Not 2, not 3, but 4 SDLP leadership candidates to choose from…

Sorry for the late arrival of this thread… it was somewhat delayed by the surprise announcement that Team Sinn Fein has chosen the Deputy First Minister to run a southern campaign that could almost have been calculated to run interference on the SDLP’s second shot at electing a leader in as many years…

So it’s Patsy McGlone, Alasdair McDonnell, Alex Attwood and Conall McDevitt…

Better than a coronation or a managed succession of the type many feel was engineered last time out… Two from the centre left, two from the centre right of the party… Whoever wins will need to provide purpose direction, and the capacity to unite the party behind a popular cause…

  • Mark

    That sums it up …. Team Sinn Fein versus the individualism of the SDLP .

  • Mick Fealty

    That’s a proposition well worth exploring in some considerable detail, but can we let the SDLP have it’s own thread for once?

  • Limerick

    There may be four candidates, but there are only two of them who have a realistic chance of improving the fortunes of the SDLP. In my opinion that would be McDonnell and McDevitt. With the elder as leader and the younger as deputy they might have a bit of potential.

  • Mick Fealty

    Both from the same Belfast constituency?

  • Limerick


    But McDevitt does not have a Belfast accent.

  • Zig70

    Can’t listen to Attwood’s voice, her in doors can’t stand it either, Don’t really rate McDonnell. Don’t know McDevitt or McGlone. Heard lots of good things about Patsy. Fitz speaks well of him, which says a lot to me. However I heard him interviewed, talked a lot about brand SDLP, never actually heard what his idea of brand SDLP was. Lots of waffle all round. Also watched Seamus Mallon on the tv, he didn’t seem to be able to articulate what the SDLP stood for either. What is so toxic about moderate Northern Irish folk that nobody want to stand up and say they represent them? Is being middle class such a bad thing in nationalist circles? can you not be middle class and socialist? I’m not holding out much hope from any quarter, still to be convinced. It’s almost like the electorate is sitting there waiting to be noticed, which is why the SDLP won’t implode as SF can’t do M&S.

  • Limerick


    If the SDLP pick McGlone then they will be following in the footsteps of the UUP in electing Elliot. He may appeal to the Tyrone rural constituency, but will be regarded as a plodder everywhere else. Attwood seems to be pretty much detested everywhere and his squeaky voice grates.

    McDonnell comes across as a sophisticated elder statesman who appeals to both sides of the community. McKevitt appeals to the all island vision of the party and is a very competent speaker.

    I’m not a political expert, but am simply giving my opinion based on my observations. I hope I have smatered up enough to please you.

  • Zig70

    I don’t think the rural issue is a big one for northern nationalists. Farming is such a big part of Ulster, even in Belfast. Elliot’s caustic’ness is not down to the farm, that’s just making excuses for him. As for McDonnell, I’m allergic to bowties.

  • Todays Sinn Féin statement (and I unashamedly wish Martin McGuinness well) has nothing to do with the SDLP Leadership and my own thought would be that a leadership contest never shows a Party in a good light….and the SDLP should probably welcome the fact that every newshound in Norn Iron will be following the Martin McGuinness story…….right up to 27th October and the few days after…..indeed right up to the SDLP Conference.
    If theres ever a good time for a political party to get no press coverage….a leadership election is the best time.
    The only actual electors in the SDLP leadership are about 400 people and no amount of news footage or column inches or seeing their man or woman (Dolores happily standing as Deputy Leader) interviewed on Inside Politics will influence them as much as the closed SDLP meetings.
    Some points.
    1…Nobody within the SDLP can complain that they dont have a choice.
    2…Margaret Ritchie is History. Electing her was a horrible mistake that is best forgotten as quickly as possible.
    3..while critics of the SDLP are enjoying what they see as discomfort and others have an academic or political junkie interest………the Contest itself is primarily a matter for those SDLP members, their voters and those who wish them well.
    4…SDLP members and those wishing them well would be better advised not to engage in public debate….there are few if any leadership votes to be gained on message boards.

  • Comrade Stalin

    4…SDLP members and those wishing them well would be better advised not to engage in public debate….there are few if any leadership votes to be gained on message boards.

    Perhaps a special handshake might be in order.

  • Im very selective about handshakes.

  • Banjaxed

    Interesting comments above. And for once I find myself in agreement with a few regular contributors who wouldn’t view (political) life from my part of the spectrum.

    Ritchie was a total disaster as SDLP leader. Why did I always have the impression that I was being lectured to by a head prefect? Leadership material, she hadn’t got. Fini and goodbye.

    At the moment, I’m in the ABA (squared) camp. (Anybody But Al*). One is a boring, arrogant, opportunistic piece of dog-doo, the other an arrogant, right-wing, ‘let’s-see-how-the-wind-blows’ crawler (did you hear the interview on Good Morning, Ulster, when EVERY horse was being backed by his ‘Loyalty’). AKA: Advanced job application.

    McDevitt is a brash, in-your-face newbie but an effective media performer, nonetheless. Unfortunately, he’s never off the bleedin’ media! So, do you go for overexposure as well as new blood?

