SDLP need a ‘violent storm’ or two to learn how to sail a ‘ship of war’…

I remember being asked, rather pointedly by one leading Pol Corr why I even bothered turning up for the SDLP’s Newcastle conference which elected Margaret Ritchie as party leader. I was then told, in no uncertain terms, “they don’t matter any more”

This is the wilderness pit that the likes of the SDLP and Ulster Unionists have been cast into by the media. Getting out of it won’t be quick or easy. For now the chosen tactic is to slowly grow its elected representation.

This was the focus of their conference PEB, which was head and shoulders above the leader’s speech (about which more later):

Like other minor parties in the Executive, they are operating with an extremely limited sets of cards in an increasingly rigged political game which deems them irrelevant.

The party leader’s focus has been on building its offering from the ground up. But in the prioritisation of ground over air war, some important things are going unattended to.

Two issues highlight this better than most:

Firstly the belated push to go into opposition from McDonnell’s predecessor Margaret Ritchie came with an admirable clarity too often missing during her own leadership.

Opposition could be a good tactic if you do it rather than just talk about it out of school. It’s NOT a good tactic if the only aim is to gain tactical advantage for your party over another. This is how the UUP obligingly killed their own oppositional fox.

Secondly, there are actually very few votes available to the SDLP by hitting the DUP. Back in the day, attacking big house unionism and its anti democratic reflexes was a big vote winner.

But that was: when the SDLP was the ONLY competitive nationalist party; and before the Belfast Agreement and Hume’s ‘agreed Ireland’ approach to politics became axiomatic to the new settlement.

It’s not as though this is misunderstood by the party. Speaking yesterday just before the leader’s speech, Alex Attwood noted the importance of that legacy:

…years ago John Hume changed the political language of Irish Democracy. In one phase, politics pivoted and everything changed. His language was that of accommodation between the traditions.

We hold to the politics of partnership and accommodation. Not the mangled distorted version that resides up in Stormont Castle. But a deep accommodation, a deep partnership with unionism. We do not resile from that.

In fact a ‘deep partnership with unionism’ is the only way this complicated Good Friday contraption can actually work, and the only way it will be improved and streamlined over the years ahead.

This is where, I suspect, the muddle that David talked about arises from. It also arises from the fact that too many would be or former generals are directing their troops in the direction of their own choice.

As for the speech itself, it was the third rambling pointless cut and paste in a row. They say that even if you lose your speaking notes, any decent presenter ought to be able to provide his/her audience with gist of what s/he intended to say.

But this speech failed every element of Simon Armitage’s recommended essentials of a good speech: logos (appeal to logical sense); ethos (appeal on the ‘right’ grounds); and pathos (appeal to the emotions).

Instead it is stuffed with meaningless jargon. Some of it familiar, if derivative, lines like ‘being at the heart of Europe’. Others are just odd inversions of current cliches, like the ‘prosperity process’.

There’s no specificity either. Telling the party faithful that Alex Attwood “served us all brilliantly as a Minister”, is useless without naming achievements in matters which matter to voters.

Of course speeches don’t win elections, and not every one needs to be epic. But judging from similar spelling mistakes to those from previous years, I’d venture a guess this was likewise underprepared and kept under glass until the very last minute.

A good start would be to find a new speech writer for next year (sooner would be better). Party activists will need some air cover if they are to achieve the leader’s tough ambitious seat targets for next year.

Seeding a bit of trouble for your rivals is what Alastair Campbell advised the Tories after the 2005 UK General Elections. Although the rough currents may then trouble everyone, they might also take this cue from Greek tragedian Aeschylus:

I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning to sail my ship.

, , ,

  • FuturePhysicist

    Big House unionism is not just a problem for nationalists but in some ways an enemy of unionism, NI21 know it, Alliance know it, the small loyalist groups like the PUP know it. It strips choice and self determination away from people here to custodial level politics, which has been practiced by Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil in the past on the other side.

    Politicians are servants not custodians, ultimately that is what republicanism (by literal definition) and loyalism (by explication), is about, isn’t it?

  • mjh

    There are two elections in 6 months. To hit their leader’s target of 80 Super Council seats the SDLP has to convince a tenth of SF voters to switch.

    That calls for one or two powerful vote-changing messages which are repeated over and over again by all candidates, MP’s, MLA’s, Councillors, canvasssers, leaflets and press statements.

    These should have formed the core of the leader’s speech.

    What were they?

  • FuturePhysicist

    Speeches are no substitute for doorstep action. I certainly believe the European message has been expressed relatively coherently, but since RPA is new ground I don’t see many parties excelling at this stage.

  • What those messages have to say:

    1. We can do a deal with Unionism (rather than beat them because that’s crap). We can hear the protests of Loyalists and reach out to listen without being scared of being seen to pander to outrageous demands. We think that listening and dialogue is grown up way to do politics.

