Fergie, Martin McGuinness And Me

Martin McGuinness is a 62 year old Manchester United fan. Iam a 60 year old Manchester United fan. We probably both watched Manchester United beat Queen’s Park Rangers 3-1 on Match of the Day.

The statue commemorating Alex Ferguson was unveiled yesterday. A great manager of course but he has a flaw……..he tends to field a weakened side too often for matches deemed easy…..and we struggle.

Which brings me to Sinn Féin. Earlier this year four of their big names (all MPs at Westminster) have resigned their Stormont seats and four “new” MLAs have been co-opted. And of course since 2011, Gerry Adams has been a TD in the Republic of Ireland. And in very different circumstances (sadly the illness of Bairbre de Brun) Martina Anderson has been co-opted to Europe.

In less than two years Sinn Féin has lost six big stars.

I always tend to think of Sinn Féin MLAs as three tiers ….a leadership, senior second tier and rank and file.

Taking six big names out of the Assembly Party and replacing them with (since 2011 Election) five co-options seems an abuse of the process……..I actually support cooption. It protects a minority party and electorate in say Foyle, which has five nationalists and one unionist members. But the reason for co-option should be a good one.

Of course, it is interesting why Sinn Féin has weakened their team. Anything to do with lower the profile of leadership contenders such as Conor Murphy and Michelle Gildernew.

Lets be honest……in Sinn Féin terms, Westminster is a black hole. People become invisible. SDLP attends. So notwithstanding any good work they do under the radar in their constituencies…..Mr Murphy, Gildernew, Pat Doherty and Paul Maskey will not be see often on television. And in the case of Ms Gildernew, who has a majority of just four votes..that seems a high risk strategy.

The Sinn Fein leadership at Assembly level is based around Mr McGuinness, John O’Dowd, Caral Ní Chuilín and Michelle O’Neill who are Ministers, Jennifer McCann, a junior minister and rising star and Gerry Kelly the Policing Board representative. I cant see Ms O’Neill and Ms Ní Chuilín as “heavyweights”.

There is a second tier. Francie Molloy is a Deputy Speaker and effectively sidelined from political hurley-burley. Mitchel McLaughlin (67) has been a Sinn Féin nearly man for years. I like him but I cannot see him standing in 2015/16. Alex Maskey is rarely off TV……….all purpose Sinn Féin spokesperson who is handily placed in South Belfast to get into a TV Studio. Caitríona Ruane was deemed a failure as Minister for Education. Selected by Sinn Féin to soften their image, she just seems to be on the wane.

Barry McElduff presents himself as a lovable buffoon. In fairness there is probably more to him than that. But he seems as odd looking in  his Tyrone shirt as I do in my Manchester United shirt. Daithí McKay was once seen as the politician to watch but somehow it has not quite worked out. Raymond McCartney is now the lead figure in Derry but retains that hard man image…..interesting in itself how Sinn Féin select in multi-seat constituencies…….a balance between people who are close to the folks in the Felons Club and people who are the “new” acceptable face of Sinn Féin. Sue Ramsey now has a higher profile and again I quite like her.

Fra McCann, Cathal Boylan and Mickey Brady seem little more than lobby fodder with experience. Pat Sheehan co-opted for Gerry Adams is little more than a face to please the “Old Guard”

Which brings us to the 2011 “intake”. Michaela Boyle, Cathal ÓhÓisín, Seán Lynch (the Fermanagh ex-prisoner) and Oliver McMullan have hardly shone but on the other hand Phil Flanagan the acceptable face of Sinn Féin in Fermanagh) is a rising star.

Which brings us to co-options……Maeve McLaughlin, Roaleen McCorley, Declan McAleer, Megan Fearon, Chris Hazzard and Bronwyn McGahan have really had little time to shine and are probably being “played” in.

So the team is weakened. But some caveats. There is plenty of time for newcomers to acclimatise and build a profile before they are due to face the electorate. And in most constituencies if nothing changed, in percentage terms, even a weakened team would mostly survive. But Newry-Armagh, Fermanagh-South Tyrone and West Belfast seats would certainly be vulnerable.