    McGlone comes across as an honest, capable, political safe-pair-of-hands and doesn’t seem to portray the faults of his opponents. But has he the charisma and strength to pull the SDLP out of a terminal decline?

    One of the party’s main failings for these last few decades was its perceived impression of ‘Fiefdoms’. Each MP/MLA seemed to be speaking for his/her local interest alone. There never seemed to be a cohesive (or united) SDLP voice which spoke for the broader electorate. Hume was UI, Mallon was a percieved partitionist, McGrady & McDonnell were merely ”Me Feiners’ as in ‘F*ck the party, I know where MY bread’s buttered’.

    Therein lies its main problem. Can, therefore, the new leader garner together all the disparate opinions into one political vision? SF & DUP, by and large, have managed it.

    I have the impression that Sisyphus had an easier task.

  • abucs

    Good point about the selection process Fitz.

    The SDLP have to have a leader that genuinely represents both the inner and outer circles and inspires them to believe that they are the best group to represent a significant section of the electorate.

    When a party is reduced to a much smaller base it either breaks up into disparate groups which blame and fight each other and then disappears or it comes together to renew the vision that holds them together by reminding them why they got into politics in the first place.

    Perhaps we should be talking about what it is that inspires the SDLP and which candidate more than any other champions those causes and qualities.

    For any political party in NI, in the longer term i personally think they should identify clear political aims and look to be building structures that encourage young people to talk that kind of politics and have a real say in the future of the SDLP/DUP/Sinn Fein/Alliance party.

    Political parties though, all across the western world have shown they are incapable of producing political cultures that inspire people except in the face of perceived injustices or threat.

    Because of this failure, political parties must build up and support external non political cultures which are viable and political parties need to build bridges to these groups. Political Parties need these outside cultural groups to be strong, independent and interested in politics. Of course i think the Churches are a part of that. Political Parties need to support and build bridges to a variety of main Churches who have shown they can build social cultures. From a political viewpoint, that is the Church’s role.

    I think a political party’s economic focus should be on community self reliance, encouraging rich cultural participation, attracting and developing industry, having good relations with Britain and the Republic and creating an education system of excellence which keep more of the young in the North.

    I think they should concentrate on the ‘industries’ of farming, education, medicine, engineering and certain fields within I.T. where they can build a comparitve advantage.

    But i don’t know which leader, be it SDLP or otherwise who has the political and management skills to make that vision a reality.

  • aquifer

    The SDLP need to differentiate themselves from Sinn Fein. Youth may not work as SF have more of them. The idea of Middle Class and Socialist is a sound one. In America middle class just means somebody who works for a living.

    Sinn Fein will always be a voice for the ‘underserving poor’, so the SDLP has to focus on getting value services and economic growth for those in work.

    The SDLP should steal the corporation tax issue and run with it, resigning from the executive if necessary. At some point Sinn Fein will fail to hand the money over to the capitalists.

    If the SDLP understand that we can run a socialist state, but only if we are competitive in a capitalist market and free from domestic terrorism, they can let SF’s insurrectionist baggage sink them.

    Big Alastair, but only for a while hopefully.

  • The iceberg has already struck Ritchie has capsized the SDLP whoever wins the leadership battle will take the helm to the bottom of the ocean, bon voyage to all their followers.

  • john

    Attwood – Does he really think he has a chance?
    The SDLP need to reverse election losses get people voting for them again. Attwood cant do that just look at his own record in elections. The last general election with scandal and no Gerry SDLP should have been gaining ground on SF in West Belfast and what actually happened -People before profit were suddenly threatening the SDLP for second place. I would be happy for any of the other 3 to get in they each have their own qualities which can help progress the party.

  • ayeYerMa

    Why is Alban Maginness not in contention?

  • Comrade Stalin

    I don’t think Alban would be much use as a leader.

    One of the party’s main failings for these last few decades was its perceived impression of ‘Fiefdoms’. Each MP/MLA seemed to be speaking for his/her local interest alone. There never seemed to be a cohesive (or united) SDLP voice which spoke for the broader electorate. Hume was UI, Mallon was a percieved partitionist, McGrady & McDonnell were merely ”Me Feiners’ as in ‘F*ck the party, I know where MY bread’s buttered’.

    The problem for the SDLP is that all of the above is just fine when you’re the only credible party in town and where all people want to do is tick a box that says “nationalist”.

    The rise of Sinn Féin (John Hume’s idea) has put paid to the first; and increasingly the second is going to be challenged too as people are going to want more from their representatives than the waving of a flag.

  • Banjaxed

    If you insert the missing ‘r’ in Alb(r)an’s name. you’ll understand why. He would give everyone the sh1ts.

  • granni trixie

    FJH: I really dont have the interest to say anything about much about the SPLP leadership contest. But now that you make that strange point about it not being seemly for ‘outsiders’ to comment on Slugger I certainly will try. From memory, I think you made the same kind of point in some post related to church scandals.

    And I bet my bottom drawer that should there be a contest in parties other than the SDLP (esp Alliance whom you previously said you would never vote for) you would not stick to the “rules” you are now setting for others.
    Tip: you are not influencing what is written here with these tactics.

