The point has been made that SDLP is “only” back to 2007 figures. I think this misses the point that the 2013 percentage was against a single unionist candidate. It also misses the point that SDLP added about 600 votes to their 2010 tally….on a lower turnout…..while Molloy and Sinn Fein actually lost 4,000 votes (and 5% of the vote).
And crucially it misses the point that 2007 is before Margaret RitchiHop hopeless and hapless leadership. The first task AlaAdair McDonnell had was to re-organise his Party. Progress on this has been real but…patchy. The second task was surely to turn the SDLP round …to make it relevant again and to banish all memory of Margaret as little more than a footnote in SDLP History. Mission accomplished.
Of course nobody likes to admit that they are wrong. So don’t expect any LetsGetAlongerist discussion board to admit that they got it wrong. The SDLP is not in terminal decline but they will want to pass off the Mid Ulster result as “dead cat bounce”.
Patsy McGlone performed well but would have done better against two or three unionists rather than just one. Are there lessons? West of the Bann, the SDLP is doing ok. Re-organisation in Fermanagh-South Tyrone should get that Assembly seat back. And there would at least be cautious optimism about North Antrim, South Antrim and even Strangford. And North Belfast and the second seat in South Belfast….look safe….on these figures.
And perhaps noteworthy that SDLP got an army of party members out to campaign for Patsy but I’d like to see a log of the campaigning hours put in by some Assembly colleagues.
So no clouds on SDLP horizon? Actually….yes.
The subject of Opposition will be debated. It should be. I see merit it in. But I am neutral.
What it should not become is “personality based”. The leading advocates are Brid Rodgers, and Dolores Kelly who are both supporters of Conall McDevitt. Conall is heir apparent to Alasdair and probably the Leadership will fall into his lap anyway.
Alasdair is against Opposition but his single greatest weakness is double jobbing. It does not play well in itself but it also means Alasdair is not at Stormont.
But wha exactly is the alternative? The position of Alex Attwood is interesting. Alasdair will be rotating the SDLP Ministry in the summer. He will overlook Dolores, his titular Deputy Leader. Well if she is against SDLP being in Government then she can hardly expect the nomination. Realistically this has to go to the “Green” wing of SDLP….probably Patsy. While Dolores raised Opposition in her Conference speech in November, Alex has stayed on in the Executive so when he loses his Ministerial post, he can hardly claim to be GeForce Opposition…on principle.There would clearly be special pleading.
To brag rank, Opposition DOES have attractions but the proper response seems to be to call for a debate. But clearly losing that debate….or being seen to lose it…would weaken Alasdair and strengthen Conall.