SDLP yet to choose its candidate, but the clock is ticking…

Tom Kelly Irish News columnTom Kelly asks, after the bloodless coup of south Belfast (which he attributes to speed and accommodation), the glaring gap in the SDLP’s defences is the European Parliament elections next year.

Less than a year to go, and both Sinn Fein and the DUP have been getting their candidates settled in to their relatively new positions.

Diane Dodds has been meeting small groups of farmers all over Northern Ireland and providing workshops for people on how to access support. For her part, Martina Anderson is road tripping, with no constituency too marginal to get an appearance in the local press.

Euro are difficult for parties. The subject matter of Europe is important but dry and bureaucratic. The constituency is massive, and impossible to get around the people who care most about it in the space of just six weeks.

Add to that the fact that most media outlets don’t have the time or the bandwidth to examine the records of incumbents, and the fact that Stormont politics is all but politically inert and nothing replaces effectiveness of a good ground war war campaigns.

The SDLP already starts down with no European incumbent. So the time for choosing a candidate who will have the possibility of developing an effective campaign that gives all of the parties local operations a realistic object to aim for is running short.

Tom hints that they could be about to choose a ringer from the party’s aristocratic gene pool. But who would you choose, and what campaign would you run?