  • 241934 john brennan

    Whatevever the outcome- the last thing the SDLP presently needs is a green mark 11 Tom Elliot.

  • exsdlp

    The problem for Conall McDevitt was neatly summed up for me in a random convesation with an SDLP inclined young(ish) voter who really should be McDevitts’s core constituency. This guy said “I just don’t know what he’s for….”

    This is too early for Conall. At the moment he is all style, no substance. That needs to change and a few years as an effective backbencher, committee member, champion of causes other than the latest populist one would help.

    In the meantime, they should give Al a chance – the SDLP have literally nothing to lose.

  • granni trixie…..its come to a pretty pass when I have to find quotes for you to back up your own argument….against me
    But Id hate for you to be worried about misrepresenting me with things that you might think I have said….which is a very unacademic way to construct an argument
    Try this:
    “I have a lot of time for the Alliance Party. Most people have. Forty years of non sectarianism is no mean achievement” (FJH ,April 2015)
    “That makes them at least worthy of a consideration when we enter the polling booth”. (FJH April 2015).

    I should of course add that subsequent to May 2015, that I cant vote for any undemocratic party.

    Tip: I know that I cant influence what is written here. Ive merely stated that what happens in SDLP can only be of academic interest or stirring……for political opponents of SDLP. But clearly a matter of concern as well as interest to those who are either members of SDLP or wish the SDLP well. Its conceivable dontcha think……that I might possibly be addressing such people when I urge them to remember that the Leadership process is a “private matter” and not to be drawn into public slanging matches with anyone…especially those who dont have SDLP interest at heart.
    In this context the Presidential election is a welcome distraction and the SDLP Leadership can take place largely under the radar.
    Understandably this is a message board for political nerds like myself. And we post about things that interest and/or concern us.
    I think its a rather obvious fact that this particular issue of “interest” to some or many…obviously you are interested enough to tell us that youre not interested ……and of “concern” to few.
    Those genuinely “concerned” should therefore not get involved.
    And if my poor efforts at persuasion…..merely convince only those people, then those with an academic interest can happily flourish.

  • FuturePhysicist

    If the SDLP understand that we can run a socialist state, but only if we are competitive in a capitalist market and free from domestic terrorism, they can let SF’s insurrectionist baggage sink them.

    That sounds suspiciously like Social Democracy to me.

  • FuturePhysicist

    In reply to why the likes of Magginnis, Bradley and Ramsey weren’t involved in either contest, I don’t exactly know, but a party does need diverse and active people with strong grassroots links and I hope these three form a strong part of the future leaders plans.

    I will once again disagree with Fitz, bashing the MP for South Down who’s constituency profile has risen, when others have fallen. She hasn’t gone away and we shouldn’t encourage a Hermanism here.

  • Mark

    Last week it was the Americans and their pretend guilt ……. and the parents of car crash victims ……..

    This weekend if you’re not an SDLP supporter , you’re a politicial shit stirring junkie according to Mr Academic ….who can now predict what he’s going to say in 4 years time .

  • Well Magennis is even older than I am.
    Neither Bradley or Ramsey would see themselves as Leaders.
    And Margaret Ritchie would have been well advised to know her limits….like “Future Physicist” says she is a capable constituency MP.
    And further right that no point in bashing her now. The unfortunate thing was that she had to be told….rather forcefully about her leadership qualities.
    Shes got the message.

  • J Kelly

    does the inclusion of al, conal and alex not look like an early run at the selection convention for the new proposed sw belfast constituency. if this constituency comes into being the sdlp will have approx 1.5 quotas one seat guaranteed two with a fight. now they have 3mla’s. 3 into don’t go. i thought that conal or alex would have had a better chance of coming through the middle of patsy and al, but all is fair in love and war.

  • 241934 john brennan

    FJH: And what of the stewardship of the outgoing Deputy Leader. All previous incumbents had something to show for their stewardship of the post – even if only increased membership and/or increased share of the SDLP vote in their own constituencies. It would appear the present servant buried his one talent in the ground – and according to FJH the membership (his Master?) should not hold him to account. Unlike the unprofitable servant in the parable, is he to be rewarded – rather than deprived of one his hidden talent?

  • Specifically on the SW Belfast constituency.
    We are assuming that everything stays the same but all candidates will be four years older and the balance of probability is that McDonnell will lose the Westminster seat of South East Belfast.
    The part of South that merges with West is McDevitts patch and I think he would have first refusal there.
    The SDLP would certainly have a safe seat and 1.5 quotas might be enough to take two high profile candidates thru……theres 3 SF safe seats….and the fifth and sixth seats could be interesting three or even four Party call.
    Possibly Ms Bradshaws first run out in Allaince colours.

    If …as likely…..McDonnell loses his Westminster seat, Id expect him to retire from politics. There is probably a nationalist quota in South East Belfast which means a likely head to head between rising stars Niall Ó Donghaile (SF) and Séamas de Faoite (SDLP)

  • Lionel Hutz

    One of the sad aspects of these leadership changeovers has been the loss of two decent MLAs. Margaret Ritchie was a good MLA – even a half decent minister. We lost Durkan to Westminster- he is surely still one of the most talented SDLP politicians. They are both successful too in their constituencies.

