Rumours of Rebellion follow Ritchie’s Reshuffle

Following the elevation of West Belfast MLA, Alex Attwood, to the Executive post of Social Development Minister, the suggestion that SDLP Leader, Margaret Ritchie, was preparing to appoint newly appointed MLA, Conall McDevitt, to the position of Chairman of the Enterprise Committee has apparently caused considerable rancour within the SDLP.

So much so that some within the party clearly saw fit to leak the information into the public realm, embarrassing the party leader within a week of an election. Other leading figures – not least of all Conall’s senior constituency politician, Alasdair McDonnell MP – have complained bitterly to the leader in a move which suggests that all remains far from well within the upper echelons of the party.

According to Martina Purdy’s report, the fallout from Ritchie’s attack on the SDLP’s Fianna Fail wing at the Irish Labour Party conference may go some way to explaining the reaction of senior party representatives.

  • Jean Meslier

    “…The total Sinn Fein vote seems to have dropped despite obvious SDLP loanvotes in constituencies, in Fermanagh and South Tyrone itself,…”

    KPB
    The Mourne Observer (hardly an advocate for republican revolutionary advancement) states in its analysis of the election,” ..up to 6,000 unionist voters put their X beside Margaret Ritchie’s name…”

    Thats almost a full qouta in a legislative assembly election.

    Over to you comrade

  • Jean Meslier

    UlsterScotty

    Hague makes Duncan Goodhew look hirsute.
    I was always of the opinion wigs were a showbiz idea to prolong their careers. You Know the chief suspects – Bruce Forsythe, Sean Connery, Bruce Willis etc.

    On a slight tangent, I remember a drunken debate with a friend who stated Native Americans don’t go bald. Now this guy is an authority on western films of every hue from Hop Along Cassidy to big Clint. He says he has never seen a bald native American.
    Now this is hardly a scientific hypothesis, but it may be food for thought!

  • KPB

    Nothing here denotes the fact that the Sinn Fein vote hasn’t made much of a gain. A lot more Unionists were able to make their Anti-Ruane protest vote and that probably won’t come back to them in an Assembly, but Sinn Fein’s overall vote went down by more than Maskey’s 4,000 or so.

    Sinn Fein has peaked in the North, It promised the end of the SDLP and face it they failed on that, and they failed to get any of their goals. They’re using the fact that the DUP avoided Fermanagh/South Tyrone and North Down to hide their obvious stagnation.

    If 6,000 Unionists en mass vote for Ritchie over Ruane, that reflects on Ruane’s failure, dido Anderson’s failure with regard to Durkan. Both are selfish careerists who’ve provoked anger where the more sensible Sinn Feiner like Doherty, McGuinness even Gildernew have not.

  • Lionel Hutz

    I think that the idea that there has only been a 1% shift in the nationalist vote in five years is naive. The Sinn Fein vote has slowly declined since 2007. Next years Assembly elections are going to be very important. They may be the first election where Sinn Fein have declined when compared with the previous one. I cannot see where Sinn Fein can pick up a seat and it looks like a few a precarious lagan valley should see a loss for example. That will be very difficult for Sinn Fein as alot of their claims will be destroyed.

    Expect to see a fierce battle in March.

  • Jean Meslier

    I hope you haven’t got a thing i.e. fear of strong assertive women.
    The point that you miss (avoid) is that the new stoop leader failed in the very heartland to attract any new votes. – hardly an SF failure.

    “…Sinn Fein has peaked in the North, It promised the end of the SDLP and face it they failed on that, and they failed to get any of their goals…”

    I failed to find where SF promised the end of the SDLP in any literature published during the recent election. Perhaps you could enlighten me on this.
    And while you’re at it why not not provide the evidence of SF reaching its peak.

    Finally Re: unionists voting SDLP.
    I believe this reflects the age old fear unionists have of Irish nationalism asserting itself with a strong voice, instead of the old hat-doffing, crumb accepting, 2nd class citizen status represented by stoopism.

    Reality check 1. Unionism equates SDLP as a useful tool to frustrate Irish Nationalism’s inevitable march to a united Ireland.

    Reality check 2. The SDLP vote peaked many moons ago.

    Reality check 3. SF is the largest party in the 6 counties, for the 2nd election in a row.

  • slug

    SDLP should surely try to eat into SF vote, going forward.

  • Jean Meslier

    Which faction of the SDLP would that be?

  • KPB

    Foyle was a chance to see the sucess of the Unionist outreach, it failed. South Down reflects badly on Sinn Fein’s attempts to be inclusive to Protestants, who feel that only the RCC’s solution to the plethora is the only one being offered.

    It appears, Sinn Fein doesn’t mind treating Protestants like second class citizens.

    Reality Check 1: I think Unionists have made their points on who they prefer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWl6T0-sGeY. Sinn Fein are weak on implementing policy.

    Reality Check 2:Sinn Fein are peaking now, the SDLP can always recover.

    Reality Check 3: Ah too convienient to mention that the SDLP were the largest party in the North in 1998. This is in an Assembly contest were people aren’t polarised along constitutional lines and focus on policy.

  • Lionel Hutz

    There does appear to be an increasing sense of unease amongst the Sinn Fein rank and file for the last year or so. There are no big coups to boast about. In this election they are relying on a 1% increase in the vote even though their vote has fallen since 2007. They brag about being the biggest party despite the fact that this is only the case because the DUP gave up 20,000 votes for the Connor and Hermon. They haven’t won any new seats and they don’t look like winning any in the assembly.

    That stage in the Sinn Fein is going to end. There is no unstoppable march. However this was an election marked by voter apathy so the results can be skewed. The assembly elections are going to be a big story. Alasdair McDonnell needs to shut up and work for his party. There are 3 or 4 new seats that the SDLP can take. They need to stand out. They could be the only party to take action on double-jobbing, the only party to advance socially progressive politics, and to do that for the whole community. They are the only party that has the potential to preach the United Ireland message to those who are not converted.

  • Charminator

    With respect KPB, you have no basis to conclude FF or Labour would get slaughtered in the North and their is every objective indicator to demonstrate that the SDLP is continuing its terminal decline.
    Staying with the same old-same old moderate Nationalist alternative is not a solution. It is burying one’s head in the sand and hoping for a miracle.

  • Charminator

    I’m somewhat surprised by the pure madness inherent in some SDLP dreamworld comments here. Let’s get serious about the facts.
    (1) The SDLP’s Assembly team is now two thirds of what it was in 1998. A recovery of 3/4 seats in no way compensates for such a dismal collapse in a decade.
    (2) The Executive team is one Minister. Loss of DFM and three other Executive seats.
    (3) Even in heartlands, the SDLP has proven incapable of holding its own. In S Down, once 3 SDLP seats, now only two, with absolutely no possibility of retaking either of SF’s now safe two seats.
    (4) In more general Republican heartlands, minimal or no representation. Newry & Armagh, once the bastion of Mallon, now only one MLA (Newry-based). Only one councillor in S. Armagh. In W Tyrone: no MLA in a six seater with massive Nationalist population.

    It is nothing more than an exercise in self-delusion to think that the SDLP will in any way recover from this phenomenal collapse. The only fierce battle – as Lionel Hutz calls it – which we will see next March will be for the largest party: SF or DUP. The likelihood of the SDLP reclaiming the Nationalist mantle is about as high as Eddie McGrady taking a peerage (hmm, actually, bad metaphor). And of course, all the while, this is music to the Shinners’ ears.

  • KPB

    Being objective? Fianna Fail is getting slaughtered in the South!!! Look over the border. Look at the election polls. Look at the austerity cuts. The collapse of CUNF is another show of the failures of this tactic.

