Apart from not liking Sinn Fein, the SDLP lacks a clear message

The Irish News today hosts a blast from the SDLPs’ Alasdair McDonnell against Sinn Fein, adopting a line of attack familiar in Slugger.

Sinn Fein has willingly thrown itself into a squalid axis of self preservation that has pushed the north to the brink of a virtual dictatorship – a counteractive dual dictatorship, which renders each side paralysed and fails to pay even the most cursory lip service to the framework of democracy.

McDonnell’s critique may be all very well as far as it goes, but what’s the SDLP’s revival plan? Is it helpless in the face of the alleged “ dual dictatorship?” The crying need now is for parties to find poiltical expression for the social cohesion NI so badly needs and probably mostly wants, if only the leadership and ideas were available. Might the SDLP raise it sights and try to build more boldly on the regional identity discussed by Conall, based on economic and other realities? What about a strategy for the centre ground, to devise politically realistic plans for secondary education and more on how to ease the impact of recession? Anything that suggests a move away from obsessive identity politics would be welcome. But have the SDLP got the guts to chart a bold course away from “me too” nationalism and take Sinn Fein on at the grass roots? Mark Durkan has a scattergun approach, his focus is too vague and he has failed to develop out of the mindset of the pure researcher he once was. Alex Attwood and Alban Maginnis are pegging away at trying to get effective policing. Margaret Ritchie has approached funding community initiatives with welcome honesty. But otherwise aspirations and critiques are not enough. They’ve less than six months to go find the big idea.

  • “a strategy for the centre ground”

    There aren’t many votes there, Brian. The Alliance Party has garnered most of that small segment that are prepared to vote. The SDLP and UUP are ‘nationalist’ parties and in an election the constitution is still the BIG question.

  • The problem with the SDLP is that they have a [url=http://www.sdlp.ie/assets/uploads/unity126.pdf] course[/url] which is qualitatively different from that of Sinn Féin, only they haven’t expressed it clearly to people. Their strategy for the future isn’t ‘me too’ nationalism but it certainly looks that way at times, and voters and commentators believe that it is that way.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    There is little rationale in having 2 pro-agreement parties on both of the constitutional fence competing for very similar turf and alienating their own communities by splitting the vote for their own tribe. Difficult to see what the longer term holds for either SDLP or UU unless thee is a breakdown in the process – something I suspect both parties are not entirely averse to. If the next general election delivers one or more seats to Nationlaism because of votesplitting that may hreald the beginning of the end for the UU particlalry if they end up with no seats – perhaps allowing the SDLP to hold out for a bit longer largely thanks to that very Unionist vote splitting.

  • Brian Walker

    Nevin, This truism of yours
    ” a strategy for the centre ground” There aren’t many votes there, Brian,”
    illustrates the problem. The bigger issue is that when politics are in deadlock, parties need to work to break it. That, actually is what politics are about. By “centre ground” I of ocurse mean the common interests that need attention, not a narrow poltical front. Apart from tame acceptance of communal poiltics and (sorry) fairly obvious observations about voting behaviour, what effective ideas are Slugger commnenters offering?

  • fin

    So the SDLP, UUP, TUV, OO, RSF, CIRA, 32CSC, RIRA, and Loyalists all agree that there is a much better way of doing things, unfortunately like Alaisdair, after they’ve all vented their spleens and informed everyone of how wrong things are their pens appear to run out of ink preventing them from even hinting as to the golden path they have in mind.

    The SDLP are on a fishing trip with this article, the vulgar language could well have come from the pen of Alex Kane, Jimbo, or any number of DUP politicans.

    Far from seeking the middle ground its an all out attack on SF, and manages not to mention SF’s partner in government by name, its aimed at unionists and disgruntled republicans whose votes are needed in to retain or even gain difficult seats in the next election.

    For such a long article the only thing that comes out of it is I hate Sinn Fein and I support the Lisbon Treaty.

  • Coll Ciotach

    I cannot see what future the SDLP have. They have achieved their purpose in my view. They have always wanted a “NorthernIreland” government and no they have got it. They now know not waht to do. Alistair is full of bluster but this is desigend to divert attention from the SDLP. They are moribund. They have no strategy for advancing nationalism that Sinn Fein cannot match. However SF is seen as being more capable of achieving union, (although granted this perception has been dented), than the SDLP.

