The Centre-Left in Northern Ireland. Time to step over the obstacles?

As the SDLP gather this weekend, here’s a question for you: As Northern Ireland’s political landscape is still dominated by parties that are essentially communal, is it properly equipped to respond to the challenges posed by the global economic crisis?

Personally, I doubt it. From what I’ve seen, the response so far has been a mixture of gesture politics and incoherence. And while there may be early signs of what may aim to be a post-communal political force on the centre-right, the centre-left remains transfixed by contradictions that may no longer be relevant.

I’ll not waste your time rehearsing the reasons why the SDLP’s claim to that mantle is problematic. All I want to say is that…

  1. It is problematic
  2. The lack of a focussed centre left alternative may be bad for politics in the long run, and bad for Northern Ireland in the short term because it will be the cause of a less coherent response to the cuts proposed in the CSR

Even former UUP-er Trevor Ringland seems to want to see something akin to an independent Labour Party to emerge, and there’s certainly an argument that a non-Unionist centre-right party can’t exist until a viable non-nationalist centre-left force emerges.

Does this need to be a political party? Not necessarily. But I’d suggest that there needs to be a cross-cutting forum of people who are conversant with each other in a more active way as well as understanding the mainstream PES thinking and responses to the current crisis.

I reckon it would be a good subject for a session at the Slugger event on the 20th November? If you think so too (or if you have a better idea) use this to say so.

Living in London but working all over Britain and Ireland. A left-leaning Labour Party member and blogger. I’m on twitter as @paul0evans1 and I blog mainly at the Local Democracy blog though I’m in lots of other places as well. I’m a massive fan of Google Reader – please follow me and share the better posts from your feed?