    There would be nothing Sinn Fein would want more than Fianna Fail and the SDLP to merge. It would drive the SDLP into a near nothing party like the Northern Irish Tories. If Sinn Fein were offered a similar deal to CUNF but FF backing, in return for coalition government in the South, they wouldn’t be mad to take it.

    This is all aesthetic, It’s fixing a crack in the wall with a tint of paint. Voters won’t buy it Charminator. What you’re saying is constitutional nationalism’s major greivence with the SDLP is the name.

  • KPB

    Obviously this is a low point for the SDLP and the popularity contest for a Nationalist First Minister by Sinn Féin will probably eat into the SDLP vote.

    But you have suggested, splitting the party in two or three, which would ensure that Sinn Fein are by far the dominant party in Nationalism and the eventual merger of the two wings in the future. None of this is positive.

    3/4 seats could be all that is needed to get the second ministry. From there they can challenge Sinn Féin seat, their propaganda and their actions. They can only run the campaign that “Sinn Féin care about the First Ministry more than they care about you” … and hope that they can back it up with revolutionary policies for difficult times.

    I don’t know if Fianna Fail will stand candidates, and where they would, that’s for Fianna Fail to decide. I do feel that if they do, it should be done in seperation to the SDLP. Fianna Fail might win back some of the Republican vote as well as a few non-voting constitutional nationalists, but their record over the border in recent years would haunt them here.

    You seem to have a bloodlust for both the SDLP and Sinn Fein. It seems probably more sensible than killing off a party that has at least 38% of the Nationalist vote in the vague hopes of returning to the glory days of the SDLP where the PIRA were the best agitpropagandists against Sinn Féin.

  • joeCanuck

    test

  • joeCanuck

    test2

  • Lionel Hutz

    Well the labour party in Britain just lost between a third and a quarter of their seats in one election. By your logic, should they pack up and leave it to the Lib Dems.

    You make four points which are essentially the same. The SDLP have lost seats, so they have less influence as a result. I believe that an increase of two seats will give SDLP an extra minister in the executive, just like the UUP have. Oh and lets not forget the small fact that Sinn Fein and the DUP gerrymandered the SDLP out of a seat in the Executive.

    Any recovery in SDLP is going to be alot slower than their decline was. There is tangible evidence that this is happening though- they have increased their share of the vote in the last two elections. The only way it will recover quicker is if the huge personal votes attached to the Sinn Fein big hitters disappears when they retire- in 5 to 10 years.

  • Jean Meslier

    KPB

    I have tried.

    No really I have tried very hard to have a logical debate with you re: contemporary politics from a nationalist/republican perspective.

    But I have failed.

    I have failed miserably in trying to get under the skin of inviting you to explain your remarks in any of the above posts.

    The questions I asked. The evidence I requested were all surely fairly reasonable?

    But the Ian Jnr piece, the white noise response has really convinced me that you are (to quote Charminator) sufferiing “self-delusion” and living in a “dreamworld”.

    Please don’t take this personal. I know you clearly hold strong views and an immense love for the SDLP, but I have an appointment on the planet Earth.

    Slan mo chara

  • Jean Meslier

    “…There are 3 or 4 new seats that the SDLP can take. They need to stand out. They could be the only party to take action on double-jobbing, the only party to advance socially progressive politics, and to do that for the whole community…”

    Delusion once more.
    Again I ask,. Which faction of the South Down and Londondry Party will deliver this?
    In Newry/Armagh the SDLP survive only because of an acquiescent, media. They advance NO politics, whether socially progressive, community or otherwise. All they do is attack Sinn Fein, who represent the ENTIRE community here on a day and daily basis, and the SDLP know it.

  • KPB

    I meant to say “they would be mad to take it”

  • KPB

    Without the SDLP in my constituency, I wouldn’t have a job. Scrutinise how many JOBS Sinn Fein have delivered there, (outside of the Party membership of course).

  • KPB

    Local Government
    2001 163269
    2005 163205

    Stagnant

    Westminster
    2005 174,530
    2010 171,942

    No change … accounting more or less for Maskey

    Europe
    2004 171,942
    2009 126,184

    Even accounting for a low turnout … stagnant.

    The only saving grace from this vote stagnation is the Assembly:

    Assembly
    2001: 142,858
    2003: 162758
    2007: 180573 *

    Now this straight after the St Andrew’s agreement which I consider Sinn Féin’s peak. They can’t ride on the back of that anymore, so expect a drop in the Sinn Fein vote next year and I’ll give you more evidence of the stagnation.

  • Lionel Hutz

    “In Newry/Armagh the SDLP survive only because of an acquiescent, media.”

    with respect, what is this even supposed to mean.

    “They advance NO politics, whether socially progressive, community or otherwise. All they do is attack Sinn Fein, who represent the ENTIRE community here on a day and daily basis, and the SDLP know it.”

    I wondered whether this even meritted a response. Sinn Fein have no policies. On their website for example, they don’t even mention the 11+. The post primary education policy is simply that they want comprehensives, with no strategy in who to implements. It’s the same across the board. All they do is bleat on about equality with no hint of a stradegy to actually achieve it.

    The SDLP attack Sinn Fein very little and when they do it’s ball not man. They pick out abstentionism etc. In contrast Sinn Fein use every opportunity to attack SDLP. Like the speech Adams made prior to the election in Derry where he slagged out SDLP members, active and retired. He mentioned SDLP many times more than Sinn Fein, mentioned Dutkan a dozen times whereas Anderson didn’t even get mentioned. Or maybe you will recall Pat Doherty using his acceptance speech to calll SDLP a disgrace.

    It’s frankly hillarious. But the iceberg is coming, in the shape of the cold reality of economics

  • Jean Meslier

    Yeah we saw SDLP’s peak back in 98 when they negotiated the Good Friday Agreement – Not!

    I personally consider the devolution of P&J back to this island, despite the opposition of unionism (do you remember the not in our lifetime boasts KPB?) as a huge progressive step. Do you KPB?

    Anyway I do like your neatly laid out figures. Perhaps you could compare them with the votes of the other nationalist party in the 6 Co.’s ( unless one of your newly split wings is still in its post-nationalist mode).

    A word of caution.
    If you are genuine and do give us the corresponding SDLP figures, you may have to use the word “down” quite a lot when explaining the change in votes received.

  • KPB

    Didn’t say the SDLP wasn’t declining, but that doesnt mean they’ve been won over by Sinn Féin either.It’s clear that apathy amongst nationalists is rising. That was my point.

  • Jean Meslier

    “…Like the speech Adams made prior to the election…”

    Oh yes back to Gerry Adams again.

    Lionel , what have the following all got in common:

    Bush senior and junior, Clinton, Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown, Fitzgerald, Bruton, Reynolds, Ahern, Molyneax, Trimble, Empey, Paisley, Robinson, Fitt, Hume, & Durkan.??

    Answer: Adams has seen every one of them come and go.

    And in last weeks election, despite the best efforts of bloggers on this site, he was returned with 71.08% of the popular vote in W Belfast.

    Thats a figure which would give any stoop a nosebleed.

  • Jean Meslier

    This thread was supposed to be about the rumblings within the foot soldier ranks (or whats left of them) of the SDLP regarding the promotion of the great unelected guru, in which Margaret is placing a huge amount of faith.

    My point is that when the unionist – keep the shinner out vote – is removed from the figures then the decline is prominent.

    If that filters down to their electorate, which it inevitably will, then you could see a tipping process which just might put them in the same category as the giant panda and other endangered species.

