Labour Candidates in NI would spell further fragmentation of the left

An age old criticism of the left is that in their search for ideological purity each small group refuses to work together with anyone with even slightly differing views.

Evidence for this tendency towards splinter groups on the political left is scattered throughout history. One only has to think of the SDP split from Labour in 1981. However there are more recent examples.

If you wish to vote for a progressive candidate in England in the upcoming general election in most constituencies you will have the choice of Labour, Liberal Democrat or Greens. In Scotland, ignoring the constitutional question for the moment, you can add the SNP into the mix; and in Wales, Plaid Cymru will also make it a choice between four.

Compare this to a Conservative party on right whose polls suggest that most previous UKIP voters have consolidated around them and you’ll see a united right that will beat a divided left any day.

That’s not to say that there aren’t significant and important difference between these parties, but these difference are not something that the first past the post system accommodates.

The unity verses disunity problem that the left has extends to the internal politics of the two largest parties. Whether you blame Jeremy Corbyn for persisting despite a lack of support from his MPs, or you blame those MPs for not rallying round the leader with majority support amongst the members, one thing is clear: the Labour party itself has a unity problem.

This is in sharp contrast to the Conservatives. Despite Theresa May having only recently fought a leadership contest where she by no means had universal support you would now be hard pushed to find a Tory MP willing to speak about Theresa May in anything other than the most unequivocally positive terms.

This one basic problem that people on the left can’t seem to consolidate around one person or party is causing progressives major issues. So if Labour has unity problem and voters on the left more generally have a unity problem, it is therefore baffling that Labour supporters in Northern Ireland would like to see Labour candidates adding to an already crowded left field over here.

I understand that the Northern Irish voting system for Stormont elections encourages a wider range of parties but when it comes to Westminster we must suffer under the same first past the post as everyone else, meaning a split vote is a weak vote. The parties on the right here understand this fact and have countered it by being pragmatic enough to form pacts, doing the one thing parties on the left aren’t prepared to do: compromising in order to gain power.

Compromising your views is never an easy thing to do but I’m sure in the UK most Green voters would much rather see Labour in power than the Conservatives, and in Northern Ireland most Labour supporters would much rather see the SDLP winning seats than the DUP.

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  • OneNI

    The Labour Party is the main left of centre party of the UK. If others insist on splitting the vote that is there prerogative but not a reason for Labour not to run candidates

  • woodkerne

    In this election, if the schismatic LP in NI people are determined to put-up candidates, their certain-fate will be to receive a tiny number of votes in return. More generally, however, the author seems unaware that the SDLP is not a party of democratic socialism or left social democracy. It is a party of bourgeois-liberal catholic nationalism whose position on women’s reproductive rights has no counterpart in the mainstream of ‘progressive’ British politics. Quite the contrary. The SDLP candidate in south Belfast, for example, is more reactionary on this score than the UK Conservative Party’s policy position.

  • Jag

    ” it is therefore baffling that Labour supporters in Northern Ireland would like to see Labour candidates adding to an already crowded left field over here.”

    Not just baffling. Aren’t Labour members on the ground in N Ireland suing the Labour Party because of the direction from head office that no Labour candidates will run here.

    Unlike the Conservatives who will be fielding seven candidates (or “losers” as they’re called)

    East Antrim – Mark Logan
    East Belfast – Sheila Bodel
    East Londonderry – Liz St Claire-Legge
    Lagan Valley – Ian Nickels
    North Down – Frank Shivers
    Strangford – Claire Hiscott
    South Belfast – Clare Salier

  • scepticacademic

    The arguments made here do not only apply to the left. And they’re also mainly a feature FPTP. In other European countries with a more inclusive and pluralist system, we seem greater variety and choice in all parts of the spectrum. I expect there are plenty of liberal market and libertarian Tories cringing May’s current brand of little Englander and protectionist Conservatism.

  • roverminirwin

    We should have the right to choose who the next pm is directly. Labour should run in NI. One labour mp being elected would make a massive difference compared to numerous sdlp or sinn fein currently. Same with one conservative mp would make a massive difference compared to 8 dup or 2 uup or an alliance. They could form part of the next government. Sit in the cabinet. No other parties have this chance

  • chrisjones2

    Who are the right wing parties. They are all socialist suckers of the public teat

  • Kevin Breslin

    “We should have the right to choose who the next pm is directly.”

