But there is a certain logic.
Brid Rodgers, Dolores predecessor as MLA for Upper Bann and Deputy Leader has an interview in The Irish News in which she says that Alasdair McDonnell should resign from the Leadership. It is hardly a surprise. It is hardly a scoop for John Manley. It looks like a Blue Peter kinda statement from Brid. “Heres one I prepared earlier”.
Let me emphasise I have no real fear about SDLP losing its Upper Bann seat in the 2016 Assembly Elections. Unlike Nicholas Whyte…Slugger O’Tooles correspondent in Belgium….I actually live in Upper Bann. I am a member of the local Party and know the personalities. And while I wont be publishing things that are said within the confines of a SDLP meeting, I am clear about this…SDLP wont lose Upper Bann seat.
But Brid nominating Margaret Ritchie for Leadership and later Conall McDevitt for Leadership are both publicly known. If I was to guess, I would say that Brid would favour Alex Attwood or Dolores to succeed Alasdair McDonnell
But there are problems. Alex has seen the SDLP lose votes in West Belfast. And Dolores has seen her vote dwindle in Upper Bann.
1997: 11,600 ….1998: 11,800….2001: 7,600 ….2003: 6,800….2005: 5,800….2007: 5,500…2010: 5,300 …2011: 4,900 …..2015: 4,300.
To be clear …in the 1990s, these are votes for Brid Rodgers. And the 2003 and 2007 figures are for two SDLP candidates. And while I do not seriously doubt that the seat can be held in 2016, it will need the full attention of the sitting MLA and Dolores cannot be considered a Leadership contender.
But can she retain her position as Deputy Leader? Well…thats problematic. Against a background of calls for NEW blood in SDLP, it would be no bad thing if SDLP went into 2016 with a new Leadership “team”.
Whether thru Leadership elections and co-options later this year, the SDLP will have a completely different look by Christmas 2015 or Easter 2016….ahead of the Assembly Elections.
You can reasonably expect that the Party Conference in November 2015 will include “new” MLAs, including of course, the MLA for South Belfast.
Let me be the first person to use the words “Dream Ticket” to describe the Leader and Deputy Leader.
To be honest, I dont think Dolores Kelly or Alex Attwood can be part of a Dream Ticket, except as senior and highly respected colleagues within the Assembly Team. Indeed Dolores would be an excellent Minister for the Environment.
The problem for SDLP is not only a lack of NEW BLOOD. The problem has been the poisonous BAD BLOOD, between senior figures.
The autumn of 2015 can be a time when SDLP gets a blood transfusion.