  • Lionel Hutz

    “Lionel , what have the following all got in common:
    Bush senior and junior, Clinton, Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown, Fitzgerald, Bruton, Reynolds, Ahern, Molyneax, Trimble, Empey, Paisley, Robinson, Fitt, Hume, & Durkan.??
    Answer: Adams has seen every one of them come and go.”

    So have Robert Mugabe and Fidel Castro. What’s your point exactly?

    And I’m curious to know what you mean by seen them come and go? If it’s as a person, then I have seen most of them come and go. Can I have s medal?

    If it’s as a party leader(1983) he saw some of the come, not all. Perhaps you want to reward him for being younger than Hume and Paisley or for the ability to appoint himself as leader of the party?

  • Lionel Hutz

    On that 71%, you are no doubt aware of the effects that the boundary changes had on West Belfast and Lagan Vallry. On this result Sinn Fein will lose their seat in the latter. Just curious though that combining the two constituencies, Sinn Fein’s vote dropped from 27545 to 24305 (-12%) whilst the SDLPs only dropped from 7631 to 7096 (-7%). In West Belfast itself Gerry Adams vote dropped by 1500 votes despite the addition of strong Sinn Fein wards. This compares with Attwood, who actually increased his by a few hundred votes despite the low turnout. Now I don’t believe this will result in an SDLP gain in the Assemblt, but it could result in a Sinn Fein loss especially considering that the unionists simply stayed at home this election in West Belfast. They will come out next year.

    Penny for your thoughts, have a look at the figures. Will Sinn Fein lose a seat in West Belfast and Lagan Valley?

  • KPB

    If the keep the Sinner out vote existed in Unionism as you say it does, why haven’t they caught on that backing SDLP candidates in West Tyrone, Mid Ulster, Fermanagh South Tyrone would do exactly that?

    Ruane is responsible for her own result and she’d have lost anyway without the “unionist” section of the cross-community protest vote. You could also say that without tactical votes by non-PSF Republicans Durkan’s majority over Anderson would be slimmer too. A vote is a vote is a vote.

    Maybe Sinn Fein’s arrogance to the vast amount of non-Sinn Fein voters in the Nationalist community, particularly to a party which represents at least 38% of the Nationalist voting populus, a tally Sinn Fein had nearly a decade ago.

    Really people like Jean Meslier refuse to believe that there is a wider spectrum of nationalist opinion outside of Sinn Fein and the dissidents and that Adams’s way is the only way, (not that he shows up at the Assembly 65% of the time).

    When Sinn Féin are a party of responsibility having to slash public sector facilities in the North, we will see the populism die away and a real need for politics that goes beyond the green and orange.

  • KPB

    RE: Arrogance…

    Maybe this is what has put people off voting for either party.

  • KPB

    Shinner instead of Sinner too.

  • Lionel Hutz

    And KPB,

    there is also the elephant in the room, that Sinn Fein’s United Ireland strategy may be impossible. They are engaged in a political turfwar, trying to keep the issue of partition bubbling over so that when 50%+1 happens, nationalists will win the border poll. However, it remains to be seen whether The nationalist community’s birth rate peaked 10-15 years ago and whether there will ever be a catholic majority

  • Comrade Stalin

    I was at the count until 00:30AM and saw no sign of Alban.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I stand corrected.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Contrary to what some people have posted here. Conal McDevitt is one of the hardest working men in politics on this island.

    Hello, Conal.

  • Charminator

    Not a bloodlust for SDLP or SF at all. The SDLP has a proud record, made a huge contribution to where we are now, but I’m realistic enough to see when the tide is out and there’s no hope of any significant reversal of their fortunes. Waiting for SF retirements etc is about the most illogical, brainless notion I’ve heard raised re the SDLP’s future hopes. SF is bad news for deepening an understanding with Unionism, of progressing any meaningful form of unity, and, let’s face it, their economics is non-existent. But I don’t see where any 3/4 SDLP seats will come from. In fact, will they lose a seat in Foyle. Possibly. Will SF take another seat in Upper Bann? Quite likely. And, of course, S Belfast will be very very interesting indeed.
    @Lionel: To suggest there’s any comparison between the plight of the SDLP, where frankly we’ve had 4/5 elections to reach conclusions on their demise – and Labour – under a FPTP system is ludicrous. The SDLP’s demise has been uninterrupted, with an increase in SF share in every single election for the past decade or more. To think that this trend will suddenly change based on SF retirements or other ‘X’ factors is pure fantasy without any basis in reality.

  • Lionel Hutz

    So what Charminator, it doesn’t sound the death knell of a party if they decline over a decade (or more).

    To use a better example. The Tories over a decade from the election in 1987 to 1997 lost over half their seats. They then pretty much stagnated for 8 years before making a comeback 23 years after the initial decline. Your argument is, with due respect to you as I don’t think you are trolling, nonsense.

    And in Northern Ireland, we are a small village and personality vote is huge. Thats why when Seamus Mallom retired, we saw a 20% swing. The SDLP lost its heavyweights and has had to replace them through simple politics. When the Sinn Fein members with their IRA past retire, they will be replaced with politicians pure and simple. As Sinn Fein have no policies, that is going to affect them. II think the recovery of the SDLP will take time, but they are much better placed than some blow in from Dublin. And they are building for the future.

    They still have nearly for 40% of the nationalist electorate. They have shown in the last two elections that they have marginally increased their share of the vote whereas Sinn Fein’s has marginally fallen. It will take the next assembly election to see whether this can be a tangible difference in two elections form which we can draw a like-for-like comparison. However writing off a party because of a 1% drop in a General election (from the previous GE) is premature.

  • Charminator

    @Lionel: I am not writing off a party on the basis of one general election, as you will know, if you have read the previous posts. I am writing off a party on the basis of having permanently lost seats for the past decade and showing absolutely no signs of recovery. The infatuation which you have with British parliamentary elections, run as they are on a FPTP system, is quite strange. The two party system in Britain bears no resemblance to the ebbs and flows of Irish politics.
    Instead, I suggest, look at the IPP, the Irish Farmers Party, Clann na Poblachta and of course the most recent fatality, the PDs. Parties with a 2/3 generation lifespan have been a reality in Irish politics for the past 100 years: the SDLP are no different. For a party to plan its recovery on the basis of the retirement of its political opponents en masse is absolutely ludicrous and shows a desperation of thinking which I very much doubt the SDLP themselves would even indulge.
    The Dublin blow-in point is interesting, given that this thread started discussing Conall McDevitt, himself a Southerner. It’s also profoundly partitionist in a way which, I doubt, would resonate with the broader Nationalist electorate.
    Finally, talk of ‘better placed for the future’, ‘planning for the future’ etc sounds more like SDLP apparatchik speak, than a serious dispassionate analysis of the SDLP’s present problems and failure to demonstrate any cure for their terminal illness.

  • Lionel Hutz

    @Charminator

    The difficulty is that in Northern Ireland, elections come thick and fast. You’re talking ten years which is a short time in electoral terms.

    In terms of the Westminster General Election, Sinn Fein drew slightly ahead in 2001 (0.7%) and increased that lead to (8%) in the two elections that followed but this is only three elections and we can see that the slide has stopped.

    In terms of the Assembly elctions, Sinn Fein overtook the SDLP in 2003 with a big shift in voters and cemented that in 2007 with a 1.7% swing. But again this is only two elections and 7 years.

    Just because we have elections every two years or so, it makes the decline seem more terminal than it is.

    What do you think is going to happen in the next Assembly elections?

