I have to say that I like Basil McCrea and I like John McCallister more. But I am still not sure that the Party they founded (NI21) can make any impact.
Being “liked” is not enough.
And Basil and John …the McUnionists…they dont seem to take themselves seriously. The Twitter parody account is almost more credible than the genuine one.
Funny people can only go so far in politics. They stay on the “fringe”.
Lembit Opik, Giles Brandreth, Austin Mitchell, Barry McElduff. You see my point.
In an interview with Slugger O’Toole earlier this week, Chris Lyttle, the Alliance MLA for East Belfast opined that he had looked at NI21 policies and did not see much difference to Alliance. And thats the point…Alliance are scared of NI21.
The Alliance Party have had it too easy for too long as the LetsGetAlongerist market leader in Norn Iron.
Their attachment and dependence on DUP and Sinn Fein is a complete sell out of their founding principles so the arrival on the scene of a new letsgetalongerist and liberal unionist party…which actually has principles …is bound to affect the Alliance vote.
A popular visitor at the SDLP Youth Conference in March 2012, John McCallister appealed to the audience to give him a preference, which he feels he will need at the next Assembly Election. Indeed my recollection is that he said he gave Alliance his EIGHTH preference.
So if Chris Lyttle thinks NI21 is not very different from Alliance, then clearly John McCallister disagrees.
NI21 speeches of course contained sideswipes at UUP and SDLP and it was stated that both have Sectarianism in their DNA. As a SDLP member, I resent this but it is hardly serious and just a matter of giving the speech some artificial balance.
The thing is Basil and John got elected on the ticket of a Party that they believe to be sectarian.
Aguably the UUP is less sectarian today than it was when they joined the Party and stood for election and were elected under its banner.
Reference was made to opinion polls which show NI21 doing well and Basil McCrea noting (a tad optimistically) that they are not far behind UUP and Alliance is an indication that they are looking for votes from those voters.
They are hoping that “liberal unionists” will switch to them.
They are hoping that “letsgetalongerists” switch to them.
As a SDLP voter and member, I have nothing to fear from NI21. Indeed I encourage them.
In 2011, I told anyone who would listen that the Alliance Party is a dangerous undemocratic party who if they got a single extra Assembly seat, would get two Executive seats.
I wish I had been wrong about that.
The SDLP MUST of course increase its own number of seats in 2016. I certainly believe it to be possible but it is just as important that the Alliance Party is pinned back and some manners put on them.
I am not sure that the SDLP outside Belfast really gets this.
In ALL constituencies, SDLP and Sinn Fein are rivals for the nationalist vote….but in some constituencies eg Lagan Valley, South Belfast, South Antrim….Alliance are also rivals.
Does the SDLP in West Tyrone, Fermanagh-South Tyrone and West Belfast really get that?
And more importantly do the policy makers at the heart of the SDLP get it?