    It’s a side issue but surely the SDLP need to figure out how to have them both in the assembly team. I think the SDLP need to start treating the House of Commons in the way southern parties treat the Seanad. A sort of training ground for the assembly. A way to publicise new names. Should Mark H Durkan or Colum Eastwood not go for Foyle, how about De Faoite for the New South East Belfast constituency. O’Hanlon or Haughey for Newry/Armagh. It’s a way to increase to increase the profile of those politicians. The SDLP don’t have many opportunities to do that.

    It would also make the potential loss of seats easier to stomach.

    On the leadership campaign, it’s between Al and Patsy, surely. Al’s a winner. He may be arrogant but maybe the SDLP need a little arrogance. The problem is he is too divisive. Patsy is probably a good choice to try to bring the party back to it’s routes.

    For once I disagree with FJH. The SDLP need to soak up any media attention they can get. They have four candidates who all are probably capable of running the party. They need to be careful about what they say. Do not let it get heated. But a leadership campaign interested in a party. Frankly the SDLP need people to be interested in them.

    And they need to bring back in Mark Durkan. It’s a waste otherwise

  • I think its true that the SDLP over-states Westminster and wrongly regards it as the “senior”.
    The nitty gritty is all at Assembly level and potentially any SDLP person could hold South Down and Foyle with tactical voting if the going was really tough.
    Im certainly impressed by Thomas O’Hanlon who had a good campaign and Seamas deFaoite is particuarly good on local issues. …but I think the SDLP did give first caps to several people in 2010…..Michelle Byrne, Clare Hanna, Thomas Conway, Tony Quinn.
    The problem is that not running the known biggest SDLP hitter in a constituency (eg Alex Attwood, Dolores Kelly, Dominic Bradley) might have an adverse effect on actual votes in a specific election. But Lionel Hutz is of course right that this could be clawed back with a bonus at Assembly time.

  • FuturePhysicist

    People forget these changes will apply to all other parties and many of the other parties will need to put in new blood as the GFA generation slowly fades out. We may have less councils and less councillors too.

    I actually think perhaps SDLP campaigners who work outside of elected politics, political researchers, volenteers etc. are just as big an issue as the high flyers. An SDLP vote may not be won by say a party candidate but from a person who went from Moyle to Belcoo to canvass at doorsteps.

    I disagree that Westminster is overplayed, certainly the Scottish Nationalists don’t think that way.

  • Comrade Stalin

    It’s quite understandable that Westminster for a long time was considered the place for senior politicians – remember we have had several false starts at having a local assembly over the past four decades, and frankly if you are going to be a party leader or an otherwise serious senior politician, you need a stable, salaried job which can accommodate that role. I know people always say “you should not be in the politics for the money” but politicians have to eat like everyone else.

    I agree, though, with the broad thrust of the contributions. It’s not like Westminster is completely irrelevant – it’s the place where you have to go to make your mark on issues such as taxation or economic competitiveness issues WRT the border – but it nonetheless plays a peripheral role.

    On that note, I recall from Margaret Ritchie’s outgoing interview that she said that it’s too much to be an MLA, MP and party leader at the same time. I wonder if this was a jibe at Big Al who, as I understand it, still acts as an MLA, MP and local GP ?

  • quality

    My reading is if the SDLP make the wrong choice here, they could well be finished – I am in no doubt they are at a cross-roads.

    Oddly enough for a PR man, McDevitt hasn’t really come across particularly well. Any time I’ve heard him speak off air, he’s sincere and certainly not lacking in princples/beliefs. To have any chance at all, even a small one, he needs to strongly articulate what he stands for and where he wants the party to go. He has a reasonably lengthy association with the party, is passionate and capable, they could do worse.

    Has overexposed himself certainly, but he put his hat in for leadership in a relatively low key manner – ie. he didn’t call the media to his office to announce whether or not he was running, as a certain south Belfast colleague did (I’ll bet the result was a shock for all concerned).

    I just can’t get inspired by the idea of Patsy and Alasdair. Both are on the more conservative side of the party, that’s my own political bias there, and I’m not sure how they would arrest decline. Attwood is running as he has nothing to lose – I would say he’d lose his Ministry anyway.

    It’s probably too early for McDevitt, but if its an election about the future of the party, I can’t look past him personally. I do, however, think his chance of success is nearly non-existent.

    Whoever wins, the party need to get behind them entirely. And a wider debate be undertaken, focusing on what the party stands for and how its to be run. They’ve got four years to sort themselves out after all.

  • Fitz I disagree about the contest being kept under the radar. A mud slinging contest is good for no-one and I too was initially of the mindset that if a coronation would help avoid more negative publicity then that’s the way it should happen. However at a time where the big question is “who are the SDLP, what are they for?”, perhaps the best approach is to have that debate in an appropriately public forum. We want people to see that the SDLP is in fact a vibrant and dynamic party with plenty of young activists and potential future candidates keen for change.

