SDLP: “You Can’t Win Anything With Kids?”

My American friends will be unfamiliar with the term “You cant win anything with kids”. It is in common usage in Britain and Ireland because a BBC Football pundit (Alan Hanson) used the phrase after the first game of the 1995/96 season…when a youthful Manchester United lost at Aston Villa.
The point that Hansen was making was that no matter how good a “young team” is, it will not have the staying power, experience and the guile to a title.
As every Manchester United fan knows the team lost that first match but it was a golden generation and the team went on to win the Premiership….indeed that team won it over several seasons
Of course Alan Hansen never really lived down that opinion mostly because Manchester United fans have not him live it down. Of course, we may not like Hansen (formerly a player at Liverpool) but to be honest, most of us thought he was right.
His mistake was that he was too certain…it would have been better had he said….”RARELY win anything with kids”.
Certainly the opinion he expressed…and I was at the Giants Causeway on that Saturday afternoon and listening to the radio commentary, I felt that Alex Ferguson had broken up his winning team….Ince, Hughes and Kanchelskis had been summer departures and building a new team around Giggs, Beckham, Scholes, Butt and the Nevilles seemed a bit optimistic.
So that night I probably thought that Alan Hansen had a point….”you cant win anything with kids”.
Politics ….is it the same?
SDLP has a reputation for being a dull party for dull men.
Like so many clichés, it is based on fact….and yet clichés can have more appeal than facts. SDLP has been in transition for all of the five years that I have been a member. A lot of young talent around. A lot of women.
To an old bluffer like me…it is all a bit scary. As I have said before Politics can be “generational”.
But sometimes I wonder if SDLP is a little too obsessed with its “middle aged and elderly man” image.
As I have said before, I have applied for Press and/or Policy jobs with SDLP in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. Mostly, I do it in the certain knowledge that no panel will ever select me for an interview. And no doubt SDLP are right….I may have little or nothing to offer SDLP. I am exactly the wrong kinda person for 2015. Some are of course sincere in praising this Blog…but to be honest most key people avoid me like the plague.
Dont make the mistake of thinking that by “key” people, I mean “senior” people. There is a big difference.
Thus when I see a group photograph of SDLP Stormont staffers, it strikes me how out of place, I would be in the SDLP Policy and Press offices. And frankly, it is below my dignity to get sucked into nonsense like “Christmas” jumpers and sharing a cup of tea with an Alliance Party staffer in the canteen or sending a Christmas card to a DUP staffer and friending a UUP staffer on Facebook and pretending to ignore Sinn Féin staffers on Twitter.
I dont look on Politics as a game.
Yet the most striking feature of the SDLP Stormont Staff photograph, which they themselves tweeted is their “youth”. The only publicly known figure in the pic is Donal Lyons, who is the Senior Policy Officer (and a damn good one) who is now a Belfast City councillor, co-opted a few months ago to replace his wife, Claire Hanna MLA. No doubt the others have more degrees than a triangle…but there is more to Politics than a History or Politics degree….even I have one of them.
And certainly, no SDLP Conference is complete without the young staffers striding about like they own the Party. And maybe they do.

So “you cant win anything with kids”? I dunno….there are other senior figures of no fixed purpose in SDLP, who seem to have a lot of influence.

While the emerging SDLP candidates….Gerry Diver and Danny McCrossan will be MLAs in the new year…and Sinead Bradley, Colin McGrath, Connor Duncan and others will be on the SDLP ticket, the Party will have a distinctly youthful feel to it…..but while the Public will only see the election posters, that is really only the surface.
Certainly SDLP is more “professional” but there has to be a balance between “head and heart” and the over-employment of highly educated young folks who are often dismissive of SDLP “lore” and committed to “keeping everything tight at the back” and MLAs and Councillors “on-side” needs to be kept in check.
My main problem with staffers at Stormont and (occasionally) constituency level is that I am not one of them….and clearly never going to be one.
But they are increasingly a part of the SDLP hierarchy rather than the MLAs and Councillors and have effectively become a tier between MLA and Councillor….and rank and file Party members are pushed further away from influence.

Does it matter?
Well, normally I would say “no”….by all means tackle DUP,Sinn Féin, UUP, Alliance and journalists. I dont mind how often our political foes are bamboozled and blind-sided.
But I draw the line when people try and make an eejit out of me. Annoyed? No…I am just amused.

DON’T TRY AND CON AN OLD CON MAN LIKE ME.
DONT FECK WITH ME AND WE WILL GET ALONG JUST FINE.

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