Futuring: d’Hondt and the new Executive

As the outcome of the Assembly election firms up throughout the day thoughts will be drawn to d’Hondt and the eventual make up of a future Executive.

Forget about a paper and pen, use this handy d’Hondt calculator to play with numbers.

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  • Mark McGregor

    My guess at pecking order for choosing ministries:

    DUP
    SF
    DUP
    SF
    DUP
    SDLP
    UUP
    DUP
    SF
    Alliance

    UUP lose minister to Alliance.

  • I can’t see UUP or SDLP winning more than 16 now, and I can’t see Alliance winning fewer than 8. If there is a tie for the last place on seats, first preference votes are taken into account and neither UUP nor SDLP has twice Alliance’s votes. So Alliance will definitely qualify for a ministry under d’Hondt at the espense of the UUP – unless the UUP win all the marginals and then persude David McClarty to rejoin before Thursday!

    (In my Belgian village, one Mr d’Hondt runs the local garage and another Mr d’Hondt is the local plumber, so I trust the family name for intricate mechanisms.)

  • John Ó Néill

    I suspect picks will run:
    DUP
    SF
    DUP
    SF
    SDLP
    UUP
    DUP
    SF
    DUP
    Alliance or SF or DUP

    All that hangs on 4-5 marginal seat calls. I think Alliance will end up with 8, so SF would have to stretch to 32 to get that last pick (30 may be more likely). If DUP hit 40 (I reckon on 38), they would get a fifth ministerial brief.

  • Mr Crumlin

    The calculations state that if you run d’hondt for all 12 Ministries then APNI would still be entitled to one seat – surely something could be arranged to ensure they get Justice and therefore democracy is restored to the process! 😉

  • ThomasMourne

    Our sectarian electorate have, predictably, filled Stormont with more or less the same sectarian crew as before so it’s only fitting that sectarianism is the method used to fill government posts.

    What a lovely little statelet we have where 55% of the electorate make the effort to go to the polls [with nearly 50% voting for sectarian parties] and 45% either have the wit to stay at home or else, shamefully, cannot be bothered to try to change politics here.

  • Valenciano

    I think we’re looking at figures of around 38 DUP, 29 SF, 14 UUP and SDLP, 8 Alliance give or take a seat or two.

    @Thomas, the low turnout is good and bad. Bad for democracy but good from the point of view that it shows a lack of the acrimony that marked these occasions in the past. Apathy rules. I’ve been commenting on Slugger from before the 2003 election and this is the quietest election campaign I can remember on here with not that much interest in it. Even the media outlets, frustratingly, don’t have full count figures (RTE had them last time round.)

  • Comrade Stalin

    Mr Crumlin:

    The calculations state that if you run d’hondt for all 12 Ministries then APNI would still be entitled to one seat – surely something could be arranged to ensure they get Justice and therefore democracy is restored to the process! 😉

    Surely you’re not advocating a backroom deal ?

    North Down is fascinating. Looks like Farry and Agnew are set to be elected under quota. Wilson may get in if McFarland’s transfers are spread evenly across the three – seems unlikely but there’s a chance.

  • Mr Crumlin

    Heaven forbid Comrade! Would never happen in Ireland!

  • John Ó Néill

    Looks like picks are:
    1 DUP
    2 SF
    3 DUP
    4 UUP
    5 SF
    6 SDLP
    7 DUP
    8 SF
    9 DUP
    10 UUP

  • Mr Crumlin

    Alliance will be gutted I think.

    1. DUP – DFP
    2. SF – DETI??
    3. DUP – Education?

    After that its anyones guess.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Mr Crumlin, looks like it didn’t happen, Agnew squeaked in ahead. Not that I’m complaining, it was a well deserved win and good to see him in the Assembly.

    John, that count surely will only apply if the UUP manage to re-recruit McClarty. I suspect that they will go all-out to do this just to get the second ministry, but it’s a fraught decision for McClarty, not least because he was treated abysmally by his party but also because the Altnagelvin decision is so close to home.

    SF not taking Education on their first pick will basically hand it to the DUP for their second pick. Can SF permit themselves to do so, bringing on the accusation of a climbdown ? I am not sure, but Gerry Adams being outside of the Assembly will, I suspect, make the SF party a rather more constructive beast.

