Join SDLP…If You’re Young Enough!

First of all, I am not necessarily recommending that any reader join the Party of which I am a supporter and member. Nor do I discourage it. They are a fine group of people. I am making a broader point.


I think it points to a certain confidence within SDLP. The Party has been fighting the sneer that it is irrelevant and a poor Assembly Election seems to confirm that many have given up on the Party. It runs deeper. SDLP is in search of a new narrative.

The Good Friday Agreement has failed. Or from a SDLP perspective been allowed to fail. The Party has known this for some time but that means admitting its flagship policy has proven to be a failure. And that means telling Seamus Mallon that he got it totally wrong.

If the SDLP had a bad Assembly campaign, it had a good Referendum campaign. That might be considered to be a poor reflection on its priorities but it seems to have worked out ok. Sinn Féin went “missing in action” and are too closely identified with DUP to be a lead voice in the whole European dimension.

SDLP has (for once) the upper hand. To negate the Good Friday Agreement, an “event” is needed. A Game Changer. The EU Referendum result.

I am not suggesting that anyone in SDLP wanted a Norn Iron and Scotland “REMAIN” and an England “LEAVE”. ….I might be the only person on the Planet (except for Nicola Sturgeon a nd a few million Scots) who wanted that.

But certainly those in SDLP who see themselves as “nationalists will know enough History to understand that England’s difficulty is Irelands opportunity.

The three Westminster MPs are certainly stepping up to the plate. And not just in the Brexit context. Look how SNP, Plaid Cymru and SDLP MPs voted against Trident Renewal….the combined nationalist vote outnumbering the Labourites who voted against.

The  SNP are the real Opposition party at Westminster. The British Labour Party is a shambles. The subtle distancing of SDLP from British Labour is as interesting to watch as the increasingly good relations between the three nationalist parties.

SDLP has better  contacts in the Dublin and Brussels establishment than Sinn Féin and that is a good thing….except of course if you are a self-styled “progressive” in SDLP. Some people have gone a little quiet but in addition to the three Westminster MPs, Colm Eastwood must be feeling good….and Alex Attwood who has rarely resisted a temptation to praise Nicola and the SNP. A lot of SDLP statements recently seem to have Alex’s fingerprints all over them.

But there might well be SDLP members who see European Union as more important that Irish Unity. They need to clarify their position. To a nationalist party….and “progressive nationalism” is the buzz phrase, “UK” should be an irrelevance. A committment to “make Norn Iron work” is not the same as making the DisUnited Kingdom work.

Nationalism is all about identifying differences between the “UK” and Ireland…and Scotland and Wales. Thus the EU Referendum establishes that. I fully get that some self-styled progressives in SDLP never thought they would have to make a choice… its “Make Your Mind Up Time”. An unexpected Event has made the case for Irish Unity better and made the case for dishing the Good Friday Agreement better.

As Harold McMillan allegedly replied to the question about what he feared most as British Prime Minister….”Events  dear boy….Events!”.

Really the pic above says it all. People, who have any feeling for SDLP and its beliefs should rally round. …join. Doctors, Lawyers, Social Workers, Nurses, Teachers, Trade Unionists…the decent professional people who havent forgotten their roots and/or who are believers in Social Justice….once the bedrock of SDLP have opted out of Politics. They need to get back in the saddle.

Will any be convinced by a recruitment campaign? Well….maybe. Personally I am too old to be enthused about the Future (although I admit to a certain….excitement that I have lived long enough to see the Game Changer. It was NEVER about mere Demographics).

Yet …the SDLP record is not a good one in terms of membership. Certainly, publishing a list of skills that includes “Social Media” brings a smile to my old wrinkled face. For more than six years, I have a history of postponed and abandoned meetings with SDLP MLAs and SDLP “staffers”. As I have said too often …this Blog is tolerated (barely) by the SDLP hierarchy. I am not overly impressed that SDLP is shouting out for members with skills in social media when they have offered little or no encouragement to me. Not even a free “Conference brochure”. Not even a place on a panel when discussing ….social media.

It is not THAT important. Fool me once…shame on you. Fool me twice, three, four, five times…..yes Shame on Me.

So really SDLP needs to change. To invite new members to join on the basis of influencing Policy, Organisation, PR (as in the wish list) necessarily means diminishing the role of five or six MLAs and their staff,  HQ Staff (in areas of Policy and Press) and advisors who seem to have no formal role.

So …they look for action while I am easing out of Politics. Too little…too late?

It doesnt really matter. This Blog winds down and/or ceases on 11th August…its fifth anniversary. Luckily I have another life. Mrs Fitzjames Horse retires next week and to be honest, the arrival of another grandchild later this year is our priority…..

SDLP will  understand….and in a lot of cases …glad to see the back of me.



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14 Responses to Join SDLP…If You’re Young Enough!

  1. Mary Martin says:

    Do you think that the SDLP regret going into opposition?

  2. Mary Martin says:

    Why are you giving up blogging, don’t you enjoy it?