    2. We think local Government is really important and can work with you to bring jobs and services that you care about to a town near you. Look at what we have achieved already in ……?

    3. We are outward looking and have friends in other Countries like European nations who hold us in some esteem. Centre left politics is bigger than Northern Ireland.

    4. We like a lot of what is happening in Ireland with regards to their economic investment strategy – build a base of a knowledge economy to become a centre of excellence globally – The economic corridor from Dublin to Belfast really isn’t very long and SDLP have strong bases in the corridor – in Newry and South Down but aren’t exploiting them. Every weekend Rostrevor forest is bursting with young Dubliners on expensive mountain bikes – it’s catching on – we aren’t that far away from the economic centre of the island.

    5. We are innovative and we can call on experts to come help us expand our thinking on new technology, education models, creativity, social equality, economic initiatives.

    6. We are not reactionary

    7. We are still a young party by any political standards and never were the establishment so we can be brave and dissenter spirited

    8. We think that conservatism is bad for Northern Ireland in these ways: it is static at a time of change, it panders to a self-preservation mentality in middle classes who don’t engage in society, it is exclusionist.

    9. We promise to get a new enterprise train because the old ones running that line are shite.

    10. We will invest outside of Belfast too.

    Could the SDLP ever be this party?

  • oh –

    11. We are sorry for the stupid mistakes we have made in the last year or two including the Dungannon and Newry debacles. We don’t know how we got it so wrong but an alien took over our Councillors’ minds temporarily.

  • cynic2

    ” the SDLP has to convince a tenth of SF voters to switch”

    Or prods to vote tactically

  • cynic2

    ” an alien took over our Councillors’ minds temporarily.”

    Scary. If it’s technology is so advanced it could find their minds. what hope does humanity have!!!

  • Mick,
    I had to look up the word “resile” and I have a graduate education. Does he imagine that he is only addressing other lawyers? A good speech writer impresses with the logic of his/her argument and the construction of the speech. Unusual words should be used only if they are key to the argument, as in a legal case in addressing the wording of the law.

  • Charles_Gould

    Resile is not that unusual timtch57. I do resile from your desire to strip down the language of Shakespeare.

  • Charles_Gould

    Michael

    11 messages is about 6 too many. 5 messages is the usual upper bound in politics.

  • mjh

    Charles

    I rather think the point is that in a few minutes Michael was able to jot down a far better outline for the leader’s speech than the leader and his communication advisors managed for themselves.

  • Charles_Gould

    mjh

    Fair enough. My main *GRIPE*with Michael’s messages is that none of them were about left politics.

    Where was the concern for distribution of income, public services.

    My own view is that SDLP have a very obvious narrative: the need to raise low pay and the need to protect public services. Labour politics, in short.

  • “His language was that of accommodation between the traditions.”

    .. on the island of Ireland ie a nationalist context for the resolution of the unionist-nationalist tug-of-war. The Hume approach was superseded by the Redemptorist ‘Stepping Stones’ one which in turn was replaced by the much modified 1998 Agreement. Hume’s failure to acknowledge the unionist aspiration and the unionist reluctance to accommodate the nationalist aspiration have been a huge barrier to political progress. The decision by London and Dublin to appease paramilitaries has come at a price, not least the ‘delegation’ of community control in many areas to paramilitary godfathers.

  • Rory Carr

    Charles,

    …raise low pay and … protect public services.

    Hooray ! I’ll vote for that.

    Just one small point – how exactly do they (or indeed, you) propose to achieve this ?

  • Charles_Gould

    Rory

    By getting elected to government first of all, and then putting in place labour-oriented policies. Policies that prioritise public services. In any public policy position you can favour the rich or favour the poor. SDLP should be about left politics.

  • Mick Fealty

    It’s a perfectly reasonable question Charles. I think you should show willing and apply yourself to it! B-)

  • Charles – way before raising the public sector pay as a priority is the creation of jobs and the opportunity of productive work for the whole of society – that is a far more revolutionary thing to do for everyone than spending wealth that doesn’t exist on services that are sometimes only needed because of a failure to provide people with productive opportunities in society.

  • Charles_Gould

    Michael MIck Rory

    Here is not the place for a treatise on policies of the left.

    My point is that Michael’s list of 11 messages did not seem to have much of a leftist or labour flavour.

  • Morpheus

    The BT/Lucid poll at the party conference threw up some interesting insights:

    Less than half of SDLP activists are satisfied with Dr Alasdair McDonnell’s performance as party leader.

    62% for the proposition that nationalist as well as unionist councils should fly the union flag on designated days as happens in Belfast.

    Delegates were asked which of a range of party leaders and other public figures they trusted. Basil McCrea of NI21 came out top with 76%, something which will encourage NI21 to seek SDLP transfers in next year’s elections. Matt Baggott, the Chief Constable, was trusted by 64% and David Ford, of Alliance, by exactly half (50%). There was evident suspicion of Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness who scored dismal trust levels of 10% and 8% respectively. This was far lower than Jim Allister, the hardline unionist TUV leader (38%) or Theresa Villiers, the Secretary of State, (34%).