  • John Ó Néill

    Mr C/Comrade

    As far as I know, the d’Hondt mechanism would give both Alliance and UUP an average of 8 at pick 10. Since UUP have more seats overall they select first (anyone got a link to the outworking in the event of a tie?). As it is, Alliance were the only party guaranteed a ministry, and would ironically have had pick 11 (by my reckoning which may be wrong). Funnily, if they had returned 1 MLA they had a ministry. What would have happened if they returned none, or, as a constitutional (ahem) apocalypse, if they had returned as the largest party and an entitlement to the FM post they could have brought down the whole gig.

    Otherwise, it is worth bearing in mind that picks 11 (Alliance) and 12 (DUP) might come into play if the UUP decide they don’t want to play. But it’s hard to imagine a politican as polished and artful as Elliot being churlish…

  • Comrade Stalin

    Personally speaking I’m not that disappointed. The country has swung firmly behind the electoral candidates who are showing a desire to get things moving, and against those who feel it appropriate to carp from the sidelines. Margaret Ritchie and Tom Elliott may not be facing the hangman but they will certainly be facing internal criticism over their leadership. Under any sane leader a change of direction would be mandated, but these leaders talking up their result as a victory despite losing seats and vote share suggests that this is unlikely.

    If I had voted Ulster Unionist, believing, as many still do, that the party is a moderate voice, right now I would feel utterly cheated. Elliott’s remarks referring to SF as “scum” and talk of “foreign flag” were ill-considered and suggested a temporary slip of a mask exposing an unreconstructed bigot. Working with SF may not be agreeable to some people, but it is what people voted for under the 1998 GFA that Tom is fond of defending, and calling elected politicians “scum” is the kind of inflammatory language that people no longer want to see. If the DUP can learn that lesson then surely it is time for the UUP to do so as well.

    One disappointing element was Jim Allister’s narrow victory and the subsequent spittle-flecked rant he decided to issue. I suspect he will continue as a one man band, but people will be watching closely how his relationship with Tom Elliott is played in the coming assembly.

    As for Alliance, I was not involved at all in the campaign so I guess it’s easy to sit outside and be critical. I would describe my own view as contented, possibly satisfied, but not over the moon. On the plus side (big plus) the party triumphed in East Belfast with remarkable style, quite a feat given that they were two new candidates who had not faced the electorate before. Anna Lo’s topping the poll in South was a remarkable victory too. Both of these results suggested well run and well staffed local campaigns.

    However, the Naomi Long bounce did not seem to rub off anywhere else. The East Antrim result was just about flat, if not slightly down, and I don’t really understand why the party runs two candidates there. Worse, and some people might be very unhappy about me saying this, the East Antrim party has become complacent and there is no new blood in it; it has retained the seat by default rather than because it worked it. A lot of that is down to Sean Neeson who refused to do any work outside of Carrick. Perhaps Dickson will do better; he will need to do so otherwise the party will be edged out by an increasingly confident nationalist electorate on one side, and the DUP consolidating on a fourth seats (which they narrowly missed) on the other.

    North Down is also a bit of a disappointment and I’d have thought two seats could have been pulled off there, being as it is next door to Naomi’s East Belfast seat and in the face of an almost complete UUP meltdown. North Belfast and East Derry polled well but nowhere near well enough; the party just does not have the organization in these seats and it needs to think about ways it can resource the campaigns there in order to see gains.

  • Comrade Stalin

    John,

    AFAIK the tiebreaker comes down to the first pref votes, and Alliance are supposedly due to have the shout on the basis that the UUP and SDLP votes will be divided by two on the basis that they will both already have one ministry. I could, of course, be talking complete nonsense so let’s see what the cut is.

  • John Ó Néill

    At least the optics of being in and around the mark for a pick at d’Hondt (whether that is 10 or 11) shouldn’t play badly, though, since the Alliance can dismiss previous arguments for special pleading in getting a ministerial brief as now being outpassed by an electoral mandate to be there.

    Oddly, while I’m not exactly surprised by what either Elliot or Allister came out with, it was in the heat of an election count and they were faced with less than impressive results, so if you’re going to make an arse of yourself in public, that does seem to be the place you’d do it. Allister has the haunted look of a man who knows how many micro-unionist parties tried to float but never got off the sands. Whether he can admit it yet, he probably reckons he needs to fold himself and the TUV into the Elliot-brand UUP. However, McCrea making soothing noises to McClarty suggests more in-fighting in the offing for the UUP.

