were well pissed off at Diane Dodds and Jim Allister trying to outdo each other in the ‘hate Sinn Fein stakes’ AND voted for the Shinners to spite them. I heard people saying they were originally going to vote for the SDLP but were so angry at the antics of the DUP & Allister that they had changed their minds. Allister & Dodds were the greatest electorate asset Sinn Fein had as many within Nationalism were miffed at the Shinner’s performance in the Assembly.”

    LURIG> This is a well made and important point.

    The SDLP had a good election but alot of issues conspired against them (low turnout and expenses scandal putting off many SDLP-minded voters). I do think however that they need to take a long hard look at themselves in terms of where the SDLP wants to go and where it should be.

    I saw an interesting quote last week from Stephen Byers MP about Gordon Brown and it went ‘I think on Monday Labour MPs will be considering a very important question – is Gordon Brown a winner, or is Gordon Brown a loser?’ I think SDLPers need to be asking themselves the question ‘is Mark Durkan a winner, or is Mark Durkan a loser?’. Mark Durkan seems like a nice guy but he has presided over several years now of SDLP decline and people should consider this point.

  • RG Cuan

    I agree that the SDLP need a totally new perspective, and/or a big kick in the arse.

    Essentially they have no dynamic element and need a complete retake on where they are going and how they are going to get there. I personally think a broadening of their base would help, possibly attracting traditionally Unionist voters on a more socialist card or even joining with Irish Labour to give them an extra dimension.

    Sinn Féin are sitting quite comfortably. The have a strategy and are putting it into action. The northern vote has held in a lacklustre EU election and their young canditates down south are proving a lot more transfer-friendly than the older guys were in the past.

    When Gerry and co. move on – and i hope they do soon – the party will have even more chance of progress.

  • Ramsey

    The SDLP called twice at my house, which impressed me and Alban gave me a lot of his time. In the end I voted for SF after hearing Dodds spout on about topping the poll. Tribalism will always win out at the end and you will follow the strongest leader.

    Sinn Fein are confident and cocky. The SDLP are no threat, a nice reminder of success as they are we once had been.

    They now have a new project – the Dail. And I have no doubt that they will crack it there too. I listened to Mary Lou and she was confident. These guys have there tail up and will not be stopped. The left wing their is in a mood to gain power and will teamn up if need be.

    The only prospective cloud on the horison is FF. If they move north – and now it is a when not if – then we see a complete shift in politics here – both for nationalists and unionists.

  • Nomad

    I don’t think it’s justified to say nationalism is in crisis, except in so far as all the parties may be on the brink of having to reach across the religious boundaries now if they wish to grow. Particularly SF and DUP. Viewed in a certain prism, this thread compliments perfectly Brian’s post below.

    SF is already posited at the extreme left so in some ways they don’t have to move very far, but continued outreach would appear to be logical.

    In the next 10 years, those currently aged 15-30 should (in theory at least) be mobile voters, if not low hanging fruit compared to their parents. I haven’t so far found people to shift a million miles from their parents politics in NI (tragically), but there’s still time.

    So what do you think, could SF be the party for young people, and DUP be for the old, rich and conservative? (With much less religious tying)

  • With the split in the Unionist vote, there was a definite chance of the SDLP picking

    Single.

    Transferrable.

    Vote.

  • D McMonagle

    All I could see from the BBC footage was a pack of childish bigots which reminded me why the North as an entity will always be a disaster zone designed for extremists to be triumphant. Mark Durkan was probably the best man to succeed Hume. The SDLP are the most “political” political party in the North but amongst the bigotry their voices and reasoning have become weakened. When the dust settles in a future Ireland parties like Sinn Fein and the DUP will become utterly irrelevant.

  • Another way of looking at all this is that Sinn Fein have reached the limit of their expansion both in the North and in the South. They may have felt safe in the North and may feel they could have got more votes out by “moving up a gear.” It was quite different in the South. They lost their only European seat.

    In his article in the Sunday Times,
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/ireland/article6445461.ece
    Liam Clarke suggests that until the leaders within Sinn Fein who are associated with the IRA past – including Adams – retire, they will not make any progress there.

    The SDLP is not finished yet. It did not prgress but it did not lose more votes either. I do agree that this party needs to do something to define itself if it is to survive.

    The SDLP has a real dilemma. Does it keep showing its nationalist face or does it try to promote a more visible socialist agenda?

    The problem with the latter option is that it could ‘turn off’ those Catholic middle classes On the other hand, that may be outweighed by the potential advantage which would be that it could then form an open alliance with the British Labour Party to represent the left and therefore be in a position to represent socialist protestants. That could even be expanded into a triple (socialist) Alliance involving the Irish Labour Party. Such a triple alliance would allow the SDLP to protect its nationalist identity and become a cross-community party in a cross-border dynamic socialist alliance.

    I discussed this possibility in a post on my own blog yesterday
    http://torystoryni.wordpress.com/2009/06/08/a-fast-track-for-ending-sectarian-politics-the-triple-alliance/
    An interesting fact is that those three parties already have an intimacy with each other which stretches back decades.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Kensei
    Good piece. Kinda made my next proposed thread redundant….

    You’re right to pick up on the big losers from this in the north (within nationalism) being the SDLP. In spite of the lukewarm reaction from many nationalists to the performance of Sinn Fein at the Assembly/ Executive, it appears the nationalist electorate did not consider the option of switching allegiance to the SDLP. They have become a virtual irrelevance.

    Given that Sinn Fein have now topped the poll, the party will have the not inconsiderable advantage of calling on nationalists to help the party claim the First Minister’s post in the next Assembly election.

    Seymour’s idea of the SDLP pushing a socialist agenda is pure fantasy; the SDLP do not occupy that ground and have little interest in doing so.

    The SDLP need to ask themselves the questions posed by Kensei, and urgently as they face a long stay in the bit player zone if they don’t come up with the right answers.

  • TK

    The election result for the SDLP was neutral. No more or no less. The Sinn Fein vote while impressive is along way of the days when Hume could command over 190,000 votes. The strategy of the political establishment in the Republic of isolating Sinn Fein has worked and their objective of making it a North Eastern phenomenon has also worked. There was definitely less SF activists on the ground during this election and it had nothing to do generosity or self assuredness. It has more to do with finding it difficult to motivate people out for politics- a problem common with all problems. The SDLP still has not addressed its long term problems ie its relevance in an all Ireland context; succession planning -particularly now they are committed to ending double jobbing and the quality of second tier. The party was also overly confident about this election- despite it being obvious to most people that it was more than an uphill struggle. They will really have to learn to stop believing their own propaganda. Nevertheless they have earned a short respite but elections are ten months away and they will have to come back in electioneering mode in September.

  • mfb

    This SDLP bashing isn’t entirely fair (and I am not an SDLP supporter).

    The voters did not turn out in their usual numbers for almost all parties.