    The party is in an absolute mess

  • Charles_Gould

    Morpheus

    Liam Clarke did not say how many people were surveyed so one needs to talk about that before commenting too much.

  • Morpheus

    “The SDLP estimated 500 members at the conference. The survey of 50 party members was carried out on Saturday 9 November 2013 at the SDLP conference in Armagh in association with LucidTalk polling. Interviews were conducted by Maria McCann and Aoife Stewart-McGovern, both Journalism students at Belfast Metropolitan College.”
    Liam Clarke

  • Charles_Gould

    Morpheus I think that 50 is a small number for a survey.

    Regarding the results interesting that NI21 is so popular compared to Alliance. Surprising given that Alliance are not pro-union while NI21 is.

  • FuturePhysicist

    It was only 25, Morpheus.

  • Charles_Gould

    Like others, I am generally impressed by Lucid Talk management, and I am inclined to welcome their “big” polls.

    However these little “straw” polls at party conferences with tiny samples: I am not sure they enhance the LucidTalk brand as there is no indication of statistical significance given.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Political statistics is boring when you’ve done statistical mechanics.

  • @Morpheus,

    Too bad the survey didn’t ask how many trusted Adams or McGuinness.

  • “Regarding the results interesting that NI21 is so popular compared to Alliance. Surprising given that Alliance are not pro-union while NI21 is.”

    @Charles_Gould,

    Novelty is always more popular initially. Ford has a much longer record than McCrea hence more to dislike.

  • JH

    Charles:
    “SDLP should be about left politics.”

    Actually, I disagree. All parties here are about left politics, bar maybe the UUP. DUP like to swan about acting conservative whilst passing anti-competitive Tesco taxes and whatnot.

    SDLP are fishing in particular waters, and those waters are already oversubscribed with Marxist options.

    Yet what people say at the polls and in Nolan audiences and how they really feel when they get into the booth are two different things.

    If the SDLP really wanted to get ahead they’d put some of those younger brains front and center and lead with a radical, strong economic policy. Money talks, and they primarily appeal to middle class liberals. In fact a lot of their youth *are* the middle class liberals, and people can smell bullshit a mile away.

    The NI21 thing will probably fizzle out but I do think it’s an indication of market forces currently driving large parts of the electorate. Big Shiny New Thing™ politics is in and it seems like this period is particularly friendly to rebirth.

    So swap out a few MLAs who’ve had their day, up the ante on policy, make a show of bitchslapping any opponent who tries to personalise a point of principle again (see Dungannon) and start acting like a party on the charge, with the confidence to use a vote if they happened to get one.

    For the record, mine’s up for grabs.

  • Morpheus

    FuturePhysicist: “It was only 25, Morpheus.”

    Really? My quote is from Liam Clarke, where is your information coming from?

  • David McCann

    50 is proportional for the size of the conference. National polls will only survey about 1,100 people out of an electorate of 800k.

    They will have tried to ensure that the 50 people they picked did make up the various demos of the party.

  • Reader

    FuturePhysicist: Political statistics is boring when you’ve done statistical mechanics.
    I suppose statistical mechanics is how 10% of a sample of 25 (i.e. 2.5 respondents) trusted Peter Robinson?
    Did you not notice how all the percentage scores were multiples of 2% (1/50) and not restricted to multiples of 4% (1/25)?

  • “They will have tried to ensure that the 50 people they picked did make up the various demos of the party”

    How exactly did they do that Dr MCCann….these two youngish students on a one year course in Journalism at the Metro College.
    Tell me how that process works?
    In the available time frame.
    Doesn’t it look just a tad …”slapdash”?

    Actually a bit awkward for Lucid Talk, (Bill Whyte) had put on a very professional presentation …and one observer had noted that figures are neutral ( the most recent opinion poll).
    For this observer at least, Clarke of the Belfast Telegraph and Davidson from Chambre were less than convincing.
    Lucid Talk were an exhibitor at SDLP Conference last year and this year. Not too sure about next year.

  • Comrade Stalin

    By getting elected to government first of all, and then putting in place labour-oriented policies. Policies that prioritise public services. In any public policy position you can favour the rich or favour the poor. SDLP should be about left politics.

    Waffle. What policies ? How do you prioritize public services ? Name specific things that you’d do.

    Here’s a question for you, a real one. In the NI civil service the sick absentee level is something like double the rate of the civil service elsewhere in the UK and significantly higher in the private sector. The problem is not that civil servants are skivers, but that a small proportion of civil servants are on long term sick leave. This costs £31m a year.

    Which “labour oriented policies” provide the solution – do we either use the civil service to effectively pay an enhanced rate of sick pay to those lucky enough to land a job there, or do we fire people who are on long term sick and use the £31m to improve hospital or social services ?

