And the new SDLP leader is…. Alasdair McDonnell! (updated with graph, audio and speeches)

In contrast to Newcastle February 2010 (aye, just last year), which felt like the beginning of a process (disappointed Alasdair supporters muttering darkly into their soup), this feels like the end of a process. Alan will shortly bring you audio of tonight’s speeches, but judging from each of last nights speeches the hustings process seems to have enhanced the stature of all four men. And this afternoon there seemed to be a determination not simply to tolerate the result but to get behind him.

It remains to be seen where that takes them… But they have three years until the next election.. Enough time to turn things round, if there’s a will, or indeed a navigable way… But the ground manner of the process of choosing their leader is not a bad way to start…

Alasdair McDonnell is new SDLP leader

Election result and Alasdair McDonnell’s speech:

@sdlplive leadership results and Alasdair McDonnell”s speech (mp3)

Runner up speeches and Delores Kelly (deputy leader):

Runner up @sdlplive speeches from McDevitt, McGlone and Attwood as well as new deputy leader Delores Kelly (mp3)

Attwood, McGlone and McDevitt applauding the new SDLP leader

Alan adds …

  • With 348 voters, the quota was 175.
  • In the first round, Alex Attwood 46; Conall McDevitt 105; Alasdair McDonnell 127; Patsy McGlone 70
  • Alex Attwood’s votes were transferred at full value
  • In the second round, Conall McDevitt 131 (+26); Alasdair McDonnell 140 (+13); Patsy McGlone 76 (+6)
  • Patsy McGlone’s votes were transferred at full value
  • In the third round, Conall McDevitt 152 (+21); Alasdair McDonnell 188 (+48)
  • Alasdair McDonnell declared the winner.

Pictorially [click to enlarge] …

No surprise that Alex Attwood’s votes transferred 2:1 to Conall rather than McDonnell. And no surprise that with Attwood already out of the race, Patsy McGlone’s votes transferred 2:1 to Alasdair and not Conall.

Many expected Conall to poll third or fourth. So to stay in second place through the rounds is very credible – perhaps, incredible – and cements his position within the party as heir apparent.

A solid result for the SDLP in South Belfast. And therein lies the rub for Conall. If the Boundary Commission recommendations erase South Belfast from the map and split it between West Belfast and South Belfast, there may not be room for three SDLP candidates. They may be able to squeeze one SDLP seat out of South East Belfast, but winning two in South West Belfast will require ousting a Sinn Fein MLA.

But overall, yet another solid win for Dr Alasdair McDonnell. The candidate with few gimmicks. No balloons (McDevitt). No text messages sent to delegate’s mobiles (McGlone and Attwood). No recorded message phoned through to delegates at 8pm the other night (McGlone).

Just a man talking about votes.

But will voters warm to him? Will he attract new voters to his party, and old voters back to his party? Will he be able to remain calm and delegate the management and control of his reforms to others in the party – for instance, the three runners up – to limit his frustration and any resultant strained relationships? Will collective leadership start this weekend?

Alasdair’s formal leader’s speech will be live on the Politics Show on Sunday lunchtime.

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  • Lionel Hutz

    I dont know how to read this. Big Al will have to step up big time. He is always so light on detail in Tv debates. But there is no doubt that he has clout

  • Comrade Stalin

    Surely Mick you mean “SDLP Leader” not “lesser”. That’s the iphone for you 🙂

    What has taken me by surprise is how close McDevitt came to clinching it. The guy has only been an elected representative for a few months, not counting the period he spent as a co-opted MLA.

    Despite all the talk on here it is clear that McGlone has no base within the party, and it does look rather like his decision to knife Ritchie in the back did not pay off. I am not at all surprised at Alex Attwood trailing in fourth. He might be a good minister but he simply doesn’t get on well with people.

    As for Al himself, you can’t argue with his election-winning record. But ascent to the leadership represents the failure of a large collective inside the party, right up to senior levels, who made strenuous efforts to prevent him from taking control.

  • Mick,

    ‘And this afternoon there seemed to be a determination not simply to tolerate the result but to get behind him’

    Wishful think and future much?

    The contest finished moments ago and there has been no way to gauge how the defeated will act. Given the study of history over whatever you are on, it’ll be back-biting and plotting until the defeated get their next chance.

