Is the SDLP now ready to take a bet on its own future?

Given some of the product of the SDLP leadership contest (most notable perhaps in Patsy McGlone’s contribution) seems to be about shifting the engagement process (rather than defining new policy), this speech by Micheal Martin to Fianna Fail’s Youth Conference in Cork this afternoon is worth noting, since it tricks out something of that party’s approach to coming back in from the cold:

To achieve renewal this must be a party that is totally open to new people, new ideas and new thinking. This must a party where every member is valued and can make their own distinct contribution to what Fianna Fáil stands for and what we deliver for the Irish people.

To succeed we need every single member to play their part. The distance which grew between our leaders and our members in the past played a big part in us losing our way and I am determined that this will not and cannot happen again. The days of a Parliamentary Party attempting to decide everything in isolation from the membership are over for good.

This is a party that is going to listen and be informed by what our members think and what they are hearing on the ground. Constituencies are again holding meetings on a series of radical reform proposals for our organisation. I want to encourage you to play a full part in this process. By the time we hold the Ard Fheis next year I want us to vote on these reforms and swiftly move on to implement them.

Mark Devenport makes the comparison with Robert the Bruce, the Scots monarch whose career (as fiction has it) was turned in contemplation of a spider struggling within a Rathlin cave some short distance from Dr McDonnell’s Glenariff birthplace. Less fancifully, Devenport notes:

Immediate questions for the new leader will be who the party’s only minister should be? What role in the “collective leadership” should Conall McDevitt play, given his impressive second place? Longer term dilemmas include whether the SDLP should remain in the Executive or go into opposition.

The problem of who does what is not as pressing as what is to become of the one thing thing the South Belfast rivals have in common, a stricken party. As Conall McDevitt put it in his hustings speech last night, “We have to prove that this is not a one generation party.”

The real problem facing the party is not who gets first place in the lifeboat but that the current arrangements at Stormont are slowly squeezing the life out of it (and the UUP)… And they’re getting encouragement to go it alone from some unexpected quarters. Not least the current, unofficial leader of the Opposition at Stormont:

If the party is to make credible policy promises to its electorate it cannot continue to abide a situation where every public statement is subject to correction or interrogation either before or around each Executive table from its main political rivals.

Opposition may not be perfect, but the party’s criticism of its rivals will always ring hollow whilst they are umbilically attached to every cut and crossed ‘t’ of Sammy Wilson’s budgets.

Going back to the dilemma’s faced by the new leader. We simply don’t know how it will go with what Chris has correctly diagnosed as Alisdair’s abrasive character. But if he’s a democrat he will know that Conall McDevitt (late of this virtual parish) must be dealt with (one of the things our crowd sourcing experiment got right). He holds a significant chunk of the sentiment of the party.

The one thing the thorough going nature of this leadership process should tell the SDLP is that despite the egalitarian ethics of many of its members, it must not be afraid of competition, and it must learn to cherish its winners. And that in turn ought to define its shift in focus from retaining the few jobs currently available to it at Stormont to winning power over ceremonial office.

Surprisingly, perhaps, that’s a message I’ve heard from across the supposed ideological divide within the party. As Chris has noted, it remains to be seen what the often impulsive Dr McDonnell makes of the opportunity. For now he has a unified party, and one that seems willing, for the first time in many years, to take a bet on its own future rather than lean heavily on the glories of its past.

Perhaps its time to ‘crack some of the family delph’?

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  • FuturePhysicist

    Since when would Jim Allister wanting anyone to go into opposition be a surprise. Heck he’d probably want the DUP, so there could be a united opposition to Sinn Féin running the place.

    I personally believe that opposition is not the be all and end all. The Sinn Fein-DUP, heck the entire executive can masquerade as being the main opposition to the NIO, the global economic crisis and both the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain simultaneously … but unless there is a real emphasis to power share in a Swiss system or the main block appeal to funding to even try a Belgian system (not that it proves better) then these squabbles will continue.

    In the meantime the small parties that have more reason to look at the practical solutions being ignored by the big two are getting marginalised … did I say big two, well big one really.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWl6T0-sGeY

  • Chris Donnelly

    Allister is actually correct on this one.

    A period in opposition, where party representatives are tasked with sharply crticising the sluggish practices of the still developing Ministerial teams of the other parties would probably provide the SDLP with a defining characteristic.

    On its own, however, it won’t be enough. They’ll need to provide a platform of alternative credible policies to convince the electorate that standing outside has allowed them the breathing space to draft new policies informed by avoiding the mistakes made by the incumbents.

