So, who should call the writ for a West Belfast election?

Not an #AE11 post, but rather one referring to the retirement of Gerry Adams from Westminster which as well as leaving him in an acquiescent position viz a viz the attribution of certain offices to his name, has also left his party helpless to call for a new by election in the constituency.

Margaret thinks the SDLP should come to the aid of the people of West Belfast and move the writ on their behalf:

Sure, they risk being accused of supporting Sinn Féin’s dodgy abstention policy (which of course involves them picking up their expenses, they certainly don’t abstain from hand-outs!) in doing so they would not only possibly do themselves a few favours in the long run, but also gift the people of Belfast West with the right they are being denied — representation in Parliament. If they choose not to be represented once again (and let’s face it, they know what they’re getting when they vote Sinn Féin), so be it. But at least let them have that choice. That’s kinda what democracy is about, after all.

  • Cynic2

    Why bother?

  • Why bother indeed?
    Sinn Féins policy isnt actually abstentionist (eg expenses). Its a matter of just ignoring or marginalising dealings with Westminster.
    So when Gerry Adams resigned (a normal enough thing to do) it provoked rather juvenile mirth at his “accepting” British honours.
    How they laughed.
    Now of course SF can quite happily accept a vacant Westminster seat. They dont need to go thru bizarre ritual of moving a writ. His Party is hardly “helpless” as it furthers their own case that Westminster is irrelevant.
    Is there a mass movement calling for a by-election in West Belfast?
    Not that Ive noticed.
    Of course …some might say that Sinn Féin went to court to force an election for the Donegal South West (disenfranchised by the loss of one third of its TDs rather than 100% of its MPs.).
    Sinn Féin will see no contradiction.
    Neither will its voters.
    Its not SFs problem.
    Its the problem of the Westminster Establishment. Is it beyond their imagination to find a solution?
    It looks like Baron Norstead (sp) has the last laugh.

  • john

    Good sum up fjh – SF are not bothered all the more reason why the SDLP need to make the move!

  • Reader

    fitzjameshorse1745: ts the problem of the Westminster Establishment.
    Not even for them perhaps. The elected abstentionist will have to be replaced at the next election, but there’s no need to replace an abstentionist *between* elections.

  • Absolutely no reason.
    The SDLP moving the writ WOULD be a good idea.
    It would not of course mean they could win West Belfast…although the balance of probability is that their vote would increase a little as the Party that gives active meaning to “One Man (and Woman) One Vote”.
    And it would do the SDLP no harm in their outreach to people re-assessing them.
    Of course Naomi Long of the occasionally democratic Alliance Party could move the writ also. But obviously that kinda decision needs to be run past Martin first.

  • 241934 john brennan

    Why not indeed? If David Cameron’s front door is closed to Martin – and Martin keeps complaining about it – why not get a Shinner signed on (tongue twister) at Westminster, who could then openly and legally ambush Cameron on a daily basis.

  • Wheres MP

    Very untasteful for Gerry Adams to give an election interview on UTV with ‘KAH’ graffiti behind him in the Short Strand – see MP there are two sides in East Belfast

  • joeCanuck

    Why bother? Because people have the right to representation. If they decide to elect an abstentionist, that’s their privilege. At least they get to be heard.

  • Reader

    joeCanuck: Because people have the right to representation. If they decide to elect an abstentionist, that’s their privilege. At least they get to be heard
    But they were heard a year ago, and will be heard again in 4 more years. Just like everyone else in fact. They chose an abstentionist – the abstentionist isn’t there – what more could they wish for?
    Actually, I think there will be a by-election at some point, just for the look of the thing. But I don’t see that there is any rush in this case.

  • joeCanuck


    Understood, but you make an assumption that people’s views don’t change. We had an election yesterday in Canada and the results were very different from the last election two years ago. For example, the seperatist Quebec party were reduced from 47 seats to 4. The once totally dominant Liberal Party were reduced to a small rump and the perenially third place labour party, the NPD, tripled their seats and gained the role of official opposition.