    As a percentage of the 2007 Assembly election vote, the vote received for the Euros for each party were as follows (in ascending order)

    DUP 42.53%
    SF 69.88%
    Alliance 73.88%
    TUV & DUP combined 74.40%
    SDLP 74.63%
    UCUNF 80.37%
    Green 131.53%

    The SDLP were, by no means, the worst in getting their vote out.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    The SDLP and the UU both maintained their % vote/flatlined and there appears to still be some appetite for both parties. The SDLP’s position continues to be relatively stronger within Nationlaism than the UUs is within Unionism.

    The UU posters on here told us that flatlining would not ge a good result given they had found a formula for electoral growth – the amazing new UU Tory crypto Alliance.

    The failure of their product to supply that growth – and they were the loudest of the 4 main parties in jabbering on about well they were going to do and taken with the fact that right wing parties throughout europe generally did well – is all the more stark.

    The fact that they were the second Unionist party elected has nothing to do with PosbBoyDC pretending he thinks Norn Iron is a proper part of the UK and everything to do with the growth of the TUV.

    Flatlining by the SDLP was to expected, but we were told not to expect flatlining by the UU Tory crypto Alliance – who are now, luckily for them able to try and hide their failure to show movement behind the disaster that befell the DUP.

  • Comrade Stalin

    kensei:

    With the split in the Unionist vote, there was a definite chance of the SDLP picking up a second Nationalist seat.

    Sammy Morse got in a head of me. How do you figure ?

    The only way that you would get two nationalists is to have such a severe schism within unionism that its vote collapses. This wasn’t even close to collapsing. Alban was riding high at the end of the second count but it was all over when Allister was eliminated. There is nothing, nothing that Alban or the SDLP could have done to change that.

    Consistently, no matter how loud the cries of “Lundy” are, unionists almost always transfer among themselves. Note how the TUVers all transferred en masse to Nicholson despite the UUP’s past record on powersharing (they probably plumped for the incumbent candidate and refused to vote for the DUP car crash).

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin

    It’s not bashing mfb. People constantly mistake criticism for party bashing, when it is simply telling it like it is.

    I tend to agree with TK is that this marks stagnation, not further decline for the SDLP. But then we may be talking about the difference between a nod and wink to the proverbial blind horse.

    Some of these themes were evident at the last party conference. John Hume was a great nationalist figure of the Troubles and early Peace Process period, but the constant references to the party’s noble and moral past mean their candidates had little to talk to the electorate about other than ‘there are two nationalists seats here’.

    I’ve no doubt SDLP worked hard to get the vote out, and those are nice figures to conjure with (although fall back is the natural pattern for EP elections). But the conventional wisdom that ground war is more critical than having something interesting and useful to put into the public pot was, sort of, confounded by this election.

    UCU-NF don’t really do massive ground operations, but your figures suggest that something was moving for them, besides a collapse in confidence in the DUP candidate.

    I suggested a while back to a UCU-NF member that whilst they had usefully settled the question of who they were and what they were for, they still did not have the ground infrastructure of a modern political party. I contrasted that with the fact that in some parts of Northern Ireland the SDLP had woken up locally and had people who were prepared to knock their collective pans in for the sake of the party. But there was not, and remains no coherent answer to who they are and what they are for.

    Take the speeches. Jimmy Nick’s was by far the best of those broadcast. Why? Because he had something to say about his party and where it was going (there was a wee bit of coaching in there too, I suspect). (BTW, you don’t have to be a Ulster Unionist to recognise these things, I’m simply looking at them from generic POV)…

    Alban’s had nothing of that. It even managed to contain some highly contestable claims about the non divisive character of his campaign. However canny it was, ‘two nationalist seats’ hardly chimes with the party’s post nationalist, non sectarian perception of itself.

    I do think the UUs and the SDLP can learn things from each other. The must of course come up with radically different solutions. What works on the ground in Catholic areas won’t necessarily translate directly across to Protestant or mixed areas. And of course the political configurations are different too. There is a national land border rather than a sea ‘border’ to be negotiated (not easy, given SF are currently being driven out of Dublin and back to their old IRA heartlands of border Kerry and the wider south west) by more ‘indigenous’ political projects.

  • brendan,belfast

    The SDLP’s problem going into this election was the absolute inevitability of them not winning a seat. Those are very difficult circumstances under which to run a campaign. Despite this they ran a decent enough, albeit passive campaign. PLenty of presence on the ground, more so than other parties.

    Their big challenge, and the answer as to whether the party has a future, will be the next Westminster / Assembly elections. Durkan and McDonnell will have to decide if they are going to fight the Commons election or the Assembly. If they opt for London (and it appears at first glance that they will) thats a bad message to the locals.

  • The original Sam Maguire

    I don’t buy this SDLP stagnation story. The real question lies in whether the SDLP held their ground in South Down and Foyle or picked up votes East of the Bann that would have gone to parties that have a more realistic chance in other elections. As a political force, the SDLP are all but gone West of the Bann (outside Foyle), in fact their only mission of a gain in the Assembly elections is Deeney’s seat in WT.

    Like Kensei said, the SF election machine barely got out of first gear, had this been Westminster or Stormont there would have been a different level. There was no SF presence at my polling station either and there’s no talk about dissention in the local cumann. I do believe that SF made the choice to keep focus off themselves and to let Allister and the DUP cut the tar out of each other. It certainly looked that there was more of an eye on the General election rather than making a big song and dance about topping the poll this time.

  • kensei

    Sammy, CS

    Single. Transferrable. Vote.

    Wastage. And at under 50% turnout, the SDLP had a lot of scope for a decent differential turnout pushing them over the top and pulling the rug from under Unionism. It was at least a possibility before the vote. It was discuussed here.

    Chris

    Given that Sinn Fein have now topped the poll, the party will have the not inconsiderable advantage of calling on nationalists to help the party claim the First Minister’s post in the next Assembly election.

    I’m not sure they will. What does it matter really? They need to progress on substance and not rhetoric. It’s a neat bonus if they get it. MMG hit the right note stating that there was no differenmce between the positions anyway.

    mfb

    They did well enough here. Stagnation is probably likely, but the wider trends and outside possibility of complete collapse worry me.

    Mick

    There is a national land border rather than a sea ‘border’ to be negotiated (not easy, given SF are currently being driven out of Dublin

    To totally preempt a piece I’m currently writing, that seems just about the laziest analysis possible of SF’s situation in Dublin and the South. They mightimplode there, but it is far more likely that they have simply found their level. Their polling has been consistent for what – 3 years? – in both good times and bad. And they’ve picked up a few seats in places outside Dublin that aren’t normal territory for them that basically means they went in with 54 seats and have come out with 54 seats. That is a solid base of talent taht even the PDs5 years ago would have envied.

