The SDLP’s conference kicked off with Alex Attwood’s interestingly on topic (and actually quite intelligent) pitch for a seat in the European Parliament. I say intelligent because there’s no peace process ambiguity here.
He’s actually selling membership of the EU as, erm, in a very Sellar and Yeatman way, ‘a good thing’:
“The SDLP has always been the most pro-European voice in Northern politics. We remain the most pro-European voice.
“We are steadfastly for Europe; for the European Union; for enlargement; for taking full advantage of the research, innovation, farming, fishery, peace, inclusion, cross border and other funds; for our businesses accessing the vast and growing EU market; for good not unnecessary regulation.
“We are not uncritical of how the European institutions conduct some of its affairs. We seek strategies for growth not policies of austerity, but, for Europe, in Europe and of Europe are essential elements of the beliefs of the party and the future of the country.
“Since John Hume left the European stage, Northern Ireland has lost position and authority in Europe. The SDLP were at the centre of decision making in Europe, an influential member of the most influential group in the European Parliament – the Party of European Socialists. Northern Ireland and its people were heard in part – even in great part – because the SDLP was strong.
“With EU reform, the power of the Parliament is greater now than ever before. Yet the DUP sit in the Parliament, unattached to any group, a lone voice in a room of hundreds. Sinn Fein sits in the Parliament with a confederal group of 35 members out of a Parliament of over 760 members. The Socialist Group has over 190 members – the one the SDLP would join – over 25% of the full membership of the Parliament. That is the difference between being in the margins or being at the centre of power. That is the difference between the SDLP in the European Parliament and other parties in the Parliament.
“John Hume convinced generations of EEC/EU leaders that it should invest its time and money in the North and border areas. One of his multiple legacies to all our people is that European doors were opened. This generation of EU leaders has, time after time, kept the doors open. The opportunities have not been fully exploited.
First rule of politics (I think) is look for a gap in the market and steam ahead and straight for it… It also has resonances with John Hume’s first pitch in 1979, so it’s hardly too much of a stretch…
The biggest enemy to his candidature is inertia… [So, just do the small things well then – Ed]
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty