Irish News: David Ford Squeaks Out!

My boycott of newspapers is now eight weeks old. I have not of course read the story myself but I understand from Slugger O’Toole that there is an interview with David Ford, Leader of the Alliance Party in today’s Irish News.

I wonder how that was set up. There are three possibilities. The first possibility is that a journalist from the Irish News…on a slow day…phoned the Alliance Party Press Office and said “I want ian interview with David Ford”

The second possibility is that the Alliance Party Press Office phoned the Irish News and offered David Ford.

The third is that it is part of a media charm offensive by Ford and Alliance, possibly prompted by discontent that Ford was invisible for several weeks and Naomi Long effectively became Leader. Dthe the men in grey coats or his key advisors tell him to get his arse out there and say something…because his performance has been so awful.

Ford might well turn out to be the biggest casualty of this Flegs Dispute. His luck is running out. Of course the Irish News is a nationalist paper, leaning to SDLP traditionally but aware of a large Sinn Fein readership…probably 49% SDLP, 49% this reflecting newspapers being generally read by older people. I can’t imagine that Irish News is the paper of choice of many Alliance voters…despite having far too many anti-nationalist columnists.

So is Fords attack on SDLP in today’s paper a surprise? No….he thinks the SDLP can’t deal with the ideological splits within it. I make no apology for being a member of SDLP. I am a nationalist, a republican and a socialist. I believe in civil rights. All SDLP members tick those boxes but understandably the mix is different for different people. There are of course SDLP people who would only plump for SDLP and never give a transfer to any other party. Others …like me would happily give #2 to Sinn Fein and not vote outside that. Others would give a #2 to Alliance. I would do nothing to assist Alliance…ever.

Alliance I considers itself in the middle ground. Understandably it targets “soft” unionist and nationalist votes in UPP and SDLP. But to attract those votes it needs slippage from those parties AND it needs the erosion of votes from UUP and SDLP to be in tandem.

But there IS a problem. By common consent…UUP is disappearing like snow off a ditch. By common consent 2012 was a good year and even the most biased anti SDLP commentator would probably say that the SDLP has steadied the ship from May 2011.

The defections to Alliance from UUP….Harry Hamilton, Paula Bradshaw, David Sims and serial defector Ian Parsley have made Alliance more unionist and conservative. These people will be influential in any upcoming Leadership contest.

So what is Ford up to?

He is hardly trying to engage with nationalists in Mid Ulster, West Tyrone, Foyle, Fermanagh-south Tyrone, West Belfast, Newry-Armagh and South Down.

Even the most optimistic Alliance eejit would hardly think that SDLP seats in East Derry, Upper Bann and North Belast are vulnerable…even if they talked that nonsense up in 2011.

North Antrim…neither SDLP or Alliance have aseat but SDLP are quietly confident of a gain.

So really it can only be about seven seats. Alliance hold seats in them all. There is no serious SDLP presence in North Down and East Belfast but certainly in the latter where Chris Lyttle and Judith Cochrane seem out of their depth, nationalist transfers will be vital to keeping that second seat. t is hardly about East Antrim either.

An imploding UUP strengthens Ford in South Antrim…making Ford safer but where does that leave a likely Ford surplus. Even with a modest SDLP revival, South Antrim is Iin the game. Possibly  Lagan Valley is beyond SDLP at next election.

But look at Strangford….a modest SDLP revival next time round.

But it about South Belfast? The Alliance Party was quick to assert that the Flegs dispute was all about East Belfast but it looks to me that Alliance strategists have worked out that South Belfast is a viable target for both Westminster and Assembly gain.

Wnhy? Well at 2011, Alliance probably underestimated their strength. Running a second candidate for the Assembly might have taken a SDLP seat. Next time round double-jobbing wont help Alasdair McDonnell, UUP melt down will boost Alliance anyway and in Metro-Textual Land the criticism of Newry SDLP councillors about the naming of Raymond McCreesh Park will certainly resonate.

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27 Responses to Irish News: David Ford Squeaks Out!

  1. hoboroad says:

    Well at least Ford gives a interview to Belfasts leading Nationalist newspaper. Unlike the First Minister.

