SDLP: Minds clouded by SF?

A passing glance at the SDLP party conference caused me to think they had a little too much emphasis on SF. So, I ran their leader’s speech through a word cloud to find out when Sinn Féin appeared on the list of most mentioned phrases.

You hit ‘Sinn’ as the 10th most popular word during Margaret Ritchie’s address to the faithful.

It beat ‘economy’.

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  • joeCanuck

    But what does it mean, Mark? Needs a little bit of context; for example, comparison to the number of times other parties are mentioned in party speeches in other parties.
    Does seem a bit obsessive at first blush, mind you.

  • Mark McGregor

    Joe,

    I’ve no idea what it means. It seemed like a lot and when I checked it was.

    The main thing seems to be, while the economy is a major issue for everyone, Ritchie talked about the shinners more than it.

    Doesn’t, on the face of it, seem like a positive vision for the future being presented over old-fashioned (electoral?) attack politics on opponents.

  • medillen

    Did you try a Gerry Adams ard fheis address through the same ‘word cloud’ for references to the SDLP?

  • Mark McGregor

    medillen,

    I just looked at Gerry Adams 2010 leadership address, no need for a ‘word cloud’.

    He mentioned the SDLP exactly zero times.

  • Stephen Ferguson

    I see someone else had a quiet weekend.

  • Rory Carr

    The proximity of the word ratings score for “Sinn Féin” and “economy” are not surprising – the SDLP has about as much a clue as what to do about one as the other.

  • Rory Carr

    Seems like you forgot the old lawyer’s advice there, Medillen, never to ask a question to which you don’t already know the answer

  • White Horse

    Rory

    Hardly needs to be said, but as long as Sinn Fein is selling Social Democracy rather than the old ideology, there doesn’t arise a need to do anything about them.

    As for the economy, hardly worth a comment when you think of Mitchel’s solo runs in Sinn Fein.

  • medillen

    Well funny enough I did.

  • medillen

    Please describe or enlighten us on these solo runs by Mitchel Mclaughlin.

  • White Horse

    What about the bile, Medillen?

    It suffices to say that with the begrudged idealism of the man with the most cynical facial demeanor ever probably seen on television – the devil himself would run scared of the sinister look – he doth bestride the narrow world of economics with no little populism and to much defiance of the realities.

    He fools nobody but the ignorant, a Sinn Fein propaganda tool rather than an honest effort.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I think MMG is right on this one…but there is a context.
    The last election was in very rough terms Unionist 50% Nationalist/Republican 40% and the “middle ground” 10%.

    Partisans will of course disagree with me…..but the next election will be the same. And the one after that. and the one after that.
    Therefore in stark terms theres always two elections.
    SDLP can win votes from SF or lose votes to SF.
    Or win or lose votes with Alliance.
    No traditional SF voter is gonna wake up next election day and decide he is gonna vote Unionist. If he is no longer disposed to vote SF he will vote SDLP or choose dissident nihilism.
    Realistically there is a difference between political “rivalry”
    (SF/SDLP/Alliance rivalry and TUV/DUP/UUP/Alliance rivalry) and political “enemies” unionism/republicanism.
    With AP gerrymandered into one Executive seat already…..this means that there are four seats available to republicans 3:1 and 2:2 is the only logical result and this rivalry of course will be replicated in every council seat and assembly seat.
    And that means a lot to the people in the room …many of whom will be contesting those elections themselves or doing the hard slog on doorsteps
    While SDLP could chip away at AP support in the east (and vice versa of course) but in the whole six counties the real battleground rivalry is SDLP/SF.
    Unionisim in this context is irrelevant. Unionists..please note I said “in this context”.
    While Ms Ritchie engaged in some ritualistic condemnation of the DUP and a kinda “get your act together” remark about UUP, her attack on Alliance as a so called principled party was much more direct and hard hitting.
    Is AP a bigger “enemy” to SDLP than UUP or DUP?
    No but it is a “rival”.
    SF is a much bigger rival.

    As I indicated yesterday Im old school and not a big fan of this “panel” stuff at Party Conferences. I like good honest debate.
    I applaud this “outreach” this genuine getting to know the people who share this piece of land with us. Asking hard questions and hearing hard answers is actually very honourable.
    But I couldnt help asking myself if Duncan Morrow, Dr Norman Hamilton or Davey Adams will actually vote SDLP. I doubt it.
    Its an honourable thing to do.
    Theres no short term gain for SDLP in giving oppononents a platform.
    On a personal level I would have drawn the line at Davey Adams, who is to Journalism what Michael Stone is to Art.
    A former member of a defunct party which had links to the UDA…..which murdered many including Paddy Wilson of SDLP was a bitter pill for me personally. Ironically he drew a lot of applause by referring to the SDLP as the real republican party…….and perhaps the party leadership will take note and more overtly claim that mantle.
    SDLP partisans might well say they already have that mantle but again I stress the word “overtly” . Again they might cling to the notion that it is al “post nationalism” now.
    Whatever……Republicanism is not a dirty word despite the efforts of some to make it so.

    Yet there is a parallel in this generosity. Deep down I thought there was no real difference in giving a platform to Davey Adams and others than there was to the decency of Assemblymen Desmond Gillespie and Vincent McCloskey driving mothers around Andersonstown and Springfield Road RUC stations to check where their sons and husbands had been taken.
    Did Mr Gillespie or Mr McCloskey get any thanks for it? No of course not Their homes were picketed by the same republican women. Classy.
    There is a particular debate concerning rivalry and enemies in the Education Debate but it would be too long and Ive not really fully formulated my own response.
    The SDLP has some cause for optimism that their concern for civil issues… .student fees, employment rights and other issues appeals to those folks in the middle ground where AP is the only rival now that UUP has turned inward and towards the 1950s.
    Yet I do sense a danger there that this is a metropolitan obsession driven by younger SDLP folks and not perhaps totally shared by rural older and more traditional SDLP members.
    Put bluntly members of any Party SDLP included are “ahead” of their supporters and occasionally ahead of its members and it does not pay to get too ahead of them.
    Obviously ALL of the SDLP members in the room will be putting…..1,2, 3 against their fellow members names next May.
    Where preference #4 goes is obviously an individual decision. The Party Leadership …as individuals of course might be virulently anti Sinn Féin. This is not necessarily true of its rank and file…….and more importantly of its broader support in the Electorate.
    This is the last regular SDLP conference befor the Elections. So Im sure the leadership has a strategy. I dont think they expect to beat SF but I think they have a reasonable expectation that in May a line was drawn and that there is a reasonable fight back. A second Executive seat would be a major bonus. But the nitty gritty is not even in the Assembly……its about councils and its in that context mostly that SDLP will be viewing success and failure.