    What about the question of why we are duplicating the Driver and Vehicle Agency up in Coleraine. Should the government pay people to dig holes and fill them in again or should the money be spent in “prioritising public services” ?

  • quality

    Polling of 50 people from an audience of that size is representative. It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that less than half are satisfied with McDonnell, he’s hardly set the world on fire. And there would be a significant number who didn’t vote for him in the first place.

    And again not surprising more members ‘trust’ Jim Allister than Robinson or McGuinness. I guess you know where you are with Jim.

  • quality

    Comrade Stalin

    I just assume Charles_Gould is some sort of parody account. Vague references to ‘labour’ politics without an understanding of what that actually means in terms of practical policy.

    As you’ve outlined, duplication isn’t desirable. Nor a central tenet of ‘labour’ politics. If the SDLP wants to talk about public services, it could talk about why rationalisation might be a good thing (just not in my area obviously). Or in detail about how there are economies of scale with the south, rather than just how unification would save money.

    Ok – how does the NI Assembly go about tackling low pay? Raise the national minimum wage? No, can’t do that. Offset taxes for companies who pay a living wage? Nope can’t do that either. It can parrot the British Labour party’s ‘cost of living agenda’ and try to cling on for any sort of reflected glory I suppose.

  • David McCann

    Fitz,

    I’m not sure how they conducted it but I’d like to think they had some cop on to ask are you a member of the party?

    One thing that any polling company wants to be is accurate-there is nothing in it for them to do a shoddy poll as it hurts their reputation as a polling company.

    I don’t think the age of the people asking questions is a factor-I did a survey for Translink two weeks ago and the person asking the questions was younger than me. All those students were doing was filling out a form that had been written by Bill most likely.

  • Dr McCann,
    In itself, the youth of the students is not an issue….their experience is. And with respect, a poll about the Leadership of the SDLP is probably of more significance that what time is best for a bus to Ballyclare….unless of course the person being sked lives in Ballyclare.

    As I made clear, I was very impressed by Bill Whyte and extremely unimpressed by John Davidson and Liam Clarke.
    And neither you or I know the methodology used. I’m just putting pieces together from what I saw on Saturday. I would like to think exactly what you “would like to think” but in this case I have the advantage of being at the Conference and being at the presentation….and seeing what I believe to be the survey hand delivered while the presentation was ongoing.

    As I have said on another thread….Bill is a reader. So is Gerry Lynch, who will I understand be at a similar presentation at NI21 next weekend.
    Both have an opportunity surely to clarify.
    Obviously Lucid Talk have no control over how Liam Clarke writes a story and as Clarke himself tried to make clear to a questioner on Saturday, he has nothing to do with the stance the Belfast Telegraph takes.

    But I take it you are joining me in calling for clarification.

  • David McCann

    Fitz,

    Yeah I have no involement with Lucid Talk-so i don’t know how they conduct the polls. It would be handy if they had on their website information about this so people can chew the fat.

  • So you’re calling for clarification?

  • Mick Fealty

    Aren’t you guys already arguing on this subject somewhere else already? http://goo.gl/gbG7FM

    I’m going to start a fresh thread so people can use this one to talk on topic about the content in the post… or not, as the case may prove…

  • I dont know. Every thread becomes one thread sooner or later.
    What I do know is that the SDLP is newsworthy for at least the few days around Conference.
    And as a SDLP member, it seems entirely legitimate that I defend its position (entirely unofficially).
    In so far as the Lucid Talk poll was introduced into this thread….I believe my Morpheous….then it seems entirely reasonable that I comment on it.

  • Morpheus

    Yes I introduced it because I think it is important. Before the SDLP set off in search of their ‘violent storm’ I thought it obvious to show where they are starting off from. If they are in search of a violent storm with a captain who doesn’t have the respect of this crew then they are fecked before they even start, wouldn’t you agree?

    This is exactly what is infuriating about Slugger – we can only comment on what someone else deems important enough for us to comment on. Some may feel it is off topic but so what? I don’t and that’s why it is on here.

  • I dont feel its irrelevant at all.
    And as a SDLP member, I am actually quite at ease with a poll that shows a dissatisfaction rating of 20%…..simply put thats a bigger story than a satisfaction rate of 48%.
    Hard to imagine what exactly the purpose of the in-between answer is ,,,except to lower the approval rating.
    A straight forward Yes or No to Alasdair might well have got an answe 48% Yes and 52% against which seems to be the way the Belfast telegraph are spinning facts….which are in themselves neutral.

    More likely the in-between answer would have shown some of the 32% doubters (of the 50 polled) giving Alasdair the benefit of the doubt and others not….and even if the ratio was 1:1….then 64:36 seems not exactly something that the Belfast Telegraph would want to hear….and anti -SDLP people on Slugger would not be rushing to the keyboards.