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44 Responses to Fergie, Martin McGuinness And Me

  1. factual says:

    Arrant SDLP nonsense. SF have taken the lead on double jobbing. The SDLP are still double jobbers-look at the millionaire Alistair McDonell who is MLA and MP. The people who have been brought in by SF are fresh blood and have been chosen for their talent. The MPs will be able to do the important work of an MP, that is what they are there fore remember? Clearly the new blood will take time to establish themselves but there is time to the next election. Unlike the SDLP, SF thinks ahead.

    • Charlie says:

      And that was a party political broadcast by Sinn Fein. Factual, you’re unswerving loyality to all things Sinn Fein and regular spouting of the party line, while commendable also highlights Sinn Fein’s strength as well as their weakness in one go.

      So much so, that some boards have started playing a game where they try and out you.

      In the past parties crudely gained an advantage by sending their big-hitters to find in every election they could to peal off as many personal votes as possible. Now the strategy seems much more back office as the rules on double jobbing salaries have changed so SF are merely keeping the money coming in by making sure they have as many individuals on their team as possible. Short term that will keep their gears greased, but has resulted in a lot of questions about the level of lobby fodder in display.

      I think the whole SF “average industrial wage” has long since past it’s sell-by date in terms of believability as ppl have cottoned onto the fact once any money goes through the SF accounts they can then buy all and sundry. Just ask the ppl in the south about the McGuiness presidential battle bus…

      • factual says:

        The SDLP found to their cost the big-hitter approach. When the new big-hitters are not brought in to replace the old then your party declines. SF takes a longer term approach. The big hitters of tomorrow need to be nurtured and broght forward today. At a time when SDLP could be bringing forward new talent in South Belfast, the millionaire Dr McDonnell is bed blocking them all out.

      • Charlie,

        How is it not believable this average industrial wage? Was MMcG supposed to fund his party bus out of his own pocket?

        And tbf, on my last time going from Dublin to Belfast on the bus, when we stopped over at DUB Airport who do I see queuing with everyone else to get the bus, bags in hand for his kids? Conor Murphy. This doesn’t scream out to me someone whose living off the pork belly as my mates usually dump the car in the long stay car park and pay a fortune on their return.

        Now, maybe Murphy is just being savvy, or maybe he has an industrial wage to live off and he, his wife and children could not afford to park there like many other pols could quite easily. What I do know is he didn’t and I suspect not too many pols would do that.

        Now, if you are asking for more transparency re how money once accumulated by SF is spent, have at it horse, I like accountability, but your comment above does come across as somewhat knee jerk and petty tbh. Granted, you were directing it at Factual who does seem like something of a sock puppet at times.

        Re Southern electorate not taking to the whole living wage thing, I suppose it depends what your demographic of support is. If you are a FF or FG supporter working in finance or self-employed then probably not, if you are a Labour supporter on Meath St, Cork St or Thomas St then it would be a lot more relevant for you.

      • Charlie says:

        Football cliches,

        What I mean is, if SF reps genuinely accepted the average industrial wage and refused the rest like Eamonn McCann says he would, then it would be different. They actually take all the money and put it into a account. From that we have no idea what the money is used for. Murphy is entitled to to expenses for a start but even if this isn’t, there is a fair chance that his SF contribution is being drawn back as “SF party expenses” or whatever they describe if they describe it as anything.

        They crudely proclaim it every time like everyone who gives to charity should announce it with a megaphone. As far as I’m concerned, it never left their coffers at all.

        Besides, other parties ask their members to make a contribution after they receive their salary while many MLAs put their hand into their own pocket to finance local campaigns.

        I like Eamonn McCann’s suggestion that a bill should be passed entitling the MLAs to the average industrial wage of their constituents. That would genuinely be a good move politically but SF, or the SDLP for that matter, would never accept it as nationalist constituencies remain worse off than unionists meaning they lose out on 1000s in comparison.