    The last two polls show that the SDLP vote has slightly recovered. They should get a seat in West Tyrone, and have a strong chance of a seat in Strangford. THere are other mroe outside chances as well. Whereas Sinn Fein are not going to get extra seats. They will lose one in Lagan Valley and I’d bet they will lose one in West Belfast (probably to the DUP).

    That would be enough for the start of Ritchie’s leadership- consolidation and then greenshoots for recovery.

    Northern Ireland is entering a new stage in its political history – post conflict with a recession, the public will have to demand real politics. There is a vacuum that the SDLP can fill as I think they tried to do in the election just past by focusing on the economy. We are coming into tough times and their message can ring through the tribal headcounting

  • Lionel Hutz

    To sum up – Sinn Fein rode the wave of optimism and goodwill.

    The nationalist people are going to see frontline services hit and further job-losses. Lets just see how Sinn Fein answer some tougher questions

  • Oul Micky Hoot

    Lionel Hutz said:
    “The assembly elections are going to be a big story. Alasdair McDonnell needs to shut up and work for his party.”

    In Westminster terms having increased his personal vote since 1997 by 17% (in the face of over all SDLP decline of 7.6%) i’d say McDonnell thinks he is probably more than pulling his weight??

    Vision is great…. politics is about votes children!

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    As the boul Alex of the SNP would tell you if he were here – there is nothing better to get Nationalist excitement going in Scotland than a Tory government in London. The same applies to Norn Iorn – SF will will have to do very little other than point at a map and tell everyone it is all down to the badly behaved neighbour.

    Tough on the SDLP I know – but politics is a tough game.

  • Charminator

    @Lionel: I think we could all engage in a little bit of electoral predicting, but it’s highly speculative at this point. I disagree, however, with the thrust that next year’s election will show the SDLP drift has stopped.

    On the contrary, given that the SDLP vote at Westminster has been drastically helped by Maskey’s withdrawal in S Belfast and the presence of a poor SF candidate (Ruane) in S Down and, of course, Unionist tactical voting on an industrial scale in S Down and Foyle, I think we’ll see a very significant drop in the SDLP share of the vote next year. The SDLP’s recent showing in FST wouldn’t even be enough to get Gallagher reelected at this point, keeping Ramsey’s seat in Foyle, or Bradley’s in S Down (if either retire) will be very tough. In Newry & Armagh, Bradley will again be returned alone. Upper Bann: SF will drive hard for a second seat having been very unlucky last time out (due to dire vote management on O’Dowd’s part). W Belfast: there isn’t a hope of a reduction in SF’s seats there. Remember, last time out Attwood polled worse than the DUP and needed SF transfers to actually get him over the line! Similarly, in W Tyrone I completely disagree Deeny is vulnerable. He’s extremely popular, works well with local SF on the ground, and will feel very comfortable with his prospects. In fact, expect the Shinners to run a fourth candidate if they consider Deeny vulnerable – their first three all already top the poll in succession!

    But we could all engage in electoral semantics and speculation. The trend so far, though, is pretty clear and unidirectional. The fact that we have regular elections in the North only serves to reinforce the direction of that trend and supports the assertions I’m making (ie based on more elections, rather than fewer).

    Understand that my points aren’t motivated by any satisfaction with the SDLP’s collapse. Far from it: rather a complete frustration with the party to actually diagnose their problems and resolve them… which I think ultimately will lead to an electoral tie-up with Labour or FF, with a disaffected rump from either wing left hanging.

  • Charminator

    @Lionel: I think we could all engage in a little bit of electoral predicting, but it’s highly speculative at this point. I disagree, however, with the thrust that next year’s election will show the SDLP drift has stopped.

    On the contrary, given that the SDLP vote at Westminster has been drastically helped by Maskey’s withdrawal in S Belfast and the presence of a poor SF candidate (Ruane) in S Down and, of course, Unionist tactical voting on an industrial scale in S Down and Foyle, I think we’ll see a very significant drop in the SDLP share of the vote next year. The SDLP’s recent showing in FST wouldn’t even be enough to get Gallagher reelected at this point, keeping Ramsey’s seat in Foyle, or Bradley’s in S Down (if either retire) will be very tough. In Newry & Armagh, Bradley will again be returned alone. Upper Bann: SF will drive hard for a second seat having been very unlucky last time out (due to dire vote management on O’Dowd’s part). W Belfast: there isn’t a hope of a reduction in SF’s seats there. Remember, last time out Attwood polled worse than the DUP and needed SF transfers to actually get him over the line! Similarly, in W Tyrone I completely disagree Deeny is vulnerable. He’s extremely popular, works well with local SF on the ground, and will feel very comfortable with his prospects. In fact, expect the Shinners to run a fourth candidate if they consider Deeny vulnerable – their first three all already top the poll in succession!

    But we could all engage in electoral semantics and speculation. The trend so far, though, is pretty clear and unidirectional. The fact that we have regular elections in the North only serves to reinforce the direction of that trend and supports the assertions I’m making (ie based on more elections, rather than fewer).

    Understand that my points aren’t motivated by any satisfaction with the SDLP’s collapse. Far from it: rather a complete frustration with the party to actually diagnose their problems and resolve them… which I think ultimately will lead to an electoral tie-up with Labour or FF, with a disaffected rump from either wing left hanging.

  • KPB

    Charminator, you forget that both Fianna Fail and Irish Labour have stood elections in the North and were thumped for it. The SDLP is the only constitutional nationalisty here at the moment whether you like it or not.

    Based on 2/3 generational shift gnosis that “God” has prevented people from voting for the SDLP because after over 2 decades, the Nationalist people have lost the freewill to make other choices but Sinn Féin as shown by “God’s” intervention in the IPP, Irish Land League etc. etc. etc.

    If you think you can do better, go form your own party.

  • Charminator

    @KPB: “The SDLP is the only constitutional nationalisty here at the moment whether you like it or not.”

    Well I wouldn’t suppose to argue with that. But sadly that’s proving not sufficient reason in and of itself for many many moderate Nationalists and Republicans to vote for them. Indeed, it’s a strange sort of logic when existing in itself is reason for existing. Not far removed from pure survival instincts and self-preservation… and who would ever charge individual SDLP public representatives with that!

    But moderate Nationalism and Republicanism does require something more than the broken SDLP galley. If not provided with it, then the drip drip towards SF will continue unabated. As it is, there’s no sign – as I’ve repeatedly said – of the SDLP decline ending. Yes, there’ll be a core beyond which it cannot fall further (which incidentally we may see after next year’s poll), but that’s not reason enough to exist, as the PDs, IPP etc all honourably appreciated.

    “If you think you can do better, go form your own party.” I doubt that’s the right response KPB to probing analysis. In fact – and with all respect – it sounds more like a response from an SDLP hack, rather than a fellow dispassionate commentator. But the recent example of Fearghal McKinney, however, should prove a bright warning to those that think an easy move can be made from discussing public policy to being a public representative.

    The SDLP’s terminal decline is supported by every election, local, Assembly, even in some respects Wminster, for the past decade. It’s now for politicians inside the SDLP to see the writing on the wall. Some, like McDevitt and McGlone, probably already do and are jostling to position the party for the realignment I’ve suggested. In truth, that realignment can’t come soon enough, if any meaningful opposition to SF is to be provided.

  • KPB

    You have passed your own death sentence on a party, which holds 40% of the Nationalist vote despite an obvious contest working against them in Fermanagh South Tyrone.
    So then unless it gets 50% of the vote there’s no point contesting?

    How dispassionate is that?