  • S Clarke

    A paragraph about the man and nothing about his party’s policies. Says it all.

  • Rory Carr

    Well that’s even more clever then.

  • Rory Carr

    With respect, White Horse all the above post illustrates is your dislike of Mitchell McLaughlin. I don’t suppose he’ll lose much sleep over it.

  • Comrade Stalin

    WH, why the hell can’t you answer a simple question for once ?

  • White Horse

    Who’s asking? And what’s the question?

  • Hardly surprising part of the problem for the SDLP (and UUP) is that their opponents are in their head but they are not in the head of their opponents.

  • Michaelhenry

    soon be time for the stoops to leave the stage

  • Ulick

    “The last election was in very rough terms Unionist 50% Nationalist/Republican 40% and the “middle ground” 10%.”

    Very rough indeed. Unionist vote share has been below 50% since 2007 and I’ll be very surprised if they ever manage 50% again in a meaningful election.

    As for an SDLP fightback, please… Competition would be healthy but while the limits of their vision ends at the border and sending a few grandees to sup at the Westminster trough, they’ll appeal only to the dying breed of ‘old school’ nationalists content with their lot in a British state. A merger with one of the southern parties is the only future they have. On the positive side, we can be sure that with Ritchie at the helm the SDLP will be destoyed before they come to that realisation. A fitting end to that servile cap-doffing embarrassment that passes for a political party.

  • White Horse

    Better than a lie led by a liar who starves his own brothers in arms for a political career. There’s nothing that will ever come of that party. But we won’t rescue them again.

  • White Horse

    Really. Look how Mitchel covers his ass on the economic front.

  • Mark McGregor

    You get it. As witnessed above the SDLP never will.

  • Mark McGregor

    You get it. As demonstrated above the SDLP never will.

  • Stephen Ferguson

    “Unionist vote share has been below 50% since 2007 and I’ll be very surprised if they ever manage 50% again in a meaningful election.”

    What does that matter when an actual independent, annual opinion poll on a United Ireland shows that support has dropped to embarrassingly low levels within NI?

    http://alturl.com/dxw6a

    The difference between these poll results and the amount of SDLP and Sinn Fein politicians elected to councils, Stormont, etc only show the ineptitude of Unionist politicians to tap into the ever-growing catholic Unionist vote.

  • Ulick

    Sure maybe we should just do away with elections and govern by opinion poll? The only opinions that count are those who can be bothered putting their mark on the ballot paper. The Unionist majority has gone Stephen, get over it.

  • lamhdearg

    She was pathetic.

  • Hedley Lamarr

    I realise there has been much debate about whether the IRA leadership on the outside scuppered an offer or a deal during the second Hunger Strike..

    Lets say they did scupper a deal. There may be many reasons for that. I understand the Sinn Fein political movement took off then. Lets say the IRA leadership purposely let the prisoners die to advance Sinn Fein’s chances in elections. Not for any reason like absence of judgement or wariness due to the breakdown of the previous offer during the first Hunger Strike or any other similarly plausible reason. It doesn’t necessarily follow all those “what ifs” that the deal was scuppered by Gerry Adams in order for prisoners to die in order to advance his political career.

    I don’t want to reignite the debate on this issue. It has been covered extensively by many people. But White Horse’s comment appears to be libellous to me.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    White Horse,
    Ive made the (unchallenged) point above about Vincent McCloskey and Desmond Gillespie doing the rounds of West Belfast RUC stations to find the whereabouts of arrested republicans at the behest of their families……and the marked lack of any public acknowledgement (they were too decent to look for it) and indeed the picketing of their houses by the same relatives and placards denouncing their treachery.
    And Im sure that situation was replicated in many areas across the north.
    So when you speak of “rescuing them again” I fully take the point.

    Fool me once…….shame on you.
    Fool me twice …….shame on me.
    But I wonder if the same thing is happening again….with a different cast of characters. As Ive said Im not a big fan of these panel discussions…….but I wonder if many of the people/groups who currently regard the SDLP as the first port of call to address a grievance……(unionists not actually caring, SF “tainted” and Alliance smaller and confined to the Belfast suburbs)….Im speaking here of the people who term themselves “civil society”……how many will actually vote SDLP? Or go tribal when it matters?

  • Stephen Ferguson

    “Sure maybe we should just do away with elections and govern by opinion poll? The only opinions that count are those who can be bothered putting their mark on the ballot paper. The Unionist majority has gone Stephen, get over it.”

    Using your logic, between 2005 and 2010 9,000 people in East Belfast moved from being Unionists to not having an opinion on NI’s constitutional position.

    Do you believe that’s actually the case?

    Elections in NI aren’t a single issue vote on the border. Some people actually vote on policies, previous record of constituency work, candidate’s personality, keeping ‘them other ones’ out, etc.

  • White Horse

    Hedley

    That’s because you really haven’t got a clue. Or perhaps you know more than you’re admitting. Perhaps you share the ideology, or think you do, that really doesn’t care about the hunger strikers, only the benefits.

    Try reading Afterlives by Richard O’Rawe. By the way, Richard may have the money to prove that Gerry has a backbone, however well concealed.