    We want the public to witness the coming together of ideas and to better understand the crossroads that the party is at right now. The SDLP is far from doomed, as many commentators would have you believe. But yes, this is a turning point for the party and some ambitious and risky decisions have to be taken.

    General point – for me I think McDevitt and McDonnell have the correct radical vision for the party going forward and it is only a matter of time before Conall is at the helm. I don’t think Alex Attwood has a chance and Patsy McGlone, while a great public servant, is not leadership material. (Never met the man though – just going by press and word of mouth).

  • Also Fitz is correct to point out rising stars such as Mr De Faoite. There is a wealth of young talent in the SDLP that will serve the party well in the future.

  • The people who have let the SDLP down (so to speak) is not the old stagers or the young folks. Theres a lack of people say 35-55.
    People walked away. Now some would claim that they were driven away and some just got bored or lazy or whatever.
    Whatever the reason/s ….to some extent the answer lies with those people.
    I take Chris Brownes point……especially as its an honestly held belief and he is one of the “wellwishers” so to speak.
    But I do think the election process….itself……does have to be under the radar.
    To some extent the platform of all the candidates is about renewal, rebuilding…….and I think that after the dust of the campaign has settled….there needs to be some concrete proposals to engage with the wider SDLP support.

  • FuturePhysicist

    For the record Comerade Stalin, I believe big Dr Al does not practice as a GP, if he is doing any GP work it is unpaid advisory and emergency work only.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Well FJP, I believe that 8MLAs and 2 MPs fall into that 35-55 range from McDevitt at one end to Margaret Ritchie at the other. It wouldn’t surprise me if the majority of councillors were in this range.

    I would say that the SDLP’s youth has certainly punched above the party’s weight in many ways.

    Colin Keenan winning the seat in the Falls, Eastwood and Durkan’s emergences, the blooding of new young councillors in Derry, Newry, Belfast, Strabane, Downpatrick and other councils.

  • Comrade Stalin


    I stand corrected, although that must have changed very recently.

  • stewart1

    “There is probably a nationalist quota in South East Belfast which means a likely head to head between rising stars Niall Ó Donghaile (SF) and Séamas de Faoite (SDLP)”

    The SDLP vote fell by 30% in Pottinger under Mr de Faoite?

  • Mr Crumlin

    The problem with the SDLP is they feel they are owed a living because ‘they were responsible for the GFA etc etc’. But people like me, who once voted SDLP but now vote SF, credit Hume not the SDLP as architects of the peace process.

    There other problem is that none of the four contenders is likely to either woo young voters or older voters like me back.

  • Lionel Hutz

    “The problem with the SDLP is they feel they are owed a living because ‘they were responsible for the GFA etc etc”

    What is the basis for this statement? Do you have some insider knowledge that has informed you that SDLP think this way?

  • FuturePhysicist

    I would disagree that Hume was the sole architect of the SDLP side of the peace process, there were plenty of other voices in there, who had worked to bring trust, civil rights and accountability to politics.

    I honestly believe Hume’s sucessors in Durkan and Ritchie tried to win every vote they could and respected the will of the people. I don’t believe either lacked the humility to accept the will of the ballot box.

    I still believe in this party and I don’t think anyone from my region really believes that the voters owe them a living. When I hear some Sinn Féin represent moan about how Unionist votes are behind Ritchie’s election or how dissident votes are behind Kennan’s election,or even their own votes electing Alisdair McDonnell it does bring into question whether they care about democracy or themselves.

    The younger person’s disillusionment with politics in general and is reflected in cross the board lower turnouts, and lowering turnouts since the rise of Sinn Fein and DUP to power is due to major changes in how our society does and does not work. I can tell you one thing, they don’t care about charisma one iota as much as those in the media seem to think, they just want someone who will allow them to have a chance at a dignified life when so many needlessly fill dole queues, or are in dead end part time jobs.

  • Mr Crumlin

    Yeah Lionel – its called my opinion. They still seem a little stunned that the electorate turned their back on them – after all they had done for them.

    I once voted SDLP – I am unlikely to do so again. I credit them (sorry Hume!) with building the infrastructure and conditions that allowed the peace process to flourish. I am old enough to remember Hume/Adams and the briefing against Hume from within the SDLP.

    I have no ‘inside’ information on the SDLP – perhaps that’s the problem, those who do only have a feel for what the SDLP want, not what the electorate want. I see nothing changing with the four candidates for the leadership.

    FuturePhysicist – young people are being turned off politics all across western democracies – you can blame SF and DUP on many things but pinning lower turnout on them is pushing it a little far.

  • I think that the biggest asset the SDLP have at the moment is the younger membership. But there is an imbalance which has historic roots.
    The SDLP Youth is vibrant now but that was not always the case. I would not wish to elaborate as it is not relevant here. But suffice to say that the SDLP has had a well documented record from the 1980s 1990s of not having people coming thru.
    “Future Physicist” rightly points out those that have. Indeed three of the leadership candidates are in that group.
    Its my experience that many more left. I have nothing against young people of course……..I was one myself after all……..nor do I have anything against old people as I am one myself.
    The point is that the heavy lifting in any Party is done by that middle aged generation and theres simply not enough of them.
    Two factors.
    A Youth SDLP mooted first in October 1973 never got off the ground until much later and the attitude of senior SDLP figures who never valued the organisational needs of the SDLP.
    The democratic deficit of no local Assembly and the indifference to initiatives like the Convention.