      • Football Cliches, Charlie,
        People tend to be overly suspicious of the Sinn Féin industrial wage stance. Personally I am very relaxed about it.
        I believe that the “labourer is entitled to his wage”. I believe that a fair wage should be set and people paid.
        How they spend that money …including putting it into a Party “pot” and drawing an average industrial wage is of course a matter for them.
        But I think that SFs stand actually inhibits more than it liberates.
        Fighting for a reasonable wage for MPs was something that Tories blocked more than a century ago..to keep out working class.
        Even now, a candidate who said ……vote for me I am a millionaire, I wont draw a salary, I will give all my MPs earnings to local charities is something that (for the most part) George Osborne could do rather than a working class man from the North East of England.
        This “works” for Sinn Fein….for now. Not least because if they all draw the same wage……more money can be used to be ploughed back into advice centres to employ more SF activists on the same wage. And for that matter Special Advisors get a high wage but only take that average. Which again employs more staffers and so on.
        And SF have a legacy of being ….ahem highly disciplined. But sooner or later that will start to work against them. The profile of SF voter is changing. Many are middle class…upwardly mobile. Im not saying they are greedy. Just reasonably ambitious.
        It is reasonable to assume that people want as much as possible from their chosen career. For example does a SF-supporting solicitor take an average industrial wage. I dont think so.
        Now the SF policy will necessarily make the SF activist pool large but unrepresentative of their voters.
        Any SF MLA is guaranteed the same salary if moved aside to facilitate a new person….or if defeated in the polls.
        In a post-conflict situation that works but not for ever.

      • Oh I couldn’t agree more FJH regarding the wage ‘controversy’; for yours truly I am fairly relaxed about the whole matter and understand how it works regarding a large pot of money used to fund a massive, pro-active machine, it’s what makes them incredibly popular in many areas and constituencies.

        I remember Lionel Hutz pointing out how the wage would prove a hindrance to many joining, and I would have to agree with him. I understand why the policy is in place, I can see a lot of merit to it especially nowadays when many are being made redundant or in long term unemployment, but I think it will start suffer from the law of diminishing returns and like you said, the gene pool will be somewhat the same.

        Charlie, I do find interesting your sentence:

        ‘if SF reps genuinely accepted the average industrial wage and refused the rest like Eamonn McCann says he would, then it would be different. They actually take all the money and put it into a account’

        especially the word ‘genuinely’. Whilst Eamonn McCann is entitled to do what he wants and say what he wants, and he is someone I have a lot of time for, he is a one man band after all. It is not like we do not know what the vast majority of this money goes on (large party activist structure), or that this is news from out of the blue, but again, if you want some transparency then have at it, as I noted above I am all for it.

      • Yes…..solicitors, dentists, doctors will not be lining up to be SF MLAs………of course they might well be members of Sinn Féin……but apart from people with History/Politics degrees…….and there are some pretty clever SF advisors such as Dara O’Hagan……and again all on that average wage.
        But the simple fact is that too often on issues of (say) Health, Education, Economics, Law……SF have to outsource to “Think Tanks”.

      • Will they (professionals) be queuing up to become an MLA for SF? Probably not or until they become seriously loaded and can afford to, though granted SF would argue they want a more committed MLA as opposed to a mercenary.

        I would be interested to hear how policy is made by any party up North, it seems to be on the hoof by all and sundry. ‘We need to reduce corporation tax, CORPORATION TAX I SAY!!!’. When questioned or prodded a bit more we get little by way of a coherent answer which terrifies me.

  2. Charlie says:


    to be accurate, the SDLP found to their cost what losing all the big hitters AT THE SAME TIME means. That’s true. Most of their top tier were simply too old an had to step down. SF are actively removing them all together in one swoop! You can’t have it both ways and say SDLP stood down its big hitters and didn’t have enough left, but then watch SF do the same thing and say it’s ‘nurturing’! Only you factual!!

    In any case I’ve always found this local obsession with exposure a peculiar past-time. What labour or conservative new comer concerns themselves with media profile before looking to be a candidate? While their perceived persona might garner a fee points here or there, most swings depend on the prevailing political winds of the day sweeping them in or out of office. Labour could have stood just about anyone in Corby and they would have won as they had it in for Louise Mensch. Mensch incidentally had a relatively high profile for new backbencher as she appeared all te time on political panels, wrote columns in the papers, penned her own novels and was married to Metallica’s manager. Didn’t do her party much good.