  • lamhdearg

    i do not bet, but if i did.

  • Mick Fealty

    No future involved. The Roads to hell (and Connacht) are paved with…

  • Not so long ago he was 6-1 , a lot of people have cleaned up.

    I think I might join the SDLP now its seen sense, having said that Alisdair should immediately steal Conall’s ideas about cut price membership for low income groups.

  • Lionel Hutz

    He is the candidate who has a “heavyweight” feel about him. I wanted him to win last time and if he hadnt lost that, i probably would have supported him this time. Its just that element of, “rejected and now elected, is the sdlp just confused.” “last time, there was an anyone but alasdair vote, how can you unify the party”. Its going to be a tough start

  • Comrade Stalin

    I think I might join the SDLP now its seen sense, having said that Alisdair should immediately steal Conall’s ideas about cut price membership for low income groups.

    Are people really saying “well, I’d join the SDLP except your membership fees are just too high?”. I seriously doubt it. I know Alliance doesn’t call in the baliffs if there is a good reason why someone can’t pay their sub.

    Cutting the sub rates isn’t going to attract new members.

  • Zig70

    Oldies voting for oldies? Bow ties and hearty chuckles all round. I’m not filled with hope of anything new.

  • Lionel Hutz

    it couldnt hurt CS,

    Anyway, I’m joining the party on monday. Decided that if they picked Al or Patsy, i’d join. If they picked Alex of Conall, I wouldn’t vote for them. It was that important for my relationship with the party. And thats not because Alex and Conall are bad. Its just that when comes to addressing the reasons for decline, they just dont get it. The other two do.

  • To quote Conall

    To increase membership, I will develop my plans for a major recruitment drive. I will make it easier for people to become members of the SDLP, by implementing a £1 joining fee for students, the unemployed and senior citizens. We need to show people that we both need them as members and need them as activists. New members, bringing new ideas and energy, are crucial to the future success of the SDLP.

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. Go for it Alisdair, create a buzz and have Conall leading the recruitment drive.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Lionel, I guess now that the legal aid reforms are being accepted you’ll need that membership fee discount 🙂

  • Lionel Hutz

    Yep CS,

    I’m on the breadline. It’ll be interesting to see how that review goes

  • Come on guys get that SDLP website updated! You’ve got NEWS!

  • Comrade Stalin

    articles, calm down a wee bit. It’s not like a cure for cancer has been discovered. Things are not likely to change that much.

  • btw: for those that missed it, Mick’s original messed up headline was amusing enough I thought it a keeper: Alasdair the ‘lesser’

  • Mick Fealty

    Glad someone got it for posterity..

  • Newman

    Alasdair only candidiate with credentials to lead the party in short to medium term. His ability to garner votes in South Belfast underestimated by SDLP cognescenti. He will come across well in leaders debates and will steady the ship. Hates the Shinners which is a positive..stands for a democratic nationalism with clean hands…I wish him well

  • Updated with the audio of the announcement, McDonnell’s speech, the runners up speeches and new deputy leader Delores Kelly

  • Decimus

    Definitely the best man for the job. McDevitt is one for the future.

  • [election wonk start]
    Slight issue on the graphs, there are only 7 non-transferrables on round two.

    Patsy McGlone had 76, 48 to Alasdair and 21 to Conall comes to 69, leaving 7.

    The eight is the total including the 1 from round one.

    [electionwonk end]

  • Lionel Hutz

    Was anyone there? If so, how did the result go down?

  • Stephen – fixed. forgot to do the subtraction on the last row in my spreadsheet

  • Lionel Hutz


    I take it you were there, any insights into the party mood

  • Lionel – I detected a sense of relief that the leadership campaign was over. A sense of surprise that Patsy McGlone went out in third place, beaten by Conall McDevitt. And in some quarters, a sense of fear that their new leader would find it hard to live with collective leadership and would turn ‘abrasive’. Some were recounting stories about bad experiences with McDonnell in the past.

  • Mick, I see you’ve retweeted a Jim Allister tweet on the side-bar: “We learn that the SDLP plan to enter opposition but can’t decide when – why not now? Opposition is the only way forward.”