    I should probably add that people who were in their late 20s or early 30s……..also decided that concentrating on raising a family or having a career were much more rewarding. Maybe their kids are in SDLP Youth now.

    In so far as the SDLP MLAs are in that key group, they are to be congratulated but frankly they have had an unfair burden of that heavy lifting.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I would disagree that Hume was the sole architect of the SDLP side of the peace process

    Yes, he was. Most of the other party leadership were happy enough to go along with the previous plan at the Brooke talks – Hume scuttled that plan in favour of one which involved bringing in Sinn Féin. This is a subject we have done to death here.

    The briefing against Hume from within the party is not at all surprising; it occurred because he went off on a solo run without informing or engaging any of his senior party colleagues. That’s because the whole thing was a massive vanity exercise for Hume. The IRA were basically defeated and were looking for a face-saving way out, Hume provided it. Those who opposed this plan have been essentially proven right, as the peace process as it could have been was fundamentally changed in character due to SF’s presence and Hume’s support for it. Had SF been outside at the beginning, the SDLP and UUP would almost certainly still be on top – there would have been no devisive debates about decommissioning and there would have been no leverage for SF to usurp the SDLP.

    There is a great deal of truth to the idea that the SDLP have an entitlement complex owing to their authorship of the GFA (which ironically, Hume had very little to do with – the work was done by Mallon, Durkan and Farren). The UUP have the same entitlement complex and you’ll still hear them bitching about how they laid the foundations upon which the DUP are now operating. The electorate don’t care about that of course, never have. They want to hear where a party is going – not where it once was.

  • Barry the Blender

    As a nerdy political anorak (and unionist) who is looking in, I’ll throw in my tuppence.

    I think a leadership contest can be benefitial for a party if it’s conducted well. Certainly seemed to help the Conservatives in 2005. 4 Candidates tearing each other apart in public is obviously a terrible idea. Tip one to the SDLP, keep it cordial.

    On the leaders. I think many commentators seem to examine the SW Belfast brigade, find flaws and then conclude that McGlone seems the least worst option.

    Fair point number one is that Alex Attwood is a disaster, personally in his own constituency and in the way that he comes across in the media. Also too close to Ritchie, so not even a realistic contender.
    However, I think many of the same ‘qualities’ are true of McGlone. It has been said he’s nationalism’s Elliott. I don’t know about that, but his local and electoral performance has been on a par with Attwood. The only reason he ever ended up as an MLA in the first place was because of an internal constituency fight with Dennis Haughey, and I think he’s avoided (imo run away) from all Westminster contests bar 2005. In his own local area he does not compete with SF. Could he possibly ever do so against them across all of “the six counties”.

    So then there’s McDevitt. Young, yes; articulate, certainly…but there’s just something about him. There is a difference between being media savvy and coverage greedy. Nationalism’s Basil McCrea perhaps? 2 relatives of mine who are apolitical, but vote and watched some of the bbc coverage described him as smarmy*. I think this is true. I think the most positive way I’ll rule him out is to quote Francis Urquhart’s dismissal of one leadership hopeful “Too young and too clever”.

    By a process of elimination I’m left with Big Al. He’s a bit old, but really any more so than other party leaders? He’s loathed within the party by some, he will need to patch up these wounds. His own record is one of electoral success in an era where the SDLP has been on the slump. He must have some political instinct. He ran a rather finely balanced term in office appealing to both Shinners who wanted to keep the prods out, and soft unionists and alliance sorts who think that any notion of unionist unity or unseating a nationalist is “just a bit vulgar”.
    When considering which General to lead troops I’m told Napoleon asked “Is he lucky?” (Don’t quote me on that). Big Al certainly has been.

    And as a unionist looking in I’ll add, McDonnell is a F**ker, and that is exactly what the SDLP need in a leader right now.

  • Barry the Blender

    I never actually explained the asterisk in my post above:

    *they did not actually use the word smarmy. I am not prepared to post on Slugger the adjective that was actually employed.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Barry, an inspired evocation of Francis Urquhart there. I think you called all four candidates exactly right. I knew nothing about McGlone, until he declared how pissed off he was not to have been made a minister, which told me all I needed to know.

    Few of the things I’ve heard about Big Al have been at all charitable. But he seems to understand the business of winning elections. Coming across as rather arrogant and a bit of a ruthless bastard does not necessarily do you harm.

  • Not 2, not 3, but 4 SDLP leadership candidates to choose from…

    but there’s only one Dolores Kelly for Deputy.

    And that is not an endorsement. Still, like Brid Rodgers you occasionally see her doing her shopping unaccompanied in the local Tesco which I think, in its own little way, is very very brave. Lurgan and its environs has some dodgy customers. Fair play to her.

