All Political Careers End In Failure…Well Mine Certainly Did

I should start by declaring an interest. You all know that I am a member of SDLP and more so I first joined SDLP in 1973 and while I voted Sinn Féin from 1993 thru to 2009, I am at heart SDLP “gene pool” and really “socialist, republican, nationalist” says it all.

What you may not know is that just over a year ago, I applied (stop sniggering at the back) to be a SDLP Press Officer. As well as having a degree in History and Politics, a dissertation (supervised by Sidney Elliott) on electoral politics in West Belfast 1964-2007, a knowledge of SDLP that exceeds Wikipedia and not least, a pretty darn good blog, while independently minded is the only one that is actually supportive of SDLP. Throw in (I daresay) thousands of pro-SDLP comments on the likes of Slugger O’Toole (not friendly territory for SDLP) and I might have had reasonable expectations of making my case at an interview with SDLP. Alas not….YOU dear Reader might actually think that this Blog is pretty damned good…but the people in SDLP who drew up the shortlist aren’t nearly as enthusiastic as you are.

Let me emphasise …NOBODY who pays a £10 annual subscription, who attends some fundraisers and pays £20 for an Annual Conference “pack” is entitled to a paid post in a political party. That’s not actually the point I am making. The point is I might have had a reasonable shot at being short-listed.

Of course, a crazy person does the same thing twice and expects a different result on the second occasion. Being a certified lunatic, I applied to be Policy Officer with SDLP. Last week I received their “Dear John…….Thanks but no thanks” letter. Again I am not short-listed.

With respect to the person (my money is on a 15 year old PhD) who gets the job , SDLP Policy Officer is a piece of piss. Just write one word DECENCY…on a manifesto and you have the SDLP in a nutshell. The SDLP are simply more decent than Sinn Féin and the Alliance Party.

The SDLP are decent to an almost unreasonable extent…except of course with each other and their friends. That’s how it is. Born in the heat of battle and with a serious commitment to Peace and Justice, SDLP notoriously don’t get on with each other (although I would qualify this by saying that this is not necessarily the case at grass roots level).

It is no great secret that there is some animosity at the highest levels in the Party.

Dr Alasdair McDonnell, the Leader is allegedly prickly. He lost the Leadership race to Margaret Ritchie in 2010, largely as a result of a”Stop Al” campaign. That should have been the end of the matter except for the fact that Margaret Ritchie was an unmitigated disaster her leadership saw SDLP lose two Assembly seats(down to 14) and saw Alliance (8 Assembly seats) overtake SDLP as the third Party in terms of Executive seats.

Ritchie had to go. And in November 2011 the “Stop Al” people had rallied behind Conall McDevitt but McDonnell won the Leadership. Already a man in his sixties, it could reasonably be anticipated that Conall (around forty) would succeed him. Indeed I think the period of the next eighteen months was marked by Alasdair addressing some organisational issues and Conall settling down as the “SDLP Dauphin” who would become Leader in a few years. Certainly that was my honest observation and I certainly sensed relief that things were very civilised.

I think that Conall’s sudden resignation from politics in August 2013 changed everything. It seemed to stun his supporters in the Party and left the “anti Al” faction leaderless with no obvious candidate to succeed a Leader to whom they had never warmed. Dolores Kelly the Deputy Leader is 55 years old. So is Alex Attwood.

If Attwood is to become Leader, it is less likely to  as a consequence of Alasdair succeeding as a Leader an retiring in glory. Logically it is more likely if Alasdair is pushed.

But why would he be pushed? Well his detractors might say that the Council Elections in May 2014 were bad for SDLP. But most reasonable people say they were bad for nationalists and good for Apathy.