    I look forward to early news of Alastair’s choice of DOE minister as there’s some work for him/her to do at Carrickmore Road, Ballycastle and at Torr. Danny Kennedy (UUP) has already done some good work there. If we followed Jim’s advice and both the SDLP and the UUP departed Executive office we might be back to their respective predecessors from the DUP and SF, not a prospect to relish.

  • On the plus side, McDonnell will be different and is someone who can be respected, if not liked. On the down side, Dolores Kelly is the deputy.

  • I was there Mr Hutz. The picture painted by Alan in Belfast is not one that I recognise although it is obviously a reflection of his own experience.
    The room was packed as might be expected and many of the stall holders who had packed up came into the back of the Hall.
    All day everyone had been saying “too close to call” and while this is the thing that people tend to say on this kind of occasion …it was absolutely true in this case.
    The general feeling was that there were two camps and that the McGlone/McDonnell camp led the McDevitt/Attwood camp by 60:40 but all would depend on transfers. The most interesting places to be were probably in rooms set aside for the Leadership teams upstairs. I think that in the end one camp opted for McDonnell and the other camp opted for McDevitt. I detected none of the surprise to which AlaninBelfast alludes.
    Last nights Hustings was the last of a long line. When the contest began, I feared and I am sure others did…that it could prove divisive. Stangely the opposite happened. The longer the contest went on the greater the Unity…..although I wouldnt really want to test that theory by having an even longer contest. Of course it helped that there were no policy differences…it was a Leadership Contest and the Hustings tended to show that this was an intense 7 week debate on what the SDLP is. Relief that the campaign was over?……certainly but actually a sense of greater relief that it hadn’t been a disaster but also a sense of deep satisfaction that the SDLP had learned quite a lot about itself in the past couple of months and actually liked what it had learned. It’s a very long time since the SDLP felt this good about itself.
    As people tend to say on these occasions, all candidates brought something. In their own way each candidate was an inspiration. Alex Attwood has Efficiency. Conall has youth………and he visibly matured as the contest progressed, less brash and has probably established himself as a serious candidate next time round. Patsy suffered thru being the “assassin” but in itself that was a service to the Party and Patsy can reach parts that other candidates cant. The belief that a composite candidate made up of the best parts of each candidate would be perfect soon became a cliché and maybe the delegates just decided that Al had more of these qualities than any other. I had certainly heard the same bull in the china shop references but frankly if the enemies of SDLP open a china shop Id be happy to let Alasdair loose in it.
    There is much more that can be said but not on this platform. Suffice to say that for those who actually like the SDLP, this was an excellent day. For those who have sought to disparage the SDLP it was a bad day.
    Incidently the Leadership contest overshadowed an excellent presentation on Collusion by the Pat Finnucane Centre which focussed on guns used by UDR/loyalists terrorists in the Murder Triangle. I don’t want to pre-empt Alan in Belfasts blog on this.
    I don’t know how serious “Alias” and Mr Hutz are about joining the SDLP. One of the first things the SDLP need to do is conduct a stock take of sorts of the talent available to it. Its not all on the platform. A recognition of the talent within its own ranks might be the first step that the SDLP can take to listening to its OWN rather than EXTERNAL voices. It is also time that the people who need the SDLP to promote human rights, workers rights, health issues, Irish language issues, pensions issues, whatever put up or shut up. These people cant have it both ways.
    I myself joined the SDLP (after a gap of 30 years) two months ago. And I was pretty impressed by the Hustings, some of which I attended. There was something about today which reminded me of SDLPs Conference in December 1973 at the Europa Hotel. I only blogged here about public events and commented on public events in the campaign as it was only the right thing to do.………which leads me to say that apart from tying up loose ends, I will not be blogging on Slugger as it is no longer reasonable to so do.

  • Into the west

    fitzjames,may i enquire:
    why is it not longer “reasonable” to blog on Slugger?

  • FJH – I set a camera to record the Collusion presentation over lunchtime, but wasn’t back in the hall until near the end of it, so have little sense of what was discussed (yet). I also have doubts whether the audio will be much good. We’ll see in a day or so.

  • Mick Fealty

    Intriguing comments from FJH…

    Something happened today that was largely unanticipated by the wider world and the media. That’s an achievement in itself.

    If the SDLP wants to prosper it should seek to go on doing that; ie disrupting expectations, not least those of its political opponents, and the media.

