Not The Wizard Of Oz

First off, Id like to pay tribute to Barton Creeth, who is quite simply the nicest guy in the small pool of Norn Iron Bloggers. If you haven’t read his blog….you should.
Last weekend Barton got a real scoop. Interviewing Justin Cartwright, SDLP Council candidate for Balmoral in Belfast, Barton got a great quote. Justin described himself as “an economic unionist”.
This quote has now got into the Twittersphere, threads on Slugger O’Toole and the mainstream newspapers. Justin Cartwright has since been interviewed on a local radio station.

Some declarations of interest here. I am a member of SDLP. I have never met Justin Cartwright. I am a Socialist, a Republican and a Nationalist.
Typically this quote has attracted the attention of those (Sinn Fein and Alliance) who want to exploit it to embarrass the SDLP and indeed by self declared “Progressives” (the name by which LetsGetAlongerists prefer to be known) who welcome the statement.

I dont know much about Justin Cartwright. I heard him speak with some confidence at a SDLP Conference. Slightly older, I would guess than the majority of SDLP Youth, who are only now breaking out from “student politics”.

He is of course an Australian, who moved here when he married a Belfast girl. With a pedigree in Australian Labour Politics, he is to be congratulated on joining the sister party SDLP. It is hardly a perfect fit for him…there is no good reason why Justin should be an Irish “nationalist”.
Nor was there any good reason for any of the five or six Polish, Portuguese and Lithuanian candidates for SDLP in the 2011 Local Elections to be Irish nationalists.
To their credit, they joined and campaigned for the local franchise holder of Social Democracy.
They paid a price for involvement. None were elected.
And some saw their SDLP Election posters and their national flags on Orange bonfires.
Yet in joining the SDLP, they joined a party…with a committment to social democracy, civil rights and all the good “lefty stuff”….and Irish Unity.
They might well be indifferent about Irish Unity…but they are not indifferent to a just society.
In joining SDLP, they did not seek to change the SDLP DNA.
The problem with Justin Cartwright being an “economic unionist” is in part signalling that this is the direction the SDLP should go.
And of course, I have often referred to the fact that the biggest and prime challenge SDLP has…is re-connecting with voters who have supported Sinn Fein in the last decade. As I have publicly stated, I am one of these voters myself and as I have seen myself there is evidence of some progress in that direction.
In my view,Justin Cartwright undermines that good work.
The SDLP fights elections on two fronts.
It is near impossible to woo “nationalist” and “letsgetalongerist” voters.
For all the nice things that the usual suspects in the South Belfast MetroTextual “bubble” say about “progressive” voices in SDLP, there is no reward at the ballot box.

Make no mistake this is as much about the “South Belfast Bubble” talking shop….literally coffee shop politics…than it is about broader reality in Norn Iron.
Incidently, you might wonder why no reference was made on The Slugger O’Toole site to the other foreign nationals who have stood for SDLP…surely its relevant.
And you might also wonder why Ian Parsley who contributed to the thread did not mention that his wife, Paula Bradshaw is standing for the Alliance Party in Balmoral DEA.

Is it simply a tussle between the Red Wing and the Green Wing in SDLP?
Well obviously I would deny such wings exist.
And I say this because the “green” Republicanism and “red” social democracy are well mixed in SDLP DNA.
My Republicanism and my Socialism are entwined.
My nationalism? What’s the problem with being Irish and wanting Irish Unity.
Its no different from British nationalist or Australian nationalist.
The British Labour Party and the Australian Labour Party are….nationalist.

Of course there are times for SDLP when the green or red is too pronounced in individuals and we are right to be wary of such people.
For example I voted for Gerry Fitt…who became an Independent Socialist.
In Coleraine people voted for Billy Leonard who defected to Sinn Fein.
In Cookstown people voted for Paddy Duffy who defected to Irish Independence Party.
In Downpatrick, people voted for Patrick Clarke who defected to Alliance.

And thats hardly unique.
In 2011 people voting UUP saw Basil McCrea and John McCallister form NI21.
In 2011 people voting UUP saw Fred Cobain join DUP.
In 2011, people voting UUP saw David McNarry join UKIP.
In 2009, people voting Alliance saw Ian Parsley join UFCNP.
In 2010, people voting UFCNP saw Ian Parsley (again) join Alliance.
In 2010, people voting UFCNP saw Paula Bradshaw (Mrs Parsley) join Alliance.
In 2010, people voting UFCNP saw Trevor Ringland join the Conservative Party.
In 2007, people voting Sinn Fein saw Gerry McHugh defect to Fianna Fáil (I think)
In 2004, people voting DUP saw Jim Allister form TUV.