The stark facts are that notionally SDLP lost just one seat. Sinn Féin lost ten seats and Alliance (from a much lower base) lost two seats. The fall in first preference vote share was mitigated by being transfer friendly. In truth, the Council results do not give comfort to either faction. The loss of one seat hardly proves the pro or anti Alasdair stance.
So where does that leave the people who make no secret of their distaste for the Party Leader?
Well it is a bit awkward for them.
I think most would analyse that SDLP will lose the South Belfast seat at Westminster next year. The Party Leaders seat. Alliance will be strong, a likely unionist agreed candidate and self publicist, O’Muilleoir for Sinn Féin should all mean that SDLP lose out. The mainstream party may not be so forgiving if they thought any votes were lost thru stabbing Alasdair in the back. Ironically in the unlikely event of Alasdair holding South Belfast, he would have to resign as MLA at Stormont and the Leadership. It would also mean the South Belfast members co-opting a new MLA. And that could be interesting. A likely consequence of Alasdair losing his Westminster seat is that he and Fearghal McKinney are Assembly candidates in 2016. Of course the only way his opponents can address that is to launch a challenge for Leadership at the Party Conference in 2015 but whether those most identified with being anti-McDonnell benefit is another question. Colum Eastwood might be a better option.
If there is a dream ticket Attwood and Eastwood, Who would be the Leader? Good question and it might hinge on the Party choosing the least troublesome path.

But all this cant be SEEN to be about Personality. There has to be an issue.
The issue is Opposition. Should the SDLP leave the five party coalition government and go into Opposition. Well the great problem with the Stormont institutions is that there is no constitutional place for Opposition. If the SDLP goe into Opposition, there is no support structure, no government money to finance an Office of Opposition. Staff will lose out. Yet it seems that these difficulties can be overcome. Where there is a will…there is a way.
For what its worth, I believe SDLP should have gone into Opposition in May 2011.
The Assembly Election produced 92,000 votes and 14 seats for SDLP…51,000 votes for Alliance and 8 seats. Yet the LetsGetAlongerists operating in a narrow base in suburban Belfast took two Executive seats and the SDLP just one Executive seat.
Since then DUP and Sinn Féin, aided and abetted by Alliance and a friendly media have sought to marginalise SDLP and UUP (also on one Executive seat).
I emphasise that was the point SDLP should have said that they wanted to part of the gerrymander.
It is an odd coincidence that we have coalition government at Westminster (Conservative and Liberal Democrat) and in Dublin (Fine Gael and Labour). Conventional wisdom says that in order to survive …the Lib Dems and Labour need to distance themselves from unpopular governments and re-connect with their core supporters. Surely before the 2016 Assembly Election and the current carve up being seen as a carve up and a farce, one or more of the smaller parties will jump ship and try to find the high moral ground. Frankly the party (SDLP, UUP or Alliance) who jumps first has a lot to gain.

Alasdair McDonnell is broadly in support of staying in Government. Those lining up against him are pro-Opposition. This is a position which has strong advocates in South-West Belfast. But there is at least two ironies. First of all Alex Attwood is not exactly in a good position to lead calls for Opposition. His position has to be nuanced,not least because he was Minister for the Environment from 2011 to 2013. It seems a bit contradictory to be pro-Opposition now. Dolores Kelly might be a better choice to call for an “internal party debate” with all options on the table.
SDLP meet in Conference in just three weeks time. Dolores delivers her Deputy Leader speech on the Friday night. Alasdair makes his Leadership speech on Saturday afternoon. The body language and standing ovations should be as interesting as anything actually said.
But the pro-Opposition faction have another problem. The current five-party coalition arrangement was deemed alright by SDLP when they had the lions share of nationalist votes and influence. They have to deal with the point that it is not just sour grapes. They can make the valid point that DUP-SF and their Alliance puppets have abused the system. But they might take notice of the fact that some of those retired party leaders, now loudly advocating Opposition got it wrong in the years after 1998.

They must be honest about the performance of SDLP Ministers in the first coalition. They ned to honest with the Party that the Party Leadership since 1998 has been poor (Mark Durkan is the only one I would not criticise). The SDLP needs to stop blaming the British and Irish governments for being too anxious to transfer real power to DUP and Sinn Féin.

So is all lost for SDLP? No. The May Elections basically stopped the rot. But there are warning signs. Realistically the only Election that matters is The Assembly Election. There are contradictory messages.
The starting point is fourteen seats. On the evidence of May, the third SDLP seat in Derry, the second seat in South Belfast, the North Belfast seat and West Belfast seat are vulnerable. The Election might give the SDLP just ten seeats. But Fermanagh-South Tyronðe is likely to be regained and there were positive signs in South Antrim, Newry-Armagh and South Down. Far too early to write off SDLP on worst case scenarios. Attwood will hold West Belfast, Nichola Mallon currently starring as Mayor of Belfast should take North Belfast and Derry …the third aeat is marginal.
The second seat in South Belfast will probably be lost. And an irony here. South Belfast is very much divided into pro and anti McDonnell factions. They may not like it but they need each other.
Really its not about POLICY.
Policy is the space between POLITICAL ETHOS and ELECTORAL POLITICS.
The SDLP has a good ethos and it needs to translate that ethos into a manifesto. It also needs to tell the people that SDLP represent best…the disadvantaged, the low paid, the public sector workers, migrants…that SDLP NEEDS and DESERVES their votes. The Trade Union leaders, Victims Support Groups need to get off the fence and involve themselves.
The SDLP, especially the Youth Group need to start thinking clearly and avoid grandiose statements calling for big social change on esoteric matters. DONT ROCK THE BOAT!?

