The SDLP were defending a marginal in South Belfast and had a new leader attempting to follow a popular MP in South Down. Those seemed potential nightmare ingredients. However the election was a real triumph for Ritchie. Looking at their strongest seats you have:
South Down – 48% (that’s a significant personal triumph – I didn’t think a landslide was on the cards)
Foyle – 45% (If you haven’t seen it look at Durkan on Saville– just the right speech I thought.)
South Belfast – 41% (Higher than the combined Unionist vote)
2 absolute bastions and South Belfast looks safe in the medium term.
Next year (partly due to prior incompetence) it’s the SDLP who look like increasing the number of nationalist MLAs. There’s a few chances:
1) West Tyrone – a no brainer and could be at the DUPs expense.
2) Strangford – always close the GE was supposed to show a nationalist increase due to boundary changes. However both SDLP and SF share fell – lending votes to Nesbitt?
3) East Antrim – in the GE SF outpolled the SDLP by 45 votes. There does look like a possible last seat but the SDLP would need to beat SF on first preferences….
4) South Down – Could the SDLP get a third seat at the expense of SF?…Nic Whyte extrapolates a 5th nationalist seat here Perhaps not quite as the “cross community” GE support for Ritchie drifts away.