No surprise that Alasdair McDonnell MP, re-elected again for South Belfast is giving up membership of the Assembly. Legislation to be enacted next year will ban these dual mandates and it is logical that he steps down to facillitate the co-option of a new MLA before the next Assembly Election.
I wont publicly speculate on who the replacement might be. Of course, I will say “I told you so” after the name is known.
I welcome this development. At this point in time SDLP has fourteen MLAs and three MPs …but only sixteen people because Alasdair is in two roles. In a few months, SDLP will have seventeen people. And that has to be a good thing.
It leaves the question of SDLP Leadership. Should the Leader be a MLA? Alasdair seems neutral on the issue. He has said he would leave this question to the Party. I think the Party would prefer the Leader to be at Stormont and added to the fact that some senior SDLP people have not been over-enthusiastic about Alasdair himself, then I am inclined to think SDLP will have a new Leader at the end of the year.
For myself, I have to say that Alasdair McDonnell has been under-estimated as a MP and as a Leader. The Overclass in the social media ridicule him. But here is a simple fact. He is twice the man of any one of his critics.