    The SDLP is also seen as less than serious on the national issue. This has always been a problem with them, as Gerry Fitt showed when he walked. They are seen as being content to work on a “shared future” within the confines of the border. Of course their is no hope of this happening as nationalists see their future being shared with Dublin and Unionists with London, so they are definitely out on a limb with that one.

    They have achieved what they were realisticly ever going to achieve. They are a partitionist party who wanted to get a partitionist government up and running that they could influence. They had no interest in a United Ireland except in a vague “it is a niceidea but we will not waste our time on it” way.

    They have to many comfortable civil servants in their ranks who see the prospect of a United Ireland as injurous to their particular economic well being.

    Remember the song “the working class can kiss my ass I have the foremans job at last”? well if you substitute the working class with border and the foreman with the civil service then you get the SDLP metality. Which is why they are rejected at the polls.

    So Conall is only expressing the SDLP policy from old, nothing new there.

    The problem is of course not with the institutions – they are exactly what the SDLP wanted – the problem is the damn shinners are in the dictators seat not us.

    The have achieved their aims – time to strike camp and go home – their war is over – they won it and lost the peace.

  • fair_deal

    So can we take it from this piece that the SDLP have withdrawn their support for mandatory all party coalition and d’hondt?

  • It would be interesting to hear what discussions the SDLP have had with parties in Eire. Fianna Fail appear to have had a disagreement with Sinn Fein over the murder of Mountbatten – perhaps Fianna Fail remember he was a German who put money into the Irish economy. Not Sinn Fein’s best moment one feels. How many US Senators support the IRA now – especially given the IRA’s links to Muslim terrorism. Who knows what Quaddafi might have up his sleeve?

  • Barnshee

    Them shinners stole our clothes,ideas,seats and policies. The bastards “i cudda been a contender (Apologies to Marlon Brando)

  • John East Belfast

    Sammy

    “There is little rationale in having 2 pro-agreement parties on both of the constitutional fence competing for very similar turf and alienating their own communities by splitting the vote for their own tribe. Difficult to see what the longer term holds for either SDLP or UU..”

    I dont agree – Surely the key word here for both the UUP & SDLP is Choice ?

    In any modern democratic society voters need at least two feasable parties. In Northern Ireland terms that translates into two nationalist and two unionist parties because for most voters they are very unlikley to cross the constitutional barrier – especially if the choice was SF or DUP.

    I am starting to change my position on 4 parties in Govt though and moving instead towards two in Govt and two in Opposition – those two would then form a shadow Govt between them and jointly go for SF/DUP.

    The SDLP & UUP could then set aside their fundamental constitutional differences and co-operate on a programme for Govt across the ministeries giving the nationalist and unionist electorates a clear alternative.

  • Ulick

    McDonnell gets a full page in the Irish News and uses the whole thing to attack SF. No wonder they’re a beaten docket…

    Did I just see a headline in the evening Tele that Fianna Fáil have reactivated their northern project? Timely move.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Coll Ciotach,

    I mostly agree with that – the assumption that because the SDLP have a problem finding space for themselves somewhere on the green end of the spectrum they only need think of something damnably clever and they will be fit and healthy again does not hold – as many parties before them who are no longer with us have found out to their cost.

    But, I’m not so sure that the ‘partitionist’ line is one that can be used by SF, who after all are sitting in a largely SDLP-esque Stormo creation. The Nationalist electorate decided to reward the party that had made the war and then made the peace with their votes rather than the party that skipped the first bit – but both parties at the time of the GFA had effectively the same destination i.e. the GFA implementation.

    Barnshee,

    of course they are partly correct but who gives a feck about it except the SDLP – If the SDLP want someone to blame then it has to be the Nationalist electorate and if they did that then at least it would speeed up their inevitable disappearance.

    JEB,

    I dont think, however it may make sense from a ‘normal’ politics point of view, that the constitutional part of party politics can be set aside – due at least in part to the architecure of the GFA and the ability of both sides to nibble at the constitutional/national identity position of the other and make ‘gains’ for its ‘own’ community. You only have to whisper demogrpahics or commons select committee on NI or all ireland ministerial council to see this.

