Opposition Parties risk turning #ae17 into a referendum on themselves rather than the past decade

The SDLP Leader, Colum Eastwood has an interesting piece on the Eamonn Mallie website which is worth reading in full

He stops short of the full declaration that Nesbitt made yesterday on The Sunday Politics but he does make the case for shifting from the DUP and Sinn Fein as he writes;

The SDLP has not been historically in the business of advocating formal transfer pacts and we will not be advocating such a pact in this election.

However, it is becoming ever clearer that the DUP and Sinn Féin would be happy to allow a return of Direct Rule after this election. If you vote Arlene and Michelle – you end up with Theresa May.

In this context, Northern Ireland needs an alternative government.

I want to make clear that in this election the SDLP is advocating that people vote for change when they head to the polls on March 2nd.

As everyone would expect, we are asking as many people as possible to give their highest preferences to the SDLP – but we are honest and humble enough to acknowledge that we do not hold a monopoly in either offering change or in achieving it.

Therefore in this election, the SDLP is asking voters to vote for change and we are also asking them to transfer for change.

That means voting down the ticket and it does mean voting cross-community.

There is more nuance in the SDLP position here, as a vote for change will presumably include the Alliance Party, Greens, People Before Profit etc. This sort of rainbow coalition is messy and does have problems as other parties seem to have little interest in formally joining a UUP/SDLP alternative and the different policies and personalities would be troublesome to put together into a coherent programme.

Most SDLP voters would be realistic about the need to work with other parties. The only slight issue with this for the opposition parties is that two weeks out, we are talking about transfers, rather than RHI and everything that comes with it. The opposition parties have the chance to gain traction here and make this election a referendum on the last 10 years, yet at this point there is a danger that this is becoming a referendum on the opposition.

Voters are now just only beginning to pay attention and will start thinking about their votes and RHI is sliding down the news agenda. Issues such as the Irish Language will keep Sinn Fein in the game within the minds of a lot of voters.

The Opposition need to change the conversation and halt this election becoming about them, rather than the voters and the last decade of devolution.

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