    I think ppl like factual put too much emphasis on finding a perfect political formula and regularly announcing the demise of another party and counting a few more votes rather than concentrating on good government. Sometimes I think SF wish their was an election every 3 months as it’s the vote counting they enjoy more than governing. When in office they often choose the portfolios that are high spending, low political fallout and actually little or no tough decisions but just bean counting.

    SF have peaked and the days of relying on
    nationalist grace seem to be coming to an

    • Just to carry the Football metaphor a bit forward. For a Manchester United supporter like me (and Martin McGuinness) the names Best, Law, Charlton, Crearand, Dunne, Stiles, Foulkes, Brennan……from the 1960s trip off my tongue as easily as my grandson can say Rooney, de Gea, Hernandez. In 1968 the European Cup was won….but that team had got old together and there was no transition. Five years later United were relegated.
      So the European Cup was the Holy Grail for Manchester United. Good Friday Agreement was the Holy Grail for SDLP.
      And after 1968…..Liverpool dominated Football. And after 1998 Sinn Féin dominated nationalism. As Charlie points out, the SDLP mistake was that they had a limited second tier and in part that is because there was no Stormont politics for most of the 1980s and 1990s where a second tier could be blooded.
      Of course just a few weeks ago, I wrote that SDLP had a squad of youth team players (see its a Football metaphor) elected to the SDLP Executive and it might seem contradictory to praise SDLP Youth and condemn SF for doing the same.
      Well first off the youngsters in SF have been thrown in at a much deeper end (the Premiership) and they were co-opted. The SDLP Executive is in comparison a good place for young politicos to cut their teeth.
      So I dont deny Liverpool or Leeds did well when Manchester United went into decline.
      But at this moment Liverpool are a decent Premiership team but they aint gonna win the title.
      And as for Leeds……Dirty Leeds are the Alliance Party of Football.

  3. bangordub says:

    This is a very interesting post.
    Sinn Fein are undoubtedly repositioning themselves somewhat and the SDLP are also developing youthful talent as per your previous post from the party conference.
    The question is, who has the better youthful potential?
    Undoubtedly there is a need for new blood and that is a good thing in any party but in my view there is a balance required.
    What neither party needs is a crowd of university idealists with no idea of realpolitic

    • I dont think the SDLP talent will necessarily be channelled into Politics in the narrow sense. But there are other wider “political” jobs such as the Media and the Law which would ultimately be more rewarding than being a District Councillor.
      There will of course be a natural wastage. Friendships will become more scattered. But the object of the exercise has to be retain talent in the Party machine.
      I think its a massive risk by Sinn Féin to expose so many newbies to Stormont. But it certainly seems they are being mentored.
      The opportunity for Sinn Féin in broader “politics” seems less than SDLP and conversely (on current figures) the opportunity for SF in “narrow” politics might be better.
      Strange thing….we had a family dinner tonight…..it would have been my mothers 100the Birthday on Tuesday……..and I happened to say that people with HISTORY degrees understand politics better than people with POLITICS degrees.

      • charlie says:


        It’s reading these sorts of comments which concerns me sometimes.

        You mentioned people with history degrees and politics degrees and both certainly have people with those. I read that Mr. Hazzard has a PhD in fact.

        That got me concerned that if ever I wanted to involve myself with local politics I’d need a near encyclopedic knowledge of politics. I’m hopefully only a couple of months away from PhD in semicondutor physics, but because I can’t tell you Wolfe Tone’s birthday I’ll struggle in the cut and thrust. I always genuinely wanted a legislature that reflects the community. That doesn’t just mean promoting more women, young ppl and, where possible, ethnic minorities but also social backgrounds as opposed to 50 politics graduates.

        In another piece of trivia, I met my father for the first time in a year last night and he told me he provided large bodies of footage for the documentary “the day the troubles began”

        unfortunately it seems to stop at part 6.

        He also told me that he was at the 40th anniversary of the civil rights 2 years ago so I was trying to pick him out of this crowd.

        I don’t suppose you were at this by any chance were you Fitz?