  • Comrade Stalin

    At least the optics of being in and around the mark for a pick at d’Hondt (whether that is 10 or 11) shouldn’t play badly, though, since the Alliance can dismiss previous arguments for special pleading in getting a ministerial brief as now being outpassed by an electoral mandate to be there.

    Given that the parties that bitched about Alliance’s role and how it obtained it lost, and Alliance gained, I think this proves what I and others have been saying here for the past year – people don’t see that as an issue and don’t vote for politicians who do. There should be a lesson there for the UUP and SDLP, although true form I doubt they will learn it.

    Oddly, while I’m not exactly surprised by what either Elliot or Allister came out with, it was in the heat of an election count and they were faced with less than impressive results, so if you’re going to make an arse of yourself in public, that does seem to be the place you’d do it.

    Indeed, but compare with the DUP; Peter Robinson faced the cameras following his defeat calmly. This is because they had anticipated and planned for the possible outcomes. Clearly, nobody took Tom Elliott or the rest of the UUP leadership to one side and said “look, you need to be prepared for a loss here, and you need to have a script to read calmly from when the news comes in”. If they did, the leadership didn’t listen.

    Allister has the haunted look of a man who knows how many micro-unionist parties tried to float but never got off the sands. Whether he can admit it yet, he probably reckons he needs to fold himself and the TUV into the Elliot-brand UUP. However, McCrea making soothing noises to McClarty suggests more in-fighting in the offing for the UUP.

    The McClarty story is going to be very interesting indeed. Like I said, if I was insulted in the way that McClarty does and obtained a big mandate (it really is a repetition of the Sylvia story all over again!) there’s no way I’d go back to the bastards unless I could exact a price .. and what exactly do the UUP have to offer ? Pretty much feck all.

  • John Ó Néill

    But thats been the UUP story since the mid-1990s. They consistently failed to prepare themselves (or their supporters) for any changes that were coming ambling down the pipes at them. That has got them down to where they are today.
    In retrospect, Robinson may have welcomed the defeat – it appeared to represent some form of atonement and, largely, the story died with little further scrutiny. Compared to the bleed of UUPers to the DUP, the DUP clearly managed their supporters and themselves much better over the last ten years or so.

  • Comrade Stalin

    John, agreed on the UUP. I think they’re screwed. I would like to see some proper analysis of the vote that just took place but the total failure of our media to publish decent count figures makes that impossible. I think the UUP narrowly missed doing much, much worse.

    Robinson’s defeat clearly did him good. The time away from the FM position clearly allowed him to regroup himself. The PR I remember from the past was a supremely arrogant, forthright, condescending and oftentimes rude man. The renewed PR is a much warmer, more likeable, less arrogant and much less rude person; he is more open to the ideas of others and people have warmed to that. Having said that, the DUP do return quite often to the question of East Belfast and how they retake it. Seems a bit premature to me given that the seat is likely to be a victim of the great Tory seat cull.

  • The Raven

    “The renewed PR is a much warmer, more likeable, less arrogant and much less rude person”

    It’s really late and I think I am reading stuff that actually isn’t on the screen…I think I’m hallucinating from lack of sleep.

    Anywaaaaay….”and what exactly do the UUP have to offer ?”

    Two scalps.

  • The Raven

    PS Maybe three.

  • FuturePhysicist

    My guess:

    1 DUP – Finance – Sammy Wilson
    2 SF – DETI – Dáthi McKay
    3 DUP – Education – Jonathan Bell
    4 UUP – Health – Micheal McGimpsey
    5 SF – Agriculture – Michelle Gildernew
    6 SDLP – Employment and Learning – Conall McDevitt
    7 DUP – Culture and Arts – Nelson McCausland
    8 SF – Environment – Martina Anderson
    9 DUP – Social Development – Peter Weir
    10 UUP – Regional Development – John McCallister

    And of course
    11 APNI – Justice – David Ford

  • FuturePhysicist

    Sorry, I meant McAllister.