    And, critically, they will need to address the all-Ireland credibility of the party’s mission, which is why Mick’s nod to the ponderous utterances of the reawakening giant of Irish politics, Fianna Fail, is instructive.

  • iluvni

    The sooner sdlp comes to terms with Northern Ireland the better for it and those who vote for it.
    They have to get over the fear of being accused of selling out their united Ireland aspirations by Sinn Fein if they dont frame every friggin utterance in terms of the ‘island as a whole’,

  • FuturePhysicist

    Well the SDLP have provided a credible list of policies that will continue to be ignored, inside or outside of opposition.

    Where are Sinn Fein’s …

    Plastic Bag Taxes … nowhere
    Phone Mast Taxes … nowhere
    Lowering Corporation Tax … nowhere
    Derry Railway … bailed out by the UUP 😆
    A5 motorway … re-prioritised by the UUP
    Altnagalven … saved by DUP minister and Irish government pressure.
    Magee Campus … overruled by Farry
    Framework 7 … Lip-Service
    Green New Deal … lipservice

    Where is the DUP’s

    Promise to sort out the Transfer System … nowhere
    Commitment to Integrated Education …. nowhere
    Lowering Corporation Tax … nowhere
    Social Impact Bonds … nowhere
    Full scale audit of the health service … probably has happened to be fair.
    Cash Back to Communities scheme … nowhere
    My personal favourite …
    STEM graduate bribes pg. 9 … nowhere (awww)

    Compare Attwood’s ministry to some of the others and really come back to me about who has credible policies.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Heck not just Attwood but Danny Kennedy too. 🙂

  • A quick recap on Sluggerite knowledge of SDLP.
    A massive 75% of respondents got the result wrong.
    Opinions expressed here should therefore carry a “health warning” as to accuracy.

  • First, a little 1998 context: We pledge that we will, in good faith, work to ensure the success of each and every one of the arrangements to be established under this agreement and [the participants] recognise the legitimacy of whatever choice is freely exercised by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland with regard to its status, whether they prefer to continue to support the Union with Great Britain or a sovereign united Ireland ie all leading and pushing in the same direction vs tug-of-war. Is it any wonder we have a dysfunctional Stormont, Councils or, for that matter, SO’T?

    “the egalitarian ethics of many of its members”

    [egalitarian: Affirming, promoting, or characterized by belief in equal political, economic, social, and civil rights for all people.}

    To put it rather crudely, the SDLP is an Irish nationalist party for garden-centre Catholics who, though they might sup stout in the public bar, take wine with their scampi thermidor in the dining room. When I invited Conall McDevitt to elaborate on his politics of the regions he referred to NI as being a region of Ireland (the island), of Europe and of the World. Like Hume before him, he couldn’t bring himself to go with the 1998 Agreement and acknowledge NI as a region of the UK.

    We have a constitutional tug-of-war as well as one within the ‘tribes’. The tug-of-war favours muscular politics but, by and large, the UUP-APNI-SDLP spectrum is too gentlemanly; it lacks that little bit of steel necessary to go for the jugular. This spectrum has yet to full appreciate the need to provide a strong constituency service to the electorate or voter recognition. It also lacks the access to funds available to the two big beasts, the DUP and SF.

    Morris Kline: “There is a function for the gadfly who poses questions that many specialists would like to overlook. Polemics are healthy.”

    Do we need more gadflies – to sting politicians and other public servants to provide better governance?

  • Chris Donnelly

    Just watching Alasdair’s big speech.

    Not a good idea to go live………..

  • “Alasdair’s abrasive character”

    Moyle’s Cllr Randall McDonnell is an Independent, an Antrim Glens man and a doctor of the animal variety who, on occasion, can be a bit abrasive and cantankerous. I wonder if they are related 🙂

  • Chris Donnelly

    Good Lord!

    This will go down in local political history as ‘The Speech!’

    Utterly dreadful delivery. Abrasive is surely an understatement.

    It’ll be ‘Lights’ McDonnell from now on!

  • “Just watching Alasdair’s big speech.

    Not a good idea to go live………..”

    Calm down, dear, and listen to the Doctor [youtube] 😉

  • Chris Donnelly

    Very good Nevin!

  • Comrade Stalin

    Chris,

    I completely agree with your entire post above, especially this bit :

    They’ll need to provide a platform of alternative credible policies to convince the electorate that standing outside has allowed them the breathing space to draft new policies informed by avoiding the mistakes made by the incumbents.