      • I think that we need people from all kinds of backgrounds in politics. Its a very limited and limiting field.
        If we look at England, I think there is too many political professionals…I mean what is it exactly that David or Ed Miliband ever did?….apart from be in Think Tanks.
        I remember when many Labour MPs would have come thru trade unions….dock workers, miners and the like….what connexion does David Miliband have to South Shields or Ed Miliband to Doncaster?
        There should certainly be more scientists in politics.
        But Politics is now a very different thing to as I remember it. I think that Theory can be taught but not all people with Politics degrees have that degree of EMPATHY that is the first quality I look for.
        I think we are a highly political family. My sons and I always have good debates.
        But for all my knowledge of Politics..I would be the worlds worst politician. I lack that vital peoples skill.
        I remember once in a SDLP Advice Centre (around 1974), we were approached to go and see a very timid couple who wanted something very simple……..they lived in Ballymurphy (Housing Executive house) with their disabled daughter. All they wanted was a new grate for the fire because they couldnt light the fire properly.
        So I phoned the Housing Executive as anybody would have done “this is SDLP Office…….”
        No big deal.
        Except it was a big deal for the elderly couple. So much so that they insisted we go to see them and see the fire. They were actually crying.
        Thats the most political thing I have ever done in my life.
        I dont have that people skill to do that on a daily basis. And I admire people in ANY political party who can do that. Basically thats how I judge them? “Do they GET that”?
        It cannot be taught.
        I will certainly look thru those clips tomorrow.

        When I mentioned Politics and History, I was not entirely serious. I was just comparing the two because my degree (2009) was actually a History degree (with Politics modules..although oddly the dissertaion was politics).
        To some extent “Politics” as an academic subject is very much about theory, philosophies etc.
        But somehow I think that History (as an academic subject) puts Politics into a context.

        Therefore in a sense that for a person who is 18 and thinking of a career as a Politician, Lobbyist or Journalist…I would say choose History rather than Politics.
        For example if you look at another website…you know the one….the focus is almost entirely on the instant “Politics” dimension but I like to think what has happened before (the precedent) and what will happen afterwards (legacy).
        So that for example when people are talking about Pter Robinson and unionist outreach to Catholics….I tend to think of Terence O’Neill in the 1960s…..just around the time Civil Rights was starting.

    • Factual says:

      “The question is, who [SDLP or SF] has the better youthful potential?”

      Do you really need to ask that? Gerry Adams pointed out that when he canvasses up north there might be a grandfather answering the door who says he is a John Hume man, but when the son sticks his head round the door he usually says he’s a shinner. Now in terms of the Assembly you can see that SF have a lot of younger people not least this new four that have been brought in recently. SDLP did attain a new entry or two but with the exception of Conal McDevitt – who would pass muster in Dublin as a serious politician – there aren’t that many young people on their benches. Add to that the fact that the SDLP are a six county party and SF are an all Ireland party.

      Gerry Adams pointed out that SF provide a narrative that is compelling for young nationalists up north but the SDLP don’t really have any such narrative ever since John Hume stood aside.

  4. A couple of thoughts.

    One, Denis Law’s great hour was that backheeler that put the reds down into the old division two, surely?

    Two, most of this speculation about SF weakness is purely academic. There is no counterforce within northern nationalism.

    What I suspect people like about SF is that they want office and they want to represent people. I’ve heard it said by DUPers who work with them now that they have the cardinal virtue of being hard working.

    You also get the sense that their activists are happy to put their lives on hold, because working for the party is a meaningful activity. I’m not sure how sustainable that is.

    Now we know what the industrial wage actually is, I doubt it would pass JRF minimum wage threshold, particularly for those with young families.

    If you want to see where and how that might them into trouble you have to look south, where the gains they’ve made are widely distributed and their opponents are better organised and wealthier.

    The day the SDLP start giving the future a few coats of ‘lookinat’ is the day SF should begin to worry.

    But they are still in old generation mode and looking to pick up only the votes of those who cannot bring themselves to vote SF.

    That’s a shrinking and ageing demographic which is getting less and less responsive to the old liberal/nationalist party dog whistle issues.

