SDLP go to the polls this weekend – a look at the voting process as Attwood becomes the bookies’ favourite #sdlp11

Margaret Ritchie SDLP leadership campaign promotional balloon - Let's Make HistorySDLP delegates go to the poll this weekend to select a new leader to succeed Margaret Ritchie. Party HQ will be busy selecting suitable triumphant music for the winner to enter the hall to on Saturday evening around 5pm.

This morning, Paddy Power lists the odds

  • 11/8 Alex Attwood
  • 7/4 Patsy McGlone
  • 3/1 Conal McDevitt (though Paddy Power spell his name incorrectly)
  • 6/1 Alasdair McDonnell

Votes will be physically cast at this weekend’s conference.

Each branch has one voting delegate for every ten delegates (technically, 1 vote for 1-10 members, two votes for 11-20, etc). Each branch chooses their delegate(s). That delegate is may be instructed to vote on the branch’s preferred choice, not the delegate’s but since there’s no whip, retains an element of personal choice!

All elected representatives (Councillors, MLAs, MPs) and all members of the party Executive have a vote – but doubly jobbers politicians with dual mandates still only get a single vote.

Since there are more than two candidates, it’s a PR election, with delegates voting 1, 2, … etc. Eliminated votes are transferred at full value.

Update – This morning’s Irish News has the details that the “354 people with a vote” are made up of “87 councillors, 15 assembly members and MPs,12 executuve members, eight memners representing the women’s, youth, London and Dublin groups and 232 branch delegates”.
It’s been a year of surprises for Alex Attwood. He didn’t expect to be sitting around the NI Executive table after the May elections, but was nominated ahead of deputy leader Patsy McGlone. He didn’t expect to be participating in a leadership election, and has come from last place to be the bookies’ favourite. Whether or not that translates into branch votes and personal votes from his colleagues remains to be seen.

Alex Attwood has a tendency to speak freely and stray from his notes (if he even has any). Let’s hope he writes a victory speech in advance for Saturday night to set our his vision for uniting the party and securing its relevance to Northern Ireland … just in case he does squeeze ahead when the transfers are totted up!

UpdateNicholas Whyte has posted a good summary of the four candidates on his blog, looking at their use of the internet and proposals for organisational change.

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  • Boglover

    I wondered what the date for the conference was, so went to the SDLP official website, only to find no mention of it at all! Maybe they are wishing it wouldn’t take place at all….

  • Pendulum

    Not entirely sure if voting delegates are instructed to vote on the branch’s preferred choice as opposed to their own (though it may be an unenforced rule).

    Anytime I’ve been a delegate, I was directed to vote for whoever I thought was the best candidate, irrespective of branch preference…

  • Boglover – This weekend – Friday evening until Sunday lunchtime in Shaws Bridge Ramada.

  • I’m happy (for my central party source) to be contradicted! They are running a hustings event at conference late on Friday evening …

  • Lionel Hutz

    ATTWOOD IS FAVOURITE!!!!!!!!!

    How, I mean ……. How?

    Why is this happening?

  • Billy Pilgrim

    A fair question, Lionel. Does anyone have any info as to why Atwood is now the bookmakers’ favourite? I must admit to being surprised, as I wouldn’t have thought him a serious contender. Why are the bookies slashing their odds on him? What is afoot? Anyone?

    If Atwood wins, I’d place a decent wager that there won’t be an SDLP by the time of the next assembly elections.

  • Lionel Hutz

    I wont vote for them. Simple as that. Neither will alot of people I know who’s supoort has only been retained because Margaret left. Even my parents, lifelong supporters habe said that they would stop

  • I think its generally known that the SDLP have some financial difficulties but Mr Paddy Power seems to be providing some opportunities for financial gain. The SDLP treasuer should take a good look at the odds on Friday night.
    As I dont do online betting, I will have to find a bookies near the Ramada…is it too late for Mr Power to set up a stall in the Ramada between the League Against Cruel Sports and The Federation for Small Businesses?

    As to delegates being mandated. Most will be, some wont. Other folks there in ex-officio capacity will be undecided.
    Which is why I understand there will be a Hustings event at the Ramada on Friday night. Presumably for SDLP members only and presumably no journalists or blaggers in attendance………luckily theres a double episode of Coronation Street which we can all watch in the bar….

  • Nicholas Whyte has posted a good summary of the four candidates on his blog, looking at their use of the internet and proposals for organisational change.

    Several people have made contact to reiterate that branch delegates may attend with a recommendation for how they vote, but there is no “whip”.

    Hustings due to run between 9pm and 10.30pm … unless I’m thrown out, I might be there.