    Aren’t you contradicting your own views stated elsewhere that the policy on reunification is what is most important ? Or have I misunderstood you ?

    In terms of the point itself .. people may be looking at Jim Allister and remarking upon what is possible outside the government, but the fact is that neither the UUP nor the SDLP have a single MLA with his particular skill for getting under the skin of the people he is up against. The other week Allister was able to make Robinson lose his temper by pressing all the right buttons over the question of the Maze. The UUP and SDLP have seldom been able to do that at any point during the past few years.

    It remains the case, as Brian Feeney articulated on H&M recently, that the system has been designed for everyone to sit in the government, and for those who are not in the government to be marginalized. This reflects the fear back in the 1990s about how the DUP might be able to wreck the institutions from outside. Unfortunately, it is what now means that there cannot be any proper form of opposition

    The other point is that for maximum impact, both the UUP and SDLP should really withdraw from the government at the same time. However, not only do those two parties fail to work together on matters of mutual concern – they are internally split down the middle. Danny Kennedy is clearly enjoying his Ministerial job and will not be keen to give it up, likewise Attwood and his supporters. It’s not just a case of wanting the car and the salary; it is a case of recognizing that the parties simply may not be able to punch above their weight when they are outside the government. It would be interesting for Alliance too as the party would have to balance its policy of constructive participation in the government with the fact that it would look like a DUP/SF poodle if it chose to stay while the SDLP and UUP left.

    But that’s all in an ideal world. If there is a walkout, it’ll be a half-arsed one, with briefings against the decision by “anonymous” party figures to the press, internal splits and division, and a divided front bench. DUP and SF will simply say “these are a bunch of idiots who can’t get their act together” – and they’ll be right.

  • Chris, I didn’t even know about the GP reference until I listened to that clip – so it was an accidental goal!

  • Chris Donnelly

    C Stalin

    Look at my final paragraph. They can do all of the rest but if they ignore the all-Ireland dimension, they’ll go nowhere.

    But at least they’ll be comforted by knowing that Slugger’s anti-republican brigade will have applauded them….

  • iluvni

    Was that the worst speech in the history of Northern Irish politics?

  • 100% negative response on twitter for that woeful speech. Start as you mean to go on?

  • Was it lights, hangover,autocue malfunction, no run through, poor decision making, migraine, mickey finn? Apparently it wasn’t the wrong speech.

    Unbelievably poor.

  • Stephen Blacker

    That speech today by McDonnell will make it easy for Nationalists to vote for Sinn Fein or A.N. Other.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I didn’t see the speech, is there anywhere I can catch a re-run ?

  • And it is on again tonight at 10.25.

  • Mick Fealty

    DUP even Stephen! I

  • Framer

    Is the result a secret or is it just the rules of transparency that prevent the votes being released?

  • “Slugger’s anti-republican brigade”

    How many guns does this brigade have, Chris? 😉

    Why is it so difficult for PRMers to limit themselves to democratic means alone? Why can’t they be more like the good Irish nationalists? Remember the old Irish proverb, “She stoops to conquer” …

  • 241934 john brennan

    Framer:
     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.

  • RyanAdams

    Opposition is the only way forward for the SDLP, with or without speaking rights.

    Austerity budget and cuts?

    What party wouldn’t want to be throwing coconuts at the Executive? The SDLP are merely figureheads in the current arrangements, whether its a vote in the executive or on a matter of something like speaker where its what the DUP/SF say goes, they can do nothing but accept the decision of the dominant parties. Being a minority partner in Stormont did nothing for the SDLP or UUP in the last elections, Do either really think it will help them come 2015?

  • the wrong side of 40

    People talk about Opposition as if there was an opportunity to go into a formal Opposition. There simply is not. Our system of goverment sim ply does not allow for it.

    I saw Jim Allisters random Tweet yesterday, I have absoloutely no idea what that was about. I am sure that if anyone in the SDLP was considering Opposition they would try and have a serious debate within the party itself. I doubt anyone would be going to Jim Allister to let him know first.

  • Mick Fealty

    That is correct. But it’s worth reporting this question from the questions for candidates thread:

    “How can you present yourself as a credible alternative to Sinn Féin when you share responsibility for every Executive decision they take?”

  • Comrade Stalin

    I saw Jim Allisters random Tweet yesterday, I have absoloutely no idea what that was about.

    It is in Jim’s interest to show that he is not simply a mad wrecker, but a person advocating an alternative that “moderate” parties can come on board with.

    I am sure that if anyone in the SDLP was considering Opposition they would try and have a serious debate within the party itself. I doubt anyone would be going to Jim Allister to let him know first.

    There have been at least a few media comments in the past week or two referring to sources talking about going into opposition, but like you say I do not think it has been thought through.

    For example what does opposition look like ? Who is the leader of the opposition, will it be the UUP or SDLP ? Perhaps it can be set up so there is a leader and deputy leader .. so how will Jim get a look in ? How will this opposition decide its position on anything, especially given that parties like the UUP can’t even stop solo runs of their own members ? My guess is that any opposition, formal or not, would simply collapse into an incoherent mess and the DUP and SF would simply point, laugh and say “leave it to the professionals”.

  • Mick Fealty

    None of it has to be formal CS. Outside Stormont gates would be the place to set up camp for the media.

    It would afford whichever party did it first, a clear positioning vi a viz the screw ups (or sheer inactivity) inside the Executive.

    There would be no funding of course. But you could turn that into a virtue too. But it cannot be an afterthought. Or something you talk about like St Augustine (make me virtuous, but not just yet), or even to cover up a weakness.

    In other words it would have to come as part of a greater mission, or political purpose. Not just be the purpose in and of itself.

  • Lionel Hutz

    To be honest, I think the SDLP missed the golden opportunity when the DUP and SF announced that they had agreed the RPA without even consulting Attwood. That left his position untenable. It is, however, understandable – with a leadership election looming – why the party didn’t sieze on it.

    It is my view that the SDLP would need to pick a moment like that as an exit strategy.

    I agree with what Mick says re: Funding. I’d go further and say that the lack of speaking rights could be turned into a virtue. I could imagine it as being a useful point to make in debates to the DUP – they who have harped on about opposition. If the DUP move to allow speaking rights, then it becomes a legitimate point to make against Sinn Fein. It would lend weight to the argument that this is a carve-up.

    In any case, formal speaking rights will probably be over-rated. Jim Allister manages to get quite a bit of media attention as just one of 108. Why could 14 not get more attention. And it is about media attention. Most of the talking would be done outside the debate chamber though.

    With regards to the UUP, there are real disadvantages to being joined to the hip with a party that appears to be equally disfunctional. Both parties seem to add to the other’s unelectability. So all they would have to show is that they can work together. That would mean joining up on issues of mutual interest and being kind to each other when they are opposed. An alternative programme for government (well, just a programme for governement as there is none to alternate from) would go a long way to achieving that. If Sinn Fein and the DUP adopt alot of it, then UUP and SDLP can claim they are setting the agenda, and if not, they can claim to be only ones with an agenda.

    It’s win-win. I’m not yet a member of the SDLP, but if I do manage to get the website working and become a member, I would be a supporter of opposition. At this point, its a risk worth taking.

    Bet on its own future??????

  • Nobody is talking about Opposition ……yet.
    The Good Friday Agreement remains a cornerstone of SDLP policy and is the highest point in their History.
    It could be argued that with the tinkering since then, the Good Friday Agreement has moved on ….

    For the record the SDLP got 94,000 votes in May, actually the third highest. The really sore point is that with a different leader, they would certainly have held 16 seats rather than slipping to 14 and had two Executive seats.
    The AP has 51,000 votes (8 seats) and two Executive seats……essentially one of those in the gift of the DUP-SF.
    This is of course not a thread about that.

    The point about Opposition is that is “in the background” if not quite on the agenda.
    Personally I see a lot of merit in Opposition.
    Politics is as much about tactics as it is philosophy. And sometimes people just have to get a bit opportunistic……when the Time is right.
    As we are still too far away from an election, the Time is not right.

    Assuming that the opportunity to go into Government as part of a coalition exists after the next Election, then the time to go into Opposition is 12-18 months before that Election……which is around the time cuts will really start to bite.
    Arguing for jobs, schools and hospitals is a mixed message in the current arrangement.
    But strategicially, principled, cynically and opportunistically becoming an Opposition is a good tactic.

    Obviously the DUP-SF are the driving force behind the Budget and it would be crucial to expose that. Likewise in a five Party coalition, SDLP provides a fig leaf of respectability for AP linking up with SF.
    Funding might be a problem……but surely any Opposition deserves state funding at least of the level of Special Advisor funding and even if SDLP didnt get the funding, it could make a virtue out of that.

    Opposition is usually seen in the context of a formal or informal arrangement with the UUP. But what that Party does is irrelevant. There is no point in having clear blue water between the SDLP and quasi revolutionaries and quasi letsgetalongerists (both enemies of SDLP) and joining with unionists (enemies of the SDLP).

    Re Mr Hutz and his joining the SDLP. Can I recommend a cooling off period rather than striking while the iron is hot. I took thirty years to cool off. And that kinda works. But seriously I urge caution. The experience of the last two months has as often been up and down.

  • Lionel Hutz

    FJH,

    It appears the party agree with you, as there’s no-one even on the phones. I’m not in a mad rush. But then I heard the party lost a third of membership in the last two years. So they could probably do with the £20.

  • Comrade Stalin

    A lawyer paying a sub of £20 ? Me arse. If I was the SDLP leader the first thing I’d be doing is bumping the standard sub up to at least £50 (with obvious exceptions in for lower earners, pensioners and students of course). There’s no point in pretending it’s a party of poor people.

    Mick,

    There is a danger of people estimating the opposition thing. Sure, you can walk out and take the position Alliance were forced to take a few years back. Alliance was able to do very little, not for want of trying, with the opposition role. Now you might say that the SDLP should be able to do better since it has more MLAs .. but that’s not true either, as Jim Allister does very well with just himself.

    It follows therefore that the only way to do the unfunded opposition is to do the Jim Allister thing. The media want to see blood on the carpet. But as I said on another thread, I don’t think the SDLP have enough fight in them to deliver this.

    I would certainly support SpAd funding along the same lines as “technical groups” in the Dáil. But the DUP and SF hold the keys, and they have absolutely no reason to make life any easier for their political opponents.

    Finally, on the point about teaming up with the UUP .. the reason why it should happen is because the electorate have in the past shown their support for such informal coalitions (nationalists transferred to soft unionists, and likewise in reverse) and because the two parties combined would be a much louder and more effective voice. To be an opposition you have to provide an alternative, and the SDLP is never going to be that alternative in its own right. However, I agree that it is not going to happen because the UUP unlike the SDLP are showing no recognition that they are facing a serious decline and appear to be making no coherent efforts to arrest it.

  • the wrong side of 40

    LH, I think that the reason thjat there was no -one there to take your call is that most staffers having propably worked 14-16 hour days since last Thursday, may have taken today off. Anyone that was about were propably dealing with the technical issues story.

    I would imagine that come tomorrow your call will be most welcome, out of curiosity and if it`s none of my business please say so but would you want to be an “active” member or pay the £20 annually and leave it at that?

  • Lionel Hutz

    I would be active enough, albeit that I live in an area where the Sdlp show little signs of life. Depends what the party would need me for. I wouldn’t have personal political ambitions if thats what you mean. If I stood for election, my fiance may call off the wedding.

  • the wrong side of 40

    I get your point! My wife can`t understand my interest in politics and looks at me with disdain when she sees me on slugger or similar sites. I am getting to the point that it might be better to say I am addicted to online poker or a similar vice to hide the shame of being a political anorak.

  • streetlegal

    Would the last person leaving Northern Ireland please turn the lights out. Thank you.

  • I hope Lionel Hutz managed to get thru to SDLP today. The question of involvement in (party) politics and whether being passive or active is interesting…..as the transition from “tinternet message board” to real life is a bit like getting your first pair of long trousers and entering into the adult world.
    Alas the discovery that Politics is actually the Real World………..Education, Health, Pensions, Peace, Justice, Housing, Environment, Jobs, Third World………can be traumatic as I have discovered over the past two months.

    Politics is not a Computer Game. The connexion between Message Board politics and “Real Politics” is about the same as those Computer Games (Medal of Honour?) has with actual real life soldiers in Afghanistan.
    The best shoot em uppers dont make good soldiers. The best tinternet politicians would make lousy politicians.

    In 1968, a new subject “Economics & Political Studies”(EPS) was introduced into my school’s A Level programme …soon of course replaced by simply “Politics” and just how many A levels have been awarded in forty years?
    And how many Politics degrees have been handed out?
    Yet we are told that membershipof political parties is in decline over the same forty years.
    A cynic might say that this is because people know too much about politics. Actually it is because they know too little.
    Politics as an academic discipline at QUB?.
    Politics is a spectator sport watching “Hearts and Minds”
    Politics as Journalism?
    Politics as an interactive internet game?

    Yet we are told people join pressure groups. Back in 1968 the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds got an honourable mention in the EPS classes (seemingly they would be consulted on legislation affecting bird life and were a valuable part of the political process).

