Future of the SDLP: “Fortune favours the brave, not the bewildered…”

There are few better descriptions of just how low Gordon Brown has taken the Labour Party in Britain than this from Bagehot in the Economist this week:

In Vladimir Nabokov’s memoir, “Speak, Memory”, he describes coming upon a cat torturing a chipmunk. “Most of his tail was gone,” Nabokov writes of the chipmunk, “the stump was bleeding.” Finally the creature “lay down on his side in order to merge with a bit of light and shade on the ground”. Labour has recently appeared to adopt a similar tactic, seeming to hope inactivity could spare it further torment.

This morning Tom Kelly in the Irish News notes the parallels between Brown’s Labour party, Cowen’s Fianna Fail and Durkan’s SDLP. However in the case of the last, its tormentors in Sinn Fein almost seem to have forgotten they even exist these days. He argues that waiting for some southern prince to come and rescue it from it’s own fate is not good enough. The passivity must be replaced by action:

There is an inevitability about Fianna Fail being organised for northern elections by 2016. It is pointless of those in the SDLP to continually ignore or some complain about the independent actions of another political organisation. They should look to their own house.

The SDLP languishes because its political touchstone is its diminishing membership which appears increasingly out of sync with the wider mood of its potential electorate. When the SDLP asks where to go it asks itself.

For the past eight years, with exception of south Belfast [and Mid Ulster? – Ed] has had no electoral bounce. It’s time to leave the woolly comfort zone and strike out for new partnerships, whether it is internally in Northern Ireland, or in a north/south context.

No-one should welcome the demise of politics as represented by the SDLP but when everyone knows the lyrics, its time to change the song. As they say fortune favours the brave, not the bewildered.

Or as in Bagehot’s advice to Labour:

It urgently needs to stop playing dead and face its dauntingly uncertain future.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty