SDLP: Signs Of Recovery

I am more of a pessimist than an optimist but I have never bought into the narrative that SDLP is a political party in “managed decline” (Slugger O’Toole passim). It seemed too much like an agenda, driven by people who dont like SDLP very much.

Certainly since Christmas, I have noticed that some Sinn Féin supporters have become pretty hostile to SDLP. A lot of messages,I have got recently are more vitriolic than before. Is it in itself a good sign that SF twitterati are taking SDLP more seriously than before?

I have never bought into 2014 and 2015 being bad years. Lest we forget 2014 was a good year for nationalism at the local council polls. But while SDLPs main rivals Sinn Féin and Alliance lost ten and two seats respectively, SDLP lost just one. So in comparative terms, SDLP did better than their rivals.

Likewise in Westminster 2015, Sinn Féin lost Fermanagh-South Tyrone and Alliance lost East Belfast and SDLP held their three seats. Not enough credit has been given for this statistic.

In relative “clout” SF 4, SDLP 3, Alliance 0….is obviously better for SDLP than SF 5, SDLP 3 Alliance 1.

Observers will note there has been a change of Leader in late 2014 and Colum Eastwood is certainly young and energetic but essentially he is carrying on the work that was started by Alasdair McDonnell from 2011.

There are good signs. Most candidates for the Assembly Election are already in place and there is a younger and fresher look and a certain sense of purpose.

But one thing seems to have been overlooked by analysts. It is not just about first preference votes…SDLP look much more transfer-friendly. The stance on marriage equality opens up an avenue to social liberals, who do not like the fundamentalism of DUP or near-Fundamentalism of UUP. The “Welfare” issue…Sinn Féin u-turns and unionist-Alliance hostility to the under-priveleged opens up new ground.

And of course, SDLP has been more consistent on the Victims issue than any other Party.

Today’s news that the sole councillor elected on the NI21 ticket in 2014….Johnny McCarthy in Lisburn…has joined SDLP is news that will give a boost to SDLP members. And yet it seems part of a pattern.

In May this year, one SDLP candidate was formerly a member of Sinn Féin. And I know SDLP members who were previously members of the Green Party and LabourNI. So there are signs that are good.

The key thing is that the individuals who become activists are a sign that voters are also prepared to look at SDLP in a transfer-friendly way.

In May 2016, transfers will hold the key to the “sixth” seats in a lot of constituencies.

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12 Responses to SDLP: Signs Of Recovery

  1. Sinn Féin Supporter in Tyrone says:

    “Sinn Féin lost Fermanagh-South Tyrone”

    This is because SDLP did not stand aside in wake of the unionist pakt. It is nothing to do with SDLP sign of recovery, John.

    SF are set to massively increase seats in the Dail on Friday and that will give them momentum going into the Assembly elections.

    • Whinge! Whinge! Whinge!
      You dismiss the SDLP as irrelevant and then whinge when they are relevant.

      • Sinn Féin Supporter in Tyrone says:

        Are you saying that from the SDLPs point of view having Tom Elliott as an MP is better than having the excellent Michelle G.?!?

      • I am saying that it is the duty of every political party to present its programme to the voters.
        Sinn Féin talked up their support in North Belfast and Upper Bann and played the sectarian card…and it didnt work.

      • Sinn Féin Supporter in Tyrone says:

        Not sure I would go along with that. SF does *not* the sectarian card play.

        Sinn Féin is going to emerge from Friday’s election down south with immense energy and all the southern activist base will come up north to get the vote out .

      • Yes SF DO play the sectarian card.
        They tried and failed in North Belfast.
        They tried and failed in Upper Bann.
        I look forward to all these energetic Sinn Féin activists coming north.

  2. boondock says:

    I dont really know much about mccarthy but fair play. He is getting some stick over on slugger for being voted on a unionist mandate and then switching to a nationalist party but i find it refreshing that someone might have looked at other issues other than the border and guess what they can vote him out next time if they so wish. I guess the only recent comparison was the trickle of Ucunf members who fled to the alliance party following its implosion. Not too sure i agree with your election results reviews I would say the last couple of elections have been poor for the sdlp and nationalism in general.
    To the SF supporter the SDLP never wanted a pact in the first place but they were certainly not going for a joke deal which involved a free run in SB ( which they won anyway despite a rather nasty campaign by a certain party) in exchange for a withdrawal in NB, FST, UB, and EL. Maybe next time a slightly more sensible approach needed which may need to include the likes of PBP and others if they continue their success.

    • Sinn Féin Supporter in Tyrone says:

      Boondock realistically the SDLP cannot call the shots as far as pacts are concerned. They aren’t competitive outside of the three seats they hold.

      • Thats the most stupid comment I have ever read.
        SDLP did not want any pacts and got exactly that….no pacts.
        Sinn Féin wanted pacts….and did not get them.
        So quite clearly SDLP called the shots in May 2015.

      • boondock says:

        Maybe im unaware of any meaningful negotiations regarding pacts but the one I mentioned which was doing the rounds in the newspapers at the time was laughable, i think SF were also going to stand aside in EB, like wow for every 1 vote long would have gained she would have lost 4. It was basically SF wanting everything but giving nothing not even a token gesture of running just SDLP in a long shot like EL and not even considering something sensible like selecting a nationalist leaning independent. Mcdonnell was very anti-pact but i dont know eastwoods stance. It certainly a possibility in the future but only on fair terms and that comes from a nationalist first and foremost who does vote SDLP because of my constituency but would be happy to vote SF, Green or Alliance (sorry FJH) if in different constituencies.

      • I dont think anyone in SDLP would want any kinda pact with any Party.
        It is a principle…for example East Belfast….Alliance would have loved a straight fight between Long and Robinson (indeed Slugger O’Toole saw it that way and staged a debate featuring those two alone). They would have loved SDLP, SF and Greens to stand aside.
        No Party can grow in 18 constituencies by standing aside.
        For example, Alliance used to have a decent vote in West Belfast but when they made a tactical mistake when they stood aside for jOe Hendron.
        Likewise it was a huge mistake when SDLP stood aside in FST for Bobby Sands…..it gave SF an advantage which lasts to 2015. Presumably some SDLP gene pool votes are in Gildernews total….those votes are now released back to SDLP.
        DUP have also benefitted unduly from pactswith UUP.
        All Parties make grandiose appeals forvoters to “loan” votes for one election….look at Long in 2010….but after her victory speech, Alliance spent five years boasting of a breakthru.
        Alliance WONT get three seats in 2015 in East Belfast. Those loaned votes are back in play for UUP and Greens.
        For gIldernew and Long , the spell is broken.

    • I think when anyone leaves one party and joins another, the first Party always calls “foul”.
      UUP called foul when McCrea and McCallister formed NI21 and I think thats a better comparison than the defections to Alliance because none were actually elected.
      To be fair NI21 claimed it was breaking the mold and I always felt it was closer to Alliance than UUP. (The Alliance Party breathed a big sigh of relief when it imploded).

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