  • Mick Fealty

    There’s another thread on the poll morpheus… It’s interesting… But I’m inclined to agree that 20% dissatisfiedis pretty low for a leader who was supposedly going to be devisive…

  • mjh

    This whole leadership survey thing is a storm in a teacup. Yes it does not look good that his approval ratings are not higher. But this sort of thing only really matters when there is an ongoing campaign to undermine the leadership – and there simply isn’t one. In a couple of days it will have been forgotten by the handful of people in the general public who actually noticed it.

    Of far more concern to SDLP supporters should be the fact that a perfect opportunity to start selling a vote winning message has been squandered – and the party appears to be about to waste its energies on an internal debate on whether to go into opposition. It is a perfectly reasonable question, but it should either have been settled before now or parked until after the May elections.

    The first rule for any election campaign is “Hang together or hang apart.”

  • Charles_Gould

    fitzjameshorse1745

    Do you know when the next Lucid Talk Poll comes out?

  • Charles_Gould

    JH, CS, et al:

    At a time when the distribution of income, and other indicators, is more unequal than for a very long time, there is a justification of left, labour politics.

    The DUP are not left, nor are SF.

  • Charles_Gould

    CS

    “Which “labour oriented policies” provide the solution – do we either use the civil service to effectively pay an enhanced rate of sick pay to those lucky enough to land a job there, or do we fire people who are on long term sick and use the £31m to improve hospital or social services ?”

    I don’t know. Is NICS out of line with the Civil Service elsewhere? If so then learn from best practice.

  • Charles

    the issue is not one of Best Practice. The key issue in this place is motivation. It’s a well known phenomenon that people who are not in control of their destiny in work or life suffer much greater morbidity than those who do have control, hence the smokers and drinkers at the top of the business world and Civil service have much greater health outcomes than the fitness freaks at the bottom of the heap.

    A burgeoning, even bloated Civil Service is only adding to that issue, and largely because they struggle so badly to make a difference. It must be very demotivating to work for someone less capable than you but who knows how to play the office politics. Also in their impact on society they struggle to make an impact or to gain recognition for when they do.

    The civil service in Northern Ireland is like a centrifuge drawing in the best talent and sucking up the innovation and creativity. Even entrepreneurs are beaten down over time with bureaucracy.

    The country badly needs entrepreneurship – even China and Cuba recognise that prosperous livelihoods for the peasants is a necessary part of building a cohesive society and hence embrace entrepreneurship.

    Leftist Government is not about the size of the state but its influence, its legacy, its ability to provide better quality of life for all, its ability to protect the most vulnerable and to build a sense of society cohesion that means that people look out for each other, both at a micro local level, but also at the society level where one will pay high taxes to help another out but with the reciprocity that that person will help themselves and not keep on asking for more and more all their life.

    Redistribution of income is laudable and the Scandanavians show how it works – but they don’t do it because it is socialist as much as it is the moral and sensible thing to do with a healthier, safer, and smarter society as a result.

  • Charles_Gould

    Michael

    Have you read “The Spirit Level”. It explains the importance of equality of income.

    Redistribution is a must. The market does not allocate income fairly. Labour politics is about correcting that. Not just through benefits – and I see you focus on that – but through healthcare and education systems that are designed with equality in mind. That’s labour values.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I don’t know. Is NICS out of line with the Civil Service elsewhere?

    Yes it is, it has double the average number of days lost due to sickness as compared with elsewhere in the UK.

    If so then learn from best practice.

    This is what people have called the poverty of ambition. Nobody wants to come up with ideas on how to solve the problem; we want someone else to solve it and then copy them. The whole point of devolution is to allow our own representatives to do things our own way.

    As for the solution, well it seems quite simple to me, and it’s not necessary to use shock therapy. The government needs to focus on these employees on long term sick and agree with each one of them a plan under which they can return to work, perhaps on a part time basis or through some sort of flexible working agreement. If they cannot agree a return to work, or if there is no prospect of them ever returning to work again, unfortunately they have to be let go.

    As for the DVA up in Coleraine, I’d scrap it. I’d also bring our number plate and vehicle testing regime more closely into line with the rest of the UK. I’d reinvest the savings in creating apprenticeships and training opportunities for youth.

  • Charles – I have read the Spirit Level and it is very much common sense. I don’t just focus on benefits – that is an important part – I am thinking more of the Scandanavian model of high taxes and a much greater role for the State in providing all of the opportunities you refer to – equal maternity / paternity leave rights, free education, free child care provision, greater flexibility in child care / child education possibilities, equal value given to vocational education as academic, a public health model ahead of acute care provision.

    I’d love if the SDLP could talk in this type of language but their ability to discuss wider social values seems to be lacking and instead they focus on Green / orange politics and saving local hospitals. Where are they expanding the debate?

  • Charles_Gould

    Michael

    Thanks for that last post.