    • People need to face up to the reality that Robinson treats Catholics as children of a lesser GOD. Unionism is like Zionism …it needs the myth of GODs backing to justify its past and future crimes.

  2. bangordub says:

    Very True Hoboroad.
    Also I am still convinced there is an SDLP seat in North Down if it was gone for seriously.

    • Its certainly possible…..but unlikely in one election cycle. It would need boots on the ground as well as an office.
      And probably could only be done with 0.6% of a quota and hanging in to last count.

  3. bangordub says:

    The work has to start somewhere……It hasn’t 😉

  4. Pingback: Polls, Politics And Conspiracy Theories | An Sionnach Fionn

  5. factual says:

    2012 was a good year for the SDLP – there were no elections.

    In election years SF increase on SDLP; SF offer a more compelling narrative to young nationalists north of the border. A republican narrative of change, equality, peace.

    • Aye…balanced as ever.

      • factual says:

        By the way the Alliance party are issuing a major announcement, which has been embargoed to midnight. I wonder what it is? Will David Ford resign as six county Minister of State for Justice or something like that?

      • I certainly hope so.
        I suspect they are announcing a coffee morning in Cultra.
        Maybe a defection. Maybe from SDLP. Who knows?

      • factual says:

        Defections are not usually embargoed until midnight.

        And I think that no SDLP MLA is likely to defect to Alliance. If it is not an MLA than it could not count as “major”.

        I think it must be a resignation – either as leader or as Executive Justice Minister.

  6. Probably another unionist or two defecting to the non unionist Alliance party

    • Well to build the excitement factor with the EMBARGO…seems a bit overly dramatic. If Alliance put out a press release at 2pm, who would actually notice?
      Presumably every journo and Alliance friendly blogger In Norn Iron will be pressing the TWEET button at midnight.
      The usual suspects.

      • factual says:

        I just can’t see that a defection would be embargoed? What would be the reason for that. One does not embargo defection stories.

        This story has been sent to all the newspapers and is front page of tomorrows Newsletter, according to newsletter journalist Rebecca Black.

        It is surely a resignation by Ford?

  7. bangordub says:

    I think Factual could be right. I am amazed this hasn’t leaked yet

    • factual says:

      I am going to back track on this prediction bangordub.

      Because the Newsletter has just tweeted its front page and no mention of the Alliance Party’s major embagoed announcement.

      If it was a Ford resignation it would have been front page.

      So it is really not that major, as it has failed to go front page of Newsletter.

      • bangordub says:

        The newsletter is in disarray, their new editor pulled, then reinstated the regular Paisley senior column this week when he was caught out online. Not their finest hour, again

      • factual says:

        Sam McBride and Alex Kane are very good in terms of political analysis.

      • factual says:

        Actually I see on the front page of the Newsletter that it says “THE ALLIANCE PARTY today says that Nationalist dominated councils should fly the Union Flag on designated days”. Perhaps that is the major announcement?

      • And would anyone like to speculate about where that was first suggested as the “way out” of the Flegs, getting Alliance off the hook.

      • factual says:

        If so I cannot see why that needed to be embargoed until midnight. Maybe the big announcement is something else?

  8. factual says:

    Here is the big announcement:

    I am disappointed and do not see why this is a major announcement, worthy of embargo to midnight.

  9. factual says:

    As Alex Kane tweeted: “Waited up for Alliance Party doc embargoed until midnight. Very little new in it. But at least it will help me to doze off. Goodnight all.”


  10. Séamus says:

    The Irish News had a different take for their headline…

    In today’s Irish News: End Catholic education says Alliance Party in integration blueprint likely to anger Church— The Irish News (@irish_news) January 29, 2013

    • factual says:

      Now that I can agree with. We in Dublin are making these moves too with more educate together schools.

    • Id say Alliance is a coalition of two things…letsgetalongerists and liberal unionists.
      Essentially the letsgetalongerists would recognise two communities and by definition want those communities to get along.
      The liberal unionists would seek the destruction of the nationalist ideal…and create circumstances where Norn Iron is a homogenous “British” society.
      The great success that Alliance has had…apart from 53,000 votes getting a disproportionate amount of Executive seats is to keep those wings under the radar with being “agnostic” on constitution.
      They are snake oil salesmen…and women.

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