So I think that SDLP voters are entitled to ask if Justin Cartwright is a Defection Waiting To Happen.
I dont suppose that Justin’s SDLP posters will end up on an Orange bonfire in July. Annd I daresay that loyalists would have an ethical dilemna of sorts about burning the Australian flag. It has after all got a little British flag on it.
But this is the South Belfast “bubble” and normal political rules dont apply. The six Assembly seats are held by five different parties…UUP, DUP, Sinn Fein and Alliance have one each and SDLP has two.
In the coffee shops on Lisburn Road and the Italian restaurants around QUB, the so-called “progressives” in SDLP, Alliance, NI21, Green, UUP and the LabourNI eejits tweet their admiration for each other.
They have actually more in common with each other than their own party colleagues beyond South Belfast.

So it is NOT about Green Wing and Red Wing politics in SDLP.
But it is about something entirely different.
It is about “Traditional” and so-called “Progressive” Wings in SDLP.
It IS about changing the direction of the SDLP.
But this is NOT the chosen battleground.
The chosen battleground is the SDLP Constitution and the issue is “One Person, One Vote”, a measure which would strengthen the hand of “Progressives”, numerically strong in places like South Down and of course South Belfast and frustrated that the “delegate” system gives too much influence to “Traditionalists”, west of the Bann.
We are already at the dangerous stage where A handful of branches such as Balmoral wield too much influence.
Thats the REAL STORY here.

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18 Responses to Not The Wizard Of Oz

  1. boondock says:

    I dont think he realised how one simple statement could create such a reaction and it maybe is a reflection that he hasnt lived here very long but if he is serious about NI politics then he needs to be a bit more carefull. As an economic unionist Justin might feel northern Ireland will be better off financially with the UK but we keep hearing this and yet there are stats and figures which would support either or so it isnt so clear cut.
    Maybe Justin is being smarter than we realise and with 3 SDLP candidates (why????) fighting for 6 or is it down to 5 seats in Balmoral he feels his best chance is to appeal to the Alliance voters or even non-voters. Whilst this is an interesting approach surely economic unionist will vote for Alliance or NI21 anyway and many SDLP voters might shove him further down their pecking order.

    • As far as I know there are only two SDLP candidates in Balmoral and there are five seats. Clare and Justin are the candidates.
      It will be tough to get two, in part because they are trying to harvest the same so-called “progressive” vote. Alliance are running two and Mrs Parsley looks likely but Id laugh my leg off if she lost out.
      O’Muilleoir and Ruth Patterson are safe.
      Fifth seat up for grabs.
      Colin Keenan is running in Court DEA.
      I saw on Slugger that he is in Balmoral but I couldn’t be bothered correcting it. Its a knockabout thread and I dont want involved in it.
      Careless? Yes and No.
      On one level, Barton (American)and Justin (Australian) both live in South Belfast and are politically active in the “bubble” so the Coffee Shop atmosphere could lead to a kinda carelessness.
      On the other hand, Justin has a lot of political acumen and is ambitious and he has certainly increased his profile.

  2. pippakin says:

    Don’t want to get too involved, I’m busy today, but! The “five or six Polish, Portuguese and Lithuanian candidates for SDLP ” may, probably do, have something else in common chances are they are also all Catholic and that would be known or assumed by the vast majority of unionists/protestants..
    Its no good ignoring what obviously has a serious effect on half of northern Ireland and nor does it matter if religion had nothing to do with the candidates choice of party it has everything to do with the perception of the reason and that adds to resentment and grievance.
    If it were up to me I’d make damn sure I’d only allow protestants to campaign in republican/nationalist constituencies and Catholics in Protestant ones. Nothing more irritating than this religious medievalism passed off as rational thinking.

  3. Political Tourist says:

    The delegate system v one man one vote.
    Anybody else see the historical humour in that.
    And the term “economic unionist” is interesting.
    Take it that means Justin or anybody else in that category is doing very well thank you out of the present system.
    Sounds pretty honest to me.
    Take it Justin isn’t sitting gasping on his benefits being put in the bank so he can run down and buy a loaf and milk or stick a fiver in the leccy.
    The politics of reality.
    Some on here will know it.