  • derry tooter

    wheres john o connell when you need him.

  • fin

    “I am starting to change my position on 4 parties in Govt though and moving instead towards two in Govt and two in Opposition – those two would then form a shadow Govt between them and jointly go for SF/DUP.”

    And then supposing SF and the UUP top the polls next time, the UUP are in government been attacked by their old colleagues.

    Unionism cannot be trusted to govern alone, Unionists would not trust nationalists to govern alone, NI is cursed/blessed with having two winners and two main losers (plus associated smaller parties) at every election.

    Direct rule won’t return (unless violence breaks out) and even if it did it would be more than likely joint rule.

    The Alliance, to a lesser extent the SDLP and even lesser the UUP can talk about normal politics until the cows come home itcan never happen in NI. The closest is that compromise can be reached on key issues, education should be the first hurdle.

    If all the other parties are so very good at ‘just getting along’ and have all the answers between them they should embarass the DUP and SF by agreeing an education policy between themselves and present to Stormont, the media and the public.

    Do they really need permission to be an offical opposition, they could easily act like one on the subject of education.

    But it won’t happen, a few weeks ago Conall lambasted SF for its education policy and listed several very vague points concerning what was needed from a SDLP point of view, the disagreeing started with the first post.

    So Alasdair has had his little rant, now, lets here Alasdairs proposals, and lets see the SDLP and the UUP agree away forward on some key issues and prove to the people of NI that two parties can get along and cooperate unlike the DUP and SF especially as that appears to be the maintrust of his article.

  • Coll Ciotach

    Have FF “reactivated” or have they been busy working away?

  • Eric

    Them shinners stole our clothes,ideas,seats and policies. The bastards “i cudda been a contender (Apologies to Marlon Brando)

    The problem with the SF/SDLP and DUP/UUP competition is that the former hardline party has stolen the clothes of their more moderate opponent. Trying to differentiate yourself with a “we were right all along” narrative is a hopeless strategy.

    If they are to differentiate themselves it must be based on modern divisions – not harking back to old ones – does SDLP economic policy differ radically from SF’s or does the UUP differ greatly from the DUP on social liberalism.

    There are grounds for policy based competition within Nationalism and Unionism, but the present parties are just not harnessing it.

    Given the North’s bloated public sector and cronyism there is room for a more economically and socially liberal alterntive to SF/DUP, but the SDLP and UUP are just not comfortable with rising to the challenge

  • Eric

    Have FF “reactivated” or have they been busy working away?

    I think FF is floundering trying to cope with their worst poll ratings ever – that said there are plenty who have long considered Alisdair a closet FFer. The vengence the Japanese showed the long ruling LDP (Japan’s Fianna Fail) this week has shown that the present economic crisis has the capacity to destroy even the most immovable of dominant parties.

    Ironically Fianna Fail have finally joined a mainstream European political grouping – the ELDR or Liberals. This is less of a stretch for the SDLP to embrace, but I am sure that Alisdair and his colleagues don’t want to tie themselves to FF when it is likely the next General Election in the south will return a Fine Gael/Labour government.

  • kensei

    Eric

    Ironically Fianna Fail have finally joined a mainstream European political grouping – the ELDR or Liberals. This is less of a stretch for the SDLP to embrace, but I am sure that Alisdair and his colleagues don’t want to tie themselves to FF when it is likely the next General Election in the south will return a Fine Gael/Labour government.

  • Limbo Jimbo

    So can we take it from this piece that the SDLP have withdrawn their support for mandatory all party coalition and d’hondt?

    Once a party changes its mind on this issue it’s custom not to actually admit it.

    A convention initiated by the DUP as I recall

  • J Kelly

    So the election has started in earnest and it may not be the election we have expected is this big Als first salvo to have a go for the leadership of the SDLP. Durkan has stated that he will carry only one mandate and it seems he is keen on westminster, funny choice for an Irish Nationalist who has striven to bring power from westminster to ireland, but they are a funny lot. If successful Durkan will lose his grip on the party very quickly as the majority of the party and its work will be at stormont. Big Al “i am not afraid to stand up to sinn fein and the dup” will be looking for the big job and if all this comes to pass mags at dsd will need to keep an eye over her shoulder, big al will be coming for her next.