    Yet curiously many of the 63 stallholders at the SDLP Conference were pressure groups/charities all looking after their narrow interest without actually getting involved in politics. Nobody in NICVA, Human Rights Consortium (who have a launch in the Long Gallery next Monday) want to get “involved” in politics. Same is true of trade unions.
    All protecting a narrow interest, lifting the phone to the politicians, getting that all important “contact” on a one way street. These groups never seem to see a bigger picture. Just an occasional whinge about no proper politics here, which would justify their involvement.

    The SDLPs call for engagement with its members, attracting new members or merely engaging with its own voters is frankly a double-edged sword. Existing members will here uncomfortable things from New members from the Partys “gene pool”.
    Passive or Active?
    A statistic I heard at the weekend. In South Armagh, SF has ten times the number of polling clerks than the SDLP. They can work in shifts.
    Most of us live in polite society where our friends and neighbours and colleagues dont know our politics. “Whatever you say say nothing” even to the canvassers so actually being a canvasser is not something that most people can do with ease.

    A fee has to be high enough to generate income and low enough to be inclusive. But realistically £20 is only the start with the raffles and ballots and fundraising.

  • Lionel Hutz

    very interesting comments FJH,

    I didn’t get time to call the party today but i should be more active tomorrow.

    In all honesty, I have been apprehensive of joining the party because I’d be frankly anxious about the likes of canvassing. But its getting to the stage that if people like me, who support this party – who are very fond of this party, and what to see it have a place in politics – dont start to work for it, we may well be left effectively disenfranchised. It always shocks me how a number was done on the Sdlp in rural areas. There is a sniggering scorn at the very idea of the party, to the extent that some people would be embarrassed to openly support them. I’m not sure the Sdlp really grasp how prevalent that is.

    I think I would be better at real politics that the internet keyboard warrior stuff, which I am frankly horrendous at, I think because I have a basic need to make sense. Its hard to be coherent typing on a message board.

    Anyway, I’m resolved to becoming active. Even if that meant being a candidate at some point. I couldn’t do much worse than McKinney or Gallagher.

  • Ah in the 1970s, I canvassed Divis Flats, Unity Flats and Beechmount/Clonard area. And I dont recall a single door slamming in my face.
    I suppose we were not seen as a threat and as Ive said here often enough the parents etc of republicans often used the SDLP to travel round RUC stations to see f their wee lad was “lifted”.
    Im not sure Id be good at canvassing as frankly it embarrasses me. Sinn Féin are beyond embarrassment.

    And yet the SDLP probably needs more people to DO things than they need the likes of me to THINK things.
    I still think that the most interesting group of people at the SDLP Conference were those stall-holders. In some ways many were the SDLPs “natural” allies and yet nobody seems to have the inclination to go beyond their immediate “interest”.
    Not only is that a lot of £20 subscriptions not collected…..but its a folly that individuals dont actually join a Party (not necessarily the SDLP) to campaign on more than one issue.
    Nobody high profile in any profession seems to want to risk offending people by joining a Party. No newsagent with a mixed customer base. And frankly that fear of causing offence does little to break down barriers.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The SDLP stood for something very different in the early 1970s. Ten years later, Hume and Fitt were burnt out of those neighbourhoods. Things change, sadly.

    Keyboard warriors don’t matter a jot in the political world. Having seen some of the MLAs in our assembly however who can barely read a prepared speech in front of them, I’m not wholly convinced that getting elected in real life politics for some parties around here requires a great deal more than being in the right place at the right time.

    The problem with subscriptions not being collected is usually just people not prioritizing the need to pay it. It’s straightforward to solve with a campaign to get everyone on direct debit, perhaps debited in small amounts over the course of a year to keep it manageable. Of course, some discretion is required in cases where people are having it a bit tight.

  • Lionel Hutz

    There’s a whole lot of neighbourhoods which are no go areas for the Sdlp. I’m sure that was because Sinn Fein exercised a certain control and there was alot of dirty politics trhown at the party. Oddly enough however, these same communities are just a forgotten about since Sinn Fein came into power, if not more so – as now they are taken for granted too. This has to be a real target for the Sdlp, it wll require alot of “doers” as oppose to “thinkers” but their is a whole constituency of forgotten republicans.

    The Alliance party seem to be doing well with the loyalists that the DUP forgot about, perhaps the Sdlp can do the same

  • FuturePhysicist

    RE: disillusioned communitities.

    I had a nice talk with Colin Kennan about the Millionaire republican who’s set to take over from Paul Maskey in West or South-West Belfast.