  • John Ó Néill

    FP – DUP will pick Environment long before Culture and Arts. Am not too sure that the SDLP will give their only ministerial post to McDevitt. Effectively their only two gigs are party leader and a single ministerial posts – there are too many egos to be placated in there for McDevitt to be shoe-horned in (particularly if Ritchie is put under pressure over the election results).

  • the future’s bright, the future’s orange

    Let’s face it – this election was all about spin. The DUP and SF got together and decided to help eachother out. It was all about ‘working together’ and about how all other parties were out to crash the assembly.

    Anyone who thinks, that SF and the DUP really work ‘together’ need their heads read. How many ‘big’ decisions have they come to agreement on? Publically, they put on a show and this gives everyone a nice ‘feel good’ factor and it’s the kind of image we all love. However, is there really any substance to it?

    Don’t get me wrong – both parties have shifted considerably from their traditional entranched positions – however, a LOT of this is spin.

    The SDLP, UUP and Alliance need to sit down and come up with an effective strategy on how they can achieve an effective ‘opposition’ without looking negative. They need to be media savvie.

    McDevitt seems a cracking canditate for the SDLP and could do very well in the executive. Elliot has to go – maybe Basil or Nesbit for the executive?

  • FuturePhysicist

    I put a little thought into this JÓN

    Firstly, I’ve considered that if the DUP did pick Environment, Sinn Féin would pick maybe Anderson or Murphy for Culture & Arts, which may be something the DUP really wouldn’t want.

    As for the SDLP, I don’t think the egos thing is the issue. The main problem the party had with selecting McDevitt is that he wasn’t elected, but now he is. Pat Ramsey the official party spokesperson for the department in the last Assembly would possibly be in contention, who I would say would be favorite after him. Ritchie & McDonnell as MPs wont get a post, also Byrne and McGlone are very senior in the party structure and they would be more or less ruled out. Durkan, Eastwood, McKevitt won’t be dropped in there, while Attwood and Magginnis I believe had already had ministerial posts and their experience may be better used in committee chairing. I would say that other than Ramsey would leave Conall McDevitt, Dominic Bradley and Dolores Kelly left, Conall simply because Employment and Skills suits him from basic geography being a SB MLA.

    But you have a point Conall and perhaps Kelly may be seen as more plenary session people than ministers, which leaves it a toss up between party stalwarts Ramsey and Bradley.

  • FuturePhysicist

    RE: Attwood and Magginnis

    SDLP don’t have a track record of reselecting former ministers.

  • The SDLP will be doing some soul searching and Tom Elliott is unlikely to be the only Leader facing calls for resignation this week.
    Tomorrow counting starts again for Councils and there is probably a sense of waiting on the other shoe to drop. When counting ends the SDLP will likely have fewer councillors and both the veterans and newcomers who win or lose seats tomorrow will be making their voices heard.
    Over 48 hours ago before the first vote was counted, I pointed out there would be a post mortem (call it de-briefing within SDLP circles) on the campaign. The “BECAUSE” and “IN SPITE OF” issues including Margaret Ritchie.

    But Id be surprised if Conall McDevitt is in an Executive seat. He would more likely have been in the Executive as the “second” SDLP minister but has I think little chance of being their first choice.
    It is both an advantage and disadvantage that he is based in South Belfast…..a well respected guru to QUB SDLP, near Party HQ and the home of BBC and UTV. But that glasshouse “Islington on the Lisburn Road” is too exclusive.
    Lets be frank. Allowing for two MLAs standing down, Conall McDevitt went into this Election as #13 of 14 in SDLP “seniority”.
    Conall in the Executive would go down well with the Metropolitans but not I suspect with the Party at large. Not in Ballymena, Enniskillen or Crumlin where SDLP offices will be closing. Where people will lose jobs. Where a second Special Advisor will not now be needed. And the Party has to fight SF with more limited resources against SF with even more resources.

    An effective fight back probably begins with SDLP in Opposition. No Executive place. Which wont mean unemployment for any Advisors at Stormont…..an Opposition office needs resourcing and Im sure that can be sorted out.
    And a more reasonable attitude to “double jobbing” would of course bring two new SDLP co-options. Bernie Kelly (or Claire Hanna) in South Belfast. Bernie is “owed” by the SDLP losing the co-option to Conall McDevitt last year.
    Co-opting a successor to Margaret Ritchie MLA solves the problem of her leadership. And she can resign with a degree of dignity. And be consigned to the Westminster sideshow.

