Colum Eastwood Launches Campaign For Leadership

So…”The Hive”, Grosvenor Road, Belfast. Less than half a mile from where I spent the first seventeen years of my life. Once a Westie, always a Westie. In the end, around two hundred people in attendance. A lot from Derry and a lot of familiar SDLP faces …Brid Rodgers, Dolores Kelly MLA, Claire Hanna MLA, Alex Attwood MLA and a fair mix of veteran councillors, youth members etc

And of course some journalists and David McCann of Slugger O’Toole.

Ronan McCay from Northland SDLP (Derry) kicked off procedings, reminding us that he is a candidate for Party Chair and itself a reminder that the nebulous slogan of “Change” is not just about the Leadership. This will affect the Party Executive elections and I think a lot can depend on how well McDonnell or Eastwood supporters have organised themselves…how long has this contest been organised in advance of official announcements. And how well the Party members register is up to date.

Claire Hanna spoke warmly of the two of them starting their careers together, attending a SNP conference in Inverness in 2003 with Colum Eastwood. And returning recently to Glasgow and discovering that many ofthe young activists in SNP are now Scottish Government ministers. SNP was then in the doldrums and the SNP had made nationalism relevant.

She said this was not about SDLP internal fights
Taking the fight to Robinson, McGuinness, the paramilitaries and the British and Irish governments.

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Colum paid tribute to Claire and joked that Brid and Dolores had given up tickets to see One Direction. Standing for the Leadership of SDLP is “standing on the shoulders of giants….John (Hume) Seamus (Mallon) Eddie (McGrady) Joe (Hendron)  Mark (Durkan) and “others”. I will be frank ..I was disappointed that (in West Belfast) of all places Gerry Fitt and Paddy Devlin were not name checked. Of course, no offence was intended and not every SDLP “giant” can be mentioned but while SDLP celebrates forty five years….there is a curious attitude in SDLP that the Party really only began with the leadership of John Hume. It relegates some very brave men and women like Paddy Wilson, Claude Wilton, John Turnley, Ivan Cooper, Desmond Gillespie and others to footnotes.

SDLP makes HISTORY but it steadfastly refuses to recognise its own History. It is not Colum’s fault of course because older members should be talking about SDLP History. And the very young folks swelling SDLP Youth branches need to be taught.
Progressive nationalism
Making Norn Iron work…..education, health, jobs, housing
No point in equality in jobs….if unemployment is sky high.

Colum joked about Brid and Dolores giving up their tickets for One Direction to be at his launch and he was genuinely overwhelmed by the numbers in attendance.

It was a nailed on certainty that the theme of the night would be “progressive nationalism”.

But Colum Eastwood was talking about the people the things and people we seek to represent..Truth, Justice….Victims, the Disadvantaged.

On Opposition….thereshould be a place called Opposition but SDLP is a Party that will seek a mandate to govern.
The Petition  of  Concern procedures should be reviewed.
We have North-South Lite…We are about North-South Max.
Irish unity? ….we must make it a “demographic of belief not birth”.
The SDLP are Persuaders for Irish Unity.

With a nod to 1998, Colum said that there has been enough time to bed the institutions down and now was the time to “move on” to a new path.

Perhaps the most dramatic phrase of the night….”I am fed up with losing”.

That phrase resonated with his audience. Is it fair? Well, I am not so much fed up with losing but I have become fed up with having the right tactics, good players, playing well and getting constant no-score draws.

We deserve a bit better. And so does Alasdair McDonnell.

But has he failed? The glass is either half full or half empty and there is no compelling evidence that it is getting better or worse and thats the weakness in the McDonnell and Eastwood agendas.
Maybe whatever is in the glass is evaporating because allied with “Anybody but McDonnell” serial naysayers, there is an impatient mainstream in the Party. Ultimately Eastwood’s launch is only one factor here….because it has been a bad week for SDLP….West Tyrone, the resignation of Rosemary Flanagan as Party Chair and a poor television performance by Alasdair.

I dont know. I am not impressed by the need for this Contest. A dignified resignation in the wake of would have been better than this. And I am not a big fan of the way Alasdair has been treated since he assumed the leadership in 2011.

Two things. If Alasdair wins, the “Anybody but Alasdair” faction wont go away. And they will look beyond Colum, who is the natural successor. And that would be a pity. And if Colum wins, he can expect his own supporters and mainstream McDonnell supporters to get behind him….but it really isnt McDonnell supporters he would need to worry about.

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6 Responses to Colum Eastwood Launches Campaign For Leadership

  1. Declan says:

    I like Alisdair. It’s a pity that something couldn’t be worked out. I think he could not expect to lead the party much longer anyway.

    • Only two weeks to go.
      His campaign seems to be based on ignoring the challenge and relying on enough delegates being mandated by supportive branches. That could backfire.
      I also think that West Tyrone and Rosemary Flanagan situation add to the the feeling of disunity and the Party might feel that Colum has the good will to end it.
      Under Alasdair…more of the same.
      Under Colum….at least a honeymoon period.
      The relatively short campaign is a double edged sword which might become a factor in a close contest.

  2. bangordub says:

    I must take issue with your use of the word “Progressive” the term has been to an extent, hijacked. It is one of those words that instantly I find patronising, somewhat insulting and dismissive of other viewpoints. I’m sure you meant none of those things but I felt I should make the point

    • I dont like the word either.
      Its not so much patronising….I just find it has no meaning or means whatever people say it means.
      Nobody will ever say that they are NOT progressive…so we get left with this notion that its like “Platform for Change” or something bland.
      There are supposed to be “progressives” elements in SDLP, UUP and Alliance…and I dont like Politics to be more about Conviction.
      But what I liked was the fact that SDLP…both Colum and Claire….were not afraid to use the word “nationalist”.

  3. Political Tourist says:

    I’m sure the SDLP is full of really nice people but why is it nobody out of the wee six has took any notice of them since the days of John Hume.

    • Oh we are VERY nice people. Just look at me.
      We really need to get out of the syndrome of thinking people should vote for us because we are “nice” or that we are policy-based, rather than tribal.
      There are now so many “elephants in the room” in Norn Iron politics….criminality, paramilitaries, no justice for victims and DUP pop-up ministers in the DUP.
      It is beyond parody that a Special Advisor resigns with a severance package to become a co-opted MLA to become a Junior Minister and have her own Special Advisor…all within six weeks.
      Is this going to have ANY negative effect on her Partys support?
      Sadly…no.

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