    This article had little to do with sinn fein and all to do with big al and his hopes and aspirations. Really his ego.

    The FF issue who would want biffo as a cheerleader why don’t they go for gordon brown as well, durkan, brown and cowen. Now thats three politicans you would pay to listen to.

  • John O’Connell

    Why? Being partitionist, they really only care about the North.

    Is it more caring of the North to insist that the destructive problems of the North are kept as much as possible from the South. Perhaps it is better to try and drag everybody down across the island with problems that really should be quarantined in the North. But therein lies the vulgarity of Sinn Fein and the nobility of the SDLP.

  • Eric

    If they are thinking the long game, then a link up with FF makes sense. But they have never been good at it.

    Kensei

    I think the jury is out on that. But I’d meet you half way and return to my earlier point. Is there a serious policy difference – economically or socially between the SDLP and SF? The centre/centre right position of a “Liberal” party is an easy fit for the SDLP. Their base is largely middle class and they like to hedge their bets between reaching accross the communal divide, reaching southwards and going to Westminster.

    The “Liberal” group is an easy fit now. Both Fianna Fail and the Alliance Party are now in the Liberal grouping in the EP. Joining the same group is the most tepid of links, but it does position the SDLP between the Centre Ground of the Alliance and the all Ireland pretensions of Fianna Fail.

    Such a positioning for Alisdair’s party would also make an easy fit for an alternative policy platform with the Tory linked UUP.

    Sure wasn’t Alisdair a good friend of Mad Michael McDowell the former PD Justice Minister in the South? Paddy Devlin and Gerry Fitt long ago saw through the SDLP’s “Social Democratic” facade.

  • Sam Thompson

    The problem with the SDLP is that they know they have incompetencies in the leadership of their party – see Robinson bullying Ritchie over funding for Farset in 2007. And they are so afraid of electoral collapse that they wouldnt have the balls to walk out of the executive and lose their one remaining position of influence (and also to keep Ritchie in the limelight to hold off the attack from Ruane in the 2010 election). They have two options – take a massive gamble (along with the UUP who are in the same boat) and leave the executive, and create a genuine alternative partnership to take to the electorate, or to continue the slow and painful death they are heading for by refusing to do something bold. With the current stalemate and bargaining that is currently served up as an excuse for government, I think they could start to reclaim serious votes from SF if they offered a series of agreed proposals for education, hospitals and infrastructure with the UUP, and went to the electorate on this basis. From my own perspective, I would transfer my votes from no. 1 UUP straight to no. 2 SDLP if it meant we had a chance of a real partnership government. I’m not holding my breath on a bold political movement from either.

  • John O’Connell

    Brian Walker

    [Durkan] has failed to develop out of the mindset of the pure researcher he once was

    That’s just bull. You really haven’t developed out of the gossip based journalism you once grasped, and you know, your knowledge of politics is as distant from reality as a jornalist is from the real soul of a politician.

  • Renny

    “Not liking Sinn Fein” works for me. If a good guy and a thug are walking my way I’d happily dander with the good guy and leave the thug alone.

  • John45

    John O’Connell – re: the south. Actually, you make sense there. I well remember my surprise as a southern republican to hear the comments full of hatred in Monaghan in 1968/69. But since then, I have lived in many parts of the world and the picture in the north is not much different from elsewhere in various trouble spots. I fact I can tell you, in Great Britain itself I have discovered many little “ghettos of hatred”. Hatred seems to be a universal quality.

  • Mark McGreg

    This early electoral salvo from McDonnell reminds me of the last decade of failed schizophrenic Attwood brothers SDLP campaigns.

    They seem to have learnt not a single lesson on the futility of attacking SF instead of building and presenting their own positions and at the same time claiming SF’s positions are SDLP ones.

    Given he and the SDLP are clearly preparing for a Westminster vote it is ridiculous that they aren’t concentrating on their main card that could potentially attract back the soft voters they’ve lost to the seemingly more robust constitutional nationalist party facing Unionism at Stormont – what they do/can do at Westminster while SF are sidelined.

    While I personally have thought SF should have withdrawn from any Westminster electoralism, regardless of financial benefit for a long time, especially after they had representation in Stormont – if they are still contesting those very British seats the SDLP should be concentrating on what limited returns they get from them over just squeezing ridiculous rents for the landlord class.