    What has happened in Du,lin is that they’ve lost the far left vote. It’s moved on to Joe Higgins and the Socialist councillors that got elected. And perhaps those parties will keep it, because they won’t ever get anywhere near government, and they won’t have to make pragmatic choices or confront difficult resource allocation decisions. SF could briefly hoover that vote but the reality of the last five years has been compromise and that is never working with the true believers. To try and chase that vote back is a huge mistake. It’s a dead end vote and it always will be. The same changes and focus on different types of candidates have given them small improvements in other places. That’s their future, and they have got to work on their transfer problem more than anything else, even if it causes them some further pain in Dublin in the short term.

  • west belfast

    I agree with Kensei.

    This was a completely low key election from SF. Normally I would have several visits from them during a campaign.

    The real test for SF will be the westminster elections – big push needed for those. Undoubtedly they will easily retain WB, MU, N&A and WT. They will have a real dogfight for FST with the DUP.

    I believe they are now positioned to really challenge Durkan in Foyle although it will be very tight. I just dont think Ruane can take South Down with her track record – I would personally put up a local candidate but that isnt SFs style.

    The Westminster election will also give us a real feel for the SDLP – they will lose SB and possibly Foyle – if that happens they are finished as a force within nationalism.

    The only other factor is whether the anti GFA republicans will run candidates – dont think they will damage SF, infact it could be bad news for the SDLP as moderate nationalists will want to send out a message and may switch to SF. I hear the IRSP are thinking of running – cant wait til those drug dealers come to my door.

    All in all the next election will be much more motivated than this dreary euro poll.

  • Brian Walker

    I haven’t looked at the figures closely yet but three things seem to be true.
    1. Turnout is bigger in the rare places where the sectarian balance is a fine one.

    2. STV encourages a multi party system so the SDLP and the UUs will probably survive.

    3.If SF became the largest single party in the Assembly it would have the right of first nomination but would lose FM in the cross community vote. That might produce deadlock in the second round and require interesting negotiations. An SDLP FM? Or an Alliance, Green or Independent FM after legislation is passed to suspend the designations? Or hey, a SF FM after all?

  • Paddy Wan Kenobi

    The SDLP were totally reliant on a split in Unionism and their own disillusioned voters, or disillusioned SF voters, coming out in force for them.
    Only one of those happened.

  • RG Cuan

    Just read the Irish News and they seem to be as deluded as the SDLP after this election.

    The editorial claims Alban Maginness’s vote was ‘credible’ and while this may be the case the real issue is how they move forward. Radical change is needed. As pointed out above they will in all likelihood lose South Belfast at the next Westminster election which will leave them truly on the fringes.

  • Northsider

    Just got a call from a friend in Derry

    Headline in todays Derry Journal -Sinn Féin claim win in Foyle -and that the for the first time ever the party vote has moved ahead of the SDLP

    If that is the case ,its calls into question Durkans leadership in his own backyard

  • Published Date: 09 June 2009
    Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson has claimed that Sinn Féin outpolled the SDLP in Derry for the first time ever in the European elections.
    Ms Anderson made the claim from the count centre at the Kings Hall in Belfast as Sinn Féin’s Bairbre de Brún was elected on the first count – topping the poll. It is the first time a non-DUP candidate has done so. Overall, however, the Sinn Féin vote is actually down 0.3 per cent on the last European election. Ms de Brún received 126,184 first preference votes, 26 per cent of the total votes cast.

    The turnout for the election was just under 42 per cent, a drop of nine per cent from the last European poll.

    The SDLP candidate, Alban Maginness, received 78,489 first preference votes. Before the election the SDLP had been hoping to capture the third seat but the party in Derry said they were “disappointed” not to have captured a second nationalist seat.

    Speaking from the count centre, Ms Anderson said: “I want to congratulate my party colleague, Bairbre de Brún on her tremendous victory in the European elections. Not only has she been re-elected but she has topped the poll. This is a massive endorsement of the Sinn Fein project – the Peace Process.

    “Reports from the constituencies would indicate that Bairbre polled extremely well throughout the six-counties. Derry was no exception as it would appear that Sinn Féin increased our percentage share of the vote and may have even outpolled the SDLP in Foyle for the first time.”
    SDLP councillor Mark H Durkan said his party intends to raise concerns about the number of potential voters who did not receive polling cards. “Thousands of people did not receive polling cards and we will be asking for a breakdown of the areas where this happened.

    “Overall we are disappointed not to have taken a seat but our percentage vote is actually up slightly from last time. Combating the apathy on the doorsteps was the real challenge in this campaign,” he said.

    The real battle in the election was between the unionist candidates with the DUP’s Diane Dodds receiving 88,346 first preference votes – a drop of 13.8 per cent from the DUP’s showing last time out. The Ulster Conservatives and Unionists – New Force’s Jim Nicholson polled 82,7893 first preference votes while Jim Allister of the Traditional Unionist Voice received 66,197 number ones.

    Jim Nicholson was elected on the third count while Diane Dodds was elected on the fourth count.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Nortsider,

    “If that is the case ,its calls into question Durkans leadership in his own backyard ”

    If the same logic was applied to UU/Tory/Crypto Alliance then Wee Reggie would be gone – currently he seems to have zero MPs and he doesnt even have a back yard.

    Still, the BBC and others think the crypto Alliance have done well in the election and since the ‘merger’ – by that I think people actually mean they havent disappeared you know.

  • oracle

    The SDLP have major problems of that there is no doubt, however circumstances have collided to put a new twist on the future for the party as a whole.

    For too long the SDLP has ignored the elephant in the room, they have failed to go on the attack against SF time and time again.
    It’s not that they didn’t have the confidence or the intellect to take the Shinners on because unquestionably they do, it’s just they don’t have the resolve because they lack confidence in the electorate.
    Whenever SF get themselves in political trouble there is one safe outstanding bet and that is the SDLP will be the last party to make any use of it, for a political party not to expose another political party then that is negligent, but for a political party not to expose their main political rivals then that is criminal!

    The light at the end of the tunnel for the SDLP is that Durkan and McDonald will have to defend their Westminster seats which will keep them out of the assembly and thus away from local politics, which means the tired lethargic McDonald and the predictable attitude he inspires in local SDLP will be removed making room for something a little more vibrant.
    Durkan will also be gone from the local scene and again no great loss to the SDLP.
    When you have a partys general whos sole aim in life is to keep his head down in the trenches only raising it to throw a humorous one liners instead of political hand-grenades then it’s time for something to happen.
    When the partys general watches as the enemy over-run his territory and set up bases at will, then it’s time for something to happen.
    When the partys general refuses to do battle and prefers retreat at every opportunity instead then it’s time for something to happen.
    That something is either mass dessertions or a military coup.