  • People talk about rebuilding and re-connecting.
    To some extent its a cliché.
    I heard someone say recently that “this place (ie Stormont) can suck you in”. He was right.
    Earlier this week a Cross Party Group of MLAs played a football match. Admirable of course.
    The Opposition was apparently “Senior Civil Servants”. Now I find that less admirable.
    I dont know if the same team of MLAs ever intend to play a footy match against “Junior Civil Servants”..ya know the foot soldiers up at Stormont…the ones who havent been at Cambridge University…..or paying school fees at Campbell College.
    Ive also seen photographs of MLAs playing footy against the Media.
    Disappointingly the team included those who think they are on the Left…..including one SDLP Leadership contender.
    Yet a senior civil servant would not get out of bed for the salary of a junior civil servant….the nameless faceless people at the photocopying machines.
    As the Man said “this place can suck you in”.

    So whats this got to do with the SDLP Leadership?
    Back in Alex Attwoods constituency in West Belfast…..there might well be a SDLP voter who happens to be earning £17,000 a year working at Stormont, who is checking the internal mail every day for a transfer to the city centre or closer to home.
    Meanwhile in South Belfast (McDevitt and McDonnell voters) there are Unison workers at the City Hospital who are planning strike action. Local MLAs wont resist the photo opportunity or the soundbite.
    Meanwhile in Cookstown (McGlone area) there will be junior civil servants and students boarding the Belfast bus to stay in the city for four nights.

    The Winner of the Contest should be the one who knows the meaning of the word.
    The one who can recognise that networking with senior civil servants. at Stormont is meaningless.
    The one who has the fewest rather than the most names on his Blackberry…….and those being the names of REAL people……..REAL constituents of all shades, REAL SDLP voters, REAL SDLP members….not senior civil servants, journalists and all-purpose lobbyists.
    No SDLP figure at Stormont got there on the votes of the Officer Class and its time that one or two realised it.

  • FuturePhysicist

    I don’t know what to think of that statement, but I believe the salaries and conditions of junior civil servants have nothing to do with who the senior servants play football with. The SDLP were the one party who promised they would save public sector jobs, were any sacked from the DoE as yet?

    I work in the private sector and earn a lot less than a junior civil servant, I have no problem who MLA’s play football with. If I were a junior civil servant, I would expect those with more experience and responsibilities to be earning more than me, I probably would also know that it’s the Department of Finance and Personel that decides the pay rates for junior civil servants.

  • FuturePhysicist

    FuturePhysicist – young people are being turned off politics all across western democracies – you can blame SF and DUP on many things but pinning lower turnout on them is pushing it a little far.

    Young people are perhaps more political than ever, across Western, Eastern, Northern and Southern democracies it’s just they lack any representation that gives them any real sense of hope. To some extent it is the DUP and SF, but by no means are other parties including the SDLP immune.

  • I should have made myself clearer……..the new SDLP leader needs to reconnect with the Party, its voters, and the wider electorate ). Public and Private sector low paid, students, unemployed, pensioners, homebuilders……however defined are among the people who sent MLAs to Stormont.
    Once there..there are MLAs sucked into believing that geographic isolation of Stormont and its regular cast of characters from other Parties, senior civil servants, the press room and the ever-present lobbyists…….are REAL people.
    (significantly perhaps one candidate seems focussed on involving people not already voting……but his prime concern should be votes lost rather than pursuing the non voting.
    The 14 MLAs dont need or shouldnt need the journalists or lobbyists to connect to their own people. They are a barrier rather than a link.

  • toker

    I have no doubt as mentioned that Delores Kelly is a very good and dedicated constituency worker and works in one of the most difficultg constituencies to represent ,this in itself takes amazing courage.
    However if the SDLP need a deputy leader would they not be better adopting the system used by a lot of parties were the second in the contest gets the post. It could also give them a strong fighting force if they had a bigger name as deputy leader of the and it could unite the party both wings as seen with what happened previously with Ritchie if one part of the Party is unhappy it is hardly a recipe for success and stability
    Look how well they did when they had a strong when they had the team of Hume and Mallon .I think they need a stronger performer than Kelly for dputy leader.

  • Well I can certainly vouch for the fact that Dolores Kelly does her shopping locally and alone….in the same store that I often use. But Lurgan is hardly Kabul. And the vast majority of people are extremely pleasant.
    I think she would make an excellent Deputy Leader.
    Selecting the Runner Up of the Leadership Contest would send mixed messages…….and while seeming to make a balanced ticket would actually only instiutionalise Division.

    Dolores Kelly was a supporter of Margaret Ritchies Election campaign two years ago. Indeed Bríd Rodgers as mentioned above……was a key Ritchie backer………so Dolores has good relationships with the “Ritchie” wing and has credibility with the grassroots outside the Praetorian Guard of Ritchies kichen cabinet.
    So Dolores Kelly would be an excellent Deputy Leader.

  • Barry the Blender

    I think you called all four candidates exactly right.

    Thanks CS

    would they not be better adopting the system used by a lot of parties were the second in the contest gets the post.

    Can you name one of these parties?

    .I think they need a stronger performer than Kelly for dputy [sic] leader.


