SDLP campaign launch: uniting people and building prosperity … and a tweet-up

Having postponed from earlier in the week, Margaret Ritchie this morning corralled the SDLP’s Assembly candidates together with many of the younger council candidates in Belfast’s Hilton Hotel to launch their election campaigns. Each party expends a lot of effort and expense organising these launch events … all for twenty or so reporters (and the occasional blogger) to turn up and provide a few minutes or inches of coverage. That aside, the SDLP’s leader called it a “marvellous opportunity”.

The SDLP are hopeful that they will overtake the UUP at this election and that extra seats will translate into a second Executive seat. When asked, Margaret Ritchie agreed that she’d be keen to get the Social Development ministry back for the SDLP. Overall she summed up their hopes:

The SDLP is campaigning in this election … to be a party at the centre of government, to have increased representation, not only in the Assembly, but in council chambers right across the north of Ireland.

No party is publishing their manifesto at this stage. However, some of other campaign launches have been content light in terms of articulating policy and pledges, with detail promised at future issue-based events and some pointing to heaps of existing policy downloadable from their websites.

SDLP Assembly Election 2011 candidates - photo by Will Leitch - used with permissionThe SDLP were pretty snappy with their Six Step Programme for Government. Impressively, Margaret managed to rattle off all the steps when I talked to her beforehand. I wasn’t present for her actual speech, but the draft script set out the SDLP stall as follows:

And what exactly is that better Northern Ireland the SDLP wants to see? We want to see a Northern Ireland that is attractive to business: which takes care of the sick and respects its older citizens; and which is a great place to work and to raise a family.

So how do we make Northern Ireland that kind of place? Two things: we must unite people and build prosperity.

Rather than stopping there, the SDLP unpacked those two ideas with their six steps.

We in the SDLP, the party of ideas, believe we can unite people by

  • Transforming society so that it is truly shared
  • Leading the New Politics where partnership replaces carve-up, and by
  • Becoming One People, One Island – celebrating our common identity

We the SDLP, the part of ideas, believe we can build prosperity by

  • Creating jobs in the sectors which offer the greatest growth potential,
  • Investing in the education and training of our young people, many of whom have been sold short by our chaotic education system, and
  • By delivering better government, overcoming all the Executive stalemates, and radically reforming the public sector.

We are brimming over with ideas in all of these areas and we intend to debate them in depth and with great confidence in this campaign.

On the back of the recent successful NI Assembly event, the SDLP are planning to organise a tweet-up next week. So how would a meeting of tweeters gain any candidate any votes? Margaret Ritchie defended the idea:

I support social media and as long as it’s done in the right and proper fashion. All forms of media have to be encouraged – people participating in that – and we mustn’t forget what elections are about, they’re about providing proper representation to the people who need them.

Another MLA explained that it was about relationships and getting interested people together to talk about SDLP policies. Some of that real world chatter might spark off online conversations. I guess election campaigns are about kicking ideas and policies around … so good luck to them.

Photo by Will Leitch – used with permission

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  • The Word

    Quite apparently the battle in this election is about the universalist approach and the sectarian approach.

    Bit of right wing “universalism” coming from the DUP, but Sinn Fein are clearly brimming with bigotry in their desire to exploit the FST victory as one in the nose for unionists (as if they were keeping out a Tory).

    I’m just waiting for Martin McGuinness to tell us all about the PBSR. Paying Canvassers 50 Euro a canvass sends out a signal that this is no longer done on the basis of the heart as with the SDLP, but on the basis of the Machine, a Machine that can’t contemplate failure because of all that it has already done.

    But because of all that it has already done, they must contemplate failure. I’m sure everybody knows who’s going to get victory in the end, the people, all the people.

  • Big Boss

    Decided to take a look in on the SDLP event this morning and it was very interesting to see all the new young people running for council. I seen two of them speaking at the event itself, i think one from Antrim Town and one from Lisburn, both very able and interesting to see that the young people are not just located east of the bann either!

    Could be a very interesting election for the SDLP!

  • “Alan in Belfast” has covered it pretty much. Not exactly sure the SDLP members would accept that they were “coralled”.
    I think a Campaign Launch is a trade off between party & Press. The Press get “access” and the Party gets a slot in the evening news.
    But its also about galvanising the troops. Its a morale building exercise.Candidates carrying the Party banner in unlikely places get to mix with MPs and MLAs from SDLP heartlands. New, young candidates get to mix with Party veterans.
    I actually think that “social” side was more important.
    I think Chairman Joe Byrnes speech was interesting. He was able to introduce the youngest SDLP candidate Séamas de Faoite and the first Polish born Assembly candidate Magdalena Wolkska which adds to the feeling of expansion.
    Joe Byrne also mentioned Lithuanian and Portuguese born candidates. It adds to a feeling of expansion.
    “AlaninBelfast” mentioned young Council candidates. I dont think they had been “coralled” to be there but rather were excited and enthused at their first Election.
    Availability to attend was probably the key. Most council candidates who attended were inevitably from the Greater Belfast area.
    Six points in the programme. The significance was in the order of their presentation.
    Jobs Creation ……Conall McDevitt MLA (South Belfast)
    Young People/Education…Cllr Bernie Kelly (Balmoral)
    Better Government….Minister Alex Attwood MLA (West Belfast )
    Changing Society (Sectarianism)….Cllr Nichola Mallon (Oldpark).
    New Politics (reform of institutions)…Grianna (sp) Teggart (Antrim Town).
    Unity (One People One Island) …Aisling Twomey (Lisburn)

