Will any other NI party leaders stand down before 2015?

Later on today, we’ll have a clearer picture about the candidates that will be seeking to become SDLP leader and deputy leader. The SDLP will be hoping that its membership will democratically elect someone who can steer the party away from decline (or what Seamus Mallon described as “the low rung on the ladder” on last night’s Hearts and Minds) and back towards sustainable growth.

The party will be longing for a stable leadership in the run up to the Assembly and Westminster elections due in May 2015 and beyond.

This week, boundary changes reminded many politicians that like a corporate reorganisation, they’ll be reapplying – along with a field of outsiders – in 2015 for their jobs, but with a smaller number of posts on offer.

Without wanting to be ageist, the passing years may mean that some MLAs and MPs want to slow down and retire from front line politics or at least party leadership. (Who am I kidding?! Ian Paisley stood down as First Minister at the age of 82, and the Assembly at 84.) Peter Robinson has previously spoken about withdrawing from politics at a traditional retirement age. Will others join him?

table showing NI politician ages

The table above shows how old some of the party leaders, potential party leaders and senior figures will be in May 2015.

Succession planning works best when done in advance. Even if a coronation is possible and a damaging leadership campaign can be avoided, changing leader right before a major set of elections won’t be the smartest move for any party.

While MLAs can be replaced with co-option, MPs have to stick it out to the next election or else they trigger a by-election and open up the possibility that their party does not regain the seat. Does the

Three years out, do you think any of the other parties are likely to switch leader before the elections?

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  • Henry94

    The SDLP, twice.

  • If you look at the ages of political leaders throughout the world and through histody, all of the politicians mentioned above will be below the average retirement age limit of an average politician.

    Added to that there are some politicians who have retained the leadership until a very old age (e.g. Ronald Reagan, Nelson Mandela, Ian Paisley (snr).

    I therefore dont see how your observations on the age of NI politicians is of the slightest relevance

  • Don’t think Margaret Ritchie stood down because of her age. Few politicians would site age as a reason for standing down, and rarely get the opportunity to ‘retire’ gracefully.

  • Seymour Major – It’s relevant because at least one leader has indicated that around 65 would be the time to go. So some others might think about it. And party members may have a view on whether age matters – particularly in light of the number of Assembly terms they would be likely to server – if/when they have a chance to re-elect a replacement leader. No one wants a new leader every 5 years?

  • michael-mcivor

    I am sure if a party hates its leader like the sdlp and Ritchie experience then the leader goes or is pushed- i think David Ford is the next to walk –

  • J Kelly

    How many will be abov retiremnet age come 2015 none, age isirrelevant, the question is will the party leaders or the parties be relevant, innovative and appealing in 2015. One of the youngest on the table above is Conal McDevitt and if commentators on here are to be believed he was pulling the strings that made a mess of Margaret Ritchies leadership. ,

  • OneNI

    ‘Will any other NI party leaders stand down before 2015?’

    I bet Tom Elliott will any takers?

  • Tom Elliot? If he doesn’t stand down he may be hoping his party will have forgotten his counting hall rant, but he’ will be sadfly mistaken. Tom will be unseated before xmas if the UUP has any wit left.

  • dwatch

    “Tom will be unseated before xmas if the UUP has any wit left.” Who is going to replace him????????????

  • granni trixie

    Alan: disapointing post. You may not mean to be agest but you come across to me at least as just that. What we need is more diversity, including of ages/experiences or have “new blood”. And ofcourse the stats above illustrates gender imbalance which you do not mention.

    Michael-mcivor: I would be interested to know where you get your information about DF from…I can honestly say that I’ve heard noone in APNI even so much as mention replacing the leader,he is much respected.We have an election every year so there is opportunity for anyone to go forward. Yes we have a number of elected reps who are leadership material but that is a good position to be in is it not?

  • Alan,

    You neglected to consider hubris; few want to believe that they are replaceable. Fair play to Margaret Ritchie for realizing that she just wasn’t up to the multiple roles.