  • PaddyReilly

    An interesting proposition, but yes, one would expect a certain amount of movement on opinions, particularly in Inner City areas where population change is rapid, and you have to bear in mind that in 5 years a lot of old people will have died off and young ones come on the electoral register.

    Naomi Long obviously attracted voters who previously had voted for the PUP, SF and SDLP, as well as those who did not vote at all: ethnic minorities such as Chinese and Indian now, it seems, go for Alliance.

    But the data from 2009 European Parliamentary elections shows those Alliance and Green party voters can be divided into three camps, those who lean towards the Nationalist side, of whom there were 94,814; those who lean towards the Unionist side, of whom there were 101,483 (-2,614); and those who absolutely refused to transfer to either of the above, whose number was 7,548.

    (The (-2,614) is because that number first transferred to the TUV and then to the SDLP, so it is hard to make out exactly what they think.)

    Alliance voters thus represent a body of people who, in the main, can be induced, with a little arm twisting, to give an opinion on the constitutional question, which they do in roughly equal proportions, but for whom this question is not necessarily paramount.

  • White Horse

    Fitz

    There’s no end of people who use politicians and parties. It’s doing the right thing that’s important. Moral force will resolve this conflict. Other parties live lies and end up lying all the time. They have no destiny only death.

  • Stephen Ferguson

    So within FIVE YEARS 9,000 people who were previously Unionist have changed to become blase about the border?

    Or it’s because of population shifts? (If so which other constituency did the 9,000 these traveling Unionists move to? I’m sure there’s figures to back up this idea…)

    Or is it because of an influx of 9,000 Chinese and Indian immigrants into the area?

    All are very plausible………

  • Halfer

    I believe there isn’t enough differences between SF and the SDLP to warrant two parties.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Indeed. But theres usually some element of quid pro pro. Or at least decency. The SDLP has a record of helping people who dont even respect it.
    The community groups knocking on its door……or the public service unions for example. And yes of course youre right that virtue is its own reward and just doing the right thing is enough.
    But Im just saying not a lot of these people will be grateful on Election Day.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Theres certainly less difference between them than many of their respective members think. Although it is a good way to “wind up” a SDLP or SF member to say so.
    But Members are one thing……supporters is a different matter.
    But actually Nationalism/Republicanism needs two parties. If only to facilitate the democratic process. An Alternative is good.

  • PaddyReilly

    No, your figures are incorrect to start with.

    The Unionist vote in 2005 was 15,152 (DUP) + 9,275 (UUP) = 24, 427

    In 2010 it was 11,306 (DUP) + 7,305 (UUP) + 1,856 (TUV) = 20, 467

    The difference is only half of what you say, even if you add the 434 Conservative voters in 2005.

    I gave you a number of causes and you wish to bundle them all together and double them.

    Let us suppose 1,500 rock-hard for the Union voters died off; 1,500 moved to Bangor or the UK, and half that number changed their minds. A very small change indeed.

  • PaddyReilly

    By UK I meant to say “Great Britain”

  • PaddyReilly

    Another factor I forgot to mention- there were boundary changes, were there not?

  • Seymour Major

    I would agree that there is very little difference between the SDLP and Sinn Fein over “bread and butter” political issues.

    However, I think there is a difference between the SDLP and Sinn Fein in their respective strains of Nationalism. For the purpose of this observation, I have discounted the fact that Sinn Fein clings to its ghosts from the past and glorifies the actions carried out by the IRA prior to the peace process.

    Both parties want a United Ireland. We also assume (I am not totally sure about SF) that both parties want reconciliation between the communities (if you like, a shared future). The difference between the two seems to be the prioritisation of those two objectives. The SDLP prioritises reconciliation whereas Sinn Fein prioritises a United Ireland.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I think I would go 95% with that Mr Major.
    The main reason I cant go the full 100% is to say that the SDLP Party Leader splelt out in a very straightworward way that Irish unity is the SDLP priority. Thus putting clear water between them and the Alliance Party.
    Of course this might be dismissed by some as rhetoric but if I was to highlight the damp squib of the Conference, it was the realisation that the three representatives of the southern parties were fairly indifferent.
    The Conference applauded Davey Adams belief that the SDLP was the truer Republican Party re-enforcing their own view of themselves.
    Personally Id have liked someone to have asked about a “Second Republic”.
    But as to bread and butter issues……unity is a harder sell in the economic catastrophe that the South is going thru and arguably that puts the issue on the back burner for the decade that 1912-1922 when emotions are stirred with anniversaries.
    And probably the old saying “if I was going there I would not start from here” is relevant”.
    The economic melt down……yet to play out in the North as well gives (eventually) new starting point.
    As Ive also said often, the present dominance of SF is a retrospective endorsement by voters of their terrorism.
    Id add that this situation is always fluid…there was always a period when one or other form of nationalism was in the ascendency.

  • Alias

    Unity isn’t a nationalism: it’s simply a political dynamic created by the British state in the early part of the last century which duly usurped Irish nationalism. Nationalism is about national rights, specifically the right to self-determination. The SDLP and PSF have both formally renounced the right to self-determination, so neither is promoting Irish nationalism. What they are promoting is in actuality an anti Irish nationalist agenda designed for them by Whitehall which seeks to remove the right to self-determination from people in Ireland by extending the veto of another nation from one sovereign territory to another. The ‘self’ in self-determination isn’t plural so it refers to a nation, not nations. Were it to be plural, such as being subject to the veto of another nation, then it would simply be rendered void. Ergo, both the aforementioned parties are anti Irish national rights – a position created for them by the British state.

  • South Down Stoop

    “Do you consider yourself Irish? Do you consider yourself a democrat? Do you find the futile use of violence for political ends repugnant? Welcome to the SDLP.”

    That’s what she should have said. Instead we get a middle-aged woman crying like a school-child: “Miss! Gerry and Marty are bullying me!”

