Over the weekend, I was thinking about just how many members of SDLP Youth, I have met over the past five or six years. I was thinking about this even before I saw two former SDLP staffers interviewed within about twenty minutes on local News. They have gone on to new employment. I wish them well.
It is of course impossible for SDLP or any other Party for that matter to accomodate ALL of its younger members. They cannot all become MPs, MLAs which is exciting and well paid or even Councillors in the not so exciting or financially rewarding world of the local authority. Dashing around on the back stairs of Stormont, texting staffers from the other parties has at least the illusion of working in the West Wing or House of Cards.
I have been at times amazed by the talent these young SDLP people show….the staffers who work for a MP or MLA or centrally…and of course the regular young foot soldiers who are slogging around eighteen constituencies canvassing.
Attachment to a political Party like SDLP comes in two forms. Rank and file members like me pay £10 a year (well thats Senior Citizen rate) to be a member plus biying the odd ballot ticket or going to a Quiz Night or “A Night At The Races”. It costs us money.
For others, working at Stormont or in a constituency office…the staffers…are actually employed by the Party or a MP or MLA.
These are two very different forms of involvement.
But aside from the coincidence of seeing two former staffers on TV News tonight, I am aware that I have met other folks who are no longer employed by the Party. One is still supportive of the Party. Another wants nothing to do with SDLP. I guess I have seen five or six people (ex-staff or members) who are now in gainful employment in charities etc. I hate the phrase “skill set” but certain skills are transferrable from a Political Party to a more general form of Campaigning.
Why is this? Well I daresay that “personality clashes” in Politics are inevitable and I daresay people with skill sets can look for ways to have a career. And I daresay some have used the SDLP experience in their CVs and SDLP politicians as a reference.
In short, some quite rightly, look on SDLP as a stepping stone. And the fact that talented young people (with a SDLP attitude) can go out into broader fields of helping people ia a good thing.
Certainly there is an even younger group than those I first encountered five or six years ago.
Going outside the narrow field of Party Politics or “bubble” of people who generally think alike into a very different world of charities and a wider remit …it is a very different dynamic.
Looking around, I think SDLP have “lost” some potentially good people.