    I am not an SDLP member or anything. My original response to your 11 “suggested messages” for the SDLP was that it should have more of the “labour” stuff. And by that I mean exactly the sort of comment you have in your last post.

    Comrade Stalin

    A very sensible post. I agree with you.

  • Mick Fealty

    CS,

    “I’d reinvest the savings in creating apprenticeships and training opportunities for youth.”

    If your cabinet colleagues will let you. Seems to me John O’Dowd is doing some signalling on free school dinners at a time when the Barnett formula is going to get a bump up the cost of extending them in England and Wales.

    But he’s going to have scrum hard if he wants that boosted budget extended to NI schools. Money saved or boosted in one area in Whitehall is considered fair game right around the Executive table in Stormont.

    This is one reason why there’s no one simple pitch the SDLP can use around policy, because their power to implement depends on their powers not just of negotiation but of making deals that stick long enough to actually get something done.

  • Yeah – but they can say what they would do. At least we’d know.

  • Caoimhín

    Michael,

    You rightly point out that people thrive when they are in control of their own destiny. In the next breath, however, you laud a system where the state appropriates the majority of your income and distributes it in a way over which you have no control.

    I would much prefer to live in a state where I am accorded the opportunity to provide for myself and maximise my talents rather than live in a society where the state acts as mother hen and coddles and patronises its citizens from cradle to grave.

    This is why I cannot understand the left’s hatred of grammar schools; they are the ultimate tool of social mobility and rewarding talent regardless of wealth. The British abolished their’s and then wondered why social mobility has decreased ever since. All ability schools are a theory but not a reality. The rich get educated with the rich, whereas in our system the able get educated with the able, regardless of income.

    This is the sort of state I want to live in. One that encourages talent, dynamism and self-sufficiency. In short, one that asks us to take pride in ourselves, our community and our country. I don’t want to live and rely on what the state provides me with. Don’t give me a fish, give me the means of fishing for myself.

    Unfortunately there is no nationalist party north of the border which articulates anything like that sort of ambition.

    Mr. Gould

    You are perilously close to breaking the Trite Platitude Meter on my computer.

  • Charles_Gould

    Cao:

    The SDLP is a party of the left.

    Studies of Grammar Schools show that they have very low levels of Free School Meals. Very low. That shows who they benefit far more eloquently than anything else. If the SDLP is against academic selection that puts the interests of the wealthy above the interests of working class children then that is to be praised.

  • Charles_Gould

    Cao:

    “I would much prefer to live in a state where I am accorded the opportunity to provide for myself and maximise my talents rather than live in a society where the state acts as mother hen and coddles and patronises its citizens from cradle to grave.”

    You are accorded the ability to maximize your talents if you have the opportunity to do so. Alas, that opportunity is there for the rich, but all too often, it is not there for the poor. “From each according to their ability” is a very important part of the left’s message; and the other part….”to each according to their need”..is compassion not coddling.

  • Caoimhín

    it is in the gift of a functional state to provide the ability for people to manage their own development, indeed I’d say it is a responsibility when society is dysfunctional. In the USA which is the most extreme version of what you describe the winners really do take all, to the detriment of the large majority.

    Everyone should have the same chance for progress.

    As for Grammar schools – I agree that they improve social mobility but that is because we are lucky not to have “private schools” unfortunately we also excel in Northern Ireland at leaving a much greater proportion behind with no qualifications than anywhere else.

  • Caoimhín

    Mr. Gould,

    My name is Caoimhín and not Cao.

    Got to Dublin or London and see how many underprivileged children there are in their top schools: alot less than ours. The grammar school I went to had an awful lot more working class pupils than Eton or Blackrock College do. If you want the rich educated with the rich go ahead and abolish selection. I’ll stick with rewarding bright children from poor backgrounds.

  • Caoimhín

    Michael,

    I agree to some extent. The ideal model is probably somewhere between the USA and Scandinavia. Simply put, I’d rather provide services for my own family than have the state put their hand in my pocket, take most of the money that I have earned for myself, and provide me with the same services that I could have paid for. Human dignity suffers and the populace become overly reliant on the state which only leads to rot and decay.

  • Scandanavia seems to have managed to achieve a breaking through an invisible barrier where people actually feel a responsibility towards society at large and are ok with that, each person looks to the success of society as well as to their own success. They have a confidence that things are and will be OK whereas the free market system seems to encourage people to get their own backs and to do that by stockpiling a surfeit of wealth but largely to the detriment of someone or something else (i.e. other people in the same economy or the environment through over exploitation of scarce resources and cheap labour in other economies).

  • Charles_Gould

    “Simply put, I’d rather provide services for my own family than have the state put their hand in my pocket, take most of the money that I have earned for myself, and provide me with the same services that I could have paid for.”

    And what about the need for redistribution from rich to poor, given that the market system leads to large levels of inequality?

    ” The grammar school I went to had an awful lot more working class pupils than Eton or Blackrock College do.”