    With Margret Richie a billion to one one with Paddy powers to win South Down if she stands while good for SDLP morale and exellent for unionists who just can’t stand Ruan, it becomes a major problem for the SDLP because Ritchie is their only decent preformer at Stormont and probably the only SDLP assembly member who can command respect in more hardline Nationalist areas for the courage she showed against the UDA, and that’s a commodity in short supply in the SDLP

    (our Danny O’Connor excluded of course)

  • JohnLurgan

    “…the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated…”

    The SDLP went into the European election believing that a seat was win-able… but surely all parties approach any election believing that a seat win-able, not least because they have at a level of self-belief. Talk of the SDLP pedalling a ‘sectarian’ agenda because some latched onto the notion of two nationalist seats is simplistic – the SDLP’s key message throughout the canvas was elect Alban Magennis because of what he will bring to Europe – a socialist agenda, a strong/articulate speaker, a belief in and commitment to the value/need/importance of improving the lives of people; the SDLP engaged with voters in all constituencies and from all political hues – indeed many of the posters on this site have acknowledged that although they may hail from a different political background to SDLP they were minded to give AM a 2nd/3rd preference, if not a 1st.

    To say that harking back to the successes of Hume/Mallon, is in some way living in the past is nonsense. “I am the man I am today, because of the choices I made yesterday”…when Hume engaged in discussions with SF & the IRA 10 years before the GFA, it wasn’t for electoral successes… nobody knew about it FFS! It was the right thing to do, because in the long run it was the only thing that would deliver (progress towards) a peaceful and stable society. Now, I am not arguing that the SDLP does not need to do more…it clearly does. But then every party in these islands (with the exception of SF and the BNP) have said that they need to review how they engage with people. It is s challenge for politics generally that the political class need to reflect that to represent the people, you need to be from the people and of the people; you need to understand their issues (just as Hume, Mallon and Brid Rodgers et al did/do). Over the last number of weeks different people said that the only time they see politicians is in the run-up to an election – that is clearly a problem; but the flip side of that argument is that we (voters) need to engage with politicians/politics between elections as well. There is no point saying ‘you didn’t help me/us with such and such a problem’, if you don’t tell the politicians about the problem in the first place!

    At the risk of being simplistic, politics thrives on dialogue – between parties, between people. Politics in NI for decades was bogged down in the refusal of some politicians to talk to those they disagreed with – hopefully Allister/Dodds’ antics yesterday on the platform in the Kings Hall do not herald a return to such times.

    But to return to the start of my post – the European election has, I believe, reinvigorated the SDLP at branch level. An athlete preparing for a major event doesn’t peak in his first outing, but builds a solid base. The SDLP has demonstrated over 40 years that it’s no flash in the pan and will be around for many years to come. I’ll stop before a launch into a Party Political Broadcast!!! (lol)

  • RepublicanStones

    Just a thought…(perhaps a stupid one), but with the respective results for the stoops up north and FF in the south, will we hear the possibility of ‘merger’ being mooted again or will such results infact bury the idea for good?

  • Big Bird

    To look at the future of the SDLP, you need to look at the past.

    In recent weeks it has been revealed that the SDLP’s Alasdair McDonnell is the MP with the highest allowance claims for the North – entirely at the tax-payers expense.

    Then news emerged that the SDLP’s Eddie McGrady has lorded it in five-star hotels whilst in London – again, entirely at the tax-payers expense.

    Lo and behold, the SDLP leader Mark Durkan discreetly posted copies of his own expenses claims (between May ’05 and April ’08) up on his website last Tuesday afternoon, just hours before the media’s self-imposed curfew ahead of the European elections. Nice one Mark!

    Not a single word has been written or uttered about Mark’s expenses since then.

    This is somewhat surprising (or is it, Ed.?) given the vigour with which certain BBC political staff pursued other local politicians over expenses (Martina Purdy at Bairbre de Brún’s manifesto launch comes to mind), and in the context of the Irish News – a couple of weeks before the election – splashing repeated non-stories about Caitriona Ruane travelling to Cyprus on three days of official ministerial business.

    What’s really shocking about Mark’s claims is that it emerges that he’s been claiming for light bulbs, tea cloths, towels, household items, a TV, a DAB FM radio, a set-top free-view box, electrical leads, a charger, household items, rent, gas, electricity, council tax/rates, so-called ‘domestic sundries’ and – of course – food!

    But the one that really gets me is toilet roll! I mean, c’mon Mark, you get paid while talking crap – do you really have to charge us for the bog roll as well?

    Once again, like his SDLP colleagues, Mark charged all of this to the tax-payer – on top of employing his wife as a part-time office worker… and taking his MP’s salary… and his MLA’s salary… and all of the other attendant office expenses.

    Grand total for Mark’s ‘perk payments’ from Westminster (ie. just the extra allowances)?

    Well, between May ’05 and April ’08, the cost to the taxpayer was £57,890.11 – give or take.

    Mark even claimed for two people staying in a hotel room (before he started renting an apartment at considerably higher costs) in July ‘05. Mercifully for Mark, the Fees Office stepped in and disallowed half the charge. Presumably the ‘other person’ had to cough up their own dosh…. unless, of course, Mark dipped for it…..

    Black mark for the media! Big questions for Mark Durkan! Sick joke for the SDLP!

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    RepublicanStones

    ROI Labour party might be a more sensible partner anyway.

  • oracle

    “An athlete preparing for a major event doesn’t peak in his first outing, but builds a solid base”

    Good grief John your whole party is on zimmer-frames for Christ sake, hope they don’t drug test your athletic party…. because you’ll fail for sure

  • RG Cuan

    Very interesting Big Bird.

    Big questions, again, over how the Irish News in particular cover SDLP-related issues. Do they not know that most Nationalist readers actually vote Sinn Féin?

  • kensei

    oracle

    For too long the SDLP has ignored the elephant in the room, they have failed to go on the attack against SF time and time again.
    It’s not that they didn’t have the confidence or the intellect to take the Shinners on because unquestionably they do, it’s just they don’t have the resolve because they lack confidence in the electorate.

    It plays well to the base, but you will find it alienates a large part of the electorate. I would hazard a guess that a load of SDLP male politicans going full ple at SF women politicans will not play well with a good half of the electorate. Just a hunch.

    There is a nack to opposition politics. It is about picking battles and having better ideas.

    JohnLurgan

    Now, I am not arguing that the SDLP does not need to do more…it clearly does. But then every party in these islands (with the exception of SF and the BNP) have said that they need to review how they engage with people.

    Superficial congeniality. Of course we need to do a more… but so does everyone else. It says nothing, and it utterly meaningless. It doesn’t admit problems, it doesn’t suggest solutions. It holds out the hope that only if we could talk a bit better, have a few nicer TV campaignsm, everthing would be grand. Everyone else is not nearly as screwed as the SDLP.

    This is loser mentality. Please get out of it.

  • daisy

    SDLP picked the wrong candidate. Alban may be competent in a plodding sort of way, but his campaign was lacklustre and pedestrian. His candidacy was the major reason why I didn’t give them No 1 on my ballot.