  • constitutional publican

    Seems some FFers are wishing for a reverse takeover by the SDLP, and create a veritable SDRP:

    http://www.legionoftherearguard.com/?p=404

  • the wrong side of 40

    I fear I may have missed out, when I saw the Irish News this morning I thought I had a real chance to make a few quid on Big Al. By the time I got there just after lunch he was 2/1.

    I know a guy who is on that team and he says they are very confident of success. While a wee bit of the campaign has been played out on the media, he has focused on speaking to members and the feedback is very strong.

    Rank and file party members want him to replicate across the North what he has managed in South Belfast. Also people don`t forget that he facilitated the soft exit for Margaret. In fact him and Alex both did that more than anyone. After removing her from election literature Conall had shown that any “loyalty” he claimed was shallow. And we know that Patsy was the man too wield the knife, though to be fair there were no back doors in that gesture.

  • socialdemocrat

    I’m not surprised Attwood has closed on the others. Now, I never expected him to be favourite but there you go. To be fair, I have a friend, who actually supports one of the other candidates but who will freely admit that Attwood has been winning the hustings hands down… maybe paddy power have an insider? Either way, the result of this leadership contest is definitly not a foregone conclusion. A few weeks ago, people might have said that it was between McGlone and McDevitt… it could now be between McDonnell and Attwood.

    Any why not? Attwood has proved time and time again that he can deliver in positions of power and with the odds stacked against him. He might not have the charisma of McDevitt but as Eddie McGrady rightly pointed out “charisma does not deliver change”. If i had to choose between a charismatic politician or an intelligent and competant politician, I would definitly choose the latter.

    People have attacked him for his electoral decline but they forget two things…
    Firstly, the change in electoral boundaries have changed which has impacted negatively on the SDLP.
    Secondly, the rise of SF in West Belfast would be unstoppable by any SDLP politcian… just as the Sinn Fein vote has grown in nearly every other constituency where they have actually tried.

    We shall see.

  • john

    Attwood now third with the bookies obviously after the Telegraph article everyone has put all their money on McGlone and McDonnell at good odds

  • sherdy

    Maybe someone should ask the SDLP Youth. According to the above picture in your article they got it right last time. Who will be the next SDLP balloon?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Not being an SDLPer I know nothing about Attwood’s appeal within the party, but I do know that he is not at all good at working with or getting along with other political parties, and that leads me to question how well he gets on with people in general. I suspect this element of his personality is reflected in the election results in West Belfast, although I doubt there are any nationalist politicians who would be able to upstage SF there.

    socialdemocrat :

    He might not have the charisma of McDevitt but as Eddie McGrady rightly pointed out “charisma does not deliver change”.

    What a ridiculous, meaningless platitude. Look at what Alex Salmond has done for the SNP, partially with his personal charisma. Agree with the message or not, Salmond’s presentation is perfect. A leader is the face of the party and needs to have confidence, gravitas and sureness of purpose – these are the factors that contribute to charisma, you can’t simply dismiss this stuff with the wave of a hand. Or you’ll simply get another Ritchie.

    talking about “delivering change” is meaningless. Change for its own sake is not what the party requires, change which leads to more votes clearly is and that is what needs to be prioritized.

    And I don’t find McDevitt charismatic at all. I find him waffly and vacuous, a kind of early days David Cameron. I don’t get a sense of where his passion comes from when he talks.

    If i had to choose between a charismatic politician or an intelligent and competant politician, I would definitly choose the latter.

    Yeah, but generally the electorate don’t.

  • aquifer

    (Atwood) ‘is not at all good at working with or getting along with other political parties’

    Why would anybody ‘get along’ with SFDUP and the OrangUCNF? Colluding in political failure, suggesting the sectarian status quo is actually OK, and hanging out with jumped up local councillors with bad attitudes?

    Alex is able, he can get in, Alastair would not mind, and who were the other guys and what are they for exactly?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Why would anybody ‘get along’ with SFDUP and the OrangUCNF? Colluding in political failure, suggesting the sectarian status quo is actually OK, and hanging out with jumped up local councillors with bad attitudes?

    Despite appearances to the contrary, individual party members and elected reps tend to get along quite well with each other when the cameras and reporters aren’t there. Except the ones with a rod up their arse.

    Alex is able, he can get in, Alastair would not mind, and who were the other guys and what are they for exactly?

    I think Alex is a good Minister but that’s not the same thing as repairing the fortunes of a declining political party.

