PEBs: The SDLP a mixed bag…

So,here’s last night’s opening PEB from the SDLP… My own brief thoughts divide roughly like this… Good opening with a focus on what a ‘sitting MP’ brings you the voter from their latest recruit in Fermanagh… Then lots of shots of the same people in different combinations (to be slightly unkind, like Beau Geste arranging bodies in the fort to create the illusion of there being more people than there actually is) walking towards the camera in different streets in Northern Ireland.. You get the impression the makers were trying cover weaknesses rather than selling the party’s strengths… (it was inclusive of those candidates who don’t have a chance to the point of obscuring whatever key message had been intended… )

The shot outside the barracks in Holywood suffered from making a different point (unaccountability in St Andrews – erm, that deal was done in 2006 lads) about the same thing (MI5) on the same day and in the same place as the dissidents tried to with their bomb (with uncanny timing)… But, how was it for you?

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

  • apollo293867



  • Mark McGregor

    My wife described it as the geriatric Reservoir Dogs.

  • I thought it was good and sent out the right message for this election. Perhaps spent a bit long on the black screen with the pictures but that is only a minor quibble.

    The shot of the barracks wasn’t on TV anyway, Mick. Not sure what you mean about covering weakness rather than selling strengths either because when you get beyond the immediate optics the strengths were clear- the fact that the SDLP attend Westminster for one, and their voting record there.

    There are 18 candidates like every other major party [i]should[/i] have, so your point about making it look as if there are more people doesn’t really make any sense- there would be no need to do that, and it wasn’t just the same people either.

  • apollo293867

    My wife described it as the geriatric Reservoir Dogs.

    And definitely no Mr Red

  • ardmaj55

    apollo [4] I looked in briefly and thought, where are the jumpsuits and codpieces. Are the SDLP trying to remake ‘a clockwork orange’?

  • apollo293867


    A bunch of droogs if ever I saw one!!

  • apollo293867


    A bunch of droogs if ever I saw one!!

  • slug

    You can listen to the UCU’s one here:

    UCU Election Broadcast

  • A very confusing message from the SDLP: a better UK AND a better Ireland when the construction of the second requires the demolition of the first.

  • Michaelhenry

    i believe that margaret ritchie is trying her best to destroy the s.d.l.p, not a hard job some will say, lets not forget that last year when margaret ritchie voted with sinn fein in the executive her own s.d.l.p m.l.a.s voted against her,there own minister, when it came to a full assembly vote, she will not forgrt that disrespect when the knifes come out after this election.

  • Ulick

    As I mentioned on another thread the ‘Prayers of the Faithful’ ending off with “We’ll be there” (Hear Our Prayer) is really cringeworthy. It is probably meant as a clever variation on Obama’s “Yes, we can” but really doesn’t work over here. Throw in Ritche (a Down woman) standing in front of the cathedral in Armagh and it looks like they’re going for the Vigil Mass Fenian vote.

  • Lionel Hutz

    I think you are being more than slightly harsh Mick. I think the whole thrust of it was that they have 18 candidates ready to sit and vote in the commons is wise and neccessary. Focusing on one or two likely or hopeful winners isn’t gonna do much to increase the vote in other constituencies.

    The whole ‘we’ll be there’ wasn’t the best tagline but it does bring in to focus the SF abstentionism which is becoming a bigger talking point. I think most nationalists don’t understand why they don’t sit and it might just be a vote winner.

    Ritchie still sounds like a young girl doing an elocution lesson and I have expected fearghal to sign off:

    “fearghal McKinney, SDLP live”

  • Drumlins Rock

    Ulick, got the same impression, and did wonder was the HQ of Irish Catholic church really what you want to link yourself to atm. marks out of ten – will give it 6, although prob being generous at that, but want to leave some scope for the rest to be even worse.

  • Michaelhenry

    take a look at the frowns and defeated faces of those s.d.l.p members on that clip, those old pictures of the german army being captured at stalingrad comes into mind,only the germans looked more happy.