    The SDLP never learn on tempting people away from SF and repeat the mistakes of the past. They should have a look at éirígí trying to appeal to people currently supporting SF on their other flank – look at the eirigi website and you will rarely see Sinn Féin mentioned directly (I’d suggest that is why they are picking up many more disillusioned activists than other dissenting groups seemed to have managed). Attacking the party people currently support full-on alienates those you are wanting to appeal to. Raise a policy, body, issue you disagree with, attack it say something entirely new is needed to counter it.

    Do not RANT about an organisation you need to attract supporters from. This advice comes free and will be ignored, as always, by the awful strategists of the SDLP.

  • Am I wrong?

    McDonnell is one to talk when he talks about the vultures swooping for Adams. Off the top of my head, it seems there is as much dissension in the SDLP as there is in SF

    Between Slugger and the press over the last couple of years, I think it is fair to assume that

    a) Big Alasdair is gunning for Durkan in the short to medium term

    b) Pat Ramsey hates Durkan with a passion.

    c) The relationship between the SDLP South Belfast MLAs is far from cordial

    d) the West Tyrone SDLP is so divided that they deselected a sitting MLA, only to have him reinstated by party HQ, only to subsequently lose the seat.

    Am I missing any?

  • John O’Connell

    Mark

    It’s just fallacy to suggest that voters are not attracted by criticism of your opponents. Look at the Sinn Fein strategy in the 1980’s and 1990’s before they overtook the SDLP. They never stopped ranting and raving about the SDLP being middle class, out of touch, and unsympathetic to the cause of Nationalists. It worked for them then and it’s working at a certain level now for us in the SDLP.

    As soon as we take what I would term the supernatural element out of SF’s armoury, there will be a level playing field again. When Gerry Adams goes, in other words, SF becomes a normal party opposed to the SDLP, who lost their greatest asset, Hume, leading to a fall in support. Adams is their Hume and they know they have no replacement.

  • Mark McGreg

    John,

    It didn’t work for SF, negative campaigning in the 80s and early 90s kept them at a 10% cap. When they sold a positive message of change and peace ‘process’ they blasted through their glass ceiling. Same with British Labour and now the Tories – shouting from the sidelines has a limited appeal to a core base for growth you need at least the pretence of new thinking.

    From the late 90s on the SDLP under the electoral guidance of the Attwoods have demonstrated conclusively in campaign after campaign that their version of attack politics leads only to their base vote and no growth whatsoever.

    Repeating the mistakes of the past, when not only the SDLP but others have been shown time after time that attack without presenting a future is a dead end is the SDLP way and they aren’t for learning yet.

    Not that it matters to me.

  • DerTer

    I know I’m a bit late on this, but my read is a good ‘all’s fair’ rattle at the bars by Alasdair McDonnell, whose voice we really don’t hear often enough.
    Fin: “vulgar language” about Sinn Féin – oh no, how low can you go; by the way, A McD does refer to the DUP; and it is surely as legitimate for people to hate Sinn Féin as much as you evidently hate the SDLP.
    Brian asks: “But have the SDLP got the guts to chart a bold course away from “me too” nationalism and take Sinn Fein on at the grass roots?” Interesting; I have always thought a crucial mistake made by the SDLP from the beginning was to assume a nationalist mantle, rather than become the purely civil rights party that so many of us expected – or at least hoped for. From this position it would have been very much easier to deny legitimacy to Sinn Féin/IRA’s presentation of its so-called war project as a seamless development from(or perhaps consequence of) the civil rights movement.
    The other major SDLP mistake was not to take the gloves off after the Good Friday Agreement, and really “take SF on at the grass roots” – in other words to get stuck in to the republicans’ record of death and destruction – in a campaign that achieved precisely nothing but just that. The Achilles heel of SF is the fruitless and mindless violence that was inflicted on all of us, and it is this that needs to be given the kind of front-line attention that A McD has belatedly given it here.
    Eric: I take your point about Gerry Fitt and Paddy Devlin as regards the SDLP’s social democratic credentials; however, they both of them went for the nationalist line as much as John Hume, Ivan Cooper and Austen Currie. I heard Paddy expressing some regret about this a few years before he died.
    In general, I go for the ‘stuff the Executive’ option. I know Margaret Ritchie is doing a good job (what about her master-stroke “No surrender” at the UUP Conference a while back!), and so are the UUP Ministers. But we need an opposition as unrestrained as A McD’s article yesterday.