    • First off it wasnt the goal that put the Reds into the Second Division and second off it wasnt his greatest hour judging by his own reaction. I cant remember a specific goal that put Manchester City into the Second Division…..there has been so many….or even the Third Division.
      Of course there is a statue for Dennis Law “King of the Stretford End” at Old Trafford (actually two) but none for Carlos Tevez.
      That Sinn Féin work hard….with an almost military discipline…..one might say…is not doubted. Its a way of life as much as a political party and of course many of them…..Carál, Conor, Jennifer, Mary, Rosie, Raymond, Martina and Fra among them have a record (literally) of putting their lives on hold. Sometimes committment is not necessarily a good thing.
      As for the JRF….James Rowntree Foundation minimum standard of living. Perhaps their vicar in Belfast, your friend Mr Quintin Oliver could get on the phone to the JRF or any other Rowntree charity and have some funds sent to Sinn Féin members. “innocent money……chocolate money………QUAKER money!”
      Theres at least one Rowntree charity who have financed the Alliance Party to the tune of £97,000 since 2007. I have read it on a “blog” somewhere…….but I dont think I have read it on your Blog. I doubt I ever will. 😉
      I also read on a Blog…..actually this Blog that seven people under 27 had been elected to the SDLP Party Executive. An eighth is a member (ex officio). Surprisingly (ahem) that has not been noted on Slugger O’Toole. I think Quintin Oliver left the Conference before the results were announced.
      Of course there is a “lets get alongerist” strategy to take out the UUP and SDLP and boost the beneficiaries of the “innocent money..chocolate money….Quaker money”.
      Incidently any threads on Cllr Paddy Clarke (Alliance) planned?
      Or Cllr Adam Harbinson (Alliance)?

      • “Sometimes committment is not necessarily a good thing.”

        How so?

        I mentioned JRF’s minimum wage (despite knowing how it stirs your blood), because I suspect most SF MLAs are below the level which they can be expected to play a fuller part in wider society. I think that is a weakness that you can sustain only for a while.

        I might pick up on the Harbinson story (since there’s a wider provenance to that), though I think you are jumping (or rather not jumping) the gun somewhat on Clarke.

      • The kind of “commitment” that many Sinn Féin people (and of course loyalists, British Army, RUC) showed not only had a very negative effect on themselves, their own families and their victims.

      • Here’s the detail on that JRF report: http://goo.gl/DwI4N. 21k *for someone with a family to bring up*, I would argue, is not enough to live on.

    • Hi MF,

      Trust you’re well. Nice red rag to a bull with both comments above :). On a serious point or points, do you not feel that the industrial wage line is starting to suffer from the law of diminishing returns for SF among many outside of their natural demographic?

      I can understand that it allows them a bigger party activist apparatus than they might otherwise enjoy whilst at the same time showing to many who are unemployed or about to be made redundant (amongst others) that they are not of the ‘golden circle’ variety, but is there any sign that this is bringing them benefits?

      Regarding the SDLP and their diminishing demographic, I would largely agree with this, however, I do wonder if this is starting to change even a little. I have met on a night out some of the South Belfast Youth guys (perhaps not representative of the rest, I know) and they seem a decent bunch and in general the party seems to be focusing on what could be described as ‘civil rights’ issues which also allows them to score some points.

      • Increasingly every issue has an aspect of Civil Rights and I have certainly been urging that the phrase be included in just about every SDLP statement.
        It is a “strength”.
        I dont want to over-state Peter Robinson and DUP becoming O’Neill and the Unionist Party but I think there are parallels.
        Remember that it was put to Eddie McAteer and the “old” nationalist party that they could become the Official Opposition. Of course nothing came of that……but there might be a case for saying Sinn Féin (and I wont over-state it) are part of that DUP-SF coalition……certainly more identifiably so than SDLP.
        I dont take Bel Tel and Lucid Talk (or Sluggers analysis) seriously but the 7% in favouring Irish Unity is on Sinn Féins watch so to speak.

      • Mick says:

        The one thing FJH says that is worth taking seriously is the ‘on SF’s watch’. But without policy it is all slogans. Heard Alex on Nolan this morning up against Sammy. That was all signal without any substance.

        I would havve been interested if there was a real argument he wanted to have over what NI would gain from drafting its own pension legislation. But reason came there none.