  • Mark McGregor

    As things stand Alliance get the last slot as the UUP 1st preference is divided by two for this tied pick.

    As I’ve noted in my last blog the UUP need to tempt McClarty back to get their 2nd ministry and hope APNI don’t try the same with Agnew.

  • Reader

    Comrade Stalin: Like I said, if I was insulted in the way that McClarty does and obtained a big mandate (it really is a repetition of the Sylvia story all over again!) there’s no way I’d go back to the bastards unless I could exact a price .. and what exactly do the UUP have to offer ? Pretty much feck all.
    They could let him have the ministry he brings with him.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The future’s bright :

    Anyone who thinks, that SF and the DUP really work ‘together’ need their heads read. How many ‘big’ decisions have they come to agreement on? Publically, they put on a show and this gives everyone a nice ‘feel good’ factor and it’s the kind of image we all love. However, is there really any substance to it?

    I think there is actual substance to it. The relationship is there and it’s getting better. The two parties are rolling with the punches, except on education, but I suspect that is about to change.

    Whatever substance there is, there’s not enough of it; this is the last election where they’ll be able to get away with this. They won’t be able to say in 2015 that they simply held things together. Of course, they’ll be able to get away with a great deal if no serious political challengers emerge during that time.

    The SDLP, UUP and Alliance need to sit down and come up with an effective strategy on how they can achieve an effective ‘opposition’ without looking negative. They need to be media savvie.

    That’s not going to happen. Why would Alliance sit down with two losers who spurned it at every turn for the last 15 years ? Let ’em rot, is my personal opinion.

    Apart from anything else, the SDLP and UUP are never going to be media savvy. They keep electing stupid leaders, deselecting popular candidates

    McDevitt seems a cracking canditate for the SDLP and could do very well in the executive.

    I find McDevitt an intensely irritating fountain of eagerly-expressed platitudes. I see no substance to the man. I hope crawling back in on the last count on Alliance transfers (as he acknowledged himself) encourages him to rethink his conception of his own popularity.

    Elliot has to go – maybe Basil or Nesbit for the executive?

    The power struggle will undoubtedly prove for amusing TV. Nesbitt has thrown his lot in behind Elliott, it will be hard for him to switch allegience without looking like a complete chancer.

    FuturePhysicist:

    SDLP don’t have a track record of reselecting former ministers.

    It’s not really as if there is much of a track to look back on. Attwood seems to be doing a good enough job, I don’t see why they would drop him this soon. Of course, they may not be willing to re-immerse themselves in the Red Sky matter.

    Reader:

    They could let him have the ministry he brings with him.

    Yup, and will the UUP egos allow that ? It’s going to make interesting watching.

  • Comrade Stalin

    FJH:

    An effective fight back probably begins with SDLP in Opposition. No Executive place. Which wont mean unemployment for any Advisors at Stormont…..an Opposition office needs resourcing and Im sure that can be sorted out.

    The problem you have there is that there is no motivation for the two big parties to help the SDLP or the UUP by supporting reforms of the d’Hondt system that would allow them to form an opposition.

    If I were the DUP or SF I might be just as inclined to allow those two parties to be hoisted on their own petard.

  • Comrade Stalin

    If I were the DUP or SF I might be just as inclined to allow those two parties to be hoisted on their own petard.

    Just to explain myself – the “petard” here is that it is basically impossible to have a voice in Stormont without having an executive seat. Margaret Ritchie only became a serious public figure and leadership candidate after her stint in DSD.

    It would be highly ironic if the system that the SDLP and UUP designed to consolidate and entrench their positions ended up being their straitjacket.

  • Reader

    Comrade Stalin: The problem you have there is that there is no motivation for the two big parties to help the SDLP or the UUP by supporting reforms of the d’Hondt system that would allow them to form an opposition.
    Extending h’Hondt to include committee chairs would have the same effect as a month of negotiations if a few parties wanted to go into opposition and the big two wanted to let them.
    And it might stop fjh1745 from detonating if Alliance passed up the chance of a ministry in addition to DOJ.

  • Oh FJH is extremely unlikely to detonate. The SDLP or UUP hardly deserve a second ministry on grounds of sheer unprofessionalism.
    The Alliance Party may show ethics but I doubt it.
    The Alliance Party got 50,875 votes I congratulate them.
    The SDLP got 94,276.
    The UUP 87,531.

