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…..now 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.