    I am sorry but the Free School Meals data speaks very eloquently on this score. Academic selection is social selection with a respectable veneer.

    If there is one thing the Alliance Party deserve great praise for is their strong stance against academic selection.

  • Caoimhín

    It’s clear that the Nordic model works for them. Their citizens have got used to extraordinarily high taxes and cost of living and, from the outside at least, their societies function. To a large extent however this mother hen state has replaced the family as the main provider; society suffers the consequent problems with family breakdown etc. although it’s not polite to mention it. Those problems aren’t PC, however a 2003 Lancet study of the entire population of Swedish children found that ‘children in single-parent families were about twice as likely to suffer from serious psychological problems, drug use, alcohol abuse, and attempted suicide, compared to children in two-parent families.’

    The Nordic model leaves them contented but it’s unclear whether it will be sustainable indefinitely. In our society where people are much more likely to ask “what can my country do for me” rather than “what can I do for my country” their high tax and spend model would, I fear, lead to laziness and the punishment of dynamism and entrepreneurial spirit.

  • Caoimhín

    Mr. Gould,

    How many on free school meals in Eton? How many in Blackrock?

  • Charles_Gould

    ““Simply put, I’d rather provide services for my own family than have the state put their hand in my pocket, take most of the money that I have earned for myself, and provide me with the same services that I could have paid for.”

    Public services free at the point of use – such as free health care and free education – are a wonderful, wonderful progressive, aspect of our economy. Inspired by labour values.

    It means that the good things in life – health and education – are provided equally to all regardless of income.

    That is a wonderful achievement. Don’t throw it away on the altar of greed.

  • Caoimhín

    Mr. Gould,

    Funny that the Irish people provided both educational and health institutions for themselves before the 1960s thanks to their own hard work and dedication and the hard work and dedication of the Church.

    The welfare state is not way to redistribute income.

  • Caoimhín

    *the only way

  • Comrade Stalin

    Mick,

    I’m just saying what I would do, but it’s hypothetical. The government has to be putting its mind to how it can train people and facilitate the creation of more employment; not artificially keeping redundant jobs on life support.

    Although either way if I was an employee of the DVA I’d get out now. Either the DVA will be axed locally or it’ll be done via direct rule if that ever comes to pass. The same message goes out to anyone working in front-end retail banking, in the cash transit business, or in a petrol station. These are jobs which are being replaced by automation and technology. This is the reality of things and it is a risk that people in the private sector constantly face. Hell as a journalist you know that just as well as anyone.

    My point is to highlight that people such as Conall McDevitt have persuaded people like Charles up there that being a political leader is about saying things like you are for labour values or you are for social justice, but never saying what you would actually do if you were in power. There’s bugger all point in talking about what your values or morals are if the people you are talking to cannot derive what steps you might choose to take when in government.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Caoimhín

    Funny that the Irish people provided both educational and health institutions for themselves before the 1960s thanks to their own hard work and dedication and the hard work and dedication of the Church.

    And now the church in the RoI can’t get away from the responsibility fast enough, whereas the church in NI are happy to hold onto it as long as the state pays for it. Funny how things change.

  • aquifer

    The SDLP may need a Labour Party to clarify what they are at, but the sectarian decision by the British Labour party not to organise here tends to rule that out, leaving the SDLP as soggy paternal nationalists with a revolutionary sectarian gang in government.

    ‘deep partnership with unionism’

    They could start with talking with the UUP, to see if any ‘aul decency’ remains in the remnants or Orange rule.

  • FuturePhysicist

    I suppose statistical mechanics is how 10% of a sample of 25 (i.e. 2.5 respondents) trusted Peter Robinson?

    I saw the page at first hand, it had twenty five lines and they did use a scoring system of 1-5, rather than yes or no. So it’s quite simple to get a “half respondent” score when someone chooses 3 instead of 1 or 5, another chooses a 2, and Robinson has a half a full confidence from two respondents. It’s a very ad hoc, a priori measurement, a sumation of microstates.

  • FuturePhysicist

    The SDLP may need a Labour Party to clarify what they are at, but the sectarian decision by the British Labour party not to organise here tends to rule that out, leaving the SDLP as soggy paternal nationalists with a revolutionary sectarian gang in government.

    The British Labour party does share a comminality with the SDLP, while the Labour movement had grown from civil outrage of Peterloo Massacre, the movements that led to the SDLP were being defined by the United Irishmen, two radically differing conflicts in the evolution of these isles even though it was the same government. Sectarianism and Class Division were tools to keep powerful people in powerful goverments, even those who preached Catholic and Working class Emancipation were left powerless from within.

    Would the Labour party of the UK in Derry or Tyrone, be just as limitedly effective to the people there as the SDLP or Irish Labour would be in Liverpool or Manchester.