    This may result in 50, 875 votes getting 2 seats.
    And UUP 2 seats.
    And SDLP 1 seat.
    On Friday I was pondering this kinda thing.
    I formed the impression it might be a Human Rights issue.
    And indeed at one point in the South Belfast count at the Kings Hall, I was in the happy position of having a current Human Rights Commissioner on one side and a former Human Rights Commissioner on the other side of me.
    I considered asking for their expert opinion. But as it was somewhat evident that both were enthusiastically tallying for the Alliance Party ….then the obvious conclusion is that its not a gerrymander.
    Likewise I considered emailing the new friends Mrs FJH made at the recent Ecumenics Ethical Conflict Resolution nonsense at the Antrim Road……..many of her new friends are from the “churchy wing” of the Alliance Party………and obviously they are so churchy that they wouldnt do anything wrong or support anything wrong.
    Of course the weight given to the Alliance which relegates SDLP to fifth position at the Executive Table may not be in the interests of Community Relations. By a happy coincidence the SDLP gave a rousing reception to Rev Norman Hamilton and Duncan Morrow at their recent Conference. Apparently both are extremely interested in Community Relations. Perhaps we should ask them.
    Duncan can rebuke any one that he may know who would be party to such a thing.
    Maybe not. But he does know some AP figures.
    Perhaps those who attended the SDLP Conference….such as Amnesty International representatives would see a problem. But perhaps not.

    The rather unfortunate thing is that the SDLP give all the impressions of being very stupid.
    John Hume was heavily criticised for talking to Sinn Féin.
    Others took advantage.
    I openly criticise them for talking to people who wish them ill. And take advantage.
    Time they started listening to their older friends rather than those who will never be their friends.
    If there is to be a comeback they need their old friends and close the Conference doors to ill-wishers.
    If it takes one seat for SDLP to actually learn something then do it. If it takes Opposition do it.
    If it takes a new Leader….and it does…do it.

    It will take NEW members. None on the vol au vent circuit are actually likely to to sign up.
    Their “old” friends probably would. Indeed many would love a valid reason to so do.
    But the most valid reason would be recognition that opinions of SDLP members actually matter more or at least as much as non-members
    If the SDLP actually showed professionalism…….and a degree of ruthlessness that their nationalist rivals and Alliance enemies show, then it would be better for them.

  • Comrade Stalin

    You sound pissed off that your worldview has been rejected, FJH. Can’t say I blame you, but you need to catch up with the times. While you’re doing that, you might want to look up what words like “gerrymander” and “democracy” mean, and bear in mind that there is no requirement that people are allocated cushy jobs in proportion to their vote share.

    As for the SDLP and UUP, you’re more than welcome to entertain the notion that playing musical chairs with the leadership will magically lead to the changes required to make these two parties serious challengers to the DUP/SF hegemony.

  • On balance I think the allocation of “cushy” Executive seats on the basis of seats gained or votes gathered IS a fairer system than merely being a member of the Alliance Party.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Poor wee me. They’re so unfair.

  • Oh I suspect I will get over it.
    The main reason SDLP dont have two seats is their own incompetence.

  • Yet there is a curious similarity between Tom Elliotts position on Sinn Féin supporters (He seems to think they are children of a lesser God and he is on a higher moral ground) and APs position in regard to UUP and SDLP voters. They are also children of a lesser God with AP having an entitlement.
    Luckily Alliance people are much polite than Tom Elliott.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Who said anything about AP having an entitlement ? Not me.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Im not sure that FJH’s worldview was rejected. Its not as if SDLP voters have flocked to Alliance. There doesn’t seem to be any real slippage on that score.

    Alliance have done so well at the expense of the UUP. And this is a pattern that that has occured in the past. The Alliance do well when the UUP drift to the right. If Basil and co. took over and brought the UUP into a more a moderate space, they would take alot of that support back. In fact the reason why they did relatively well in the west was because the Alliance have no real presence there.

    As regards the SDLP, they have to choose their moment and go into opposition now. SDLP are unlikely to benefit much from the 6th pick at the executive, I think when you balance the visibility of Alex Attwood in the Executive last term against the negatives of being tied to an executive that you have no control over, you see that being in the Executive is not helpful to the party.