        Policy policy policy. If the SDLP dont get their heads down on that and soon, they are finished. No mattter how illserved they feel nationalism is by SF.

        People will opt for the people who are in charge unless they are give an alternative and a reason to change their minds.

      • Mr Fealty, his friends and backers in the “agent for Change” business are just a bit too anxious to write off SDLP.

      • A strange thing that the only point Mr Fealty considers is worth taking seriously “is on SFs watch”.
        A reflection of Mr Fealty’s (and friends) agenda.

      • Again, what policies have any party come up with which are remotely coherent? How are they made, if at all? I reckon SF can be accused of little by way of policy, but this is applicable to all parties in all fairness.

        If any ‘policy’ is even slightly poked or teased out they fall apart like a deck of cards with a breath of air on it.

        I would love to see parties give some thought into coherent policies, including implementation, operations, costing etc. but it is a zero sum game up on the Hill so what incentive do any party have?

        As for these matters happening on SF’s watch, the problem you will face FJH is in arguing the counter-factual that things would have been better under the SDLP, which as someone who has only recently returned to the SDLP fold would be particularly hard to argue, you did vote SF for a considerable period of time after all.

      • In some ways Policy is often out of the control of a Party dictated by global events whatever. We all tend to vote on the basis of both principle and self interest.And to some extent that involves tokenism…..we can vote for the Party who seems to be “on our side”.
        As to Policy itself…locally they tend to be in manifestos which are really little more than a declaration of principles.
        When it comes to the nitty gritty, there ARE experts within memberships…and certainly in internal debates, a Party will reach out to those experts. Do they five parties have the same pool of experts IN their ranks? I dont know.

      • Mick says:

        As luck would have it I bumped to a SDLP MLA on the way out of Stormont this pm. He introduced me to a couple of younger new members of the party’s executive.

        It gave rise a fascinating conversation, not least since I kept quiet for most of it. I can see where Big Al is going with all this emphasis on organising locally.

        But, and I really mean but, organisation is half the equation. The other half is policy. As you say Football, no one player on the pitch is good at it. But then again the incumbents don’t have to be. People have already made up their minds about who they think is more competent. And it is not the SDLP or the UUP.

        To address that problem you need to create a policy literate attack, which is not about creating some fantastically confectioned cake of wonk but about creating a credible critique of the situation people find themselves in, along with (though not necessarily at the same time) a set of policy proposals which have been worked through and speak to voters about the real world problems they face every day.

        Everything else is pure wonk. FJH’s talk about Civil Rights maybe well intentioned and noble, but the problem with it is that it just that, talk. Worse, it’s trying to fight not just the last battle but the one from three wars ago.

        Policy is the SDLP’s big opportunity to create a new narrative that can resonate with the interests of its would be voters. It would also give the party a chance to talk about *what the SDLP can do* rather than a weak as water protest about what its opponents cannot do.

      • Mick……..dont under-estimate yourself. Conversations are not necessarily more fascinating when you dont say much.
        Civil Rights cannot be dismissed as well intentioned and noble. For a lot of people outside the narrow confines of Holywood….it actually does mean quite a lot.

      • The problem with civil rights as a policy platform is not civil rights, but that it is a lazy grab from history. Has anyone tested whether it affects voting choice?

        My guess is no. It’s more likely a case of going back to the last place you lost something to see if you can find it again. In this case the SDLP’s mojo.

        Take your beloved United. Why are people like Law and Charlton remembered? Because Ferguson built a contemporary bridge between present and past glories.

        The club does not have a global fan base because of the team of 68. It’s because of the teams of the ninties and the noughties.

        In the same way, Civil Rights is an historical artefact, not a programme for recovery.

      • To take your football example…..your beloved City was honouring Bell, Summerbee and Lee when managers like John Benson were in charge. Frank Clark, Joe Royle, Kevin Keegan, Alan Ball, John Bond…….give e enough time here and I will think of a dozen more City managers……Tony Book, Asa Hartford………so quite plainly City fans remember their heroes without the great bridge of success built by Robero Mancini.
        Mark Hughes…theres another one. Ron Saunders.