    Yes the SDLP have work to do, but they cannot simply reorganise with a totally new name, new leader, new personell from scratch. Charminator, If Labour, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael all contested elections up here, Sinn Féin will dominate for at least a generation anyway and win two more seats.

    It would be quite novel to say oooo let’s say Ritchie and McDevitt could perhaps lead Social Democratic & New Labour and get back maybe the 200 votes of Malachi Curran. McDonnell and McGuinness maybe bring in Gerry McHugh for Fianna Fail Tuaisceart Éireann. Then I suppose Durkan and McKinney could form the Fine Gael Tuaisceart Éireann wing and I dunno bring in Nadine Coyle too for the popular vote. Not that they divide along those lines.

    All you get is this propaganda from Sinn Fein, that Ireland threw all their parties at them and they still came first in Nationalism. At least you wouldn’t have the terminal decline of one party, once the novelty runs off, you’d have the terminal decline of three!!!

  • KPB

    I love the Dublin blow-in remark by the way….

    Isn’t Ruane from Mayo? Isn’t Doherty from Donegal? Isn’t Connor Murphy from Glasgow? Oh wait, where’s Bairbe de Brún from? Dublin! Yes.

    McDevitt moved north and lives there with his wife, he was a leading member of the Irish Labour Party youth.

    Heck even the DUP have Willy Hay from Donegal.

    I don’t think that McDonnel’s Dublin accent will stop Nationalists voting for him in South Belfast next year.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Just one final point about all of this.

    Are you proposing that the SDLP elected reps, over 100 in all fora, just pack up and go home? If so where are these 100 or so moderate nationalists going to come from. If not, is this just a rebranding you are suggesting-
    a sort of NEW SDLP

  • KPB

    Probably a combination of Southern Politicians, Sinn Fén dissidents and the occasional youth wing in the north … Is that just me or doesn’t that sounds like either The Worker’s Party or The Democratic Left?

  • KPB

    Probably a combination of Southern Politicians, Sinn Féin dissidents and the occasional youth wing in the north … Is that just me or doesn’t that sounds like either The Worker’s Party or The Democratic Left?

  • Charminator

    @KPB: It’s not me passing any death sentence on any party, I’m merely calling the analysis as I see it. And yes, I think if you’re suggesting that my calling time on a party’s existence somehow suggests an incapacity for dispassionate thought, with respect, you’re clouded by your SDLP infatuation. There’s a world of difference between analysing electoral trends, suggesting alternatives and your own response of ‘get used to it, they’re the only show in town’, or ‘start your own party up’.

    Your comments regarding the three main Southern parties similarly struggling against SF is based on nothing but pure speculation. (In fact, if we look at Southern elections results, we see an Irish body politic that has got to grips with the SF threat.) There is ample objective proof (election results) to determine the SDLP cannot hold the the fort against SF, but there is absolutely no reason to think that Labour or FF could not be more successful. Instead, what you are suggesting is a sort of “SDLP Forever” mantra, whatever the other alternatives that should be seriously examined and whatever the impact on moderate Nationalism (and the impression it creates to Unionism of an ever-increasing SF vote).

    I agree entirely on the Dublin blow-in point. In case you didn’t fully read the thread, you’ll note that the cheap throwaway remark was made by Lionel. I couldn’t care less where a person’s accent is from, but if those defending the SDLP refer to “Dublin blow-ins”, I think it’s best they start at home first.

    The bottom line is I’m proposing the SDLP get radical. Set up an internal working group strategically reviewing their future. Examine the partnership options with Labour or FF that exist. Determine whether a more unified all-island party could have the right synergies to challenge SF across the island. But refrain from the election-babble a la Ritchie of ‘I want to be First Minister’, when in reality you’ll be lucky to be returned with the same reduced number of MLAs again!

    And, let’s be honest, whatever you may argue about the potential success or otherwise of such an all-Ireland tie-up is mere idle speculation. What we definitely can see, however, is that every election for the past decade has shown an SDLP in terminal decline. I see no reason to think that will change on the basis of W’minter results/share of the vote. But next March will tell it’s own story. If there isn’t a reversal of SDLP fortunes, then time should be called.

  • Charminator

    Far from rebranding at all. Would every SDLP rep join a Labour or FF camp? Certainly not. Would you see an injection of new talent presently dissatisfied with the SF/SDLP options? Likely. And would the over-arching principles be Labour or FF, rather than an unconvincing SDLP menu? Yes. (I say unconvincing because, frankly, are McGlone and McDevitt the sort that share a constitutional Republican philosophy or instead a liberal left philosophy…. a marriage of convenience bonded together by SF hostility, more than principle)
    Let’s consider a Labour tie-up. Would McDevitt jump? Yes. Would Ritchie consider leading her party into it in the right circumstances? Quite possibly on the basis of her recent Galway speech. People like Patsy McGlone and PJ Bradley might be a little depressed by such a move, but she won the leadership and could probably steer a substantial number to their new home.
    Lionel – the SDLP need to radically examine their future. Yes, it’s sad for SDLP diehards to confront this reality, but all the objective criteria suggest it isn’t going to change. Waiting for miracle retirements and clutching at straws is no substitute for an SDLP Group of Wise Man (such as can be found) sitting down and evaluating where they go from here. An SDLP confined to a few strongholds in Derry and Down, with a speckle of representatives in Unionist heartlands, is patently not fit for purpose.

  • Charminator

    You might also include McDevitt if the Labour option gains traction, or McGlone if the FF option’s on the menu. KPB – instead of being stirred purely by SDLP fantasising, try to see the comments for what they are: an honest attempt to interpret the trends we’re seeing in the Nationalist vote over the past decade, which suggest to me that the SDLP is rapidly falling out of sync with even moderate Nationalist voters across vast swathes of the North. That cannot be allowed to continue.

    The principles the SDLP stand for: moderation, constitutionalism, relationship-building with Unionism are more important than the SDLP themselves. If a new vehicle can champion those principles better, then let’s not recoil from actually considering it, before we put up every stumbling block and cheap remark we can think of.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Charminator,

    there is nothing rapid about this. A 1% drop over five years is not a terminal decline. There was a significant swing from 2001-2005 which peaked around 2007 and now looks to be moving backwards.

    Anyway, I disagree fundamentally with your position. There was always a struggle within the SDLP and could really have called the constitutional nationalist party. Hume brought the party closer to a labour style politics away from FF. Although the party was a bit lost since his reitrement, as I said in the first post, that leadership election was a referendum on labour or FF and labour one. If FF want to come up to fill a vacuum, that’s their look out

  • KPB

    Charminator,

    I appreciate your attempts here, they may be out of sync with a new generation of voter who would never vote Sinn Féin but haven’t fallen on the back of the SDLP cause yet. They may have been out of sync with “moderate Republicans” so to speak who have backed them in the past. Sinn Féin are outspending them and out media-isng them so to speak.

    It’s not that they don’t care about these groups of individuals or detached from their cause necessarily.

    They stood up for “Social Democracy” in Fermanagh South Tyrone to give people a third choice in anotherwise dichotomy perhaps at their own expense. They let the people have their say rather than having the politicians “lead” them.

    1. Fianna Fail are facing the prospect of no longer being the largest party in the Dail after 50 years or so. While they are more outwardly Republican than Fine Gael and ‘Luach Oibre’, those in the 26 counties are looking for clean, efficient, effective politics and see themselves more in competition with the north, than the benefits of co-orperation with the north.
    There are benefits to constitutional reform north and south, there are rooms for greater integration north and south, but
    both institutions have systemic economic problems. Northern Ireland is heavily subsidised, it has a collapsing private sector and faces major cuts. The Republic is no better in that its already had to make severe cuts in order to refinance their deficit.
    Fianna Fail’s main problem is that the North is a very low priority, they are seen as an isolated party in Europe and there is growing resentment in the South.
    Even in PR-STV, any advance up North would probably cause both the SDLP and Sinn Fein to lose seats, not to themselves or Fianna Fail but to non-Nationalists.