    Sinn Fein/DUP/Alliance had one major criticism of the SDLP – that they cant make up their mind if their in government or opposition. Sure being in opposition makes them a little less relevant, but only a little. And if SInn Fein make that point, then SDLP can always say “does that make Sinn Fein irreelavnt in the south.”

    And it will allow them to pick their battles and criticise the executive, when appropriate.

    I see little benefit in staying in the executive at this point. They have to be the opposition.

    The other thing the SDLP have to do is cut their link to the current version of the UUP. Part of the SDLP’s problem is the dysfunctional UUP. The public dont simply look at the SDLP as an alternative to SF, they look at the SDLP/UUP as an alternative to SF/DUP, and the comparison is not favourable.

    Finally, and most importantly get rid of Margaret, in the nicest possible way. I can see the benefits of her leadership. I think she has brought the party together. There are not the same examples of ill-discipline that there were. The situation in West Tyrone might have been messy but it was neccessary and the parties decision were correct and give them a chance to recover in that constituency. She has also done a great job in bringing a bit of youth into the party. They have a relatively young team now in the assembly. But she cannot energise the vote. She is jsut rubbish at the hustings and every time i see or hear her speak, i die a little inside. Awful.

    The problem is that there is no ready to replace her. That generation in the party is particularly weak imo. There are likeable people for example Patsy McGlose, but can he be a leader?? I think not.

  • Lionel Hutz is right that the most important change that SDLP need to make is changing its leader.
    They are clearly in a worse position than they were a year ago.
    Election campaigns breed a kind of optimism. “Positive message on doorsteps” is quickly replaced by the realisation that a more neutral ear would have heard a different message. Not least in respect of Margaret Ritchies leadership.
    The “nicest possible way” to get rid of her is for her to embrace the notion that there are just 14 MLAs (two of whom are also MPs) and a third MP (Durkan) and that just 15 “professional politicians” could become 17 with two resignations from the Assembly. And 17 seems a much better prospect on which to rebuild than 15.
    There is the added advantage that the Party Leader should be a MLA and she can therefore concentrate on Westminster…and frankly nobody need listen to her speak for four more years. Harsh but Honest.
    The verdict from councillors losing seats tomorrow will be more harsh and even more honest.
    An alternative leader. There are few “big beasts”. McDonnell is a MP and Maginness is too “lawyery” and Attwood too abrasive for my tastes.
    McDevitt does have the profile but no real track record in the SDLP. “Froth”, “laptops” and “public relations”etc is no real substitute for years in politics and good constituency organisation.
    SDLP branches exist on paper….but to take the example of Fermanagh there are only five SDLP councillors (fewer tomorrow?) and just three (I am excluding Torrent DEA) in Dungannon. Faces from the early 180s and they have but one “young” candidate in Dungannon DEA.
    With a constituency office likely to close and no full time organisation it is difficult to see how people will be motivated to hand over the £20 membership fee. Especially when there is no real sign SDLP will learn lessons.
    At besta spokesperson tomorrow will use the words “period of reflection to digest the impact of the results blah blah blah” but my senses are that this is not what members want to hear. They want to hear Ritchies resignation speech.
    Lionel Hutz is also right that the message is more co-ordinated if SDLP is in Opposition rather than in Government AND Opposition.The “time to go” mesage to Ritchie must come from Patsy McGlone. And he should make clear that he has no long term Leadership ambitions or that he will “hold” the job for two years rebuilding to give a new man/woman some time before next round of Elections.
    The irony is that SDLP DID have good young candidates and DOES have good policies but a Party with Margaret Ritchie as Party Leader was never going to be successful. The downturn was only slight but this should not detract from Ritchies sheer awfulness.
    As I have indicated the SDLP has few friends. And is not in a position to be neglectful of its “old” friends.
    Nobody in a public sector trade union like NIPSA, PCS or Unison is going to hand over £20 membership fee. Much better to lobby SDLP as a friend of public sector workers…and send the political fund money to Labour in London.
    Nobody in a campaigning group will really pay tribute to people like Dominic Bradley (responsible for the Autism Bill) by actually joining SDLP.
    No student is going to join the Party because of Pat Ramseys excellent work in that field.
    No ex-serviceman is going to join SDLP or even vote for it on the basis that Margaret wears a poppy.
    Nobody in the Human Rights/Conflict Resolution “industry” will give the SDLP a second look by actually joining. Nobody in the Golden Halo of Community Relations industry will take on SDLP membership as any kind of committment. But they will turn up at SDLP Conference fringe to compliment the SDLP.
    The SDLP give these people a platform.
    Time they stopped.
    Yet 94,000 votes is actually quite a good return for such a poorly organised Party. The SDLP voters effectively vote for it…despite misgivings ……rather than any faith in an organisation, which is threadbare and transparently bad.
    Yet there are I suppose people who would actually be an asset to the SDLP. Some “Greenish” people. Some of the People Before Profit folks were not exactly crazy. The SDLP should actually be head-hunting some people and that becomes near impossible as Sinn Féin becomes the natural nationalist Party of Government.