  • Mike

    Paddy, you’re forgetting the most straightforward explanation – that many unionist voters went against Robinson (and/or for Long) while remaining unionist.

  • Stephen Ferguson

    “Let us suppose 1,500 rock-hard for the Union voters died off; 1,500 moved to Bangor or the UK, and half that number changed their minds. A very small change indeed.

    Another factor I forgot to mention- there were boundary changes, were there not?”

    Or the more simple explanation that Long’s vote went from 3,800 to 12,800 (the magical 9,000 figure) because East Belfast’s Unionists are more willing to step out of their communal camp to vote out a tarnished representative and replace him with someone with a history of good constituency work?

    Add into this the thousands of Unionists who voted SDLP in constituencies where there was a chance they could end up being represented by terrorist cheerleaders and you’ll understand claims about the Unionist vote dropping under 50% are laughable.

    An independent, respected annual poll is conducted in Northern Ireland every year to judge support for a United Ireland. Take a look – it might scare you!

    http://alturl.com/dxw6a

    SDLP voters – and a fair whack of Sinn Fein voters – know which side their bread is buttered on lad!

  • PaddyReilly

    Paddy, you’re forgetting the most straightforward explanation – that many unionist voters went against Robinson (and/or for Long) while remaining unionist.

    As stated there is no evidence of a substantial fall in the Unionist vote, especially because of Robinson: the 2007 Assembly elections showed the number of Unionists/Loyalists to be 11, 155 (DUP) + 6, 516 (UUP) + 3, 045 (PUP) = 20, 716. Add another 427 Conservatives if you like, but it is clear that the Robinson affair had minimal effect on the Unionist vote, which was still 20,467 in 2010.

    What changed was the ability of the Alliance party to get its supporters out, plus the increase in size of the constituency. The 9,000 voters you mention did not change from being Unionist voters to Alliance ones- they changed from being non-voters to voting for Alliance. The garden centres are full, not of right thinking Orangemen, but peace-loving citizens who will consent to any arrangement that puts an end to conflict.

    As for opinion polls: their trick is to detect consent to the Union under current circumstances, which is after all what was voted for in the GFA, and attempt to market it as diehard opposition to a United Ireland, when the circumstances make it possible.

  • Stephen Ferguson

    “As stated there is no evidence of a substantial fall in the Unionist vote, especially because of Robinson: the 2007 Assembly elections showed the number of Unionists/Loyalists to be 11, 155 (DUP) + 6, 516 (UUP) + 3, 045 (PUP) = 20, 716. Add another 427 Conservatives if you like, but it is clear that the Robinson affair had minimal effect on the Unionist vote, which was still 20,467 in 2010.”

    Comparing Assembly elections to Westminster elections is like comparing apples to oranges.

    2005 Westminster Election – Naomi Long – 3,800 votes
    2010 Westminster Election – Naomi Long – 12,800 votes

    I can’t make it any easier for you understand.

    Unionists in East Belfast were prepared to vote outside their communal camp to remove a tarnished MP. Unfortunately their neighbours in West Belfast didn’t feel comfortable enough to do likewise.

    So……… taking levels of support for/against a United Ireland from Westminster/Assembly election results is pointless. Elections aren’t simply about a single issue.

    “What changed was the ability of the Alliance party to get its supporters out, plus the increase in size of the constituency. The 9,000 voters you mention did not change from being Unionist voters to Alliance ones- they changed from being non-voters to voting for Alliance.”

    2005 Turnout – 58.0%
    2010 Turnout – 58.4%

    You sure?

    “As for opinion polls: their trick is to detect consent to the Union under current circumstances, which is after all what was voted for in the GFA, and attempt to market it as diehard opposition to a United Ireland, when the circumstances make it possible.”

    Funny enough, I doubt you’d be saying that it these same respected, independent, annual polls were showing 48% or 49% support for a United Ireland…..

  • redhugh78

    Censorship is alive and well on slugger I see.

  • medillen

    Mick or Mark, whoever is moderating this thread I think it is getting time for at least a yellow card for this bigot, his accusations are getting more ludicrous and obscene with each outburst.

  • PaddyReilly

    It can take an awfully long time for Unionists to realise that they have lost a seat. South Belfast was a case in point. 2005 was just a flash in the pan, then 2007, and now 2010.

    The SDLP in South Belfast got seven thousand votes in 2003, then ten in 2005, then eight in 2007, then fourteen in 2010.

    Equally Naomi Long in East Belfast was on 2,774 in 2003, 3,746 in 2005, 5,583 in 2007 and 12,839 in 2010.

    Once these movements start to look electable, all sorts of voters who would not have bothered previously suddenly start to favour them. Next year Alliance will suck up all the SF, SDLP, Green and Socialist transfers as well as the UUP excess to gain a second seat—if I am correct. If you are correct it will revert to 2005 figures. Let us wait and see.

    Voting for a party that is agnostic on the Union is of course next dure to accepting a United Ireland. There has been a shift—not necessarily a major shift, because as I have shown, over 95% of Alliance Party voters do come down on one side or another, but they are not coming down as heavily as they used to. A lot of people of a Protestant background are seeing that partition isn’t going to last forever and adjusting their stance accordingly.

  • PaddyReilly

    As for Peter Robinson I don’t see that he has done anything wrong: it was his wife who let him down, poor man. He got more votes in 2010 than all three DUP candidates got in 2007. Admittedly the electorate had been increased, but the TUV took his extra votes away from him.

    Alliance does not attract voters from the DUP. It gets them from the Greens, SDLP, SF (when that party stands no chance) and the UUP, possibly in some cases from the PUP.

    Have it your way: put forward your golden untarnished candidate for the next Westminster election and see what happens.

  • Stephen Ferguson

    “A lot of people of a Protestant background are seeing that partition isn’t going to last forever and adjusting their stance accordingly.”