  • Fretjumper

    The SDLP sadly has and most likely never will recover from Hume. Firstly because of his savvy and ability to deal with NI politics and the likes of Paisley et al(made all the more stark when listening to his interminably waffling successor) and secondly he persuaded SF to come in from the cold and gave them to an extent the SDLP’s clothes, granted they kept their ear rings. As a former voter I have no idea what they represent, what middle ground nationalism actually is and why they didn’t elect Atwood or someone like him as leader. If you are a nationalist one assumes its allowed to aspire to a nation ie Ireland and a promotion of Irish things ie language and music etc. Apart from Dominic Bradley the SDLP have no Irish voice worth a damn, which is even more disappointing and serves only to drive Irish into the arms of SF and so politicise it even more. They used to be known as the Stoop Down Low Party now its more the Sad Dreary Lost Party.

  • ardmaj55

    Lionel Hutz. I suppose we should be grateful that Fearghal and Mike Nesbitt didn’t join the TUV. That would be confusing, TUV live?

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Well the messages from 1-16 not to mention the original posting represent a fair and balanced (in the style of Fux(sic) News) review of the broadcast.
    But as the 17 reviews are from people not minded (or ineligible thru residence)to consider voting SDLP.they are perhaps not the audience the SDLP was aiming for.

    The aim of the broadcast was surely to shore up SDLP support. Will it succeed? Probably. Will it encourage folks to change their vote TO SDLP? I doubt it.
    This after all is a holding election for SDLP. If they can “hold” South Down and Foyle and (against the odds) “hold” South Belfast again…they will be delighted.
    But its also about keeping Joe Byrne in the frame for an Assembly seat in Stormont. And pushing Dominic Bradley to get a second in Newry-Armagh. As well as bringing in new faces like Conway, Michelle Byrne, Quinn, McCamphill from the reserve and youth teams.

    The Election Broadcast…..looks like….well an Election Broadcast. Cliched. Three year old girl on a swing (Conall McDevitts PR company probably advised against a three year old boy as focus group preferred a girl). And in 4 mins 41 seconds theres going to the usual multi-screening.
    And all the SDLP boxes were ticked……Armagh Cathedral (how awful for the Overclass), Civil Rights images (how awful for Republicans) and Credit Union images………..and I daresay every single image was passed by the Focus Group before it made it to air.
    Unfortunately a negative image which did make it to air was Margaret Ritchie. Still cant quite believe shes a Leader of a political party and Joe Byrne too of course. Gotta admire his tenacity.

    Are we gonna review five or six of these?
    If the job is done right, it is about consolidation and potential growth. The SDLPs was standard fare. I suspect the rest will be the same.

  • Fretjumper

    ‘But as the 17 reviews are from people not minded (or ineligible thru residence)to consider voting SDLP.they are perhaps not the audience the SDLP was aiming for.’

    ‘Not minded’? Of course I’m minded, I’d love to vote for them having previously done so. Its just the banality of it, the so bloody what about the Credit Union etc. The party needs teeth but hasn’t got any (even a set in a glass would do for a start). I’m a nationalist not a republican…I wish the SDLP would grow a pair! (No offence Margaret).

  • Drumlins Rock

    FJH, you probably have it about right, although “holding tactics” are bad tactics as things will always slip somewhat and you have make some attacks as well as defence in order to stand still even. Trying to put myself into a wavering nationalist voters shoes, and would suspect that it would have left me uninspired, but not put off.

  • Rory Carr

    I’m not so sure about Reservoir Dogs but the opening images of that little girl in the red duffle-coat, although no doubt inspired by such child-exploitation politicians as the retiring John Selwyn Gummer (and how will we ever get along without him?), put me very much in mind of Nicholas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now which had a sad ending and is therefore somehow appropriate for the Stoops.

  • Lionel Hutz


    I probably am minded to vote SDLP and I think the message will shore up the support for them. SDLP voters know it is pointless to vote Sinn Fein in the General Election particularly. I do think there are a lot of nationalists scratching their heads about why we should vote for an abstaining MP, especially in a time of crises and when public sector cuts are down the road. I might see a gain, if a slight one. If SDLP can hold their vote and then make some inroads into their lost Sinn Fein voters, even if slight, it would be a great boost for the Assembly elections.

    As for the vision, no party in N.I has a vision apart from on the constitutional issue. I think the SDLP should find a way of selling the idea to the nationalist public that they are the party to soften unionist towards united Ireland. Kind of like, if you want to present what Irish Unity is to unionists, the SDLP can do it. Sinn Fein in contrast cannot do that and are still seen as bogeymen. Who do want to fly the tricolour?