  4. bangordub says:

    Excellent analysis I must grudgingly admit. 😉

  5. Pingback: The Self-Determination Spring | An Sionnach Fionn

  6. Ken says:

    Excellent analysis which I think is exactly the real story, the phrase nor the ‘blogger’ were an accident. I don’t know but I suspect that there are rumblings in the SDLP undergrowth. I would be wary that there are others who also see that the SDLP Youth could act as agents for change within the party. It is a well worn left-wing tactic to subvert from within and with a confluence of interests, ‘letsgetalongerists’ would only be too eager to see the party move in that direction. FF, assuming there are serious about a move north would be watching with baited breath, a dreamlike moment of opportunity would open before their very eyes. Perhaps you should be ultra friendly with boy David of UUJ fame 😉 Without peeing too much your leg (got that from my wife) Great to see your recent blogs. A healthy dose of ‘reality’…. Good luck and regards Kenny

    Sent from my HTC One X on O2

    • Thanks for this. I suspect that there are up to three agendas.
      1 SDLP one….the One Person One Vote.
      SDLP Youth are still largely a “student” organisation. They have started to make inroads into nearly dormant branches in their home constituencies and even on to Executive. A Party within a Party?
      2 Alliance one….destroy SDLP.
      3 LetsGetAlongerist-“progressive”….re-alignment.

      The Timing is curious.
      The interview took place a few days before (as I understand it) a Training Session for candidates. And Id be surprised if careless talk was not on the agenda.

  7. zig70 says:

    I’m surprised more socialists don’t take exception to Justin prioritizing his pocket over red factors in his choice of favourite nationality. Maybe he will transfer to Dubai.

    • Slightly unfair but I see your point.

      • zig70 says:

        I don’t think I’m harsh, just fed up with people who think nationality is related to the colour of money. But I do think it will be a poor showing if the SDLP can’t make room for people like Justin. As long as they understand politics is about the party than individual.

      • Broadly yes.
        Asks I just said in another comment…SDLP is an asset to Justin Cartwright and he is a liability to SDLP.
        (And if both had an ounce of political savvy, they could help each other).

  8. FJH, I left a Comment under the original interview on Creeth’s webpage but since it hasn’t appeared I’ll repost it here:

    I think Justin Cartwright show’s a fundamental misunderstanding of nationality versus socio-economic self-interest. Ireland’s economy is in a poor state compared to that of Germany. However would a majority in Ireland really vote to become Germans if given the option? Or closer to home the economy in Britain (actually s-e England) is doing well. Beyond the lunatic fringe in the Sunday Independent and Reform movement would anyone seriously argue that we should all vote to become British in order to reap some supposed economic benefits?

    The so-called UK is not the EU. It is not a socio-economic union. It is a nation-state. Cartwright seems to confuse voluntary agreements and organisations entered into by peoples and medieval anachronisms like the last remnant of the British colony on the island of Ireland.

    The Nationalist community in the north-east of Ireland is Irish because it is Irish. They are citizens of the nation of Ireland because they are citizens of the nation of Ireland. That is the essence of the 1998 Belfast Agreement on the Nationalist side and it ill behoves a would-be politician of a Nationalist party to undermine that. For me this is the takeaway comment:

    “…the Union flag is the flag of the country so it deserves that capacity, the right to fly on public buildings”

    No, it’s not. And no it doesn’t.

    • I cant work out whether he is very smart or very stupid.

      • Or just in the wrong party? APNI, NI1921, LPNI or the Greens all look like better fits. His emphasis on bread-and-butter issues is correct. But they are not unrelated to larger constitutional issues. Not seeing the wood for the trees springs to mind.

      • Yes.
        None would be a perfect fit for an AMBITIOUS or CAREERIST Australian Socialist.
        He could at best have a “decent fit”…SDLP …but his inability to respect SDLP traditions is a problem.
        Possibly productive for him
        Certainly counter-productive for SDLP.

        In other words SDLP is an asset to Justin Cartwright.
        And Justin Cartwright is a liability to SDLP (and if both Cartwright and SDLP had real political savvy, the relationship would be mutually beneficial).

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