    They need new, younger blood to attract votes away from SF and they need to do it pdq.

  • the barbarian

    The question about expenses is very important in that the SDLP has always portrayed itself as a very straight party with no skeletons, but these disclosures all lead to a sense of what the difference between them and all the rest. Pat Ramsey is an MLA and a Derry City Councillor in the past year he attended 9 meeting while accepting £9000 on top of his assembly allowances and salary.

    Mark Durkan ability to lead this party is in doubt and this expenses issue gives us a glance at his authority. He published his expenses on his own site not the party site did the other two decline to publish. If he had the b@118 he would face them down.

    My opinion is that for the survival of the SDLP Durkan has to go and someone like Margaret Ritchie should take over if they are ever to challenge Sinn Fein again.

  • kensei

    daisy

    SDLP picked the wrong candidate. Alban may be competent in a plodding sort of way, but his campaign was lacklustre and pedestrian. His candidacy was the major reason why I didn’t give them No 1 on my ballot.

    They need new, younger blood to attract votes away from SF and they need to do it pdq.

    Yes and no. Alban had a decent campaign, and he’s fairly wellr espected, at least in Belfast. Perhaps the SDLP could ahve got sdomeone new and exciting and a bit fit. Like SF in South. Perhaps it would have given them a big boost. They’d have still missed out, just as SF missed out.

    If the national party wasn’t so lackluster, SF would have been over the top in South and probably Dublin. Important lesson there.

    RS

    Just a thought…(perhaps a stupid one), but with the respective results for the stoops up north and FF in the south, will we hear the possibility of ‘merger’ being mooted again or will such results infact bury the idea for good?

    I think FF will move up eventually, but they’ll do it from a position of strength, not weakness. Which means, probably, for now.

  • The Original Sam Maguire

    SDLP picked the wrong candidate. Alban may be competent in a plodding sort of way, but his campaign was lacklustre and pedestrian. His candidacy was the major reason why I didn’t give them No 1 on my ballot.

    They need new, younger blood to attract votes away from SF and they need to do it pdq.

    Fine in theory, but who? There’s no-one currently associated with the SDLP at any level that could general any level of excitement within the Nationalist electorate, never mind to a level that could have an impact.

    If you listen to the Derry Journal and voter apathy really was an issue in Foyle, how in the name of JC (not John O’Connell, the other one) do the SDLP intend to make inroads any other Nationalist constituency?

  • susie, south belfast

    I spoke with a lot of my neighbours in south belfast, in an area, that the sdlp traditionally do well, and the expenses of our MP, alistair mcdonnell, came up time and time again. The general feeling is that he was hiding something. This, in my opinion, took votes away from Alban, and favoured SF, Alliance, and the greens. In light of some of the remarks made regarding Mark Durkans expenses, can the SDLP explain, why they refuse to publish the expenses of ALL its MP’s. Now that the party leader has, somewhat reluctantly, published his, whats stopping the rest. It does seem that they have something to conceal. Are Eddie Mc Grady and Alistair McDonnell going to do the decent thing, and explain, what we, as taxpayers, have been paying for, or are they going to ignore the voice of their own constituents.

  • brendan,belfast

    Johnlurgan, you wrote,
    “…elect Alban Magennis because of what he will bring to Europe – a socialist agenda”

    Alban’s a socialist?? Someone better tell him, quickly!

    As for Eddie McGrady’s expenses, is £17,000 over 4 years really an excessive amount to spend on London hotels? £4,000 a year? I genuinely dont think so. At the same time and over the same period Nigel Dodds racked up £90,000 on second home allowance. Which is the better value to the taxpayer?

  • GavBelfast

    Is it perhaps the case that expenses and SF isn’t really an issue because it can always be spun as “take the Brits for every penny you can”?

    26% in the North, 7% in the South. Northern SF voters seem so out-of-kilter with the Southern mindset.

    Does a vote for SF in the North advance Irish unification. Or is that not really the point?

  • J Kelly

    Brendan value for money is not the issue here its abuse of money. Its seems that Eddie has a tendancy for 5 star luxury hotels, Marks has a regular laundry bill and still we dont know how much the MP south belfast claimed and i bet it close to the maximum allowed. The issue about expenses that has annoyed the general public is that these people get a very good salary and they claim anything that they can get away with on expenses. You may argue thats the rules but then were does morals and antegrity come into it. I earn a wage pay taxes and would you believe it pay my bill, pay for my luxuries and even my bogroll. Why are our MPs any different.

    On a wider issue the SDLP campaign was weak and twee to say the least “when we win you win” and give “sinn fein and the dup a yellow card” so now thats its over has the sdlp got the yellow card or if we take durkan’s record maybe it a red and probably long over due.

    Sinn Fein had a large eye south and still managed to outpoll the sdlp by a margin of almost 50k. If this was supposed to be a midterm then the difficulty for the sdlp is that the nationalist republican electorate do not take them seriously and their leadership is now over 8 years in the job with no evidence of making an impact. The elephant won’t go away.

  • A question Mick Fealty has constantly asked for along time is “What’s the point of the UUP?”. Similar questions could be posed of the SDLP-

    Why do you exist?
    What do you offer that SF doesn’t?
    Have you any chance whatsoever of moving beyond your communal comfort-zone?

    Intellectually I think there is (potentially) much more talent in the SDLP than SF but rather than build a space for themselves in developing a more civic and inclusive nationalist narrative (a la the SNP in Scotland) they still try to keep pushing back into the communal which is now and for a long time to come 100% SF territory.

  • Otto Jaffe

    “moving beyond your communal comfort-zone”

    are you suggesting there might actually be a strategy which would seem more relevant to nationalists than SF’s and at the same time win over a few prods from unionism (or at least enough to more than replace any votes lost to other parties)?

    How about good old fashioned christian socialism?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_socialism#Prominent_Christian_socialists

  • Mr Hooper

    The expenses row may hurt the SDLP more, than it could ever damage SF. I believe their first reaction was to say that they had no intention of publishing the expenses, and that they would wait for the commons publication. In my area a lot of soft nationalists went with SF this time, because, they fail to see the relevance of the SDLP anymore. In a climate where self serving MP’s are under the spotlight, the SDLP did not clearly articulate a policy of transparency concerning expenses. It rather huffed and puffed through the issue, without bringing any clarity. Like it or not, but MP’s and their families benefiting personally from the expenses of the taxpayer just turns the voter away. While SF may take the expenses in westminister, it appears that they redistribute the expenses/salaries, etc, to increase constituency services, and i think that says a lot more about the reasons why they are in politics than most. For goodness sake, Alistair McDonnell still works as a part time GP, as well as being a landlord of student housing (thats another story!!), as well as being an MP, and a MLA! Mark Durkan really has failed in a leadership role, and it seems that he is a hostage to the fiefdoms of McGrady and McDonnell. It certainly is time for a rethink of leadership, and root and branch reform of the top tier of the party.