    I don’t know exactly how you would do it. The nationalist tag should be dropped in favour just being called Irish, working for all people on the Island no matter what their constitutional or religious pursuasion. Nationhood has become moot since the GFA. I would tie the party around the idea of simply being “The Party for Ireland”. That may be difficult if not organising in the south. I have long been a believer that a proper tie up with the Irish Labour party shouldbe made.

    By the way, I liked that ardmaj55

  • al

    Dominic Bradley has a terrifying walk!

  • Mack


    the fact that the SDLP attend Westminster for one, and their voting record there.

    I don’t quite buy that. They sit as legislatures in Westminster, never as part of the government. The government itself as a large majority & so most bills will pass or fail at the determination of the British Labour Party.

    Just being there isn’t a strength of itself. Were there any Acts passed or Bills defeated where SDLP votes were critical? Did they introduce any private members bills?

    If so – those are achievements they should trumpet..

  • Ulick

    But as the 17 reviews are from people not minded (or ineligible thru residence)to consider voting SDLP.they are perhaps not the audience the SDLP was aiming for.

    Well I am a left leaning republican living in south Belfast pondering whether to give my vote to Maskey or not. One would have thought my family and I were exactly the people the SDLP would want to target.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    The tie up with Irish Labour already exists (to some extent) thru the European connexion. The SDLP still has the franchise so to speak in orn Iron much to the chagrin of the Overclass who want to see the British Labour Party organise here.

    Of course this tie up is under pressure with the proposed SDLP-Fianna Fáil link. While the SDLP brand is clean in terms of “political graft”, the same cant be said of FF.
    And the tie-up is also under pressure from the “dont mention Official IRA” credentials of some in the Irish Labour Party. There is no love lost between northern SDLP and that lot.

    It was ever thus. In the 1970s Conor Cruise O’Brien got up to speak at a SDLP annual conference and Paddy Devlin and Ivan Cooper very publicly left the platform. And several delegates left the Hall.

  • “Dominic Bradley has a terrifying walk!”

    This made me laugh because it is true and was relevent to what I think of the broadcast.

    It was thoroughly average in my view.

    My random thoughts:-

    *It started out well.
    *There was too long spent on the black screen montages.
    *I didnt mind the “We’ll be there’ it didnt make me cringe and I remember it and what it means so job done there.
    *None of them look or sound comfortable on camera (hence the Bradley walk,coat hanger postures and reading instead of presenting)- Fergal McKinney is obviously exempt from that criticism.

  • J Kelly

    Dull apart from the red ties…why didn’t they profile durkan and big al more. The sdlp will drop votes from 2005, so if they also lose seats this will be seen as a disatrous election for the new leader.

  • RobertEmmett

    dominic bradley looks like he’s out to get someone there

  • Marlaghman

    SDLP reject PSF offer of a pack. BBC News 5.00pm

  • bohereen

    Good old Margaret.
    Someone with a bit of balls?

  • Cynic2

    Forgive me …. and I freely admit that I may be wrong in this …..but, for all the SDLP’s recent bleating about sectarianism in other parties, did anyone spot a Prod in the line ups?

  • Brian MacAodh

    It looks like they are coming down the street to beat someone up..with their serious faces and what not.

    They should have just let that one guy speak, the one with the white hair…the rest of them have no carisma (at least on TV).

    And could they have picked a day when it wasn’t windy and blowing her hair around?

    I don’t mean to be critical (maybe I’ve been in the states through enough elections to get used to campaigning parties and their hundreds of millions dollars advertising budgets) but it really seemed stale and dated. Or maybe that just describes the candidates themselves.

  • nineteensixtyseven – You’re right. they must have quickly edited out the Palace Barracks bit. It wasn’t just cut out, but properly re-edited as the background music doesn’t jump. Seems strange that they didn’t update the YouTube version to match the TV one – which is on iPlayer (but only if you look in the right place, and possibly only working for Download rather than streaming!)

  • ardmaj55

    Fretjumper [15] It was no accident that Hume’s agenda was to lumber his party with Durkan for the same motives as Thatcher favoured Major in the tory case. Vanity, pure and simple.
    Thatcher ensured there would be no Tory figure who would be remembered from the end of the 20th century after her, and Hume did as much with the SDLP. Hume effectively made sure his party would not go against his protege, and the leadership election was a deputy election only as a result.
    It’s curious that the two parties from opposite sides of the divide, which were set up within a year of each other, [SDLP; 1970, and DUP; 1971], had no leadership elections for the remainder of the century, yet both would balk at the suggestion they weren’t democratic..