    Alisdair is troublesome, and a troublemaker. That’s, I suspect, why he was elected. And NI desparately needs trouble, just like it desparately needed peace nearly 20 years ago.

    One of the subliminal reasons Stormont collapsed in 1972 is because the absolute power of the NI Government back then had killed democracy. Dissent (on both sides) took to the streets.

    Why? Because there was not enough danger going on inside the democratic chamber. When it moved onto the streets, people got killed (in their thousands) rather than politicians losing their jobs. It took a long time and lot of cajoling and bribery to get politics back there.

    Now it’s in danger of dying from a freakily similar condition…

    Patrick Murphy parodied the SDLP perfectly in today’s Irish News when he said, “that’s the SDLP. always ready to go for the jugular of indecision.”

    Perhaps its time for a little bit of recklessness. Just to mix things up and make Stormont politics interesting again?

  • Alias

    As the party’s 3rd leader in 21 months, it’s a case of the party having to back the new leader or destroy what little remains of its own credibility as a serious political player.

  • Not that intriguing Mick….may I call you Mick? 😉
    Essentially today was a reminder for those who believe , no proof is necessary and for those who dont believe, no proof is possible. It was that kind of day.

    There is something about SDLP Conferences that are essentially nostalgic. John Hume, Seamus Mallon, Austin Currie, Bríd Rodgers, Frank Feely, Sean Farren, Eddie McGrady were all there. Reminders of the Partys proud Past.
    Yet curiously I was reminded of the heady atmosphere of that Party Conference in 1973 the first I ever attended. Teachers like Ben Caraher, doctors such as the late Raymond McClean from Derry, solicitors such as Paschal O’Hare.
    Now I am not for one minute inviting the criticism that these are “middle class”. There was and are plenty of ordinary working class people in the SDLP. But theres always been a degree of “Catholic or Christian” or now maybe post Catholic or Christian values in reforming parties… “chapel” culture in Labour or Liberals.
    Besides even Sinn Féin with allegedly impeccable working class credentials take policy advice from Health, Economic and Educational professionals.

    The intriguing bit for me was those charity stall workers who came into the Hall. Obviously there was a sense of “news” about to happen. But the SDLP can take a lot of heart from the prolonged applause that greeted every speech. They were caught up in the moment too.
    It strikes me that in the Bar Library there must be other men and women of the calibre of Alban Magennis or Alex Attwood. It strikes me that in doctors surgeries or A & E Departments there are people of the calibre of Alasdair McDonnell. It strikes me that in the private sector there are decent guys like Conall McDevitt. And in schools and GAA clubs there are men of the calibre of Patsy McGlone.

    To date too many are not involved. Or joining pressure groups that are actually a “cop out” because they dont like “Norn Iron” politics. “Please change Politics so that I can get involved” is not a credible stance.
    The SDLP Conference responded totally to the fact that they had just witnessed four people whose hearts are in the right place…..on their sleeves.
    It was really that simple.

  • Lionel Hutz


    Thats sounds good. Thats the “vibe” I’ve been getting from it all. I dont get that sense of “Christ, what have they done,” that I had last time. Also, I am serious about joining the party. I tried to do it online, but I couldn’t get past the first screen – unless they post you out the rest???

    I dont knowif I’d be of the calibre of Mr Magennis, lol. I may be middle class, but atleast I’m not from Belfast.

  • portpatrickview

    Interesting point that “Please change Politics so that I can get involved” is not a credible stance. It strikes me that aspiration is much voiced. Do you see a lack of credibility only in as much as it is expressed as something for others to do?

    I suspect that many saying this have a strong interest in the development and implemention of policies on the economy, health, education etc., but no attachment to one “side” or the other on the national issue, and would be happy to leave that to periodic referenda.

    But both the SDLP and OUP remain defined by the old paradigm, and Alliance by what it is not. There is a space opening as the plates shift. The SDLP could take a part of that, but possibly not if organised by parish!

  • FuturePhysicist

    winning two in South West Belfast will require ousting a Sinn Fein MLA.

    On the other hand, the six MLA’s Sinn Féin have in the two regions will be reduced down to three, at best. Schaudenfreude against their fellow nationalists is the only grace Sinn Féin have remaining here.