    Erm Do you know how a Parliamentary Democracy works?

    No PM or even Taoiseach is directly elected to do that job, neither is our beloved First or Deputy First Minister.

    I honestly think the only elections that I think we have a direct say in who wins the Premier position within this region are Miss Northern Ireland and Mr Gay Northern Ireland, until we can vote for the Irish Presidency I guess.

    In terms of realpolitik positions, selecting our MEPs for our region is the next closest thing, but there’s 3 of them.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Who answers their own questions?

  • DrMark

    As a unionist labour supporter, I find it frankly offensive that you should assume that my alternative voting intentions would be a nationalist deeply conservative catholic political party such as the sdlp are and have been, as a hypothesis your argument is seriously deeply flawed from start to finish and we demand a right to be able to vote for the only other party that could form a national government in Westminster,

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    You wouldn’t think from the above article that the tories lead has shrunk from 24 points to 5. And the SDP were hardly a faction on the ‘left’ – they were as ‘right’ as the Libs or tories – which is why they split from Labour – another party which is only barely on the ‘left’. All in all, not a very incisive analysis.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Put it the other way around and it might make more sense. Most political parties in Europe are either centre-right, right, or extreme right. Not many are ‘socialist’. See the ‘Political Compass’ website for more info.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    I up vote this just for the very funny: ” . . . Conservatives who will be fielding seven candidates (or “losers” as they’re called)”

  • eamoncorbett

    No more MEPs next time around .

  • roverminirwin

    Sorry i worded that badly. I meant in terms of using our 18 mps to vote either labour or conservative and therefore have a direct impact on the future makeup of the westminster government. Being able to say I’d rather like Corbyn as PM i will vote my local labour candidate and vice versa with May

  • Mark Petticrew

    I don’t think the chief issue for a UK Labour outfit would be the intra-left competition it would face, rather the primary task as I see it would be in trying to find a functional place for the party within what is the nationalistic political landscape of the ‘constitutionalised’ north.

    Gerry Carroll in 2014 said he’s “not a nationalist or a unionist, I’m a socialist”, but still he and PBP found themselves playing ball with the orange and green dynamic of northern politics; the reality being that their voters come from the so-called green bloc, thus they focus their efforts accordingly.

    The Labour Party would ultimately face this same reality, and given that they’re a pro-union party (I think?), I suspect their electoral strategy would be somewhat similar to PBP’s should they ever officially operate here; vying for lefties amongst the so-called orange vote or, more broadly, the pro-union coalition.

  • Old Mortality

    There is no ‘right’in NI policitcs. Is any party, even the Conservatives, advocating a smaller state? In a place with such a bloated public sector, that is the litmus test of whether a party is right or not. So worry not; have as many left-wing parties as you want with no harm done.

  • Nordie Northsider

    That’s a blow for the UUP. They won’t be getting half of Nicholson’s pocket money any more.

  • Korhomme

    Wasn’t the British Labour Party’s response to no local Labour candidates that they were “associated” or whatever with the SDLP, and therefore no separate Labour party or candidates were necessary?

  • aquifer

    And you thought that aristocrats had a sense of entitlement. Labour need taught a hard lesson. They should have introduced PR and Party funding while they had the chance, but did not. Don’t indulge their selfish self-centredness again. Keep them out by voting for who you really want until they beg for instant PR in their manifesto.

  • aquifer

    Labour Candidates in NI would spell further fragmentation of – Nationalism and Unionism surely?

  • woodkerne

    ‘Sister party’ is Labour’s offical position …

  • Korhomme

    Thanks. Not sure just how much the ‘sisters’ have in common, other than ‘Labour’ in the title.

  • Adam McBride

    The SDLP is not a left wing party, and voting for my local SDLP candidate in the upcoming general election would be voting for a candidate who once called for a bigoted SDLP merger with SF and who is known to have turned up their nose at Labour members who did campaign with the SDLP in the last election.

    It would also mean backing a party whose abstention in a vote of no confidence in 1979 brought down a Labour government, installing Margaret Thatcher in it’s place, and whose stances on issues such as integrated education and trusting women to have control over their own bodies when not muddled are only ever half-hearted when in support.