  • Mick Fealty

    Interesting bunch of views guys, thanks…

    I wondered if people would mention the colour thing. In some shots everyone was wearing red (including the leader). In others, hardly anyone (including people would be on the SD end of the party).

    Agree with J Kelly that there should have been more focus on the live competitors, and maybe one or two other rising stars. That’s how SF would have done it, and so far as long term messaging is concerned they are now indisputably NI’s best in class.

    A greater focus on why Westminster might have given the likes of McKinney some air cover in what is likely to be a tough ground war. To pick up the WW2 analogy, most of the SDLP candidates will be fighting a ‘resistance’ campaign: the PEB could have made more effort to dump some decent talking points in their lap and give them something to bring to the doorsteps.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Watched it again, must say the second collage where she listed their achievements was impressive (yes i know some will dispute the claims but who cares it came over well) although it should have include something for rural voters, more on that theme probably would have worked much better. ie. making the point that its worthwhile going to westminister and they work hard over there.
    Mick, where do we comment on the UUP one?

  • Mick Fealty

    I’ll put it up shortly…

  • Coll Ciotach

    Had to run it three times before I could ignore the uniforms – those ties, they are coming to get us

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Hmmm… very hit and miss. Stewart Finn is on the ball. Too long, although I understand this may not have been the TV version(?) I got bored with all the split screen stuff – too hard to focus on the images. This went on faaaaar too long.

    It did start off very well; stuff with the kid was good… but towards the end, it looked like out-takes from the Orange Order practising in civvies before the Twelfth. Some candidates actually looked more like cardboard cut-outs than alive in the shot with Dolores. Dominic and Declan slightly scared me, though I know they are not really like that in real life. McDonnell looked like a zombie in front of Palace Barracks – eek!

    Ritchie not totally convincing, but not the worst either – that’s a bigger problem than the video though. She sounded OK at the end, but clearly there’s no attempt to reach out to new voters here. It’s a ‘hold the vote we have cos there’s no chance of increasing it, let’s batten down the hatches’ PEB.

  • Cynic2

    Sorry, I will ask again. Is there a single Prod in the SDLPs lineup?

    Surely they cannot be sectarian?

  • abucs

    I think the promotion had some good points.

    I thought the SDLP did well to outline the areas of politics they see as important and articulate their past record, as well as argue for the importance / relevance of the elections.

    I think they were positive in their message and came across as focussed and serious about representing the electorate.

    I thought the ‘we’ll be there’ slogan was a clever differentiation of the Sinn Fein policy without being negative or taking the focus of the SDLP.

    They obviously didn’t come across as a Party full of hype and image but perhaps they could have concentrated a little bit more in that area.

    The focus on the little girl and the family (unfortunately largely out of camera view) was good but it was very disjointed from the SDLP politicians.

    The politicians needed to smile and perhaps interact with the little girl and her family at some stage as well as with people from across a broad spectrum.

    Even if it was just in the montages, which i thought went pretty well. Let’s see the SDLP talking with teachers and football coaches with lots of kids and parents about or at social functions or in pubs or charity functions. Lets see them talking to small and large business owners etc. Again, even if it was only in the montages. Lets see SDLP election workers stopping and talking to people in the street.

    Having politicians walking down the streets and pavements with no one around them made them look a little aloof and of course the spoofs were easy to make.

    Have a couple of children and ‘real people’ in the pictures and then it is a lot more difficult to make fun of them without also making fun of ‘normal people’ as well.

    And too much walking ! OK perhaps it signifies a ‘long march’ or a party on the go or a group moving forward but it was over-done, hence the spoofs.

    If they concentrate on the deficiencies (without going overboard) and maintain and further explain their main message (which was quite good) then they could do well.

    They came across to me as a decent bunch who are serious about politics, positive and experienced but who are not confident in presenting themselves as an important and HAPPY part of the NI community.

    Something to think about in the next 3 weeks.

  • ardmaj55

    Lionel Hutz. [21]
    I believe Sunny Jim was reported to have suggested a mere 35 years too late, that Unionists should have supported power sharing in 1974 with Gerry Fitt and John Hume [with the benefit of hindsight], instead of trying to bring the north to a standstill. Talk about slow learners.