    So we’ve went from Unionist voters dying off or moving home to an influx of Chinese and Indian immigrants to boundary changes to Alliance non-voters coming back out on polling day to protestants magically accepting the inevitability of Irish unity!!

    What’s your next brainwave? Paul McKenna working out of Avoneil Leisure Centre hypnotising Unionists into becoming die-hard Nationalists???

    Naomi’s votes were a one-off to show the constituency’s disgust at Peter Robinson’s dodgy property dealings (which had a far greater impact on his credibility than Iris getting rogered at Shaws Bridge).

    You might also have missed the media reports that UVF and RHC members were advised to vote Alliance as the PUP weren’t standing.

    Are you now claiming these hundreds of Loyalist paramilitaries are no longer pro-Union???

  • Stephen Ferguson

    “As for Peter Robinson I don’t see that he has done anything wrong: it was his wife who let him down, poor man.”

    £5 property deal anyone???

    “He got more votes in 2010 than all three DUP candidates got in 2007.”

    Two different elections with very different voting methods. You must have missed my apples and oranges advice above.

    “Alliance does not attract voters from the DUP. It gets them from the Greens, SDLP, SF (when that party stands no chance) and the UUP, possibly in some cases from the PUP.”

    Combined SF, SDLP, UUP + PUP vote 2005 – 11,148
    Combined SF, SDLP, UUP + PUP vote 2010 – 8,487

    Where did Namoi’s other 6,339 votes come from?

    “Have it your way: put forward your golden untarnished candidate for the next Westminster election and see what happens.”

    You don’t seriously think Naomi will retain the seat next time round??? lol

  • PaddyReilly

    Yes, unless she starts buying fields for £5 and having six in a bed sex romps, I do think Naomi will retain her seat. She may have gained it by a lucky fluke, but once she becomes a viable candidate, she will attract even more votes.

    Where do all these votes come from? From every side: old bigots die off, young liberals come on the register, Indians and Chinese see Alliance as a party which they can relate to, Catholics realise that it is pointless voting for the SDLP or SF in East Belfast, UUP voters will defect, people who didn’t used to vote come in out of the garden centre. Once Alliance voters see East Belfast as friendly territory, they will start to move in. And yes, people change: the official IRA, most of it, went on a journey which ended up with the Workers Party, an exponent of touchy-feely feminist anti-racism, so I have every reason to believe that the PUP has embarked on the same path.

    You must realise that I’ve heard all this before about Alasdair McDonnell. He got elected with just 32.3% of the vote in a previously consistently Unionist constituency, and contributors with names like LOL and ROFLMAO did not think highly of his chance of retaining the seat, but it looks like it’s his for keeps. Naomi got 37.2% of the vote when she was a rank outsider: as a sitting MP she can attract even further support.

    However, I have tried to emphasise that voting for Alliance does not indicate a total change of mind regarding the Union. In a multiple choice system we are no longer exclusively identified with one party: less than 1/20 of Alliance voters refuse to transfer; the rest divide between SDLP and UUP in the main. The preference is still there: the vehemence with which it was held is not.

  • Stephen Ferguson

    “Yes, unless she starts buying fields for £5 and having six in a bed sex romps, I do think Naomi will retain her seat. She may have gained it by a lucky fluke, but once she becomes a viable candidate, she will attract even more votes.”

    Well, as someone who lives in the constituency the talk is of ‘where has she gone?’. Before May she was in the local free newspaper at least once (sometimes two or three times!) every week. Now? I can honestly say I haven’t seen anything from her since the election. It doesn’t seem like she’s spending all her time in Westminster either. When people become used to seeing a big mop of curly red hair in their newspapers or on television on a daily basis it’s not hard to notice when it disappears.

    Business as usual in 2015. 🙂

    “Where do all these votes come from? From every side: old bigots die off, young liberals come on the register, Indians and Chinese see Alliance as a party which they can relate to,”

    Presumably you can provide figures to prove this has happened in other constituencies across NI???

    Which other areas recorded shifts of 9,000 votes from the extremes to the centre?

    West Belfast?
    North Antrim?
    Fermanagh/South Tyrone???

    “Catholics realise that it is pointless voting for the SDLP or SF in East Belfast”

    Naomi Long stated herself she only received 10% of the vote from Short Strand in 2010. There are no other Nationalist areas in the constituency.

    “Once Alliance voters see East Belfast as friendly territory, they will start to move in.”

    East Belfast has always been Alliance Party friendly. They polled 15,000 votes in 1979 and regularly hit 10,000 in following elections.

    Using your logic their vote should be going up every election as it is ‘friendly terrority’ and Alliance voters should be moving in. Care to explain Naomi’s 3,800 in 2005??

    “And yes, people change: the official IRA, most of it, went on a journey which ended up with the Workers Party, an exponent of touchy-feely feminist anti-racism, so I have every reason to believe that the PUP has embarked on the same path.”

    So you do believe that hundreds of men who were willing to kill in order to preserve NI’s position in the UK only a few years ago now aren’t bothered what happens to the border???

    “You must realise that I’ve heard all this before about Alasdair McDonnell. He got elected with just 32.3% of the vote in a previously consistently Unionist constituency, and contributors with names like LOL and ROFLMAO did not think highly of his chance of retaining the seat, but it looks like it’s his for keeps. Naomi got 37.2% of the vote when she was a rank outsider: as a sitting MP she can attract even further support.”

    As Naomi’s election proved – there are no NI seats ‘for keeps’. If Peter Robinson can be shifted then it doesn’t exactly take the ‘perfect storm’ for Alisdair to lose South Belfast. An evenly split Unionist vote and only one Nationalist on the ballot doesn’t make South Belfast the new West Belfast either.

    “However, I have tried to emphasise that voting for Alliance does not indicate a total change of mind regarding the Union.”

    Of course it doesn’t.

    And that’s why people using Westminster election results to determine support for/opposition to a United Ireland is pointless.