    2. Labour themselves are under threat of a different kind. Europe has turned Right and Euroskeptic in reaction to the recession, The Labour government in Britian that played a significant part of the PES movement the SDLP belongs to were rejected in Europe and kicked out at home. We see Socialist goverments in Spain, Portugal, Greece slashing their public sectors against the grain of their beliefs. Voters are going either far-left, centre-right or even very far right with the BNP, Front National or whatever. While the Irish Labour party is one of three partys whose vote has increased in this Recession.
    Pan-Europeanism and Socialism are seen as counter productive to the ‘neo-liberalism dream’ that will come in and fix it all.

    So two parties wouldn’t fix the SDLP’s identity crisis, it would bring up two parties with more identity crisises.

    At the end of the day I’d rather have a party who tackles both these issues with a heavy heart than a party in denial of their existance.

  • Charminator

    @Lionel: If you’re suggesting that the SDLP has declined only 1% from the days of Deputy First Minister Mallon, then you’re deluding yourself. I suspect instead, however, you’re (still) trying to refine your analysis to the recent W’minster election, though you no doubt know as well as I do that the contest was radically skewed in at least one constituency (possibly two) by massive tactical Unionist voting. Let’s accord each other a certain level of gumption. That sort of dreamworld analysis of only a 1% drop, concealed by tactical voting, may work on the airwaves, but anyone who sits down and number-crunches the figures can see otherwise. That’s not a question of a fundamental disagreement between two equally valid views, it’s a simple statement of fact that in S Down 5000+ Unionists voted for Ritchie and several thousand Shinners voted for McDonnell. In Foyle, Durkan’s personal vote dropped by several thousand.

    Finally, whether its a Labour or FF tie-up isn’t for me to comment on – that’s for the SDLP themselves.

  • Charminator

    @KPB: “They stood up for “Social Democracy” in Fermanagh South Tyrone to give people a third choice in anotherwise dichotomy perhaps at their own expense. They let the people have their say rather than having the politicians “lead” them.”

    I’m not sure the people of FST quite see it that way and the notion that the SDLP is still almost sacrificing itself is, frankly, absurd. It’s absurd too, when one considers the stunt of trying to slot Fearghal McKinney in, not Gallagher, Rogers, Flanagan or any of the on-the-ground SDLP reps. Hardly, the mark of victimhood.

    More significantly though, your analysis of Labour and FF fails to look at one obvious aspect. The SDLP have now only two thirds of their Assembly seats, only one Minister, no MEP. Things really can’t get much worse. Whether Labour or FF could do better is conjecture. It’s idle speculation, one way or the other. However, what is clear is that the SDLP vote has declined in dramatic form in the past decade. I’d be prepared to hedge my bets and say “This outfit is done for”, either Labour or FF with a sizeable number of SDLPers who’d jump on any liferaft that arrived, might just punch a few holes in SF’s sails over the course of two Assembly cycles.

    Your conclusion, “At the end of the day I’d rather have a party who tackles both these issues with a heavy heart than a party in denial of their existance” says it all. Put bluntly, it’s not really what you’d rather have, or whether you think they should remain the only show in town, or indeed whether you think analysts like myself should join the McKinney bandwagon and set up our own shop. It’s what the electorate think. And sadly, they’ve seen fit to the strip the SDLP of DFM and two other Ministerial seats, one third of their MLAs, double digit council seats, an MEP, and rather than a partridge in a pear tree, a MP in N&A. It’s gone long past individual self-serving praise and platitudes about sacrificing or being the victim. We’re in a new era and if we don’t all wake up and start seriously looking at ALL alternatives to being a fresh thinking to things, then SF will be the only show in town. (From negotiations with the British and Unionists, re the devolution of policing & justice for example, some might say, they already are.)

  • Charminator

    @KPB: “Even in PR-STV, any advance up North would probably cause both the SDLP and Sinn Fein to lose seats, not to themselves or Fianna Fail but to non-Nationalists.”

    Btw, that’s a very interesting concern from a party advocating a ‘shared future’ that refuses to engage in electoral pacts on a principled basis. Not entirely consistent with the previous waffle re FST though, I’d suggest.

  • Jean Meslier

    What started as a post dealing with what is essentially the SDLP’s last throw of the dice – McDevitt, has turned into countless posts by certain people trying to convince us with an argument similar to – the earth is still flat, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

    May I state an evolutionary observation.
    The amount of young people who consider themselves nationalist and who bother to vote, do so for SF, over the SDLP, by between 3 and 4 to 1.
    The maths of all this is simple.

    Margaret needs to make up her mind whether to jump into the FF or Labour camps.
    The lifetime of the SDLP has IMO already expired. They are on artificial support and going downhill fast.

    So, no more delusion.
    It’s either the FF lifeboat or the Labour lifeboat. -But be careful nobody falls into the water now.

  • KPB

    I think the analysis is fair, I’m not a party spokesperson or member. If Unionism, Alliance or an independent secures the seat below quota then that’s the consequence of democracy and democratic choice and I would support the fairness of the result. They were closer to representing their 1/7th of the electorate than the other parties were and that proportion deserves their proportion of representation. No one from Fianna Fail, SDLP, or Sinn Féin has a say in what that candidate does as the ball is in their court. It was the same with Rodney Connor and the DUP/UUP/Con candidatature, it would be the same for the SDLP or other parties.

    I don’t think the SDLP are above tribal politics, that doesn’t mean they’ve abandoned political good faith. They gave people another choice as did Vashundra Kamble of the Alliance and the independent John Stevenson.

  • KPB

    Well I’ve looked at a very good number cruncher in Nicolas Whyte, who says that on the basis of that election the SDLP would on the basis of this election…

    Make gains in:
    South Belfast from Sinn Fein
    South Down from the UUP
    West Tyrone from Deeney

    You could argue tactical voting in all three. But without these quotas of results the status quo remains.

    With losses in
    Fermanagh South Tyrone to Sinn Fein
    South Antrim to the UUP
    North Antrim to the UUP/Alliance

    You could argue tactical voting in all three. Again, you’d have to see if these tactical votes stick.

    With a chance of winning a seat in: Strangford & Upper Bann mainly due to boundary changes.

    The conclusion here is that Sinn Fein are most likely to win one seat from the SDLP, that of Fermanagh South Tyrone, they are unlikely to win a seat from anyone else but look set to lose their seat in Lagan Valley.

    The two most vulnerable ones are the Antrim ones, one because an obvious tactical vote for “Ian Og” as he’s affectionally known and another perhaps tactically for Mitchell McLaughlin. I’ll admit Sinn Fein might win a second seat here, with Ulster Unionist and DUP tactical transfers of course.

    Let’s talk about Sinn Fein winning 3 seats in Foyle or South Down, do they have anywhere near 42% of the vote here to do that? No. What about South Belfast? do Sinn Fein have 28% of the vote to win two seats there? No. What about 42% of the vote in North Belfast? No. Does Adams have 85% of the vote in West Belfast? No. What about Murphy getting 57% of the vote in Newry and Armagh, or McGuinness getting in Mid Ulster?