  • “By “centre ground” I of ocurse mean the common interests”

    Brian, ‘centre ground’ doesn’t convey the idea of common interests to me. I’ve not seen it used in that context.

    I’ve already indicated that the 1998 constitutional ‘settlement’ prevents our political parties working the common ground together.

  • DerTer

    A good ‘all’s fair’ rattle at the bars by Alasdair McDonnell, whose voice we really don’t hear often enough.
    Fin: “vulgar language” about Sinn Féin – oh no, how low can you go; by the way, A McD does refer to the DUP; and it is surely as legitimate for people to hate Sinn Féin as much as you evidently hate the SDLP.
    Brian asks: “But have the SDLP got the guts to chart a bold course away from “me too” nationalism and take Sinn Fein on at the grass roots?” Interesting; I have always thought a crucial mistake made by the SDLP from the beginning was to assume a nationalist mantle, rather than become the purely civil rights party that so many of us expected – or at least hoped for. From this position it would have been very much easier to deny legitimacy to Sinn Féin/IRA’s presentation of its so-called war project as a seamless development from the civil rights movement.
    The other major SDLP mistake was not to take the gloves off after the Good Friday Agreement, and really “take SF on at the grass roots” – in other words to get stuck in to the republicans’ record of death and destruction – in a campaign that achieved precisely nothing but just that. The Achilles heel of SF is the fruitless and mindless violence that was inflicted on all of us, and it is this that needs to be given the kind of front-line attention that A McD has belatedly given it here.
    Eric: I take your point about Gerry Fitt and Paddy Devlin as regards the SDLP’s social democratic credentials; however, they both of them went for the nationalist line as much as John Hume, Ivan Cooper and Austen Currie did. I heard Paddy expressing some regret about this a few years before he died.
    In general, I go for the ‘leave the Executive’ option. I know Margaret Ritchie is doing a good job (what about her master-stroke “No surrender” at the UUP Conference a while back!), and so are the UUP Ministers. But we need an opposition as unrestrained as A McD’s article yesterday.

  • DerTer

    Sorry for double post – I was still on page 1

  • Mark McGreg

    DerTer,

    This is where you ‘stoops’ lose the plot on strategy. You are trying to win back people that previously voted SDLP or could be sympathetic but suggesting the way to win them back is pointing out they are all death loving, blood monger supporters is just the stupid, failed strategy. It won’t win you voters, it will alienate them and it is bizarre you are all so engrossed in your own self-righteousness that you haven’t worked this out yet. Go for the kill on SF, make them seem beyond the pale and you lose every single option of getting votes back from them. You distance yourself from their voters, not attract.

    Is this not simple electoral strategy? Don’t demonise the people you want a vote from?

    The big failing of this article and the Attwood strategy for a decade?

  • dunreavynomore

    “It didn’t work for SF, negative campaigning in the 80s and early 90s kept them at a 10% cap.”

    Ah no, Mark, the ‘war’ kept them at 10%. Abandoning the war allowed them to appeal to a large element of SDLP support.

  • barnshee

    Poor old SF. Took the place of SDLP in more ways than one. Now all those MLAs and associated hangers on,”consultants” “research assistants” etc have snouts firmly in the trough.

    With alternatives in smuggling, extortion robbery etc closed or closing prospects are poor. A few grand for sitting on District Police partnerships is some help I suppose. Poor souls– now almost wholly dependent on partition keep the wolf from the door.

  • Eric

    Eric: I take your point about Gerry Fitt and Paddy Devlin as regards the SDLP’s social democratic credentials;

    Der Ter

    How would you reposition the SDLP? If a policy based alternative programme was agreed with the UUP – would it not make sense for the SDLP to break with the Labour Parties and reposition itself along the Fianna Fail-Alliance Party axis in the European Liberals? That would make for a neater policy fit with the Tory aligned UUP.

    Alisdair is certainally no Labourite and he’ll probably be the next party leader.