    You have Unionists voting Alliance out of disgust at MP’s profiting from their position, Unionists voting for the SDLP in order to keep out terrorist cheerleaders in Nationalist seats and others who aren’t excited about Unionism’s current batch of poor leaders.

    If you want to see support levels for a United Ireland within NI have a Geoffrey Duke at this:

    http://alturl.com/dxw6a

  • J Kelly

    They are obsessed with Sinn Fein, have no ideas on the economy or jobs and are completely all over the place on Irish Unity. Margaret Ritchie is so obsessed with Sinn Fein that much that she mentioned Sinn Fein and senior party members more than any other topic. Her only idea on the economy was to announce that Declan OLoan, he who is looking to merge with Sinn Fein, will be producing some proposals in the not too distant future. Was the party conference not the place to put ideas and proposals forward or maybe this weekend was for a bit of shinner bashing in the comforts of a plush South Belfast Hotel.

    Forgive me this but I have to use a direct quote to get the point across, or leave you as confused as I am. Margaret Ritchie on Irish Unity “We can take away many of the fears of those who remain to be persuaded, by providing concrete assurances that, in the event of Unity, the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland, including power-sharing, would remain in place”. In these times of austerity and cuts Margaret Ritchie wants a United Ireland but keep to Stormont going. To do what? They have a campaign North South Makes Sense but this idea of unity with a super council in the north Makes No Sense. If this nonsense is to appeal to the Duncan Morrows of this world I am with others above, come election day they will revert to type.

    It strikes me that the SDLP are interested in jobs, for themselves, their wives and their sons and daughters, that’s the reason they constantly attack Sinn Fein hoping it may pay off at next year’s Assembly Elections. Self preservation, the very same reason they want to maintain Stormont.

  • Pod

    So apart from the obvious fixation on Sinn Féin which has been highlighted pretty well so far, does no one else think it funny that Margaret Ritchie wants to oppose cuts but go into some sort of ‘middle-ground’ arrangement with the UUP! the party who have been oh so willing to align themselves with those same Tories?

    Oh I don’t know, I just find it difficult to take the woman seriously.

  • Smokey

    I must say I have to agree with the comments about the SDLP being all over the place at the moment. To be totally honest (and this is speaking as an Irish Nationalist) talk of Irish Unity as a priority in the context of the current economic disaster is a load of waffle and simply an attempt to ‘out green’ SF. The people of the North at the moment are much more concerned with the potential impact of the Tory cuts, holding on to their jobs and paying their bills than any pipe dream of unity. This just goes to show how out of touch with the electorate the SDLP actually are and hardly surprising given the dearth of talent in their Assembly group. This latest nonsense about cutting the subsidy to the canteen in Stormont is an excellent example of their silly political posturing, and this coming from an SDLP MLA who had the highest expenses in the Assembly last year! Hello? Aside from getting it wrong on the key issues at the moment we’ll say nothing about the absolute mess regarding the selection of some of their candidates. Derry is a prime example where they have managed to alienate a considerable number of party supporters over their appallingly poor handling of the situation.

  • JH

    Sorry Stephen but I worked on the NILT. It’s pretty much a good measure of trends long-term but not at all a representative cross-section of current political opinion.

    You might want to look at recent results in years that found voter opinion to favour UUP and SDLP whilst those parties were polling their lowest ever in elections. Or putting Sinn Féin at just over 6% when they were polling nearly 20.

    Even the 2009 report puts SInn Féin behind the DUP at 15% when they’ve topped the last two polls with over 25% of the vote.

    You can’t quote those figures as support for a United Ireland. I suspect that the first border referendum, with a concerted campaign to appeal to Protestants with the benefits for them and a paper being tabled that would suggest a suitable transition mechanism for both sides, could attract over 40%. As a starting point I’d be very happy with that result.

  • PaddyReilly

    While Westminster elections are not the ideal tool for gauging support for the idea of a United Ireland, Assembly Elections provided a better one and European Elections are ideal for the job: they are little more than a poll on the border, certainly no debates on European governance raise their ugly head in the campaign. But of late it has been hard to get the voters enthused about the project. Perhaps 2014 will be different.

    Nevertheless, Westminster Results do show a consistent pattern:-

    Year/Unionist seats/Total seats

    1983 15/17
    1987 14/17
    1992 13/17
    1996 13/18
    2001 11/18
    2005 10/18
    2010 9 /18

    There is a trend, and that trend, for Unionists, is downwards. At every election they lose a seat, except for 2001, when they lost two. Yet you would have us believe that opinions on reunification are going the opposite way. Elections, you think, are useless, and opinion polls are to be trusted. The only trouble is that we are governed by elections, not polls.

    The poll does not attempt to establish likely voting behaviour: it needs to further questions: “if there were a vote on Irish reunification, how would you vote?” And “If there was already a Nationalist majority in Stormont, how would you vote?”

    There are between 5 and 6 thousand Catholics of voting age living in E Belfast. Probably only a third of them live in the Short Strand. Catholics who do not live in Catholic areas tend to vote Alliance or SDLP.

    East Belfast does conform to results elsewhere in NI. In E Londonderry G. Campbell (DUP) got 15,225 votes in 2005, but only 12,097 in 2010.

    Peter Robinson (in E Belfast) got 15,152 votes in 2005, and 11,306 in 2010. So there is absolutely nothing remarkable about his vote. The DUP lost 5000 votes in Strangford, despite the removal of Iris, and 2,000 in E Antrim. The only thing that is unusual in East Belfast is that the opposition managed to solidify around the Alliance candidate.

    Indeed, if Alliance could manage to persuade the voters that their candidates are plausible and rally the opposition around them, they would take other Westminster seats: East Londonderry, Upper Bann and South Antrim. If AV comes to pass this is all the more likely to happen.

  • PaddyReilly

    An evenly split Unionist vote and only one Nationalist on the ballot doesn’t make South Belfast the new West Belfast either.

