And the first one of SDLP leadership contest, is Patsy McGlone.
1) What would you do during your first 30 days as leader to start rebuilding the SDLP? (Original question from ‘Sean Og’)
My plan to reform, rebuild and restore the SDLP to the centre of Irish politics relies on strengthening party unity. Among the first actions I will take as leader will be to sit down with my Assembly and Council colleagues to take their views on the political direction of the party, and from this I will reconvene the senior management team to ensure that this direction is followed. The most essential part of the early days of my leadership will be the reconstitution of the Constituency Councils in those areas where that is required, to begin rolling out the organisation, recruitment and activism which will put us back in the heart of our community.
2) What is the best way for SDLP to reverse the marginalisation it has been experiencing over the past few years? In other words, where do you see the prospective votes coming from, and how might SDLP attract them? (Original question from ‘polsenthus’)
You cannot dismiss the views of the 94,000 who voted SDLP 1 in the last election – that is a strong mandate. They have shown that the Party message still resonates, but we must make that message clearer and modernise to connect with the wider population, particularly the increasing number of non-voters who are turned off by politics in general. The community movement politics that I want to return the SDLP to is essential to connecting with these people, as well as anyone who sees the need for a party that works on social democracy in practical ways, to help those who find themselves in difficult times and to offer support.
3) What three key reforms would you implement to improve the SDLP’s electoral and political fortunes? (Original question from ‘Langdale’)
There are 3 key elements to electoral success for the SDLP. Firstly, our message, the key values and objectives of the party, as they have been since its inception, of Social Democracy and uniting the people of this Island. These core values remain, but the challenge for the SDLP is to ensure that this message is adapted to suit the political age we are now in. I want to see practical social democracy in action, and increase our work to unite the people right across the Island.
Secondly, we need activism. Membership of the SDLP is much more than going to a meeting every month and knocking doors at election time. We are activists, and we must increase our activism throughout the year on key issues and in every constituency. I want to ensure that this is done.
Finally, we must improve our communications, internally and externally. Too often our elected representatives are doing great work, but so few know about it. We must also ensure that our core values and message are communicated effectively throughout the community, and this must be done through engagement and activism.
4) Taking this point as Day One, what is significantly different between your outlook for Northern Ireland and that of Sinn Fein? (Original question from ‘thedissenter’)
Fundamentally we are different parties. The core values of the SDLP, as I have outlined, remain at the centre of what we do, and are sound. Looking to the future, however, the SDLP want to unite the people of this Island, not carve up power and my manifesto contains an outline pathway which will delivery this unity. A United Ireland will never be based on buy offs of power or triumphalism. It will be built on respect and acceptance. We have spent 40 years working on this, and we will keep working on it until it is achieved.
In government we want to ensure that decisions are based upon the best for the people, not upon community carve up, pandering to the DUP or blatant sectarianism. The SDLP will not settle for co-existence. Under my leadership the SDLP will stand for equality of opportunity for all.
(And an optional extra from Nicholas Whyte) What of your fellow candidate’s proposals do you like and will you implement as leader?
Each of the candidates have great strengths that I will undoubtedly call upon. The hustings and debates have shown that the party is full of ideas and enthusiasm, and together we will unite under the core values of the SDLP and put our party back at the centre of politics in Ireland.
We’ll publish the rest as they arrive…