    Every seat needs 14% of the vote per seat, anything less is a fantasy world. That 1% swing to Sinn Fein, isn’t going to push them over any thresholds. Their only gain is the hope of an SDLP seat is that the SDLP don’t regain half the vote of the half they loaned to Michelle. Obviously turnout is a more significant factor than loan votes as sny Unionist “loan votes” would only come back to Unionists, they’re not exactly going to go to Sinn Fein in the next election.

    Please, do your homework and learn how PR-STV works.

  • KPB

    Well maybe the 4 to 1 ratio exists in West Belfast, but in Foyle which actually has a younger demographic profile, the Sinn Fein vote is only a marginal increase there and has declined overall.

    Now, I have a degree in maths, but I don’t need to apply here to see this 4:1 ratio cannot be right, certainly not outside of West Belfast where it was 4:1 anyway.

  • KPB

    marginal swing increase I mean. i.e. 0.2%

  • Charminator

    @KPB: So what you’ve concluded from that analysis is that the SDLP isn’t going to move. No breakthrough. No Margaret Ritchie fulfilment of ‘I want to be First Minister’. No rolling back the tide on SF. And you’re satisfied with that. With the meagre scraps from the SF table, simply because the SDLP is plunging to a point below which it can hardly fall much further. I think you need to reflect if hanging on, at the lowest possible level, is the best reflection of the SDLP. That’s exactly the defeatist attitude I’m challenging.

    SF may well gain a seat in Upper Bann: consider again the poor vote management which denied them a second seat last time. And what of W Tyrone, N&A, the SDLP’s once third seat in S Down… will any seats be ‘reclaimed’ there? A third seat in S Down, you think!? And on the basis of Unionist tactical voting – that’s sheer lunacy! But I’m not going to engage in further in-depth futuristic analysis when the only polls that count are those on election day. And, as the past decade shows, they tell a sorry story of dismal decline for the SDLP.

    Remember, my analysis is not that the SDLP can hold their own and put on a brave face again! We’ve seen enough of that. My analysis demands that the SDLP roll back the SF tide. And that looks as unlikely as ever. I have no doubt predicting they will return to the Assembly with less seats after next year’s poll.

    A reliance on W’minster results, where we all know massive tactical Unionist voting skewed the results, simply just doesn’t warrant comment. It is the sort of head in the stand dreaming that has left the SDLP incapable of analysing it’s dire problems already.

    “Please, do your homework and learn how PR-STV works.” Like your comments on SDLP being the only show in town, that I should form another party merely because of my analysis of the SDLP deep problems etc… such comments hardly require a response. If the SDLP’s PR-STV gurus were quite so good, they wouldn’t be lagging behind in the Assembly with only one Minister and the only major Northern party with no MEP.

  • Charminator

    Incidentally, I think the N Antrim analysis is very wrong too. Both O’Loan and Black polled relatively well there last time – comparable to the Farren/O’Loan returns. Not sure where that analysis is emanating from… but like the S Down, W Tyrone predictions etc, it’s purely speculative.

    The trends I, and others, have been analysing, however, are based on the past decade’s election results. More than enough meat there, one would think, for any would-be psephologist’s analysis.

  • KPB

    Charminator,

    I didn’t mean to insult you, but this statement:

    “I think we’ll see a very significant drop in the SDLP share of the vote next year. The SDLP’s recent showing in FST wouldn’t even be enough to get Gallagher reelected at this point, keeping Ramsey’s seat in Foyle, or Bradley’s in S Down (if either retire) will be very tough.”

    This analysis In particular shows a lack of PR-savvy.
    You are assuming further 7% swings from nowhere in all cases, which I really don’t see happening. But I’m glad you now accept that this represents stagnation rather than decline. It also shows Sinn Fein stagnant.

    Again I’m not a “PR-STV” guru for the SDLP (nice pun by the way) but if I was, I’d probably have done a better job with vote management in West Tyrone.

  • Charminator

    @KPB: Stagnation on the high ground is radically different than stagnation in the valleys. If SF can ‘stagnate’ with DFM, several Ministries, way more MLAs and councillors, 5 MPs (not that that matters much), and an MEP, than that’s hardly what I’d describe as stagnation. Consolidation might be a better word.

    In FST, the SDLP would seriously need to hope that the McKinney stunt doesn’t backfire with a protest vote (or transfers) for McHugh. In S Down, if Bradley retires (a massive vote-getter in Mourne where I believe the SDLP only have one councillor) then there might well be serious problems there. And I’m not so certain at all that the SDLP vote in Foyle (given the massive personal drop in Durkan’s vote) will be sufficient to retain the third seat: look at what happened in S Down!! But I agree with you that a great deal of any predictions re next year are obviously speculation. Which is why I’m reluctant to indulge in them.

    It’s also why I’m content to rest my analysis on what we’re certain of: the past decade’s sad decline of the SDLP at the polls. As I’ve noted, the collapse of voting shares in N&A and W Tyrone. Attwood struggling through in W Belfast on transfers, having polled less than the DUP. The loss of the MEP seat. The loss of DFM and several Ministries. Double digit council seats lost. It’s all a sorry tale of decline that anyone, bar the most infatuated SDLP stooge’s could not fail to recognise. Believe me, if I saw cause to think a corner were being turned, I have no personal reason to not call it as I see it, but frankly I don’t. I think this decline will continue (perhaps not at the same accelerated pace, but of course we’re soon approaching rock bottom), and if stagnation in the depths of the valley with a solitary Minister and minimal influence (see devolution of policing) is cause for happiness, well good for you. For a political party in the business of fighting elections, such minimalist ambitions should be cause for concern, not satisfaction.

    There should be no happiness in lying stagnant at the bottom, struggling through in W Belfast, FST, N&A or W Tyrone (if better vote management next time) to take a single seat in solid Nationalist heartlands. Such a performance is a disgrace and no cause for jubiliation.

  • Lionel Hutz

    @Charminator

    “Lionel: If you’re suggesting that the SDLP has declined only 1% from the days of Deputy First Minister Mallon, then you’re deluding yourself. I suspect instead, however, you’re (still) trying to refine your analysis to the recent W’minster election, though you no doubt know as well as I do that the contest was radically skewed in at least one constituency (possibly two) by massive tactical Unionist voting. Let’s accord each other a certain level of gumption”

    Lets do just that – I’ll give you some general outcomes of First-Past-The-Post elections:

    – People vote tactically for a party with a chance of winning.
    – As a consequence, smaller parties and parties with a small presence in a constituency get squeezed and bigger parties get flattered.

    There is one element of your analysis that is frustrating me – that is that you only account for perceived tactical voting when it seems to flatter the SDLP.

    You appear to treat unionist tactical voting as a new phenomenon masking a decline greater than 1% in the last five years. It is not new and I would suggest that it is declining. I say this unionists would have been inclined to vote SDLP in a majority nationalist constituency but because SF secured such heavy majorities in four of their five seats, this is unlikely. So in Newry & Armagh, an SDLP vote would have had a chance of keeping out SF but not anymore. Most unionists seem to be staying at home in those four constituencies.

    So that leaves Foyle and South Down. In the former, it appears that the greatest moves for unionists involved brewing a pot of tea on May 6. Turnout dropped over 10% and the nationalist parties combined vote does not reach the percentage of the catholic community. In South Down, I accept there was large tactical voting. However I would also point out that SF percentage of the vote dropped 2% from 2007.

    There is a flip side to this tactical voting- nationalist tactical voting. This would have benifitted SDLP for the first time in South Belfast y a couple of thousand votes. This is more than outweighed by the huge tactical vote for SF in FST. Then we have tactical voting for SF as the largest party in their other four constituencies and more prevalently, in North Belfast and Upper Bann. You seem content to disregard this.