  • Having read all the leadership manifestos, I can see that this was a selection which was much more about technique than substance. There was no huge ideological gap between any of the candidates; they have a common vision, if seen from slightly different angles. So I’m not surprised to see that SDLP insiders are talking about the process as one which reminded them more of what they have in common than of what they disagree about; I am sure they are entirely sincere.

    I was also not surprised that Attwood came last. As I mentioned in my piece a few days ago, his online presence is much the least effective and his proposals for the reform of the party were the least convincing. I didn’t say then but will say now that it took rather longer for me to get a response from his campaign office than from any of the others. At the time I thought this might be because the Attwood team had other priorities than answering random queries from Belgium, but I think now that it was a symptom of a deeper lack of keenness for the job.

    What surprised me even more than McDonnell winning was my own positive reaction to his campaign material. I went into this knowing all four candidates equally vaguely, with perhaps a mild preference for McGlone just on personality grounds. But McDonnell’s literature was carefully produced, well thought out, brutally realistic about the party’s current position, and clearly indicated that he was very serious about the job. So he converted me (though I was not a voter in this election), and clearly he had the same effect on the delegates in the room on Friday and Saturday.

  • @FuturePhysicist,

    With respect, I have to query your figures. My projections for South West Befast put the Shinners on 58.1% from the Assembly votes, 56.6% from the local government votes, and 55.4% from last year’s Westminster votes when they didn’t even stand in South Belfast. I think they will be unlucky not to win four seats. That’s still two less than the current six, but I don’t see how you get to “three at best”.

  • Its much too early to speculate on the next election in a constituency which may not actually exist. Theres a lot of Politics between now and then.
    And importantly the actual ambience of the area might change.
    Taking two points at random. There might be an influx of “potential” Alliance people into the area. Although the actual votes for AP in West Belfast are derisory (200) there is probably room for growth there. Thats mirrored in some way in East Belfast.
    Any influx might embolden latent AP voters. Now Im not suggesting that it is likely to gain AP a seat. But likewise the influx of SDLP friendly territory around Balmoral moves the SDLP into at least one safe seat.
    My own view……..and I ignore my own caution about 2011 not being projected into 2015… that there would only be three safe seats for SF and one for SDLP. The fifth and sixth seats are very much up for grabs.

  • huntsman

    Alasdair will shake up the cosy set up at Stormont. Margaret tried it but just could not get a hearing. McDevitt is good at back room moves but poor at the hustings, remember he just managed to get an Assembly seat by the smallest of margins. The media love him but the public do not share that opinion as evidenced by the South Belfast electorate. I could not imagine him relating to farmers in the Clogher Valley.

    I hope Alasdair makes a much trouble as possible and hopefully pulls out of the crazy all party set up in the Executive. The SDLP needs to become the difficult squad. The clear drop of in voting in Nationalist areas at the last Assembly election shows that the electorate have turned off. With some fireworks from Alasdair, we may see interest in politics rising again.

  • “the absolute power of the NI Government back then had killed democracy”

    The reform of local government was being debated in Stormont in 1965 and a Housing Council had been put in place yet Stormont was unable to make much progress on local government reform. That doesn’t sound like absolute power to me. Presumably there were votes to be accrued by Unionist, Nationalist and Socialist councillors who were able to exercise patronage in house lettings eg ‘gentleman’s agreement’ in Newry.

    “Dissent (on both sides) took to the streets.”

    Led by folks like Hume and Paisley, confrontational street theatre soon dropped us back into the familiar tramlines of epithets, stones and bullets.

    “Now [Stormont]’s in danger of dying from a freakily similar condition…Perhaps its time for a little bit of recklessness.”

    Would the leaders this time be like Hume or Paisley? I suspect they’d be more like Adams and McDonald in their prime and there might be freakily similar results.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Nicholas Whyte (profile) 6 November 2011 at 12:06 pm

    With respect, I have to query your figures. My projections for South West Befast put the Shinners on 58.1% from the Assembly votes, 56.6% from the local government votes, and 55.4% from last year’s Westminster votes when they didn’t even stand in South Belfast. I think they will be unlucky not to win four seats. That’s still two less than the current six, but I don’t see how you get to “three at best”

    I think a lot has changed, true they may be in and around 4 quotas at present, come the next elections I don’t believe that will hold up, and a much higher turnout puts the 4th Sinn Fein seat under threat. my guess SF 3, DUP 1, SDLP 1, APNI 1.