    Also, SF themselves often prove to not live up to their left wing label unless it is seen to benefit them to do so elsewhere. They are left wing in words, but not action. I will also never vote for a party which has members who believe that murder is justified if it gives them political gain, or who place the importance man-made identities and the maintenance of sectarian division above progress, the economy, or even having a national health service free at the point of care.

    The closest thing we have here to a viable left wing party is the Green Party, who are not only not standing in my constituency in the General Election, but who had a candidate they did not campaign for in the Assembly Election here. Why support a party which puts no effort into my constituency? Also, they are far too easily sidelined as a single issue party.

    Give me a properly organised Labour party that can reach across the sectarian divide any day over any of the above.

    Also, for all the claims of factionalism, I’ve met a wide array of diverse people in the Northern Irish Labour Party. People both socialist and social democratic. Unionist and nationalist. If any local party has learned how to achieve unity, it is them.

  • Adam McBride

    Any similarity left along with Gerry Fitt, long ago.

  • tmitch57

    Politics in Northern Ireland, as in Israel and in South Africa, is not primarily organized on an ideological basis where the economic system is the organizing basis of parties. Rather they/it are/is organized on an ethno-religious sectarian basis into unionist, nationalist, and other. Belgium is somewhat similar and has separate Flemish and Walloons “wings” of parties that in practice function as separate parties i.e. Flemish Labour, Flemish Conservatives, Walloons Labour, Walloons Conservatives. So, since there is already an official nationalist “sister” party of British Labour, the SDLP, there is a good case to be made for organizing a unionist “sister” party as well. Or Labour could organize an other party or adopt the Greens to be their other “sister” party to compete with Alliance, which is allied with the LibDems, and with the Conservatives. I doubt, however, if the unionist Labour Party would be any more successful at the polls than the Conservatives.

  • chrisjones2

    Which is perverse as the Labour Manifesto commits to an Abortion On Demand act for NI – presumably whether the Assembly wants it or not

  • chrisjones2

    And given the sectarian nature of all the major parties would that not be a good thing?

  • chrisjones2

    He was about to retire anyway…didn’t they beg him to run again

  • ted hagan

    When is the last time anyone heard an SDLP member promoting ‘socialist’ policies?
    I’d equate them more with the LibDems, almost like a green Alliance party.

  • ted hagan

    If you study the history of the Northern Ireland Labour Party you will discover that it always had a sectarian dilemma. It was at its strongest when it was a pro-union party while acting as official opposition at Stormont for a short period and attracting mainly Protestant workers. Understandably it could never walk the tightrope that involved attracting members from both communities.

  • Granni Trixie

    Point of information re APNI – though the lib dems have a mutually useful relationship with APNI and each espouses liberal values it is not officially a “sister” party (even if journalists assume it is). As MP Naomi Long did not take the Lib Dem whip for instance. This was appropriate as although it’s members (and voters) may identify with Liberals it attracts a broad church of opinion.
    In a normal society I would be Labour and I know many members who are similarly inclined. There are even those who would be pro Corbyn. (I am not – you want to hear those conversations!). You might also find soft Nationalists, including those from the Protestant tradition. A very small minority seem to have Conservative leanings.

  • mickfealty

    Erm, I really think you need to look up schism Woody. For a schism to take place, there has to be something conjoined in the first place.

  • mickfealty

    And Paddy Devlin.

  • aquifer

    Absolutely. Labour’s activists and urban constituencies with Irish connections or post colonial empathies should not mean permanent exclusion of NI MPs from ever forming part of the UK government. Are NI citizens unfit to govern? To quote Johnny Rotten “and I thought it was a UK” Wrong.

  • aquifer

    Christian Democrats maybe, paternalism & capitalism, with Catholic social solidarity? But with Sinn Fein, socialism was just another wee story for the soldiers.

  • woodkerne

    That your best shot Micky? Sorry to be pedantic, but the word I used adjectivally was schismatic ‘of or inclined to or promoting’. Or in older language: ‘splitters’. The LP in NI people (who’d like to be the NILP) are the product of a series of splits and reformations already. Currently seeking permission to stand official Labour candidates in NI against party policy, in the recent Stormont elections several of their number stood anyway, against the UK party’s injunction. In these circumstances, ‘schismatic’ seems an entirely apt characterization.

  • woodkerne

    and isn’t that the LP-in-NI’s forlorn hope? in effect, to be deemed the not-nationalist affiliated Labour party in northern elections. If the UK party were to accede, however, an effect would be to provide a de facto endorsement of partition. The UK Labour Party, to be clear, is an antipartitionist party in Ireland (but not Scotland).

