Very useful overview of where the SDLP finds itself just now from Suzanne Breen. I’d quibble over the list of places where the SDLP might be endangered, but I think she’s nailed something important here:
Those critics who accuse the SDLP of betraying its traditional roots are wrong, because, from the very beginning, the party was a broad church.
When founder member Austin Currie moved into southern politics in 1989 it was to join the highly conservative and pro-establishment Fine Gael.
During the conflict, the SDLP succeeded simply by having clean hands. “We’re not Sinn Fein” was enough to ensure it stayed top dog within nationalism. The party has been far too slow in awakening from its smug sense of entitlement.
If it is to survive and prosper now, the SDLP must be brave and bold. I think that involves going into Opposition in the Assembly, as opposed to just sniping at Sinn Fein from within the Stormont clique
The breadth of its historical appeal is how the SDLP has survived as long as in the post-Belfast Agreement era without any visible political messaging worth talking about. And it will be key to the success of any putative revival.
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