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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