  • Vince

    Centre/Left views on the NHS (really not sure where AP are on this), welfare reform (AP supported this), EU membership, immigrants/immigration, LGBT issues, international development, consistent opposition to violence & the death penalty.

  • ted hagan

    A bit like David Cameron’s Tory Party in other words.

  • Vince

    No. DC and Jeremy Hunt continued the process of privatising/depleting the NHS, gathering further pace now. Engaged in a war in Libya (what a success that was) and also wanted to get stuck into Syria. Ultimately put EU membership at risk and then carelessly lost it.

  • murdockp

    Most Labour supporters would vote sdlp I don’t think so.

    The core principle of Labour is all religions are welcome. Not so with sdlp which is a catholic fundamentalist party.

    The sdlp stance on abortion is the opposite of Labour as it deny women’s rights with their anti abolition vitriol.

    Not a chance in hell would I vote sdlp

  • Patrick Jones

    As a Unionist i voted for Paddy many years ago – when I was a socialist and before I got sense

  • Granni Trixie

    I’ve always found it interesting too that in the context of Ni that there has not been a party formed specifically ‘for’ Protestant nationalists ( though there is always an Alliance and SDLP option). Which reminds me of an anecdote – a QUB lecturer settled here from England for many years told me he once joined the SDLP but left having found their politics “too green”!

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Surely the UK Labour Party, as a supporter of Unionism is ‘anti-partitionist’ in Scotland, and while the more leftish elements in Labour may have a degree of sympathy for Irish unity, the party as a whole is again solidly behind NI unionism?

  • Brendan Heading

    There is nothing to stop someone setting up a party that would stand candidates pledging to support the Labour manifesto in its entirety and agreeing to become subject to the Labour whip.

    It would still get electorally wiped out for the same reason that the Conservatives get wiped out. The party has no base in Northern Ireland, and the imprimatur (as Granni Trixie accurately described it a while ago) of the UK Labour HQ wouldn’t change this.

  • P Bradley

    Show me SDLP’s anti-abortion vitriol. I must have missed it.

  • P Bradley

    “Catholic fundamentalist”. They are for same sex marriage, are they not? I though the catholic bishops were against this. Apart from stance on abortion tell us where the rest of the “catholic fundamentalist” claim comes from.

  • tmitch57

    Granni,
    I wasn’t aware that the APNI is not officially a “sister” party of the LibDems. But I do know that Lord John Alderdice is a LibDem member of the House of Lords. I also know that Helen Suzman, the lone Progressive (Federal) Party member of the South African parliament from 1961-74, wrote in her memoirs that if she had been living in Britain she would probably have been a Thatcher Conservative. In deeply-divided societies like NI, Israel, and South Africa all those who are not tribalist nationalists and believe in a society with equal rights for all end up in one party while all the tribalists end up in a number of competing parties with minor differences among them, usually on the native question.

  • aquifer

    If Brexit demolishes the economy it could make sense to be socialist again. Otherwise the sterling millionaires will eat all the turnips themselves.

  • Kevin Breslin

    If that’s the major difference that Labour NI has with the SDLP and Labour UK is planning to take it out of their hands anyway, it does question what they are there for, why not join the Greens who do have a foothold here for example?

  • Kevin Breslin

    As a unionist who voted for Paddy, I’d be very interested in your take of his “trundling” remark about Sunningdale?

  • Granni Trixie

    John Alderdice does indeed officially align himself with the Lib Dems and though he has cordial relations with APNI, he is not new a member of the party.
    Thanks for putting our (for me) tiny case in broader context.

  • Kevin Breslin

    It would be interesting to see if the UK resorts back to the hard left of the 1950’s with increased nationalisation of non financial assets if Brexit actually does live up to expectation. However I’d rather Northern Ireland had more control over its own affairs instead of being just a desperate UK supplicant.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Frankly, from my point of view in the Social Democratic and Labour Party I’d rather work with literally anyone from the Progressive Unionist Party on left-wing issues, who would at least have a vested interest, than Kate Hoey or Baroness Blood even who have seemingly long abandoned this place and its workers to its fate.