  • SDLP supporter

    A non-issue, which is why that personification of irrelevancy, FJH, has his spake. Agreed that the Provos would easily win the seat and they can always ask one of their fellow-traveller ‘useful idiots’ on the Labour back benches (I’m thinking Jeremy Corbyn) to move the writ.

    Quite why the SDLP would move the writ to turn on the tap for another £100k or so annual Westminster expenses for their abstentionist political opponents just doesn’t make sense.

    That’s why it’s a problem. albeit a minor one, for Sinn Fein.

  • john

    Nice defeatist attitude why bother – SF will only win anyway. If thats the case why bother fielding half the assembly candidates or 15 of the 18 westminster candidates (including FST as that decision has seriously damaged the party in that area to the extent where a 100%cert SDLP seat in the assembly is now at risk)
    In 2015 (or sooner) there will be a general election involving new boundaries, as discussed at length on Slugger these new boundaries will likely mean W.Belfast will take a big chunk of S.Belfast an area with a large SDLP support and a large Unionist support who would tactically vote SDLP to stop SF (presuming AV has been rejected) add in the no more Gerry factor and suddenly it becomes alot more interesting.
    So now is a good chance for the SDLP to try and regain some of their vote in W.Belfast which has been on the slide now for nearly 20 years. Nothing personal against Mr Attwood but maybe time to give someone else a go to see if they can do any better giving them time to build up their profle prior to the next General Election.

  • oracle

    West Belfast are hoping and praying noboby moves the writ…..

    They’re getting better representation now than they have ever had under the man with the worst memory in the world.

    Although he does know what a piece of paper with the Queens head on it is!

  • SDLP supporter

    John, I think you miss my point. There will be a West Belfast by-election within the year because it’s in SF’s financial interest to have it called. Some accountant suit in Sevastopol Street will draw his/her boss’s attention to the reduced cash flow. There’s just no point in SDLP facilitating SF in the matter.

    I agree there is plenty of mileage for a candidate running on a “GRA” [Gerry Ran Away] platform leaving behind a constituency which is a complete mess by every deprivation indicator after Adams being its MP for 20+ years and you’re right about the SDLP chances if Balmoral is put into a new ‘South West Belfast’ constituency (by no means a foregone conclusion). In such a situation the SDLP would have an excellent chance of taking at least two seats in a revised six-seater.

    As for FST, SDLP’s problems go back well over 30 years and have their origins in not running away back in 1981, in uninspiring candidates (with a few exceptions) and consequent piss-poor/non-existent organisation, especially in Dungannon.

  • Rory Carr

    Reduced cash flow? How so?

    Reimbursement of parliamentary expenses are made for claims of expenditure already incurred in pursuit of one’s activities as an elected representative. It would in fact improve one’s cash flow not to have to incur such expenditure and then have to wait until later for reimbursement after the claim has been registered and approved.

    If Margaret Ritchie is working under the assumption that there is somehow a financial gain to be made from parliamentary expense claims then it is her own claims that need to be scrutinised.

  • SDLP supporter

    Rory Carr

    I think you misunderstand. I am assuming that the Great Bearded One had a couple of people to undertake the routine constituency work, answer letters, etc. on behalf of the constituents of West Belfast and that periodic-probably monthly-claims were submitted, as you indeed say yourself., up to the full limit of allowable expenses Presuming that the relevant people working for Adams haven’t been laid off (unlikely), some accountant will note that the expenditure has not been reimbursed from Westminster because there is not actually an MP for West Belfast in office. Hence a deficit for Sinn Fein

    Your typically snide remark about Margaret Ritchie shows that you probably haven’t ever worked, even in a vaguely commercial environment. You prefer to be sanctimonious about Bin Laden while living for decades in Tottenham Court Road or wherever you are, in the heart of the capital of the Great Satan.

  • Rory Carr

    Oh I did not misunderstand you, Mr SDLP Supporter. What I did was I rumbled you and now you attempt to twist and wriggle your way out of my exposure of your gross ignorance of how reimbursement of expenses actually works.

    Your last paragraph, I might add, is rambling to the point of incoherence.