    The most interesting event at the next SDLP Conference could be outreach to people who have stopped voting SDLP or who would love a good reason to vote SDLP. Or to join it. (not necessarily for the first time).
    Any group within SDLP want to organise that?

    .

  • FuturePhysicist

    My appologies for not including Dallat in my previous list

  • FuturePhysicist

    *Apologies

  • Comrade Stalin

    Lionel,

    Im not sure that FJH’s worldview was rejected.

    I rather specifically recall the claim being made several times that Alliance would lose out by supposedly unfairly bypassing d’Hondt. We devoted quite a bit of airtime here exchanging views over this. Turned out that the electorate didn’t care.

    Its not as if SDLP voters have flocked to Alliance. There doesn’t seem to be any real slippage on that score.

    Sure there is. Votes that had left Alliance for the SDLP in North and South Belfast during the 1990s (I was there at the counts back then and watched it happening – SDLP votes drifted to Sinn Fein with Alliance votes compensating for the loss) clearly returned to Alliance.

    In S Belfast, Anna Lo topped the poll and got nearly 19.8% of the vote, up from 12.9%, the combined SDLP vote fell from 26.8% to 23.9%. Those SDLP votes did not go to Sinn Fein, as their vote also fell slightly.

    I see little benefit in staying in the executive at this point. They have to be the opposition.

    As I said above, though, the reason the SDLP have stayed in the government is because the system (which they designed) is set up to make anyone outside the Executive practically irrelevant. Of course, you can’t ride two horses.

    The other thing the SDLP have to do is cut their link to the current version of the UUP. Part of the SDLP’s problem is the dysfunctional UUP.

    I wasn’t aware that there was a link of any kind in the first place, it certainly never seemed to be exhibited in public. I agree with you that the UUP are poisonous at the moment, but that has been true for some time. It is a shame that the SDLP did not use the opportunity to build a better relationship with that party when they were in OFMDFM.

    The problem is that there is no ready to replace her. That generation in the party is particularly weak imo. There are likeable people for example Patsy McGlose, but can he be a leader?? I think not.

    The SDLP remains factionalized and is suffering from the fact that Hume, Mallon and so on never took care to promote and nurture the right talent. It is obvious that Ritchie was a desperate last-ditch “Stop McDonnell” candidate, given they went to such lengths to stop him from being leader one really does wonder how bad he must be.

  • Some folks seem to be losing the run of themselves. Success and Failure.
    For the record….seats won.
    1 DUP 2 Sinn Féin 3 UUP 4 SDLP……
    5 Alliance.

    Votes won
    1 DUP 2 Sinn Féin 3 SDLP 4 UUP…
    5 Alliance.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I suppose success is an apparently unassailable hemorrhaging of votes and where there are public calls from senior elected representatives for the party leader to resign

  • wilderness

    Methinks it’ll go:

    DUP – DFP, under big Sammy King of Competence
    SF – DETI, under Martina, a role model of turning your life around and building on one’s strengths
    DUP – DE, under Mervyn Storey maybe? He did some good barking at Caitiriona “Ruin”
    UUP – DSD, under whoever dislikes it the least
    SF – DEL, where they may get an eye-opener about why not to water down an education system
    SDLP – DHSSPS, although it doesn’t change the fact that the Norn Irish need to look after theirsels better

    …I’m out of puff beyond the UUP bit so I’m just clutching at them cliched straws again