  • kensei

    gav

    26% in the North, 7% in the South. Northern SF voters seem so out-of-kilter with the Southern mindset.

    Does a vote for SF in the North advance Irish unification. Or is that not really the point?

    Splendid comparison. No wait, it’s an utterly stupid one because Northern voters don’t have the same set of choices. For the love of god, try harder, would you?

  • Katherine

    Hello,

    I don’t think its fair to suggest that the expenses scandal should be any different for the SDLP than any of the other offenders – I don’t think anyone comes out of it looking particularly well, Sinn Fein included. It has clearly tarnished many a reputation but further to this it has brought disrepute to the industry in its entirety. Sleaze and corruption are nothing new in politics though so I doubt that any clean-up of the system will have any lasting impact. But maybe I am just cynical.

    As for the relevance of the SDLP, I think it needs to be acknowledged that Sinn Fein has effectively encroached upon traditional SDLP territory with the abandonment of the dual mandate, and have forced the SDLP to the periphery. The party is lacking the necessary confidence to effectively connect with the electorate and convince them of their political relevance. Sinn Fein’s impressive PR and media machine can often make the stoops look comparatively lack-lustre, and I think that there have been quite a few missed opportunities to capitalise on other parties’ mistakes. However I think that the way in which Alban’s campaign was ran (on the ground anyway) was promising, and the party are determined to remain at the centre of Northern Ireland politics, the problem remains as to where they can fit to remain electable to Nationalists whilst continuing with their post-sectarian and progressive brand of politics.

  • grover

    whilst continuing with their post-sectarian and progressive brand of politics.

    Posted by Katherine on Jun 09, 2009 @ 03:41 PM

    I hardly think the “we can get 2 nationalists elected” line, is either progressive or anti-sectarian.

  • Otto Jaffe

    “I hardly think the “we can get 2 nationalists elected” line, is either progressive or anti-sectarian.”

    Unless of course, as a true socialist (like Alban), you really do believe that the final emancipation of the Irish Catholic/Nationalist, as the lowest class in Irish society, cannot help but emancipate all other classes, and that the reunification of Ireland is neccessary to finally securing emancipation by democratic means.

  • D’arcy McGee

    Poor Big Bird obviously hasn’t checked his facts. Durkan has said that he booked a room for single use, got a double room which he alone used and then advised the Fees Office not to pay for 2 occupants. Look at the original Daily Telegraph and BBC reports on his expenses.

    Which proves another point – your claim that he was somehow trying to avoid media coverage when (a) he already had his expenses scrutinised by the media and obviously satisfied their bloodthurst with the reasonableness of his claims and (b) he didn’t have to post these details at all. The overriding point is you only have these details because Durkan put them on his site then sent out a twitter message to say he had done it. And all 2 days before an election which hardly suggests a man trying to hide skeletons.

    Finally, both McDonnell and McGrady had expenses already scrutinised before the election. McGrady’s were on Newsline on tuesday last for God’s sake! The Irish News and others also covered those.

    The real question is why the media accept Sinn Fein claims to have published their expenses when all they have done is issue totals for categories. Ditto why haven’t all other MPs put their expenses online?

    Finally, there is no mention of any claim for toilet roll. Toiletries could well have been some soap and you’d hardly begrude him that considering the dirty hands he was having to shake in London in 2005!

  • TomasPol

    Northsider

    Just a point. At the last Westminster election SF claimed to have won Foyle. They didn’t of course. SF claim a lot of things.

  • D’arcy McGee

    The word in Derry political circles is that Sinn Fein only had one tallyman looking at the Foyle boxes. The SDLP had four. Anyone who claims to have an accurate tally with one tallyman is having a laugh. Or engaging in headline-chasing nonsense with no substance to it. “Stand Up for Derry” anyone? “Stand Up for the Camera” would be more like it!

  • Eurocrat

    I think that there are many challenges that the SDLP must overcome but there are also many opportunities.

    SDLP narrowly gained against SF in this election, but given the dismal performance of SF over the last number of years the SDLP should be disappointed that they did not make any significant gains. Decent candidate + decent campaign + poor performance of the DUP-SF = a slim gain, is not a very productive result.

    The challenges of organisation and presence in towns, villages, etc across the north must be addressed if the SDLP want to get serious about winning elections. “Winning” being the key word hear because it seems that there are many in the SDLP that are happy to be also-rans. That mindset needs to change, people in the SDLP need to start objecting to defeat and try something new. In many of these areas SF are the only party present and the SDLP needs to meet them head on.

    The challenge of what exactly the SDLP stands for needs to be addressed. They can’t compete with SF in certain ideological areas but drastically need to address in what areas they can. The fact that they are a partitionist party by nature, by their organisation in only the 6 counties, who claim to want a united Ireland is of course a paradox. They need to sort that issue out as being pat of an all-ireland party is the only way forward for them. 6 county nationalism is dead and there simply is not enough electoral space for it anymore.

    At the moment the SDLP are a somewhat rudderless ship with a captain who would rather sit below deck than get above deck to steer the ship through and in the face of stormy seas. They have a leader who can not lead. Slight problem?

    Opportunities however exist for the SDLP. The RPA should allow them to complete a total and much needed overhaul of their local government organistion. This could help the SDLP get rid of its dead wood. But they seriously need to redine themselves in a world and existence that is completely different than that into which they were born.

    The SDLP should also pull out of the Executive at Stormont. They can not complain that the Executive is controlled unfairly by DUP-SF and then continue to take part. That is simply absurd. SDLP need to pull out of the Executive and stand as a credible alternative, whilst campaigning for a more just and inclusive power-sharing arrangement. Because at the moment power-sharing is not equitible and is simply not working at all under the current St Andrews arrangements.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Wastage. And at under 50% turnout, the SDLP had a lot of scope for a decent differential turnout pushing them over the top and pulling the rug from under Unionism. It was at least a possibility before the vote. It was discuussed here.

    It sounds like one of those “assuming a frictionless surface” things. An enthusiastic and vigorous SDLP campaign to get the required ~10-15000 votes in this case would see a response in kind from the unionists.

    Not that I would have a massive problem with two nationalists, I’d take Alban over any of the motley shower of unionists any day of the week.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson has claimed that Sinn Féin outpolled the SDLP in Derry for the first time ever in the European elections.
    Ms Anderson made the claim from the count centre at the Kings Hall in Belfast as Sinn Féin’s Bairbre de Brún was elected on the first count – topping the poll. It is the first time a non-DUP candidate has done so. Overall, however, the Sinn Féin vote is actually down 0.3 per cent on the last European election. Ms de Brún received 126,184 first preference votes, 26 per cent of the total votes cast.

    Sinn Fein, especially Martina Anderson, have been running this line for the past 10-15 years at least, and they’ve failed every time when it came to beating Durkan. As such her claims should be taken with a large pinch of salt.