    I’ve said in the past that Labour NI should have the right to compete in our ecosystem, but they need to accept that the ecosystem is not going to change just for their sake.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Declan O’Loan had the whip withdrawn from him for those remarks. I would have to question what is going up in North Antrim that constituents may be pushing him in that direction.

    My worry about North Antrim surrounds the fishermen, the farmers and the manufacturers, particularly due to the problems of a post-Brexit transition in the future. As an Irish nationalist I am more concerned about the people of that part of Ireland that matters more to me than any party political progress regardless of the politics of whoever is employed.

    That’s the politics that Pat Catney has talked about, and that’s the politics the party needs to follow. Representing and contributing to a better more inclusive island regardless of differences in belief.

  • Kevin Breslin

    LOL, you are calling Labour, Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats non-sectarian … have you seen how tribal and how issue free the election contest is?

    The Conservatives themselves participated in a pact in Fermanagh-South Tyrone?

    And with Scotland already looking like it’s dangerously close to going, the Conservatives are trying to rebrand as the only Unionist party left there and go big church taking their Labour Party off the grid too.

    England is completely tribal, heck the Conservatives are using Weapons of Terror and the IRA to try to win votes or at least stop Labour getting them? Seriously Project Fear and Smear again.

    And the Fear being the UK might not be able to bomb the rest of the world!

    https://twitter.com/Conservatives/status/868217762027536384

    I mean it’s like UCUNF all over again.

    Can’t wait to involve in their Peace Politiking to get out of this rut they are creating for themselves. Militant Left flirting with Pacifism vs. Passive Right flirting with Militancy.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The problem in NI is that voting is impacted by issues of national identity. The SDLP does not work as a simple progressive party of the left in NI for that reason – it is an out-and-out Irish nationalist party, not a cross-community party of the left. It wants to be cross-community on one level, but can’t be, because it regards its Irish nationalism as essential to its identity as a party.

    The only true cross-community parties really are Alliance and the Greens. But obviously neither is allied with Labour. So there is a gap in the market for a cross-community party of the left in N Ireland.

    How does it deal with the inevitable questions about unionist vs nationalist? Simple: it does what Alliance and the Greens try to do on that, by saying they are neutral on it as a party and do not see the constitutional issue as a live issue – kicking it into the long grass of when a time comes, if it ever does, when a border poll is necessary.

    I take your point about the fractured progressive left. However, it’s a problem the left in N Ireland would like to have! It’s running before they can walk. The challenge in N Ireland is to get a Labour candidate, any Labour candidate, a respectable vote, let alone elected. Labour has absented itself from N Ireland for a long time, mainly (when you dig down) because of the attachment to Irish nationalism within the party and failure to appreciate the true potential for Labour in the province as a non-sectarian unifying force.

    So I think further delaying the rebirth of Labour in this part of the country in order to preserve left unity doesn’t make a lot of sense.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    worth a go though – or do what the Greens have done and just have the NI part of the Green Party as a non-sectarian, cross-community party like Alliance. Perhaps there is more baggage with Labour, as a past party of government and so on, but actually it is a party that has defended the Union as well as spoken up for the rights and aspirations of Irish nationalists. I think it can be cross-community if the will is there.

    However, Corbyn is no friend of N Ireland and you can bet your bottom dollar nothing will happen for Labour in N Ireland under him. Or anywhere else for that matter.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    So it would be “a de facto endorsement of partition” if Labour stood in N Ireland. Do you not think Labour currently recognises NI as part of the UK? It’s Labour, not SF – though under Corbyn perhaps one can understand the confusion.

    Labour’s theoretical soft nationalism has hit something of a wall in the past when confronted by the realities of governing N Ireland and they’ve ended up doing what any other government would do. So it was Labour that sent in the army to back up the police in 1969, Labour that made a security crackdown in the late 70s and introduced the SAS and Labour that insisted on the total cessation of IRA violence before talks in the 90s, withstanding pressure from both SF and the SDLP. In government Labour has been a pragmatic party not a nationalist one. That gives hope for Labour in N Ireland to be credible as a cross-community party of the future.

  • Abucs

    The Left needs more inclusivity training. lol

  • Mike the First

    That wasn’t Paddy Devlin, it was Hugh Logue.