  • “Future Physicist” is of course right.
    I was a member of SDLP 1973 to circa 1982.
    Most of that time the Secretary of State for Norn Iron was a Labour man….Merlyn Rees who would not stand up to Fascism in the streets and the grotesque Roy Mason who liked to design neckties for British Army regiments.
    While Gerry Fitt liked to think that his pals in the Commons were on our side…that was really quickly undermined by the fact that some of the worst behaviour of the British Army (with or without their rogue RUC, UDR and loyalist paramilitary allies) happened under the watch of a Labour Secretary of State.
    Is it really credible that Rees and Mason knew nothing?

    Any northern nationalist-socialist who does not realise that a Labour a “British Secretary of State” will act primarily in the interests of Britain…is crazy.
    And any northern unionist-conservative must surely know not to trust a Conservative Secretary of State.
    Sadly this might be even more true of the Labour Party. Sunningdale and the groundwork for the Good Friday Agreement were under the Conservative watch.
    Bliar, Mowlam, Mandelson, Hain were essentially wastes of space…as far as SDLP are concerned.

  • Fitz,

    I remember – and I am sure you do too – being told in all seriousness by SDLP friends in the late 1980s that if Kevin McNamara became Secretary of State in a Labour government, he would make Seamus Mallon a junior minister.

    I am sure McNamara would have quite liked to do this, but equally certain that Kinnock would never have allowed it, largely for the reasons you allude to; and in any case I’m not convinced that Seamus Mallon would have liked the idea very much either!

  • Important to stress that II was not in SDLP from 1982ish to 2011. And had no contact with anyone in SDLP (largely due to being away from the areas where I was a member….and Mrs FJH who had victims in her extended family did not like the idea of a husband in politics).

    Nobody in SDLP has ever mentioned this to me. But I have seen this “offer” surface elsewhere. On the other hand, earlier this summer I heard Seamus confirm that he had been offered a seat in the “Lords” and a reasonable assumption that some other senior SDLP members have been so offered and the answer ….certainly Seamus put it” I wouldn’t join an institution I want to destroy”.

    McNamara is an interesting figure. Would he really have been Secretary of State for Norn Iron? My own hunch is that unionists would never have accepted it and the spooks at the NIO, Home Office, MOD, would not have accepted him.
    If appointed….he would have lasted no time.
    Irish Nationalism has (in reality) few Labour friends.
    And (wearing my Jacobite hat) even fewer recusant English Catholic friends.
    It was the policy of successive NIOs that one of the five or so ministerial team would be a Catholic…I had the misfortune to meet one or two….but when push came to shove they were little more than a conduit between NIO and bcardinals and bishops (they knew the language)…. But ultimately the Labour ministers …dont start me on Stan Orme…..even those who were sympathetic listeners…..were primarily British ministers.

  • Reader

    FuturePhysicist: I saw the page at first hand, it had twenty five lines and they did use a scoring system of 1-5, rather than yes or no. So it’s quite simple to get a “half respondent” score when someone chooses 3 instead of 1 or 5, another chooses a 2, and Robinson has a half a full confidence from two respondents. It’s a very ad hoc, a priori measurement, a sumation of microstates.
    Nope – the BelTel article linked from the Survey thread on Slugger shows how they handled the scores – grouping, counting, adding and subtracting – not averaging. It is why every result from the survey is a multiple of 2%. A statistical mechanic really ought to be wide awake to signs of quantisation.

  • Comrade Stalin

    fjh,

    You can’t pretend the Labour link isn’t an issue for the SDLP leadership. I’m told behind the scenes that a fearful SDLP recently lobbied hard to get the Labour NEC to kill any prospect of their formally organizing and running endorsed candidates in NI. This was in response to a recent resurgence of Labour organization here about a year or two ago. Back then, Andy Burnham came over to talk to local representatives at an AGM or somesuch. I imagine the SDLP were afraid that something was afoot.

    The SDLP clearly fear that a significant proportion of their voters do not share your opinion of the Labour Party (a naked hatred which is apparently untempered by the fact that those former political actors are either dead or have little time left,, much less have influence on the way New Labour is run) to the extent that they are willing to pull whatever strings they have in order to stop them organizing.

    As it happens I think that there is very little prospect of SDLP voters switching to Labour, for the same reasons that UUP voters do not convincingly switch to the Conservatives. Parachuting politicians in from London and urging them to support local candidates plucked out of nowhere with no local base or profile does not work unless your name is Enoch.

    Nick,

    Indeed. Moreover – could you see Hume appointing someone to the British cabinet ? I couldn’t.

    I suspect this is the same nonsense that some SDLP supporters, possibly quite senior ones, indulged themselves in. Back when UCUNF was a going concern people here talked about a UUP Secretary of State being appointed (this theory was muttered in the same breath as suggestions that the new UCUNF entity would resume standing candidates in the other three Ulster counties). There is no way the British would ever appoint someone from any part of Ireland to that role, purely on the basis that it would cause a constitutional crisis.