  • Ulsterman

    Paddy Power’s odds at the start reflected the candidates’ teams’ tactics of using the bookies as part of their strategy for success latterly though when odds of 6/1 for McDonnell are posted because no one was voting for him, then the insiders who know how strong his campaign is this tIme will put money on him. If thy thoughtPaddy Power was right then McD would now be 100/1. But he isn’t. He is 2/1 at the mo. I reform a lot of pple will make a lot of money on him
    Having said all that, nicholas whyte’s blog is a good independent assessment of the candidates. Something sorely missing as each of the leaderships’s camps try to spin things

  • Unlike “Social Democrat” I dont have a “friend” in the Attwood camp to tell me that Alex is doing well.
    Unlike “Wrong Side of 40” I dont have a “friend” in the McDonnell camp to tell me Dr Al is doing well.
    I am… friendless and bereft. 🙂
    Essentially the delegates will vote 1 2 3 4 as follows.
    1 The One That They Want
    2 The One that They Can Live With.
    3 The One They Can Tolerate
    4 The “Oh My God……Im Outta Here” One.

    Mr Lionel Hutz touched on it in his recent post. But the #4 is of course not the same for all voters and understandable huffing aside, there wont really be many for whom that feeling is prolonged.
    By 6pm on Saturday we will know.
    But thats the point at which the SDLP starts to recover. It will eventually of course.
    Least said- Soonest mended.
    And frankly I hope that the Press Officers and Party Managers have the sense that the New Leader and defeated candidates conduct only very basic perfunctory interviews with the Media. In fact it might be a good idea to not even have a Press Conference. Its always irritating at these Conferences to be shoved aside by self-important journalists. Members should shove back. The first hour of the new Leaders reign will be crucial. And it might be a good idea if the new Leader actually said to the assembled hacks. “Sorry guys, this is an occasion for SDLP people….no exclusive interviews. Come back in six months.”

    As to Charisma…….well some like Alex Salmond just have it. Others (David Ford) for example dont.

  • FuturePhysicist

    I’ll be voting along branch lines, I had made the personal choice to do so before I knew who he was on the principle that those who show up for branch meetings should take priority over those (myself included) who couldn’t show up for the decision.

  • Ulsterman

    Future Physicist
    Spoken like a true modern democrat. “Someone tell me who to vote for, I don’t want the responsibility of making the decision. After all, it might be the wrong one”

  • Comrade Stalin

    Ulsterman, that’s a bit unfair. These guys are sent to the conference as delegates, they are voting on behalf of an association. It makes sense that they at the very least account for the wishes of the assocation.

    FJH:

    But thats the point at which the SDLP starts to recover. It will eventually of course.

    Uncharacteristic optimism on your part. I see the SDLP and UUP essentially stuck in the same rut; I don’t see what the future is for either of them.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Spoken like a true modern democrat. “Someone tell me who to vote for, I don’t want the responsibility of making the decision. After all, it might be the wrong one”

    When I vote I take on the main responsibility a delegate has, I also have a responsibility to my branch members who are my peers not my superiors in the party. I don’t see the point of juxtaposing my opinion onto others. I couldn’t make the nomination vote yet I was still nominated as a delegate on the reserve list.

    People who know me will know I stand by my actions regardless of how they reflect on me. I have spoken very positively about all the candidates and really I don’t see one that’s just either just or I’m Outta Here bad in my opinion.

  • FuturePhysicist

    just tolerable I mean.

  • “Future Physicist” is entirely right.
    The delegates have been given the honour of representing their branches.
    At least two candidates have publicly stated that this Leadership Election will be the last that will be decided by delegate vote and that a system of “one person one vote” will be introduced. A third candidate has given a heavy hint in this direction also as it will be part of an internal review and that he himself supported it.
    The fourth, I cant sa for certain but is also probably in favour of change.

  • Ulsterman

    Ah but, you miss the point that a branch’s delegates should reflect the position of the branch. If the branch is 100% then there isn’t an issue. Future Physicist did say that he/her didn’t attend branch meetings I had made the personal choice to do so before I knew who he was on the principle that those who show up for branch meetings should take priority over those (myself included) who couldn’t show up for the decision….
    In other words, regardless of what a member thinks, active at branch meetings or otherwise, the only votes that count are those that attend the meetings. tut tut folks, that is not democracy, that is still laziness. How do you know that the majority of a branch want to go one way or the other? If there are branches that are split, then the delegates should reflect that.

    Not everyone can play a role at meetings but contribute in so many other ways. You are suggesting that they don’t count. Why don’t you then just cull them? If a delegate representation is based on the branch numbers and only a half, third or quarter turn up regularly, then your version of democracy is to ignore them because you have the vote and they don’t. Good democratic behaviour is to go ask all your members. Do you not canvass at election times? do you forget to canvass the less active branch members at elections where there are delegates?

    Sorry about this, but you cannot convince me to change my position on this. FJH says that Fut Phys has the honour of representing his branch, then that representation should be reflective and not restrictive to a majority position. If you are in favour of giving everyone the vote, then you must see the fallacy of the delegate mandate argument.