  • woodkerne

    Labour is opposed to partitioning of Scotland from the rest of Britain for sure. Since its formation, Labour’s official and formal position has been to favour unification of Ireland. The membership in the CLPs have always been strongly pro-Irish reunification and this was section of the party was the basis of the ‘troops out’ movement in Labour in the 80s. At the same time, paradoxically, it is also true that in practice Labour governments wholly accepted the unionist premise of the 1949 Act. Corbyn’s views reflect the party’s historical support Irish nationalism. In this, he is by no means alone in the PLP, although it hard to say what precentage of the incoming cohort will reflect the traditional view.

  • P Bradley

    I would vote Labour, and SDLP. Not a chance I would vote Alliance as I am Irish.

  • Ryan A

    The South Antrim SDLP candidate seems to regularly pose for pictures with Bernie and her Precious Lies gang.

    Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan and former MLAs Ferghal McKinney and Pat Ramsey have regularly been pictured with this group also. Ferghal even went as far as describing women who have abortions as being engaged in eugenics.

    Then we have the refusal of 3 councillors to back an anti harrassment motion on Belfast City Council.

    The list goes on.

  • SDLP supporter

    Murdockp, you are just so incredibly ill-informed. You say you vote for Alliance, whose policy on abortion is that it is a matter of personal belief. I wish you would have the insight to frame the issue of abortion as just being a matter of women’s rights. There is overwhelming scientific evidence that life begins at conception; it a matter of debate as to at what point human life begins but I can only assume that you support abortion up to full term.
    It’s not just ‘fundamentalist Catholics’ who were/are opposed to abortion or who at the very least have deep reservations about it. People like Jack Nicholson, a noted libertine, and the late Christopher Hitchens who absolutely hated Catholicism.

  • SDLP supporter

    Still nothing like “vitriol”. You guys are the mirror image of the people you criticise.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Fair enough. I stand corrected. Forgive me for the confusion there.

  • SDLP supporter

    The SDLP candidate in South Belfast,with forty years’ experience as a GP, may have, I suggest, more insight into the complexities and realities of abortion than you do.

    People like you use ‘progressive’ as a weasel term for ‘pro-choice’. You and your mates don’t own the term ‘progressive’. Is Alasdair being ‘reactionary’ when he votes, as he does, for equal marriage?

  • SDLP supporter

    Nonsense. Contributors here excoriate SDLP for voting against the Callaghan government in 1979 but Thatcher would have won the election anyway, as the Parliament was within weeks of the end of its term and the stories were miles ahead in the opinion polls.

    The vote was cast by Gerry Fitt, the very person they laud as a great socialist.

    Michael Foot, a major Labour figure, did unprincipled deals with Enoch Powell and the Unionists. Labour deserved to get turfed out.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    But the more normal view in Labour Irish nationalist circles was to back the SDLP. Very few preferred SF. Corbyn was one of the fringe of people on the hard left who didn’t recoil from armed force Republicanism, but instead saw in it the ruthlessness of true revolutionaries, which they admired greatly as Leninists. He’s trying to hide it now but he was attracted by the chutzpah of people who appeared to be living out what he’d read at school and university about revolutionary socialism – hitting the hated British Establishment on behalf of the oppressed masses, using any means necessary. So they were a particularly silly, immature group of rather thick pseudo-intellectuals. What they weren’t was mainstream Labour. The Troops Out movement, even when Benn was in his pomp, never represented anything like Labour Party policy on N Ireland. Even Wilson, who was very pro-nationalist, has no truck with the Corbyn wing over Ireland. They were really out there.

  • Vince

    I am pro-life but do not support Precious Life. The latter is not a requirement of the former. Re: Roisin Lynch, she is a very good representative, public spirited and even-handed.

  • woodkerne

    You can suggest what you like. Experience as a GP is irrelevent, however, to the matter of the universal human right of women to command their own bodies.

  • woodkerne

    ‘In government Labour has been a pragmatic party not a nationalist one.’ That’s mostly true, I agree. Which is to say that both parties of government in the postwar period tended to adhere to the realpolitik of maintaining Ireland at an arms-length from Westminster politics. But equally, when shove comes to shove, forced by leakage of the troubles into ‘mainland’ British affairs, both the preferred strategy of minimizaton (or so-called normalization on ‘internal’ unionist terms) and military options (including the euphemistically named Ulsterization) having failed to protect British interests from harm, the strategic model returned to time and again (as originated by Whitehall factotums and favoured by the ruling establishment) has been towards ‘facilitating’ eventual reunificaton (i.e., Sunningdale and the Belfast Agreement). In other words, in truth, neither governing party in the British state is unionist by commitment. Contrarily, both, as the record shows, are inclined to accede to the historic inevitability of reunification. Not least, as this, finally, is in British interests too.

