In today’s Irish News, John Manley has an in-depth interview with the SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell. I have in an earlier piece tendered my views on the party’s future prospects and this is the part of the interview that I want to focus on in this piece but the entire interview is worth a read.
In his talk with McDonnell, Manley probed the SDLP leader about his electoral ambitions are for the party under his stewardship. Either it was a moment of brutal honesty or just a slip of the tonge, McDonnell actually put some figures on what he would regard as a successful election for the party.
When he spoke about how the party would do in the European elections he simply stated that ‘it was in the lap of the gods.’ This statement I interpreted as ‘we really don’t think we have a chance of unseating Martina Anderson.’ Regardless, it was the local elections where he put some concrete goals for the party to meet, as he wants the party to take around 80 seats. He regards winning less than 70 as a failure.
Looking forward to the assembly he believes the party can make gains in places like Fermanagh and South Tyrone, South Antrim and North Antrim. Currently the party has 14 seats and from the interview I assume he wants to get the party to around 16 seats.
I have to say I think it’s brave for him to actually set down some numbers for us to judge him by. I also found the interview to be interesting and quite fun to read as Manley managed to weave in some interesting commentary on the SDLP’s performance.
The party’s conference is on this weekend and Alan will no doubt have another excellent report on it.
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs