I am of course retired from Blogging and I have absolutely no interest in the Future.
Yesterday, Colum Eastwood, Leader of SDLP addressed the UUP Conference. It is apparently …historic. So say the Bloggers. My own threshold for “historic” is higher. On the other hand, my threshold for “almost risible nonsense” is low.
Like most things in Norn Iron, it is too late.
SDLP and UUP are now very much the second fiddle in the nationalist and unionist tribes. As of May 2016, Sinn Féin lead SDLP by 28-12 on the nationalist side and DUP lead UUP by 39-16 on the unionist side. Our “cross-community” government is therefore a DUP-SF coalition. Their public stance might be that they detest each other but actually they love POWER much more so they need each other.
SDLP and UUP opted out of taking a seat in a grand coalition. Probably they would have better advised to do this in 2011. And DUP-SF have typically acted without Grace…having humiliated the minor parties around the Executive table, they are intent on marginalising Opposition.
The question is can SDLP and UUP co-operate in Opposition? Clearly…yes.
The other question is can they form a “joint” Opposition? And clearly the answer is…no.
How on earth can a socialist party like SDLP have a joint platform with a right-wing Party like UUP?
But obviously they can co-operate on facilitating each other.
Much has been made of Mike Nesbitt addressing his UUP “when you vote for me, you get Colum …when you vote for Colum , you get me”
OH GOD NO!
Have you ever heard anything more cringeworthy?
Obviously if you vote for Mike Nesbitt and his UUP and get Colum Eastwood and his SDLP, you have a good deal.
Just as obviously if you vote for Colum and his SDLP and get TV Mike and his UUP, you have got a very bad deal.
There may be some advantage in TV Mike being two people…the one who tells us he made history on Saturday …or the one who entered into electoral pacts with DUP (Fermanagh-South Tyrone, East Belfast and North Belfast) to maximise the pro-union vote at the Westminster Election of 2015.
With SDLP unlikely to hold the new South East Belfast seat in 2020, will Mike consider an electoral pact with SDLP? I doubt it. With SDLP committed (correctly) to no election pacts with other parties, will Colum give UUP a clear run in South Antrim and Fermanagh-South Tyrone? No!
Of course nationalists hate DUP more than they hate UUP.
Of course unionists hate Sinn Féin more than they hate SDLP.
But pitching the notion that the best way to keep the “deplorables” out of the Executive is to vote UUP and SDLP for negative reasons, rather on their own merits is not exactly inspirational.
Of course this is called “progressive”. The commentators love it. The Bloggerati love it.
But what happens at the highest level of Politics…the Assembly Chamber, the STephen Nolan Show, the seminars at Queens University, or council chambers ….doesnt trickle down to street and parish pump level.
Few if any UUP voters in Bangor, Antrim and Lurgan will be casting a second preference for SDLP.
Few if any SDLP voters in Warrenpoint, Derry and Coalisland will be casting a second preference for UUP.
And the next Stormont election is the best part of five years from now.