  • woodkerne

    See reply in relation to your previous post. I’ll not engage with your calumny against the Corbyn (retro-Bennite) Left other than to say you’re wrong, historically speaking, about the party’s (Trade Unions, CLP and PLP) disposition on Ireland. As interestingly, you appear to overlook that high-Tories, neoliberal and the libertarian right all incline to the ‘pragmatic’ view that reunification is inevitable surely not a last ditch they’re willing to defend against the priority of English national interests.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I don’t overlook that, it’s one of the many reasons I dislike the Tories so much, especially “high Tories”. There’s a kind of anti-people coalition of interest between the revolutionary hard left (people must defer to the small core of revolutionary insurgents over the revolution that will liberate them – ignore democratic votes) and the hard right (most people are sponging off the rich and their selfish interests can’t be allowed to get in the way of free market forces – ignore democratic votes). They are both the enemy of the social democrat.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I think the consensus is rather that ultimately N Ireland should determine its own constitutional future and the only position any government can take is to accede to the wishes of the people there on that. Labour in government did not become a persuader for Irish unity as nationalists in NI and Dublin initially demanded.

    On Sunningdale and the Belfast Agreement, of course both left the door open to Irish unity in the future (what else are you going to do – tell people it’s never going to happen no matter how many people in NI vote for it?) but neither agreement committed the government to pursuing Irish unity or even agreeing it was a good idea.

  • Lex.Butler

    Not much chance of Labour candidates in NI. The ascendancy of the Left in Labour has been consolidated and there are many who would agree with Corbyn that the UK should walk away (oh sorry, he doesn’t say that now). PBF strikes me as a better option rather hitting your head against a brick wall.

  • woodkerne

    The ‘principle of consent’ is sufficently similar to the language and credo of an ‘agreed Ireland’ as to persuade Irish republicanism to abandon physical force in favour of a gradualist (aka ‘constitutional’) politics of ‘persuasion’ (what Gramsci called in analogous context ‘passive revolution’) towards the eventual goal of a unitary state in Ireland. The rising road to which the Belfast Agreement signposts as an endpoint of Ireland’s revolutionary century.

  • woodkerne

    The first political party to bear the name Social Democratic, was formed in Germany in 1869: a labour party of marxist politics.

  • SDLP supporter

    Universal human right to abortion? Remind me what human rights charter that ‘right’ is a part of? A foetus in a woman’s body is not like an appendix or a kidney or a liver. It’s a living entity with separate DNA.

  • SDLP supporter

    It was indeed MTF. It was at a debate in Trinity College and Hugh, I know, greatly regretted the remark as being stupid. He was 25 at the time.

  • woodkerne

    A woman’s right to control her own fertility, and don’t give me all that religious nonsense about the sanctity of the zygote. ‘It’ isn’t any ‘thing’. It isn’t embodied and it isn’t sentient. There is no absolute moral right to life in this world anymore than there is to be free of poverty or persecution or bad relations. Interesting that the shinners and the SDLP can agree on the principle of national rights and agree also on the basic denial of women’s rights. Not so different after all: maybe you should have a pact?

  • Ryan A

    She was pretty tight lipped when her friends engaged in a campaign comparing David Ford to hitler during the last assembly election.

  • Ryan A

    I’m not the one who thinks forced pregnancy is progressive, nor do I feel the need to associate myself with groups who shout in people’s faces at healthcare clinics (if they don’t assault them first), or engage in anti semitism for the purposes of political point scoring.

    Lie down with dogs and you’ll catch flees.

  • P Bradley

    “posed for photos” equals vitriol?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    PBF though is against the Union, so hits same problem as SDLP.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    misogynists though

  • Vince

    With respect Ryan, I don’t think that Roisin or anyone with pro-life views is accountable for every utterance of Precious Life (personally I feel that organisation is very lacking in sensitivity and understanding, and on abortion finds a certain mirror image in the Green Party). Just as (hopefully) not everyone in the Alliance Party subscribes to the view of Emmett McDonough-Brown that people of religious faith are right-wing nut jobs or those of Paula Bradshaw (who feels that a Nationalist can’t represent cross community and who wants the 1967 GB Abortion Act to N Ireland). And then of course there was the press spokesman who felt that proposing anti-Brexit electoral collaboration was “sectarian”….