  • Granni – If Peter Robinson has considered and articulated his desire to enjoy retirement, then I suspect some others may have considered the possibility too.

    The gender balance is truly awful – with the only woman on the list about to drop out. Notable that Denmark’s new prime minister (elect) is a woman – Helle Thorning-Schmidt (incidentally, aged 44).

  • lamhdearg

    Did someone not once sing “hope i die before i get old” and then enjoy not doing so, i think pistol pete (allah willing) will be around after his 65th, unless of course he upsets the powers that be again.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Wasn’t that Rodger Daltry from the Who?

  • FuturePhysicist

    The Who!? I mean.

  • Dwatch…..One Basil McCrea perhaps. He should have got it at the time Elliot did but for the bussing in from fermanagh to steal the job

  • RyanAdams


    I have no doubt whats for Basil will not go past him. I think Basil has a few more supporters among the current crop of MLAs, and a lot more ex-councillors in places like Belfast and its suburbs who have felt the sharp end of what the electorate thinks of Elliots leadership.

  • Drumlins Rock

    strange the Ex councillors are Basil supporters but the successful (inculding new additional ones in the west) are probably Tom supporters. btw, even without the fermanagh vote Tom won comfortably, they were all fully paid up members, most of them life long who believed in Toms leadership enough to give up most of a day and travel over two hours either way to vote. But thats history, there is mood for change or calls for change in the party.

  • lamhdearg

    Basil would be better joining the Alliance, or better still doing a Mike Nesbitt in reverse, seeing as how he likes being on the tv/radio so much.

  • RyanAdams

    I know what you mean DR, The UUP did extremely well across the West of province, however Tom Elliot just isnt ‘civic’ enough for liberals in Belfast and Down. There could be more losses in years to come with the UUP teetering on the brink in the 2/4 Belfast Seats it actually has elected representatives on.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Basil is fine where he is, a senior member of the party who is sound on the fundamental issues such as the union etc. There is a good team at stormont who will work well if they pull together, since the election that seems to be the case.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Basil McCrea is completely out of control and most of his ideas and policies are harebrained and inadequately thought through. He likes to appear in the assembly, or in the media, lambasting things left right and centre for no immediately obvious reason beyond trying to obtain attention. I mean, the other week he stood up in the Assembly and complained about the plans to avoid raising tuition fees, right while another MLA in his own party put out a statement welcoming the proposals. And there was that infamous scenario during the assembly election where David McNarry phoned up Nolan to complain in public about one of his more progressive utterances.

    Speaking personally (as always) the only way I think Basil would be allowed to join Alliance would be by signing a “shut the fuck up” agreement and I don’t see him ever being willing to do such a thing. It’s academic in either case as I doubt he wants to be in Alliance; he seems to be able to persuade people to vote for him in the UUP and no doubt he has leadership ambitions.

  • PaulT

    Alan, As no-one else has pointed it out, I’m guessing I’ve missed something here, but why haven’t you listed the other three Northern Ireland parties and their leaders DoBs

    Conservative Party
    Fianna Fail

    Conservative and UKIP share of the vote is similiar to the TUVs and although FF have no seats they’ve been registered as a NI party since 2007

  • PaulT

    ….and why is Martin McGuinness on the list, have you a scoop?

  • Paul – I only included parties with an Assembly presence. Martin McGuinness is on the list as he’s the de factor northern leader of the party and dFM.

    You’re trolling!

  • PaulT

    Hardly trolling Alan, it was a valid point, esp as your headline was

    “Will any other NI party leaders stand down before 2015?”

    your reason for McGuiness is equally ropey given the headline.

    Additionally using an Assembly ‘presence’ is silly as an independent has a bigger Assembly presence than the Green Party and almost that of the TUV, both of whom could almost be called independents themselves as once they are gone its likely their party won’t be re-elected.

    And finally, just to prove a point. If for example the conservatives were to get 100 councillors elected and a few MPs but didn’t contest the Assembly elections than you would exclude them from a future blog like this. Thats just silly