    I’m sure as we are going to settle on a few self evident truths. Whilst you can argue whether tactical voting hurts or benefits SDLP, outside of South Belfast it can only benefit Sinn Fein. And the fact of the matter is that Sinn Feins rose by 1% of the vote in 5 years overall. Since 2007, it has fallen from 26.2% (where there wouldn’t be tactical voting) to 25.5% (where they would benefit from tactical voting.

    Either this is going to reflect in an increase in SDLPs share next year or it’s a sign more nationalists are staying at home relative to Unionist (which there is no evidence of)

    watch this space – the assembly elections will be crucial. The SDLP can make inroads into SF vote particularly when recession bites.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Lionel,

    Care to put some predcitions in place for the Assembly elections – I would wager that both the SF % and total vote will go up in the Assembly elections (compared to the last Assembly elections) and the SDLP’s vote will do the opposite.

    A nominal bet of £10 and the winnings to Slugger?

  • Lionel Hutz

    On those terms- absolutely!

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Game on Lionel.

    …but it also encompasses what you believe (or rather what you have been sayig) doesnt it?

  • KPB

    Okay, I hope you do realise Gerry McHugh defected from Sinn Fein to “join” Fianna Fail, now that may be a spanner in the SDLP attempt for a seat there, it may also put Sinn Fein under pressure to hold two. I just don’t know how popular McHugh is down there. It’s too difficult to draw conclusions from the election here.

    I’ll tackle Foyle next.

    You point to the 3,000 vote drop in Durkan’s vote, well there is the Bannagher and Claudy loss Eastside, two wards which had a marginal SDLP lead in and let’s face it the loss of Unionist voters too. This also was a small factor in the 3,000 vote loss for Martina Anderson’s inherited voters from Mitchel.

    Ah ah ah but on further examination you could also say the electorate went up from the last time despite of this.

    One reason is People before Profit, they made an effort to get people to register and another is demographics which leads into the former anyway. They have half a quota, so there is an outside chance they could put pressure on both the SDLP third seat and Sinn Fein second seat. There’s a fairly even split on how the precusor SEA transfered their vote last time, many of these won’t transfer to either party. Even with the entire PBPA transfering to them, Sinn Fein don’t get the magic 42%, and that is highly unlikely in itself.

    The second is a 6% drop in turnout figure, there were clearly voters turned off or too lazy to vote. Durkan was safe, Anderson was new, neither party had much a concern over maximising their vote.

    I don’t see enough change here to worry me that Sinn Fein will take the third seat, even without Mark Durkan standing, they could replace him with Mark H Durkan and noone would be any wiser. It was much closer in 2003, the SDLP still won three seats.

    Now South Down:

    Well firstly I may add, you draw direct comparisons between this and Foyle, not so simple … much easier to win a second seat on 30% of the vote than a third one.
    Let’s say 6,000 Unionists voted Ritchie, take it away, and they go back to a Unionist, Status quo remains.

    I’ll have to get back to you on P J Bradley’s vote in the Morne’s, Sean Rodgers has kept his seat safe for now.

    I take what you say about West Belfast, Newry & Armagh and West Tyrone not being as strong SDLP places as they once were, particularly the losses of Dr Hendron, Seamus Mallon and (erm) Brid Rodgers not standing or put another way Adams, Murphy and Doherty standing for Sinn Fein. This is one of many explainations, that go into party, personality and politics.

    Maybe I’m being a little conservative here not anticipating disasters, that’s down to the voters and their votes to prove me wrong or right on this.

    If Poots brings through the Supercouncils, it would shake things up a bit, arguably in favor of Sinn Fein for now. But you can’t say how voters will react to them.

  • Lionel Hutz

    It would be a bit cruel to leave you on that bet that you cannot win. If you want out of the Sinn Fein total vote part – exit now.

    I would bet that Sinn Feins vote share will go down from 2007 and SDLPs will go up. Sinn Fein total vote will go down.

  • KPB
  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Lionel,

    kind consideration but I’m happy to let it sit.

  • Jean Meslier

    I bow to your maths degree KPB, and I am honoured to be in your very presence.
    However in some wards in NA, almost the only young people bothering to go on the register are SF supporters.
    In time this will take its inevitable toll as the older generation declines.
    Again I say there is, as of yet, no substitute for using up the footwear as one networks with ones potential support base.

  • Charminator

    @Lionel: I’m certainly not disregarding the concept of Nationalist tactical voting. Strange that you should allude to this, given the ‘shared future’, happy go lucky, almost post-Nationalist world some in the SDLP seem to dream about. But you’re right, Nationalist tactical voting does exist. It certainly benefited the SDLP in S Belfast (given SF didn’t run a candidate). And, of course, in FST, it benefitted SF, even though the SDLP did run a candidate, and a high-profile one at that too. Perhaps, a more simple conclusion, in everywhere but S Belfast, Nationalists seem to vote for SF as the ‘stronger party’. Try reversing that trend. (And it won’t exactly help by waffling on the doorsteps about a ‘shared future’, when the only obvious examples of Unionists voting for the SDLP are to keep a SF candidate out – hardly a ringing endorsement, when trying to garner votes in Fermanagh or Tyrone!)

    Btw, I am also referring to the SDLP’s monumental gains from tactical voting, not because I am not conscious of SF benefits from it too (though confined to FST), but because the SDLP rely on the phenomenon in practically every seat!!! Did tactical voting gain SF their seats in W Tyrone, Mid Ulster, W Belfast or N&A??? No. So let’s compare like with like. The tactical voting point is particularly relevant to the SDLP because they’re now particularly reliant on it. When they are reduced to trying to take the last single seat in Nationalist heartlands like N&A, W Belfast, FST, that alone should say something. Struggling through without a quota in some instances, whilst a host of Shinners top the poll with ease!!!

    In the final analysis, I don’t know where you expect the SDLP to go from here. If they had real ambition they would be outlining their plans to retake their MEP seat, take 4 or 5 MLA seats from SF, and begin to reassert themselves on the councils. But of course, you know, as well as I do, that that’s sheer lunacy. But more importantly that perception seems also to have permeated the Nationalist psyche (and try recovering from that!!!). There’s no more chance of the SDLP winning any more seats next year than there is of Margaret Ritchie being First Minister – a deluded fantasy if ever there was one.

    In places like FST, the SDLP vote didn’t go to SF as a sign of cosy tactical voting – it went to SF despite the SDLP’s most determined efforts to hold their own. Will that vote come back? Gallagher better hope so, but I certainly wouldn’t be putting any money on him with McHugh in the running and SF trying to take back another seat.

    “The SDLP can make inroads into SF vote particularly when recession bites.” Do you honestly think the electorate will blame the recession on SF??? When has anyone ever voted for SF on the basis of their economic policy, such as it can be said to exist!! The electorate vote for them already IN SPITE of their mad Marxist economic theories. Big businessman vote for them in Border heartlands, well aware of their Socialist nonsense. The electorate don’t vote for SF for economic reasons and this is also where the failed ‘shared future’ SDLP mantra kicks in. People vote for SF because they feel comfortable that they will challenge Unionism without fear or favour (note FST, collapse of SDLP vote).

    I think your confidence is commendable. After all, you’re clearly a member of – or at the very least avid supporter of – a party which has not made a single gain (except S Belfast) for the past decade and has lost every important position from DFM to MEP to key Ministerial portfolios (Finance, and Ministerial seats more generally), several MLAs, councillors etc…. If they all had your enthusiasm, things might even be different. But they don’t. That much, at least, should be obvious.