    • I have given up on two previous occasions so am reluctant to say I will give up again. I will certainly wind down.
      I have other blogs on other subjects but this “political blog” is by far the most successful. Politics never really stops so always hard to totally give up.
      But I have other interests.
      My wife retires next week and I am already 64 years old. And I dont like the Future very much. Politics is about carving out the Future and when a person gives up on Politics, then there is no point “blogging”.
      Politics is for young people and they are entitled to screw up their own lives without any help from me.
      On the other hand, I care passionately about my wife who retires next week, our two sons and their wives and our three surviving grandchildren…and the next grandchild due in Deceber. Not forgetting our cat and the family dog.
      Thats where my life should be.
      And…dont laugh….but I will spend the next few years WALKING around Ireland.

  3. Have the SDLP read that? Are they are saying that they have a wealth of experience which would greatly enhance the Party or party, so why are they not using them now? Surely that was not well proof read. which is why the SDLP are failing. They never really pay enough attention. They are the elite that know better. Sinn Fein are also going down that road. They are following the path of the left in general, turning their backs on the people who they are supposed to represent. Instead of concentrating on the issues that matter to the plasterer (for example) who wants to be able to provide a home, car, education for the kids, healthcare, holiday in sunny climes, night out at the weekend with the wife, they instead are interested in what exactly? Well the answer is clear. LGBT, Women or Yoof. That’s getting the priority right that is.

    Is this the outworking of the consultation with the PR firm from Dublin that cost 10’s of Thousands? Concentrate on coffee culture angst and issues? I have yet to here anyone in the pub complain about LGBT issues, or whether a woman gets the tits oot for the bairn, I have heard them wax lyrical about jobs losses. Perhaps that is my bubble, gulping pint loads of mind altering drugs down the local bucket of blood as fast as my wallet and gut can stand before chucking out time, perhaps I should be sharing coffee and muffins at starbucks and costa with the chaps and chappettes and get my mind changed instead of happily altered. However I am not interested, it clearly isn’t for me. I am not one of the chaps.

    • The Dublin PR company was last year. I think this is SDLPs own initiative based on the perception that there is a lot of people who are not in SDLP but have shown up at SDLP (pro-EU) events. While I believe there are people previously on the edge of Politics who are motivated by EU vote, I dont think that there is a large number and I dont think this means they are interested in broader SDLP policies.
      My main point however is that this opening up of the Party…”getting involved” in policy and organisation for example is counter to what I know about SDLP…a party increasingly run by a small group of Leaders, their staffers and other “staff”.
      There is an irony here that the greatest asset SDLP have is hard working MLAs and councillors NOT the careerists.
      Am I right or wrong?
      Well all I know is that according to the poster, one of the sought after skills is “social media” and I can categorically state that nobody in the central Leadership has ever demonstrated that they value my skills….beyond being patronising about this Blog of course.
      Or maybe I have a higher opinion of my skills that the movers and shakers in SDLP.

      • From what I know of the SDLP you would be more right than wrong. The influence of “professionals”, the sort of person who turns up in a sharp suit and a sharper line of patter gets listened to, you don’t. The sort of guy who would not appear on a ballot paper unless it is a safe seat in case it would look bad for him to lose. It is all a part of the disconnect between political parties and their supporters, the party HQ and the movers and shakers teat the ordinary member as election fodder, but people are getting wise to it, which is why they cannot get people to the same degree any more.

      • I think the big disconnect in SDLP is between members and networkers.
        I have an aversion to networking and networkers have an aversion to me.

  4. Mary Martin says:

    “social democratic” parties are supposed to be doing badly in general (in europe anyway, we will see about the US) because they are increasingly run by elites who are out of touch with working class issues. So they are losing their working class base. Not sure if this applies to SDLP .

    • I think thats only half the story.
      The social emocratic parties are arguably victims of their own success. Anyone looking at (say) East End of London in 1945 and 2016 will see that the Attlee government revolutionised things like Health and Education.
      Arguably Thatcher realised that these traditional Labour voters wanted more…ie owning their own houses and that property boom turned Labour voters Tory.
      Labour has lost touch with them but they also have lost touch with Labour.
      SDLP? The problem is that they achieved the Good Friday Agreement…but what can SDLP do now?
      Again losing touch with voters.
      And voters losing touch with SDLP.

  5. Mary Martin says:

    Have you thought of perhaps turning this into a home for a group of SDLP-friendly bloggers. You could appoint a deputy editor of the blog and a group of pro-SDLP writers to blog here, sort of a Slugger for the SDLP.

    (I am not proposing myself for any of these, I like being a *commenter* and have never aspired to be or thought I had the skill to rise to being a *blogger*.)

    • But are you SDLP supporter?
      There are two or three SDLP members around who do social media but dont do Blogging.
      Social Media and Blogging are two different things. And really Slugger O’Toole is a “message board” rather than a Blog.
      Its a big difference.
      Slugger has people of (allegedly) different view points but there is a group think and the main contributors are networkers. I am essentially a loner and I dont do networking.
      Slugger is commercial and attracts a variety of commenters (sic) but most are in the metrotextual bubble. They could not travel more than ten miles from South Belfast without getting an asthma attack.
      I have always looked on this Blog as pan-nationalist and gene-pool SDLP and I occasionally get good comments from unionist supporters and its good to get their perspective.
      But the Blog has never been open to comments from Alliance Party members/supporters.

  6. Political Tourist says:

    The SDLP are pointless after the EU vote.
    Europe of the Regions as John Hume called it.
    Politics of the defeated.
    And quite sad.

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