  • I thank “Ulsterman” for his interest in the SDLP.
    As has been mentioned above this is the last Leadership Election likely to be held under a delegate system and the next likely to be held under a system of “One Person One Vote”….which I am sure “Ulsterman” would agree is a pretty good thing in Society and would not wish to defend any other system.
    On the basis that not every member of a political Party can attend a Conference…….even if they wanted to……it seems a reasonable enough assumption that people are selected to attend on the basis of a proprtion to the number of members paid up in a Branch.
    It seems entirely reasoanble that say 40 people attend and may vote 30…7…2..1 in favour of a candidate and a reasonable conclusion might be that the winner is the choice of the Meeting and that the four delegates chosen might vote at Conference that candidate.
    It seems entirely unreasonable that a Branch exclude a member from the delegation to Conference on the basis that he/she voted the “wrong way”.Many Branches tend to act along proportionate basis and might divide their delegate votes if that was the choice.
    It must also be remembered that the Branch probably has an elected Councillor, Executive member of even MLA so their “free votes” will be a compensating factor.

    A wise Branch might want to include an Officer from the Branch and almost certainly a member of the Branch who might be young enough to be considered needing experience of Conference.

  • Ulsterman

    FJH
    I take your comments on board. You help my point that branches should canvass their ‘non-active’ members to get a proper assessment of the branch’s views and so that delegates are representative. I wouldn’t agree with putting a young person for the sake of trying to balance the representation. Surely the SDLP have a youth group already and if they want relevance then they need to attend their meetings, otherwise they should be treated no difference and given no preference over any other member.

    This is not about wisdom. It is about democracy surely. Giving every paid up member the opportunity to vote is the best way, but until this happens, mandates and closed shops for officers or any other sub-group is undemocratic. The SDLP should be proud of its democratic principles and heritage. They shouldn’t try to find ways of avoiding the right thing to do

  • Not to labour the point but I dont see how more that can be done other than notifying members of a meeting which will include the candidates……a husting.
    My understanding is that many branches have done this on their own or combined with other neighbouring branches.
    It is my understanding that all party members have been notified of four hustings events in I believe Belfast, Newry, Cookstown (and I assume) Derry.
    Further the SDLP Youth hosted a hustings in Belfast.
    Further all candidates appear to have access to membership lists (quite properly) and mail shots have been sent to all party members from four candidates.
    Additionally all four candidates have hosted a public launch, notified to all members. Members of the public and journalists in attendance. I have attended one such launch in Derry and another in Belfast.

    As if this was not enough, social networking sites have been used a lot.
    As I understand it, it has been normal procedure for a Branch to host a Hustings and then at its next meeting decide on the candidate to support (and of course the Executive committee candidates).
    Delegates are then chosen.
    It is often the case that a younger person is selected….but perhaps I should more accurately say “new” person as its obviously a good idea not to just merely send the usual faces.

    Id suggest that with the obvious importance of the election, connexion with SDLP members has been pretty intense and Im sure that the actual number of branch members attending a meeting where a major decision is being taken has been high……and the “turnout” is pretty good.
    Surprisingly with the main business of selecting a candidate to support, most members may not entirely be fired up enough to actually want to be a delegate at Conference…..after all (while being an honour to represent the Branch) the main business will be putting a ballot paper in a box. Hardly Rocket Science ………no pun intended for “Future Physicist”. Buying a few pints at the Ramada Bar and a chance to catch up with colleagues. And get pushed around by people off the telly is not nearly as much fun as it sounds.
    Having said that, the import and the occasion will mean that attendance this year is likely to be swelled by rank and file members of the Party.

  • Ulsterman

    FJH
    Assumptions upon assumptions about what branches do. Do you really know what goes on in every branch? Your belief in a flawed system is commendable as is your loyalty. But, democracy is never easy and all too often we support the simple rather than the proper, which is often a bit more work and a bit more complex. But we shouldn’t baulk at this. Are you even sure that all branch members get invites to meetings?

    I’m a bit cynical. The SDLP needs fixed, it needs renewed, it needs to gain its rightful place in NI politics. It won’t if you take easy options and quick fixes because it feels good.

    I’d suggest that with the obvious importance of the election, those with the most opinions and control of branches will try to get their way. Happens in all democracies, SDLP should try to rise above it though. As an ardent SDLPer perhaps you can try to get mature arguments about this started so that next time you have a major internal election, you can be true democrats.

  • Eddie (Eamonn) Mac Bhloscaidh

    Have to say Eoghan Ó Néil could be right …

    http://tinyurl.com/3gmwcuc

    Easier to unite Ireland than the SDLP!?

    Is there really a common thread – it will be very interesting!