    Note also that the SF vote fell very slightly compared with 2004 whereas the SDLP’s increased. Coupled with the bad result in the RoI, I think this should be a time for Sinn Fein supporters to reflect on what may be the beginning of a long, slow decline.

  • kensei

    CS

    Note also that the SF vote fell very slightly compared with 2004 whereas the SDLP’s increased. Coupled with the bad result in the RoI, I think this should be a time for Sinn Fein supporters to reflect on what may be the beginning of a long, slow decline.

    A what – 0.3% decline on a reduced turnout is statistically insignificant. And they did it with any kind of major push. This is a painfully embarrassing argument. The result in the South was poor, given the circumstances, but the vote essentially held steady.

    That does not on any planet translate into “long slow decline”. And long is a long time in politics; presumably there is enough time to turn it about. This is wishful thinking and fantasy. Come back when you have some actual proper evidence.

  • Eurocrat

    Kensei > despite your protests, on the contrary, it seems that you are pushing a wholly political agenda.

    SF vote did go down. Fact. SDLP vote did go up. Fact. Does this represent the decline of SF. Not necessarily. Does this represent the revival of the SDLP. Not necessarily.

    The political environment, with the expenses scandal, for this election was an exceptional variable and it has be noted that this environment contributed to the overall result.

    The real rest for both SF and SDLP will be the next round of elections, be they national or regional. Then we can start to talk about political obituaries.

  • John O’Connell

    Some southern posters are talking of Sinn Fein missing the boat. That’s how it looks from Derry too. Too much time has elapsed now in Sinn Fein’s struggle for political credibility in the South. They have missed the boat. When they had the chance in the 1990’s, they blew it by seeming to begrudgingly give us peace, decommisissing, and an end to killings like Robert McCartney’s and Paul Quinn’s.

    Many of the things that kept Sinn Fein strong in the North killed them off in the Republic like playing politics with decommissioning. They were cute hoors up here but down there they were suspected of being an evil conspiracy.

    So it’s too late for them now. It’s all over in the south, and it won’t be long before things start to go pear shaped in the North. They’re just about hanging together at Stormont as it stands. Wait to see what happens when Gerry Adams loosens his grip on the party as he has to do now.

  • Comrade Stalin

    A what – 0.3% decline on a reduced turnout is statistically insignificant. And they did it with any kind of major push. This is a painfully embarrassing argument. The result in the South was poor, given the circumstances, but the vote essentially held steady.

    I’m not trying to push any particular agenda, but the fact is that SF’s vote decreased, however slightly. I agree that it would be wrong to reach any real conclusions, hence the use of the word may in reference to the potential for decline. And frankly, the deputy leader losing the party’s only seat in what should be a core constituency should be causing alarm bells to ring. You can’t say this is anything other than a serious setback to the notion of SF as an all-Ireland party, and this misdirection about the Stoops looks like an attempt to distract people from that.

    That does not on any planet translate into “long slow decline”. And long is a long time in politics; presumably there is enough time to turn it about. This is wishful thinking and fantasy. Come back when you have some actual proper evidence.

    Bit highly strung there.

  • Accountant

    Re: post 10 above, if anyone wants to know who’s telling the truth between Big Bird and D’arcy McGee about whether the tax-payer had to pay for Mark Durkan to clean his own bum, then just go and check the PDF allowances sheet on http://www.markdurkan.ie for May 2006. (Obviously D’arcy didn’t bother – just lamely taking the line from the party press office.)

    Looks like the word ‘toilet roll’ scrawled on the edge of the page to me.

    As for the mysterious ‘hotel room for two’, just go and look at the PDF allowance claim for July 2005. The claim submitted by Mark Durkan to the Parliamentary Fees Office was for £945.74, and it was part-supported by an invoice from Mark submitted – and marked “Adults – 2” – for full bed and breakfast, totalling £352.00 for one double room for two nights. The Fees Office denied the full payment for the hotel bill and would only pay for one person, thereby deducting £176.00 from the claim made by Mark and giving him a total of £769.74.

    So never mind how Mark tried to explain it all away with his oh-so-innocent blubbing about him having notified the Fees Office of a silly-billy mistake – which is a story that quite literally doesn’t add up.

    (Even if he had done, Mark still walked away with £58,000 of tax-payers money – on top of everything else Big Bird mentioned.)

    Just look at the facts folks. D’arcy’s clearly been the ‘twitter’ on this occasion.

    Big Bird got it right with the facts, and right about the questions. Why hasn’t Mark been hounded for some of his infamously not-so-straight answers? Then again, has anyone got the bloody energy to listen and work out what he’s actually trying to say?

  • Isn’t one of Sinn Fein’s problem’s in the South that it does not attract very many people on the single transferrable vote from other parties?

    Is its relationships with other political parties in the south an issue?

  • kensei

    Eurocat

    Kensei > despite your protests, on the contrary, it seems that you are pushing a wholly political agenda.

    You are perfectly free to disagree. I simply say it like I see it. I also have done enough Maths in my time to know what is and is not statistically worth mentioning.

    CS

    I’m not trying to push any particular agenda,

    But I will anyway….

    but the fact is that SF’s vote decreased, however slightly.

    No, it just didn’t in any meaningful sense, any more than 0.3% increase would have made anything meaningful. That could make that up in a recount.

    I agree that it would be wrong to reach any real conclusions, hence the use of the word may in reference to the potential for decline. And frankly, the deputy leader losing the party’s only seat in what should be a core constituency should be causing alarm bells to ring. You can’t say this is anything other than a serious setback to the notion of SF as an all-Ireland party, and this misdirection about the Stoops looks like an attempt to distract people from that.

    There are big problems in Dublin some of which were inevitable, I think. But they walked in with 54 council seats and walked out with 53, when you take out the defection. The PDs had 25 in 1999. The Greens, currently in government have 3. Yes, that is 3. SF have issues, but they are likely to be about for quite sometime, maybe a bit bigger, maybe a bit smaller based on circumstance. Small parties can implode in the South. I can’t see how that is projected from a flat line, other than wishful thinking.

    Bit highly strung there

    If I hear any more bollocks on the inevitability of anything on this site, I think my head will explode.

  • IJP

    Comrade

    Certainly our tallies seemed to put SF narrowly ahead in Foyle, but two key points here:
    1. It was very hard to see the ballots properly; and
    2. Durkan, in an X-vote election, would “borrow” some Unionist votes – enough, I suspect, to see him home.

    oneill

    That’s a highly relevant question. Whatever anyone thinks of Alliance’s “£1 bn wasted on segregation” or the Ulster Unionists’ “UCU project”, they do at least serve to answer the question “What is your party for?”

    In my opinion, the SDLP does genuinely need to answer that question, and fast. Its result proves there is still hope, but there’s nothing that bores the activists more than ongoing stagnation.