So best wishes to the new SDLP Policy Officer.
Clearly he or she is better at this game than I am.
But alas…my own political career is behind me.

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18 Responses to All Political Careers End In Failure…Well Mine Certainly Did

  1. Interesting insight there, FJH. While my knowledge is admittedly limited I don’t know of anyone under the age of 30 who votes SDLP, even those who have fairly favourable views of the party (in Derry the name of John Hume is always mentioned when the SDLP are brought up but that would be about it). They either vote SF or don’t bother voting at all (increasingly so in the latter case).

    One gets the impression that most people in the north-east seem to view the SDLP as yesterday’s men and women despite what continues to be a respectable electoral base. In many ways the SDLP seems to be in a similar boat to the CiU grouping in Catalonia or the Basque Nationalist Party in the Basque Country, both “establishment” nationalist/regionalist parties outstripped by more radical rivals.

    Do you think, given the dysfunctional arrangements at Stormont, that the party can stand out from the crowd or claw back votes? Aside from bread and butter issues I haven’t seen any sort of “vision” thing from the SDLP in a long time. Nothing to grab the imagination or enthuse potential voters. It’s all rather pedestrian and inward-looking.

    • I hae always said that the SDLP problems go back to the 1970s. It was always a coalition. I think too much can be made of the fact that in the west the SDLP is green Nd in Sputh Belfast red…or to use the new buzz word “progressive”.
      I think the North might actually suffer from “civil war politics”. I am not comparing SDLP to FG but I think SF is now in a semi-constitutional state…as Devs FF were in 1937.
      Until 30 years ago there were people in Dublin who would never have voted FF and I think there will always be nationalists in Belfast, Armagh, Omagh etcwho will never vote SF.
      I dont really recognise the Green/Red divide in SDLP. With the exception of the Australian who declared himself an “economic unionist”, I think all my SDLP colleagues are “nationalist” …SDLP Youth eere involved in the QUB Referendum.
      For me being a Republican (in hthe Dennis Skinner mode) is the same as being a “socialist”. While the degree of red and green might differ…both are embedded in the ethos of the SDLP.
      As I have said thats what the Policy Officer should be doing….aware of the ethos of the SDLP and updating it in terms of electoral politics.
      The problem SDLP has is that it fights Sinn Fein e verywhere and Alliance in some places. That might rquire SDLP emphasising one strand over the other…and thats how they lose out.
      The one thing that maybe sums up SDLP is Civil Rights..in both universal and local terms.
      I was actually surprised at how pro Palestinian SDLP is at all levels and actually has more credibility than SF as advocates. The Alliance have no committment to civil rights. Alliance have no committment to anything except a Quango cheque. And I think SF are damaged by the likes of the Mairia Case (maybe even electorally). But Victims remain the great problem. The British Govt has no interest. Neither does SF. And Alliance certainly dont.
      Victims is the single biggest Civil Rights issue and they have been marginalised.
      I had high hopes for SDLP Youth. Not so suure now. They seem to have too much influence on Party Executive. Naive. I think Mark Durkan, the Norths best politician said a few years ago that it was Youths role to embarras the senior Party.
      They are more than capable of making eejits of themselves even if their hearts are in the right place…on their sleeves.
      For example the generational battle over equal marriage…has thankfully been won. The older folks in SDLP know where the future is.
      But I can certainly see SDLP Youth adopt a more strident. “Womans right to choose” stance. I think most would accept that as part of SDLP ethos..updating civil rights…but there is a generational problem with voters and it makes no sense in electoral terms to stir up a new fault line.
      I might add that at two recent annual conferences, SDLP have given a platform to the Pat Finnucane Centre. You wont read about that in any LetsGetAlongerist message board. One year, the recording equipment failed.
      The problem …I have always seen…and in part I blame my own generation.
      Hume, Mallon, McGrady, Rodgers, did the heavy lifting in the 1970s and 1980s right up to 1998. They are/were 15 plus years ahead. I was 29 in 1981 but opted out … Marriage. I tried to start a SDLP Youth in 1973 and I even updated the SDLP Youth Wikipedia page.
      Yet SDLP which has a sense of History except about itself dont even have a copy of The Social Democrat (issue number one) where I wrote about this in 1973.
      And the SDLP Youth literally edited me out of their Wikipedia page.
      I really dont feel like I “owe” SDLP anything.
      I treat SDLP better than they treat me.
      And yet at next months Conferece SDLP will host debates on NHS and Economics.
      The irritating thing is that NHS public sector unions have a direct line to SDLP. So does Amnesty. Do you really think that any group SDLP has helped will endourse SDLP? They are too scared of the “tribal” label and will pretend they are Workers Party or Labourr NI people.