  • Trapattoni

    There is probably a nationalist quota in South East Belfast which means a likely head to head between rising stars Niall Ó Donghaile (SF) and Séamas de Faoite (SDLP)

    Fitz it’s comments and a mindset like that one that have the SDLP in the trouble it’s in. Niall Ó’Donnghaile is indeed a rising star, Séamas De Faoite’s star is very much on the wain.

  • Lionel Hutz

    So you think the SDLP should just let Niall O Donghaile have a free run. Surely the SDLP have to dig deep and fight

  • Barry the Blender

    You’re both wrong.

    The SDLP have to accommodate Attwood, McDonnell and McDevitt in the Belfast carve up.

    They have a resonably safe looking seat in South East, and a realistic shot at 2 in South West.

    Doesn’t take a genius to work out what to do in these circumstances.

  • Nor does it take a genius to work out that these may not actually be the boundaries in 2015.
    Nor does it take a genius to know that there will be twists and turns in the political careers of the three current MLAs One is over 60 already and another is 52 ish. Quango-land or Retirement or even back to business and less hassle might seem appealing.
    The Leadership Election sets the tone for their SDLP future. Only one can be a winner……but it doesnt necessarily follow that all will be losers.
    And still in non-genius mode, I note that there are other people who might be interested in South East or South West…..Claire Hanna, Seamas de Faoite, Colm Keenan, Ferghal McKinney.

  • Barry the Blender

    Possibly. You do have something of a habit however of overcalling the capabilities of non-entities. Non-genius mode seems to favor the incumbents as having at least first refusal.

  • Trapattoni

    So you think the SDLP should just let Niall O Donghaile have a free run. Surely the SDLP have to dig deep and fight

    I’m not suggesting the SDLP give Ó’Donnghaile a free run although I think if they put De Faoite up against him that is more or less what they will be doing. Look at their contrasting fortune during at since the last the last election.

  • Trapattoni

    Fitz, I could be wrong but I cant see Ferghal McKinney going for for election anytime soon.

  • Trapattoni

    Bloody Iphone, lets try again.

    So you think the SDLP should just let Niall O Donghaile have a free run. Surely the SDLP have to dig deep and fight

    I’m not suggesting the SDLP give Ó’Donnghaile a free run although I think if they put De Faoite up against him that is more or less what they will be doing. Look at their contrasting fortunes during and since the last the last election.

  • I think youre overlooking the fact that Mr de Faoite is 19.
    And Id certainly see Fearghal McKinney in the running for a co-option if there was horse trading involved about “double jobbing” for Alasdair.
    And indeed a co-option does make sense….as it does in South Down.
    In a climate where redundancy notices are being handed out to blameless staffers, Double Jobbing is just not acceptable.

    The surest way of cutting off a promising career before it starts is to name them as future stars……as the New Statesman is doing this week with Top 20 politicians under 40 to watch.
    A bye product of reducing the MPs to 16 and MLAs to 96 is that some careers will never happen.

  • Trapattoni

    Perhaps Fitz, maybe I am being overly harsh time will tell, Seamas strikes me as a nice enough fella but Niall Ó’Donnghaile imho has little or nothing to fear from him. Moving on to McKinney co-option would certainly be an option and porbably the safest one given that FST will still be fresh in most peoples’ thinking.

  • FuturePhysicist

    And still in non-genius mode, I note that there are other people who might be interested in South East or South West…..Claire Hanna, Seamas de Faoite, Colm Keenan, Ferghal McKinney.

    Probably could add Magdalena Wolska, Neil Kelly, and Helen Walsh to the list. In the North Nichola Mallon will almost certainly succeed Alban Magginnis and Pat Convery in the future.

    To go ultra non-genius remember that one of the candidates is from Moyle and another is from Dublin, so for all we know it may be more from out of the city.

    Also maybe the SDLP could move Alisdair back to North Antrim or whatever the successor constituency is?

  • FuturePhysicist

    Also isn’t Colum Eastwood going for Deputy leader?

  • john

    Future physicist didnt you have Nichola Mallon going for Westminster against Connor Murphy in the next general election??

  • 241934 john brennan

    Yes- Colum Eastwood is running – and is odds on to win this 2 horse race

  • Nichola is a shoe in for North Belfast.
    The problem in South Belfast is that there are too many (if there can ever be such a thing) talented people and I should have added Magdalena and Niall Kelly to that group.
    Mr Eastwood has indeed been nominated as Deputy Leader and maybe he can carry the “young vote” or the “Derry vote” and there might be a certain balance but I think Dolores is safer pair of hands at this stage.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Future physicist didnt you have Nichola Mallon going for Westminster against Connor Murphy in the next general election??

    I probably did, but at a guess if any new blood were to make a challenge, Cllr Sharon Haughey would be favorite to do that at the moment.

  • stewart1

    So the SDLP vote dropped by 30% in Pottinger under De Faoite & fell by 200% under Magdalena Wolska in East Belfast, and this is progress?

  • Barry the Blender

    Yes Stewart. These are the bright young things that Fitzjameshorse seems to think the SDLP will sacrifice it’s big names for in the up and coming boundary changes.