        So in other words dont use football metaphors. You know nothing about football.
        And almost nothing about politics it seems.
        Yesterday, I heard a story of a legless man turned down for Disability Living Allowance because he can move his hands.
        And I heard the story of another person who lost DLA because it LOOKED like their blood pressure was only just a bit above normal……but nobody at the assessment actually tested blood pressure.
        And to actually appeal successfully means proving that the assessment wasnt right on the day.
        Those are Civil Rights issues..as relevant now as in 1968……I dont suppose there was a march in Holywood.
        Civil Rights is an ongoing issue. It doesnt belong in Selma Alabama in 1962 or Derry in 1968 or Palestine in 2012.
        Are you really so stupid that you dont know real politics when you see it? Real Politics is NOT a Slugger-Stratagem seminar. Real Politics is not the latest drivel from Robin Wilson. Real Politics is not the latest from the peerless Miriam, the peerless Fintan and all your other peerless peers.
        When it comes right down to it Mick……..you know nothing about Politics.

      • Mick says:

        Summerbee, Bell, Corrigan and Lee mean something to me, but that’s because I was there. Sir Bobby, et al were kept in the public eye by United’s contemporary success (history is written by winners etc).

        So back to politics. Does ‘civil rights’ shift votes? It’s been a strap line of party pressers since about 2005, but I see no evidence of it and you’re certainly not offering any.

        So my guess is that it at best reminds older folk of the better parts of the SDLP’s heritage. That’s a survival tactic, not a basis for future growth.

      • Well your guess might be better put at a Stratagem seminar. See sometimes its just about doing the right thing…..NOT about testing it all for amarket as if it was a new shampoo or washing powder. Will it “sell”? Civil Rights is not a marketing ploy.
        What you do is the very opposite of Politics….a simple technique for non involvement.
        In fact you are now probably incapable of actually making a decision.
        Only the other night you were asking how we would vote on the Jim Wells issue. Did you ever find the answer in Erskine May or did you not maybe follow your conscience. With you its just any alternative to making a decision.
        And yet you have the nerve to think Stormont is gridlocked. And that you and your Think Tank friends are somehow above it all.
        Basically when someone dismisses Civil Rights as a historical artefact …….then thats the time when Civil Rights is most needed.
        And have a good day Mr Fealty….the 28th November is a day for Everybody.

      • Mick says:

        But it’s meaningless. That’s why it doesn’t shift votes.

      • Well your belief that Civil Rights doesnt “shift votes” says a lot about you.
        Oddly Slugger will be posting threads from Paddy Corrigan on Civil Rights elsewhere.
        And of course celebrating those honourable journalists who actually spoke up for Civil Rights an paid the price.

  5. Civil Rights as a slogan/message is all things to all men. It may make some iconic sense to people of a certain age; folk like thee and me who are old enough to recall the epic days of protest in the late 60s.

    But considering *the newest voters intake of voters for the 2015 elections will have been born in 1997*, I don’t believe there is any evidence that it translates as you and others in the party believe/hope it does.

    If you are going to use ‘Civil Rights’, then it needs to be translated into policy (ie, actions or priorities across a range of issues). Call it marketing if you like, but do not mistake it for an absence of values.

    At the very least, ‘all things to all men’ indicates a severe lack of commitment, if not actual values. And I suspect that voters sense that lack of seriousness.

    Sinn Fein are well organised, motivated and serious about the acquisition and retention of power. Not unlike your beloved United. So long as the SDLP keep harping on about the past, they will remain a beaten docket.

    If you want to cast the Stoops as the City of the late 80s and 90s, what they have in common is the reek of repeated failure, along with an unappealing grievance that having been ‘a big club’ once they were born for better than this.

    I’m not suggesting for a moment that the past is irrelevant. But the future matters hugely in politics, and in particular it matters to parents the world over; be it first, second and third.

    And ‘the future’ is a key weakness of both incumbent parties. The party which can adumbrate a realistic outline of a future that is both better and more sustainable than the awful past we share, will have places to go.

  6. “Saucer of milk for Mr Horse!”

  7. In case anyone else is still reading, my offering on Slugger today relates to this conversation, somewhat: http://goo.gl/p5Uy4

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