    I see hope has not yet been extinguished. But Alasdair ‘s 14.026 votes are higher by 16 votes than the combined DUP and UCUNF’s 8 ,100 + 5, 910 = 14, 010, so these factors were irrelevant.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Let me be clear that I much admire Duncan Morrow…and have fond memories of when he was considerably shorter than he is now. A true son of a great father.
    I dont suspect that Mr Kelly was a big fan of Ms Ritchie before her speech either.
    Thats the problem with partisanship.
    For an old geezer like me..the set up at Conference was a bit weird. I kinda like debate where a loose cannon gets the nod from the Party Chairman to address the room.
    Not so neat of course. Even chaotic.
    I fully see Ms Ritchies point that she “is not afraid to use the words Northern Ireland”. I welcome and appreciate that but there were probably enough old geezers (and mature ladies) in the room who have a little difficulty with the words.
    There is an incredible youthful talent in SDLP ……and the future is theirs not mine…and despite any misgivings I naturally have about the future not being mine….the young folk I met dont seem like the kinda kids who would put me away in an old folks home and throw away the key.

    They might have jobs that I dont understand….but they are effectively the sons and daughters of the time when SDLP people were teachers and nurses………and they retain the same conscience and concern for social justice. Values.
    In the words of that young singer that our young people find so interesting……Mr Perry Como……”The Kids Are All Right”.
    Personally I tried standing in front of the mirror and saying “Northern Ireland” and I still cant do it. But it took me a good 20 years to say “North of Ireland”. I stillhanker for my preferred option “North East Ireland”.

  • Stephen Ferguson

    “Sorry Stephen but I worked on the NILT.”

    I’m sure you did.

    “You can’t quote those figures as support for a United Ireland.”

    That’s probably because they show the embarrassing levels of actual support for a United Ireland within NI. If the poll was showing 49% year-on-year support for a UI there would be murals on the Falls Road, Wolfe Tone songs about it and Gerry would be calling for a border poll on a daily basis.

    “I suspect that the first border referendum, with a concerted campaign to appeal to Protestants with the benefits for them and a paper being tabled that would suggest a suitable transition mechanism for both sides, could attract over 40%. As a starting point I’d be very happy with that result.”

    What benefits??

    The Republic is going down the tubes! When the ‘Celtic Tiger’ was roaring (on the back of imaginary property equity) support for a UI from protestants was exactly the same – almost zero.

    I can’t see that changing as the Republic reverts back to being a borderline third world country.

    You obviously don’t know too much about the majority community in NI…

  • Stephen Ferguson

    “While Westminster elections are not the ideal tool for gauging support for the idea of a United Ireland, Assembly Elections provided a better one and European Elections are ideal for the job: they are little more than a poll on the border, certainly no debates on European governance raise their ugly head in the campaign. But of late it has been hard to get the voters enthused about the project. Perhaps 2014 will be different.”

    Or maybe an annual, independent, respected opinion poll ASKING ABOUT SUPPORT FOR/OPPOSITION TO A UNITED IRELAND would be a better marker?

    You don’t really seem to be grasping the whole ‘NI elections aren’t border polls’ argument.

    “Nevertheless, Westminster Results do show a consistent pattern:-

    Year/Unionist seats/Total seats

    1983 15/17
    1987 14/17
    1992 13/17
    1996 13/18
    2001 11/18
    2005 10/18
    2010 9 /18

    There is a trend, and that trend, for Unionists, is downwards. At every election they lose a seat, except for 2001, when they lost two. Yet you would have us believe that opinions on reunification are going the opposite way. Elections, you think, are useless, and opinion polls are to be trusted. The only trouble is that we are governed by elections, not polls.”

    Again, you really don’t seem to grasp the fact that elections aren’t border polls. I’ve told you about Unionists voting Alliance to remove a tarnished MP, Unionists voting SDLP by the thousand to avoid being represented by terrorist cheerleaders and then there are the cultural Irish (sports/language/culture) SDLP/SF voters who are pro-UK because of their own personal circumstances (good civil service job/receiving generous DLA for made up illnesses/want to live in one of the world’s leading nations).

    Do you really think Mr & Mrs O’Neill are going to jeopardise their £35,000 civil salaries, free healthcare and quality education for their children for the great unknown???

    “The poll does not attempt to establish likely voting behaviour: it needs to further questions: “if there were a vote on Irish reunification, how would you vote?” And “If there was already a Nationalist majority in Stormont, how would you vote?””

    This poll answers the question about long term preference for NI’s constitutional position.

    http://alturl.com/dxw6a

    It could be any simpler to understand.

    “East Belfast does conform to results elsewhere in NI. In E Londonderry G. Campbell (DUP) got 15,225 votes in 2005, but only 12,097 in 2010.”

    And the votes went – almost exactly – to the TUV.

    So East Londonderry doesn’t conform AT ALL to what you’re trying to claim about East Belfast.

    “The DUP lost 5000 votes in Strangford, despite the removal of Iris”

    And everyone else’s vote stayed at almost exactly the same levels. Obviously 5,000 DUP voters stayed at home in protest at Iris rolling in the fields at Shaws Bridge. No 5,000 DUP voters dying off here.

    “and 2,000 in E Antrim.”

    Who went straight to the TUV. Again, nothing to do with your imaginary view that thousands of DUP voters are dying off every five years.

    You really need to try harder Paddy.

    “The only thing that is unusual in East Belfast is that the opposition managed to solidify around the Alliance candidate.

    Indeed, if Alliance could manage to persuade the voters that their candidates are plausible and rally the opposition around them, they would take other Westminster seats: East Londonderry, Upper Bann and South Antrim. If AV comes to pass this is all the more likely to happen.”

    What complete nonsense!!!

    In 2010 East Londonderry Alliance CAME LAST out of the six parties running.

    In 2010 Upper Bann Alliance CAME LAST out of the five parties running.

    In 2010 South Antrim Alliance finished SECOND LAST out of six parties running.