  2. boondock says:

    I wouldnt give up on South Belfast just yet. In 2010 McDonnell got 41% so thats quite a big starting point. His vote share will drop but he should still have enough.

    a) Only the URPG has come out in support of Unionist unity in South Belfast. Its easier for Nesbitt to sell Unity to beat an abstentionist SF candidate a little more difficult to sell it to oust a sitting SDLP or Alliance MP.

    b) O’Muilleoir may very well be pulled before the election to help nationalists do the ‘right thing’ in FST, NB and UB. If O’Muilleoir stays then yes his media savvy personality and more moderate outlook would normally mean he would attract more votes than Maskey but if a nationalist seat is at risk I cant see wavering SDLP voters going for no hope O’Muilleoir even if like me they cant stand McDonnell (as annoying as he is he is still better than the unionist alternative ie Spartt). One more thing the core SF base was hardly bothering to support McDonnell in 2010 as ridiculously low turnout in certain areas confirmed.

    c) Alliance vote in South Belfast is improving but in FPTP election I would expect most of the pale green Alliance voters to switch to SDLP. The only spanner in the works being if Anna Lo stands She said she wouldnt but U-turns are common enough in politics. I dont think Alliance have any chance here but with Anna Lo as candidate it would give them hope as she seems to attract a broad spectrum of supporters and would certainly eat into McDonnells total big time. Any other candidate Morrow? just does not have the same appeal and would only achieve 15% max.

    • No all is not lost in South Belfast. But I think that there is vitriol around and the Media know about it, so there is a kinda narrative around. Even on Twitter one of our local so-called comedians, simply refers to “”Dr Doom”.
      Al is maybe not good for Leadership but Leadership isnt good for Al.
      A few years ago, he was an anonymous but effective MP/MLA…dont write off his constituency work or the fact that he has a very good team around him. But becoming Leader has pushed him into more scrutiny. And with a considerable number in his own party against him….its not good.

  3. I take these points.
    But South Belfast is a place where all five parties have a MLA and the sixth is up for grabs and I would not totally rule out a Green (Clare Bailey) in 2016.
    You are right of course. Maskey standing aside for SDLP in 2010 had minimal effect and I know that SDLP feel that they Dr Al can get votes across the divide. But South Belfast is Metrotextual self styled “progressive” territory and Al hardly registers with the twitterati.
    Id totally agree about Anna Lo and Alliance. She is untouchable. That “Hashtag” thing means she will get support…not because of Alliiance policy but because people are morally blackmailed into supporting her.
    Takes a heart of stone not to laugh at Duncan Morrow failing to win a council seat but still the most likely Alliance runner. He is meant for Assembly. But he touches base witg a lot of those progressive LetsGetAlongerist wastes of spaces. Indeed he was a platform speaker at SDLP Annual Conference in 2010. How crazy is that?
    There is a lot of SDLP internal politics to be played out against a background of winning or losing South Belfast. You can bet that the main players have considered the scenarios.
    1 AMD “wins” South Belfast …instant adoption of a new MLA which might restore party unity. AMD has to stand down as Party Leader. He is not at Stormont…Attwood-Eastwood.
    2 AMD loses South Belfast. Remains as MLA and Party Leader but there will be a leadership challenge. Ambitions of some in South Belfast frustrated again.
    3 The ticket for 2016. Two men of middle and old age from same end of constituency. …or a younger woman candidate from Balmoral getting on ticket…de-selection for someone. Blood on carpet.