  • SDLP supporter

    Like Vince, I feel that Precious Life do the pro-life cause no service and I am repelled by their actions outside clinics. In relation to anti-Semitism I honestly don’t know what you are referring to.

  • SDLP supporter

    Personally I wish someone would finally shoot this particular fox and give the go-ahead for British Labour to organise in the North, put up candidates etc. I understand that the SDLP is wholly indifferent to the matter. Probably, British Labour is weighing up the potential loss of three votes from the SDLP at Westminster.

  • mickfealty

    Very clever. Asking for a policy change is to be elevated to the rank of Splitters now is it?

    The Popular People’s Front of Judea never asked permission for anything… 🤓

    https://youtu.be/iS-0Az7dgRY

  • Ryan A

    Bernie Smyth’s Hitler placards.

    Until such times as your political representatives feel the same way and distance themselves they are big enough to take the stick that comes attached with it.

  • Ryan A

    It wasn’t sectarian.

    But then again the collaboration a thinly veiled attempt at safe passage for 3 SDLP seats that are at serious risk.

    No-one said the SDLP were ‘nut jobs’; However Alliance and SF seem to be largely the only parties who don’t take their guidance from the pulpit.

  • Ryan A

    I didn’t call it vitriol; but it’s not far off it; and their association with the questionable characters concerned shouldn’t go unnoticed.

  • SDLP supporter

    You know perfectly well that there is no ‘universal human right to abortion’, which is the line you tried to sell. You just made that one up and you were caught out on it.

    So, when do you think if, if ever, the foetus in the womb becomes sentient and acquires rights? is it ok to abort up to full term?

    Your statement that “there is no absolute moral right to life in this world” is chilling. Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot etc. would quite agree with you.

    Does that assertion apply to people outside the womb as well?

  • woodkerne

    Thanks for the hysterical response. Of course you’re deliberately misquoting. The words I used in the first place were ‘the universal human right of women to command their own bodies’ and a woman’s ‘right to control her own fertility’ in the second post. Incorporated by the UN Assembly (as reported in the Gov.uk website and formally recognized in International law) Article 12 of the Convention on he Elimination of all forms of Disrimination against Women (CEDAW) asserts that states shall ensure women have equal rights with men to access to
    health care services, including reproductive health services.

    The actual words of the CEDAW article 12 are these: states are obliged to “take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of health care in order to ensure…access to health care services, including those related to family planning.”

  • SDLP supporter

    There no issue with women and their families controlling their fertility as they see fit but you, like Amnesty, are deliberately and deceitfully attempting the right to control fertility to encompass abortion.

    I see you have chosen not to clarify your ‘there is no absolute moral right to life’ remark and your view as to when, if ever, the foetus in the womb acquires rights.

  • woodkerne

    There is certainly comedy value in the continuing calamity of NILP, LPNI, Labour ’87, etc., I agree, up to and including the latest iteration, the NI Labour Representation Committee (lately purporting to be known as the Labour Party in Northern Ireland). As they and you no doubt know full well, where the Labour Party to sanction Labour candidates standing in NI, it would, in effect, be to reverse the party’s century-long commitment to supporting Irish nationalism. A defacto endorsement of the partitionist state, the policy change being sought would represent a fundamental change for #UKLabour. For this reason, Corbyn has offered a review. In the meantime the moratorium remains in place. Against this, however, some of the local comrades have insisted on standing under the Labour banner nonetheless. In response the party secretary has issued a warning against misuse of official Labour Party branding. In my book, the actions described are those of a schismatic faction.

  • woodkerne

    Your contestation was that there was no protection in internaional law for women to control their own fertility. That is not the case. And to be clear access to ‘family planning’ includes recourse to termination where/when needed. As you ask, also enshrined in international law, most modern states including nearly all the leading capitalist democracies reserve the right to make war, directly or by proxy, the typical consequences of which of course include death and destruction of civilian populations – as for example in the horn of Africa, at the moment. In this instance, among many others historic and ongoing, the actually existing people on the receiving end of religious war demonstrably do not enjoy an absolute or relative right to life.