  • kensei

    Mark

    This is where you ‘stoops’ lose the plot on strategy. You are trying to win back people that previously voted SDLP or could be sympathetic but suggesting the way to win them back is pointing out they are all death loving, blood monger supporters is just the stupid, failed strategy.

    It never amazes me that parties believe they can get on by insultig the people they want to vote for them.

    SF also peeled off a greener section the SDLPs vote. They do not like infighting.

  • DC

    Nevin, just like the Basle regulation was got round by the banks and financial innovators so can our little unionist/nationalist set up, probably by designating in both and making a complete mockery of it.

    A political outlook would need to be truly non-conservative and appeal to younger voters, it’s the appealing bit that is hard however I’m of the view that all, and I mean all, our parties are Conservative Christian Democrats and aren’t able to stage attractive campaigns. Just not radical enough and cut from the same cloth.

    McGuinness surprisingly is a devout Catholic, Durkan probably is as well, Robinson and his DUP are churchgoers and the Alliance leadership are active in the Church, leaving only Empey who I’m not sure about, but he’s been recycled so many times from vanguard, to vote yes to say no to policing and justice, and is past it!

  • DerTer

    Mark: For reasons that I thought would have been clear from my critique, I am not now, nor have I ever been what you so offensively describe as a stoop; and I regret that you felt the need to press what I had to say through the filter of your presumptuous prejudice.
    The fact is, moreover, that SF didn’t begin to get votes in significant numbers until the so-called ‘peace strategy’ (in other words an abandonment of what we were all told for years was the essence of the republican case) began to be ‘processed’. Opinion polls also suggest that most current nationalist-minded voters were/are opposed to armed struggle and paramilitarism and, it would appear, simply favour SF as seeming to be more effective than the SDLP. My view is that voters need to be constantly reminded of the dreadful record of the republican movement.
    Eric: My every instinct is that it would be a even greater disaster electorally for the SDLP to align itself with FF. But even if that prescription might have had some little merit a year or so ago, have a good read of the opinion poll in today’s Irish Times.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    DerTer,

    “Opinion polls also suggest that most current nationalist-minded voters were/are opposed to armed struggle and paramilitarism and, it would appear, simply favour SF as seeming to be more effective than the SDLP. My view is that voters need to be constantly reminded of the dreadful record of the republican movement.”

    It seems extrmely unlikely that Nationalists who were completley against armed stuggle and thought it completely unjustified would start voting for an SF and forgot about what they had been up to especially when they had/have the SDLP avaialble to vote for and te policies of both parties are broadly similar ie work the GFA for a UI.

    There are some probably some similarities with the early 19th Century reaction to violence by the plain people of Dublin.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    ooops. That should have said – early 20th century reaction to violence – in last para.

  • eric

    Eric: My every instinct is that it would be a even greater disaster electorally for the SDLP to align itself with FF. But even if that prescription might have had some little merit a year or so ago, have a good read of the opinion poll in today’s Irish Times.

    Der Ter

    I whole heartedly agree. My Fianna Fail reference was distracting. DC’s point about the similarity of much of the bread and policy agenda more comes to mind.

    If the SDLP & UUP want to differentiate themselves from SF/DUP it needs to be more than “we were right all along”.

    There needs to be real policy difference. What I was enquiring about was breaking the PES link that allows the SDLP (renamed in this instance) into a more congenial family of parties whilst being able to agree a policy platform with the UUP. I didn’t mean to link with Fianna Fail specifically.

    Is Alisdair really suited to leading a left leaning party?

  • DerTer

    Eric: Sorry for slow response. I can’t disagree that the SDLP needs more than “we were right all along”; but I still think that there’s at least some solid electoral mileage in the Mallon claim that the GFA was “Sunningdale for slow learners”. And as an old (and almost worn out) leftie, I would prefer to see them revive something of the Devlin/Fitt heritage rather than join another new grouping, however congenial.

  • Erasmus

    There is one elephant in the room here: the contrasting perceptions of both parties in the south. This has an obvious spillover in terms of their respective UI credentials.
    The fact is that the SDLP *connect*. People instintively and intuitively identify with them – like long-cherished relations. SF, by contrast, come across as the sort of people your mother warned you to avoid.