    The current Deputy Editor of Slugger O’Toole …Doctor David McCann got his fingers burned predicting Clare Hanna would win. Still not sure if he was spinning or being spun. But 36 hours before selection he was jjust plain wrong. Everybody in SDLP knew that Fearghal had it…even if the majority surprised his own supporters. Conall had done his own side no favours with the timing of the Resignation and the timeline to get someone signed up (Assembly rules) and her mother in USA all mitigated against Clare. The real story of the Selection Convention was not that Clare lost but that her votes total was only 69.
    Incidently Incumbency is a help but not always so. There will be a selection battle in South Down where Newcastle based Rogers beat McGrath (Downpatrick) in. 2011 Seclection to replace Ritchie.
    Theoretically one of the two certain seats in Assembly 2016 should go to a Downpatrick based candidate. Which leaves two sitting MLAs vulnerable unless of course SDLP bravely targets a third seat.

    O’Muilleoir….Never thought the journalistic establishment liked him. Or Slugger. Yet Doctor McCann hosting a Slugger event that the (then) Mayor attended seemed gushing in his praise. Sheldons views are not known.
    But as “New Belfast” cycles up the towpath and jogs down the towpath….tweeting all the way.
    Or buys his sausages in Lisburn Road and his cappuchino on Ormeau Road….tweeting as he goes. Or gets a selfie with his old friends Clyde and BillyJo Rostenkowsky from Cleveland or has Ulster Tatler on hand to photograph The Great Man at a gallery or poetry reading….it is hard to take him seriously. He is a lesson in Image over Substance. But he will take votes off AMD and thanks to co-option he is already in Stormont. Which must please his constituents in New Jersey and Massachusetts.

  4. Political Tourist says:

    Would have being a “freemason” helped in that job application?
    Brother.

    • I dont think so. Although it might have been a good idea to throw some masonic references into my CV. I would certainly have walked into interview with my trouser leg rolled up if it would help.
      Possibly NOT belonging to any faction is a disadvantage.

  5. benmadigan says:

    are you really disappointed? labour and affiliated parties like the SDLP are on the skids everywhere – Scotland, the republic, and even England/Wales as well as NI.

    • Yes. I am disappointed.
      But let me emphasise that it is not about not getting the job. It is about not being seriously considered or shortlisted.
      That people within SDLP have judged me to be not good enough.
      They might well be right.
      They might well be wrong.
      I dont know but the net result is that I am outside “that” world.
      I think thats disappointing because certainly at QUB 2005-2009, on say Slugger O’Toole or in and around the fringe world of party conferences…SDLP, SF, Alliance…or seminars, forums …or simply blogging and the reaction I was getting, I was led to believe that this is a world I actually understand.
      It does kinda bother me that there are some false friends around.

      I do think there are issues SDLP needs to face. equally I believe that they are the most decent political party around and deserve and WILL catch a break..
      As to Labour in south they deserve all they get…bastards.
      And as to Labour in England…they were always bastards. And as to Scotland. Well they lied to the Scottish people…again they deserve the melt down next year.
      The point about mainstream “British” politics is that I simply dont give a feck. The thing is that in voting, people want the “best” for their country.
      What I want for Britain…is the worst of outcomes…it dissolving in its own contradictions….UKIP and SNP will do it for me.

  6. benmadigan says:

    “I was led to believe that this is a world I actually understand” You probably do understand the NI political world. Maybe that’s the problem?
    false friends – All I can suggest is to chalk them up to experience and refine your friendship assessment criteria!!
    Worst of outcomes for britain – but the SDLP take their seats, are part of the Westminster parliament and are affiliated with the british labour party. Seems your having a little contradiction moment here!!
    I do agree however that the Union is running on borrowed time.
    Cheer up – these little disappointments are transient. If you are still a party member you can continue going to branch meetings/conferences etc so you are not excluded from “that world” unless you want to be.

    • The Westminster Oath never really bothers me one way or the other. We need two nationalist parties and the oath is merely a marker of difference between the two.
      False Friends? I probably overstated that. Coming back into politics just four years ago, I had never really built up a list of political friends. I dont do networking and that might have cost me…but no point dwelling on it. Arguably I would have been better if I had belonged to one or other SDLP faction. No advantage in neutrality.