  • IJP

    Kensei

    You make a lot of points any serious political party should take on board.

    There’s nothing so stupid as to do the same thing to get the same results when the results aren’t very good.

  • IJP

    It strikes me some of SF’s problems in the South are similar to the SDLP’s in the North.

    Kensei makes the legitimate point that this hardly marks a disaster for SF – and, at least, they didn’t make the mistake of raising expectations. Flat lines can be ok.

    Objectively it does strike me, however, that SF has to do something else to stand out from the crowd as the real opposition to the FF/Green calamity government.

  • Comrade Stalin

    No, it just didn’t in any meaningful sense, any more than 0.3% increase would have made anything meaningful. That could make that up in a recount.

    So you’ve peaked then ? 🙂 I’ll stop ..

    .. agree it’s not really appropriate to read much into a European election. Let’s see how we do at Westminster.

  • kensei

    IJP

    It strikes me some of SF’s problems in the South are similar to the SDLP’s in the North.

    Undoubtedly. The context is somewhat different though; the SDLP are the former frontrunners and could have legitimate ambitions to get it back. SF are coming form 0 in the South and won’t be the main party in a coalition, at least not in my lifetime a least. So while they need ot answer many of the same questions, they have to set out their stall a bit differently I think.

    Also: SF just didn’t raise expectations. They didn’t turn up the temperature on the election at all. They knew they were getting the seat, had a reasonable chance at topping the poll, why bother when there are tougher battles elsewhere? It’s a mature response that maybe gives some indication they’ve learnt from their experience in the South.

  • Danny O’Connor

    OK folks, up until now I have been wondering if I should comment on thjs thread or not,here goes – Alban is a thoroughly decent man and he worked hard to increase the party vote,with modest success, voter apathy is being fuelled by the idea that politicians are all little piggies with their noses stuck in the trough , and that they are far removed from joe public.SF probably rode this storm better with their “we only get an average wage” spin. I dont know anybody on an average wage who can afford to wear designer suits.
    The sdlp has to connect with people in a way that has not been done of late.
    The retirement of Hume,Mallon,Rodgers ,Haughey etc
    meant that the sdlp lost not just experience,it lost it’s soul.
    Durkan says that where the sdlp have led SF follow,this is largely true-so the Shinners are stealing our clothes-imitation is the greatest form of flattery,it is about time that we stopped trying to out green them -that wont work- but it is not too difficult to out smart them in terms of policy,but we need to re-establish our credibility on the streets-otherwise people wont listen.
    We need to get back to basics,and our elected reps should be passionate about what they do and why they are doing it.
    Politics is a career or service to your community,it is not a ticket for the gravy train or a means to improve your social standing at the golf club.
    Attract the right men and women,select them,and people will vote for them -on their record.

  • Eurocrat

    Kensei

    “You are perfectly free to disagree. I simply say it like I see it. I also have done enough Maths in my time to know what is and is not statistically worth mentioning”.

    Well then you must be very selective with your choice of statistics. Why not use the 2007 assembly elections statistics when the SDLP outpolled the UUP in 1st preference votes? Hardly a disaster for nationalism now. If the SDLP had played their vote management game a bit better then they could have had an extra assembly seat or two and thus a second ministry.

    IJP

    “There’s nothing so stupid as to do the same thing to get the same results when the results aren’t very good”.

    Well I would suppose your party has a particular expertise in that area 😉

  • kensei

    Euro

    Well then you must be very selective with your choice of statistics. Why not use the 2007 assembly elections statistics when the SDLP outpolled the UUP in 1st preference votes? Hardly a disaster for nationalism now. If the SDLP had played their vote management game a bit better then they could have had an extra assembly seat or two and thus a second ministry.

    You are not seriously comparing anything with the UUP of 2007 as some kind of victory, are you? Good grief.

    And yes, if the SDLP weren’t so bloody incompetent Nationalism could have had another seat, possibly two. Which probably remains true if they can get their vote out

  • The Original Sam Maguire

    If the SDLP had played their vote management game a bit better then they could have had an extra assembly seat or two and thus a second ministry.

    A little better? Jesus H Christ, people talk about SF spin, have you forgotten West Tyrone already? 3 candidates, 1 quota, 0 seats. That one should leave any self respecting SDLP member with a redner for long, long time to come

  • fin

    “I dont know anybody on an average wage who can afford to wear designer suits.”

    “Shinners are stealing our clothes”

    Well there you go Danny

    But the most telling is

    “Durkan says….” “…people wont listen”

    alot of people walked away from the SDLP during their ‘post nationalist’ flip flopping

    To be honest the party was John Hume, and I think thats evident

  • Danny O’Connor

    Fin – flip flopping- no return to stormont?
    Anybody can quote selectively,read what I wrote before you decide to pick out little bits and put them together to make it read what you want it to read.
    Animal Farm, 4 legs good ,2 legs Bad,and when the pigs took over and started walking on their hind legs ,they denied they had ever said it,sounds a lot like the provos to me.

  • Danny O’Connor

    PS,Hume never said that the sdlp were post nationalist.He said that Europe was becoming increasingly post nationalist-and,in terms of the relevance of national parliaments it is a no brainer with over 70% of laws coming from Europe. Also Stealing our clothes ,simply means that they are adopting our position on almost everything,I still dont know how anybody on an average wage can afford a designer suit,anyone who cant differentiate these two statements must be thick .

  • highroller

    I think it’s shocking that anyone is even talking about the fortunes of the SDLP in Derry or the issue of Marks expenses ,tut tut shame on you all ,do you not know the rules ,no one is allowed to question them ,they are above all that

  • Mack

    Gordon Brown appears to be attempting to introduce a single seat PR system for Westminster elections.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/8092235.stm

    If he is successful, would there be any harm in splintering the nationalist vote by introducing the southern parties to the north?

    I imagine they would have some difficulty sitting in the UK parliament, but perhaps that could be done under an SDLP banner (FF-SDLP, FG-SDLP, Lab-SDLP)?

  • J Kelly

    The title of this thread has led us all over the place from their vote to was alban a good candidate to what are they about to durkans leadership but they are facing an even bigger question double jobbing. Its easy for unionist they view Westminster as the highest seat in the land so its a no brainer for the likes of Gregory. But what does Mark, Eddie and Allaisdair do. If the plump for the Assemb;y do they have adequate replacements to hold the Westminster seats. If they go for Westminster are they telling the nationalist community they see Westminster as more important than the Assembly, were does that leave the North South Makes Sense camapaign and the notion that they are republicans. Will they be more effective as a very small player in a massive pool or a larger player in a smaller pool. Big questions.

  • IJP

    Eurocrat

    Precisely – you need to learn from your mistakes. That’s why the party is now on 5-6% and not 2-3%, but it does mean we have to think about how we approach a Westminster election in which, even when we were at a higher level still, we have never won a seat.