    Do you even check figures before you post this rubbish???

    “I see hope has not yet been extinguished. But Alasdair ‘s 14.026 votes are higher by 16 votes than the combined DUP and UCUNF’s 8 ,100 + 5, 910 = 14, 010, so these factors were irrelevant.”

    True.

    A Nationalist majority of 14 votes hardly means it’s his seat ‘for keeps’ as you previously claimed then.

    D+ – Must try harder Paddy.

  • Ulick

    “A Nationalist majority of 14 votes hardly means it’s his seat ‘for keeps’ as you previously claimed then.”

    Stephen old chum as Paddy has very clearly illustrated to everyone, the trend for unionism is on a very definite downward trajectory. I may be open to correction but I don’t think unionism has regained any of those seats Paddy has shown as losses to unionism since 1983, so there is absolutely no reason to believe they’ll regain south Belfast. Indeed as many republicans wouldn’t vote for the SDLP or even bother with Westminster elections any more there is no reason to believe the nationalist majority in south Belfast is a lot more than those 14 votes. I’m afraid you’ve lost south Belfast forever. Anyway, who cares – local politicians are irrelevant in the English parliament. As I said in the beginning the Unionist majority has gone, get over it.

  • Stephen Ferguson

    “Stephen old chum as Paddy has very clearly illustrated to everyone, the trend for unionism is on a very definite downward trajectory. I may be open to correction but I don’t think unionism has regained any of those seats Paddy has shown as losses to unionism since 1983, so there is absolutely no reason to believe they’ll regain south Belfast.”

    You must never have heard of William Thompson, Ken Maginnis or John Dunlop? Seats are never ‘for keeps’.

    “Indeed as many republicans wouldn’t vote for the SDLP or even bother with Westminster elections any more there is no reason to believe the nationalist majority in south Belfast is a lot more than those 14 votes.”

    Sp you think turnout is lower with Nationalists?

    That’s not what the turnout figures from May 2010 say:

    Fermanagh/Tyrone – 68.9%
    Mid Ulster – 63.2%
    West Tyrone – 61.0%
    Newry/Armagh – 60.4%
    South Down – 60.2%
    East Belfast – 58.4%
    North Antrim – 57.8%
    Foyle – 57.5%
    South Belfast – 57.4%
    North Belfast – 56.5%
    Lagan Valley – 56.0%
    Upper Bann – 55.4%
    East Londonderry – 55.3%
    North Down – 55.2%
    West Belfast – 54.0%
    Strangford – 53.7%
    South Antrim – 53.0%
    East Antrim – 50.7%

    “I’m afraid you’ve lost south Belfast forever. Anyway, who cares – local politicians are irrelevant in the English parliament. As I said in the beginning the Unionist majority has gone, get over it.”

    http://alturl.com/dxw6a

  • PaddyReilly

    I’ve told you about Unionists voting Alliance… Unionists voting SDLP…..SDLP/SF voters who are pro-UK

    Yes you have told me all these stories which give you great comfort I am sure, but you don’t seem to distinguish between partisan excuses and objective reality.

    In the 2010 Westminster elections for South Down, the SDLP vote was up by 6,000 on the 2007 Assembly elections, and the combined Unionist vote was down by 4,500. Thus we may plausibly posit that over 4,000 Unionists voted tactically for Margaret Ritchie.

    But this only happens in Westminster elections, and for all we know, there are 4,000 Nationalists elsewhere (North Down, for example) who tactically voted Unionist.

    The question must also be asked, what makes you such an expert on the wishes of SDLP and SF voters? You cannot follow them into the ballot box. If I were to state that I know that most DUP and UCUNF voters secretly desire a United Ireland, why would my testimony be of less value than yours?

    In racing, if a horse seems likely to win then more people will bet on it and the odds will go down. Politics is broadly similar: once an Alliance candidate appears electable it will attract support from all sides. In 2005 Naomi Long got less than 4,000 votes because she was seen as a no-chancer, a wasted vote.

    You tell me stories about Unionists voting Alliance—but can you point to a seat which Unionists took back from Alliance, and kept?

    With Nationalists I can think of two. Some time in the 19th century Nationalists won North Antrim (which did not then include Ballymena) and then lost it again, permanently. In the 20th century the SDLP won a (Stormont) seat in East Antrim and then lost it again in 2003. However, with boundary changes, it seems plausible that it will be won back in 2011. But it was a matter of one or two thousand votes in both cases, not significant.

  • Stephen Ferguson

    “In the 2010 Westminster elections for South Down, the SDLP vote was up by 6,000 on the 2007 Assembly elections, and the combined Unionist vote was down by 4,500. Thus we may plausibly posit that over 4,000 Unionists voted tactically for Margaret Ritchie.

    But this only happens in Westminster elections, and for all we know, there are 4,000 Nationalists elsewhere (North Down, for example) who tactically voted Unionist.”

    Ah right, I take it you’ll be able to show me 4,000+ votes for the SDLP and Sinn Fein in North Down for the 2007 Assembly elections then??

    http://alturl.com/zfssk

    “The question must also be asked, what makes you such an expert on the wishes of SDLP and SF voters? You cannot follow them into the ballot box. If I were to state that I know that most DUP and UCUNF voters secretly desire a United Ireland, why would my testimony be of less value than yours?”

    Simple.

    This http://alturl.com/ocm4g

    doesn’t tally up with this http://alturl.com/d6wce

    “You tell me stories about Unionists voting Alliance—but can you point to a seat which Unionists took back from Alliance, and kept?”

    It seems you don’t have too much knowledge regarding past elections in NI (nor can be bothered to check statistics before making absurd claims) so it might surprise you to know that Alliance have never held a Westminster seat before now. If you want evidence of Unionism taking a seat from Alliance you’ll need to wait until 2015.

  • The Mayfly

    Can anyone tell me when the next loocalcouncil elections are? Arethey on the same day as the LoacalAssembly elections?