Attwood launches unambiguous pro EU pitch for MEP job…

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]


  • Neil

    Dunno about intelligent. Lording their 0.005% of the vote in their grouping over the DUP’s derisory 0.001% of the vote in their (non) grouping is a bit pathetic. I would add SF to that but bizarrely the SDLP seem to be lording their 0.001% representation with their group over the SF representation within theirs – but the Shinner percentage is much larger in their grouping, being measured in hundredths instead of thousandths.

    They’re all complete bit players, as easily ignored in their groups of 760 (one voice in 760 is nothing) or 290 (one voice in 290 is also nothing) or 35 (yeah, still nothing really). That’s democracy, we have few people, few resources, we contribute nothing etc., we have a minute, pathetic, irellevant representation at Europe because that’s what we’re entitled to.

  • Mick Fealty

    You should try reading the Lisbon Treaty (I know, I know, braver souls than we have failed)… KISS

  • sean treacy

    Im sure the PES will be delighted with the boost they would get with the arrival of those who aligned themselves with the unionist Taliban in a failed attempt to chase marie stopes out of Belfast

  • Mick Fealty

    Fair enough Sean. Does that also apply to the United Left–Nordic Green Left group too?

  • @Mick,

    So what other parties are in SF’s group?

  • Mick Fealty

    It’s the non socialist left:

  • In Britain, the Euro Elections are actually about Europe or more precisely an attitude to Europe….which is why UKIP will do well. But they cant translate that into Westminster support (of course PR helps).

    But in Norn Iron, the Euro Elections are more likely to be about Twaddell Avenue or the flashpoint in summer of 2014.
    While SDLP are to be congratulated for making their PUBLIC pitch about Europe, they would be foolish to suspend the normal rules of engagement in the hope that they get some cross-community support from committed Europhiles.
    Certainly they cant take their eye off the core vote.
    I doubt that anybody in SDLP strongholds like Derry or South Down are overly concerned about European politics…except of course subsidies.
    They would be foolish if principled going into the Election as “PES (SDLP)” as having the local franchise (and they do). After all there is no merit in going into a Westminster Election as “Labour (SDLP)” even though they have the local franchise on that.
    Certainly SDLP should use their own voice…and certainly that has a Europhile sound…..but the SDLP cant afford to neglect their core vote or assert core beliefs even if some are not directly related to Europe.

    Alex is an interesting choice.

  • mjh

    Mick, fjh

    Is this actually the SDLP public pitch? It reads like the early part of a speech, setting the campaign in a wider context for the party activists, rather than the main thrust aimed at the electorate.

    The SDLP press office don’t seem to think the speech was aimed at the public. There is no press release on the SDLP website.

    An opportunity missed?

  • sean treacy

    Mick,United Left will be well aware that SF BLOCKED the attempted criminalisation of women by the fundamentalist SDLP/DUP AXIS

  • Charles_Gould

    SDLP is the obvious choice for anyone with Labour values.

  • Framer

    Unsurprisingly Alex fails to mention that the Ulster Unionist Party’s Jim Nicholson sits with 52 MEPs in the European Conservatives and Reformists Group and is currently its Agriculture Co-ordinator.
    He is also a member of the EU Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development and a substitute member for the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and also vice-chair of the Delegation to the African, Caribbean and Pacific-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly.
    He has experience and serious clout which certainly exceeds that of the two SF and DUP MEPs, regardless of them being inside or outside groups.

  • Henry94

    Alex Attwood was made for the European Parliament. He would love it and they would love him. Sadly that’s the biggest argument against sending him. All over Europe we need to elect people who will raise hell about the crazy economic policies the EU is following. A vote for a good pro-EU yes-man is a wasted vote. That goes for FF, FG and Labour in the south too. This is a time to make waves.

  • Charles_Gould

    Henry94 you make waves if you want to.

    SDLP will make good EU law with Labour values.

    SDLP the only pro-EU party in NI.

  • sherdy

    Alex is not too happy about being kicked out of his ministerial role, and possibly sees no prospects of being promoted again.
    So what other way can he improve his lot within the party? At least he must be given credit for having the wit to realise when one door closes, there’s no point in trying to break it down, but to attempt to open another.

  • Charles_Gould

    Alex Attwood has served the party admirably, and he knows that nobody can hold on to ministerial posts permanently.

    There are many other roles he can take up within the party.

    He has had a very successful political career.

    He has stood up for Labour values and continues to do so.

    He is a quality political activist, for many decades now, and his work has made Northern Ireland a better place.

    I hope he does well in the Euro Elections. I can state confidently that of the candidates that have been formally announced so far he stands head and shoulders above them as a politician.