    Two MLAs. Two Councillors. Two Candidates.
    Two Men. Four Women.
    (Actually I think Joe Byrne mentioned that 20% of candidates were under 30. That seems promising.
    But the order of presentation was probably no coincidence either. There was little any reasonable person could have faulted in 1-5. But “Becoming One People, One Island” is a bigger challenge.
    “Proudly Northern”
    “Proudly Irish”
    “Proudly European”? ….now lets not be hasty on the last one……but two outta three aint bad.

  • Big Boss

    Just wondering what happened to a thread on the SDLP political Broadcast, thought it was one of their best efforts in quite some time!

  • I’m guessing Ferghal’s pleased with it!

  • Big Boss

    Its a very decent effort, compared to others, slick and to the point and less patting on the back that we seen in the SF and DUP efforts

  • Never have so many photogenic people been gathered together. :). In fact they are so photogenic they are taking each others photograph
    One man..one vote……
    One person …one cell phone
    At 3.20…there is an Irish flag…..followed by a British flag (which is a bit tattered to be honest).

    Actually I liked it. Very professional.
    Am I right in thinking that the Parties make a second broadcast. I was kinda surprised there was no “cupla focal”. maybe that will come in a second (?) broadcast but a few words in Polish, Portuguese, Chinese etc might have also impact. It could be a very inclusive broadcast.

  • Sean Og

    Pretty good.

    I’ll not slag it of at all, except for the Party Leaders final remarks. 🙂

  • The Word

    Good as it gets but I think that there is gold in them there hills so far as China and India and bucketloads of it and I am not saying that just the suggest that India and China will be in a position to undermine wages levels in Europe.

    No I’m suggesting that the rush to gold in recent years will be as meaningless as this attempt to compete with our suppliers in the East.

  • John, would that be Grainne Teggart of Amnesty International?

  • Big Boss

    Nevin,

    I think its the same girl!

  • Does Margaret realise she’s putting out contradictory messages: “So how do we make Northern Ireland that kind of place? Two things: we must unite people and build prosperity.” and “We in the SDLP, the party of ideas, believe we can unite people by .. Becoming One People, One Island – celebrating our common identity”? Orange and Green AFAIK don’t combine to give Green. “One People, One Island” has a most unfortunate ring to it.

    If the SDLP moves ahead of the UUP presumably that could mean two Executive seats to the SDLP and one to the UUP – the reverse of the previous Executive. However, this looks like two baldies fighting over a comb as it still leaves the DUP-SF carve-up in situ – and the minnows to whistle in the dark.

    My voting pattern in North Antrim will be influenced by how previous elected representatives dealt with sleaze and other forms of bad governance. I also want to see a greater separation between politics and business and between public servants and watchdogs. Declan O’Loan’s failure to step up to the mark when my friends needed help has seriously damaged his and the SDLP’s chances of getting one of my preferences this time round. However, I might well not make up my mind until I enter the polling booth.

  • I didnt join the dots yesterday Nevin but she probably is. Ive never seen the Amnesty “Grainne”. Nor have I ever seen the SDLP “Grainne” before yesterday.
    The six were introduced as one and as I didnt have a pen (it spoils the outline of my rather stylish suit) and was the only one that was not recognisable to me.
    And when I caught up with someone who had a pen who wrote it down for me, he did not mention an Amnesty connexion.
    If she is then its a coup for SDLP specifically and Politics generally.
    Ive complained often enough about people in “civic society” not being prepared to step up to the plate in “politics”. Understandable to some extent because campaign groups cant be seen to favour one side…but there are groups….trade unions, ex servicemen, enviromentalists, integrated education, business, culural groups etc who probably already lean to a political philosophy.
    So if Ms Teggart is the same Ms Teggart fair play to her.
    Likewise (at random) Barbara Hale DUP candidate in Lagan Valley (???) I believe. who lost a relative in Afghanistan. (not in a position right now to be more accurate).

    Also in some parties there seems to be a recognition of a missing generation. That there are people ending political careers, starting them at another end of an age scale but not quite so many folks in their mid years.
    Theres some “head hunting” going on all round.

  • Apparently the Lagan Valley DUP candidate is BRENDA Hale (apologies to her). Barbara Hale played Perry Masons sectretary Della Street in the TV show.