      • The Westminster Oath and sitting in the British parliament bothers me mightily, I must say. I have a few red lines and that would be one of them. I would have a lot more respect for the SDLP if they refused to recognise Westminster and joined with Sinn Féin in demanding seats, even just as non-voting observers, in Dáil Éireann. If fact I would be at the front of the queue in heaping praise upon the SDLP if it were to take such a principled stand and lead the challenge to the Dublin establishment.

        That would be one way to put SF in the shade.

      • I dont really think it matters much in Westminster terms. I think Mark Durkan makes a preamble that he takes the oath to facilitate better representing his constituents.
        Its not really just a matter of SDLP ….Frank McManus, Frank Maguire, Bernadette Devlin.
        famously Tony Banks deliberately crossed his fingers behind his back…provoking Tories. Dennis Skinner, Tony Benn.
        I think Benn even kneeled in front of Mrs Windsor to become a Minister in the Wilson Government.
        I do however think that more should be made of the Dublin “connexion”.
        Seamus Mallon was a Senator and it looked like a precedent was being set but nothing really developed….cept my old froend Quintin Oliver was on the Council of State. ‘Nuff said.
        Incidently if/when Stormont is closed down and a Commission of LetsGetAlongerist collaborators is asked to assist the British Governor, I have a list of suspects…

    • Disappointment is not always transient. When Manchester United won the Championship in 1967, it did not seem possible that it would be twenty six years (1993) before they would do it agaiin. Good moments (FA Cup victories) meant we always had hope.
      Indeed Liverpool fans…last title 24 years ago in 1990 are going thru the same thing now. But there has always been the Euro Cup victory and FACup wins to keep hope. Going for them.
      The 15 year old Liverpool fan in 1990 is now 39 but probably believes (with justification ) that he will see his team take the title …eventually.
      But how does a 62 year old or 97 year old Leeds United fan feel? The disappointment wont be transient.
      I am actually ok with things, I am happily retired. I got a degree at 57 years of age. last year I got to lecture in Texas and will do so again. But I must leave the political life behind. I dont like the networking. And there are lots more enjoyable stuff, being a grandfather for example.
      One of the great joys of this year seeing my 11 year old “play” for Armagh in a half time game at Croke Park…50,000 people and he scores a point. Thats priceless.
      There is a certain amount of re-calibration to be done. Jettisoning the SDLP is just one. Jettisoning pointless crap like An Feile is another. Arthritis means I am less mobile but I am ok with that.

  7. Nigel says:

    Can’t see what the problem is with Alasdair, he seems a good leader to me.

    • There was something very reassuring about the 2011 Leadership Election.
      There was no blood on the carpet. I was at the launch of Conalls and Patsys campaigns. Patsy was my first choice.
      Listening to the final hustings on the night before the Leadership Election, I was very aware that all four brought something. Unique.
      The ideal leader would be a composite of the four..Al, Conall, Patsy, Alex.
      I actually think that 2012 and the first half of 2013 went well. There was a general acceptance that Al was Leader and Conall had placed himself to succeed him in a few years time.
      I think that was what the Party wanted.
      It all went wrong when Conall left Politics.
      A bit like George Best walking out on Manchester United. I took the view then that George Best was a spoiled pampered player…a long way short of the hero that some fans believe.

      The anti-Alasdair faction remain convinced that Conall is the lost leader and seem to be frantically searching for a “new Conall” .

  8. H Stephenson says:

    Would be interesting to get your views on the SDLP conference John

    • I wasnt at the Conference.
      It is the first one that I have missed since 2008.
      In part, I WANT to disengage from Politics, particuarly SDLP politics.
      I still believe in their essential decency.
      In part, there are problems with this Word Press system, particuarly on ipad. I have written posts that disappear.
      I cannot access Slugger O’Toole since they changed the format.
      I have however submitted an article on the state of SDLP at the moment.
      My initial observations is that the elections to the SDLP Party Executive will be revealing.
      I think that there are simply too many Youth members on the Executive…probably eight out of eighteen ….and thats an influence that exceeds ability.
      In a way the SDLP image of middle aged and elderly men is long outdated.
      I didnt listen to Alasdais Conference speech but I saw enough on the news to note that there are a few rising stars on each side of the Leadership Debate and you might see that this showing up as people are selected to fight Westminster seats…with an eye to Stormont 2016.
      I might address this in a full blog.

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