Tim Attwood Stands Down

I think Tim Attwood is probably the best known SDLP member who is not a MLA (Member of Stormont Assembly). In part, there is the name recognition factor. He is after all brother of Alex Attwood.

Unsurprisingly Tim is opposed to the SDLP-Fianna Fáil partnership agreement. But he states he is not going forward in the May Council elections because of “personal and political reasons”. And we have to respect that. End of at least half the story.

He remains a member of SDLP. The SDLP has lost surprisingly few members since it ratified the partnership by a factor of 70:30. No doubt many who lost the vote will accept the decision while others make the (reasonable) judgement that it will all end badly and they can help pick up the pieces.

If the experiment fails, it is likely that Colum Eastwood will be challenged as Leader but it doesn’t necessarily follow that he would be replaced by a “I told you so” candidate.

The electoral consequences are more problematic. SDLP has a reasonably safe quota in Blackmountain DEA and I think Tim has actually increased his profile since 2014. But there are warning signs.

While a quota of approx. 1,700 and a first preference vote of 1,400 seems comfortable, it was a very unbalanced vote…Tim took around 1,250 while running mate, Gerard McDonnell took only 150 votes. This is due to name recognition, an excellent record, the inexperience of Gerard and a very high personal vote for Tim.

Things have changed of course. Gerard is now Vice Chair of SDLP and better known and from the same “labourite” wing of the Party. Logically SDLP will field one candidate and most likely, Gerard McDonnell.

At best, I rate SDLP chances of holding its one seat in this seven-seat constituency at 50:50. Sinn Féin predictably hold five seats and People Before Profit hold one seat.

I declare an interest. In the 1970s I was Secretary of the Falls Branch of SDLP and I lived in (what is now) Blackmountain DEA. Who knows? Maybe if I had stayed in Belfast, I would be the candidate.
Yet I feel no connexion to the party in West Belfast. I have found them surprisingly lacking in knowledge about Party history in the 1970s. For example the location of constituency offices at the time or their elevation of Paddy Devlin above Desmond Gillespie (most don’t even know the name) in SDLP West Belfast history.

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9 Responses to Tim Attwood Stands Down

  1. Vince says:

    John, I think that seat has gone and probably would have gone even if Tim Attwood was the candidate. He has indeed done the honourable thing. If candidates cannot wholeheartedly get behind the new partnership then they should step aside. This probably also applies in Belfast to Donal Lyons, Seamus de Faoite and Gerard McDonald (at least). I strongly suspect that only the first of these will get elected anyway although even he is an electoral novice and they are running a very risky strategy of 2 candidates in Balmoral. A single, partnership committed candidate would be far more sensible.

    • Vince, you could be right. I think Tim Attwood would have been elected. When we say “good constituency worker” we tend to think of a councillor helping with a housing problem or a benefits problem but more so it is enhanced by “contacts” with community groups etc. He knows a lot of people and a lot of people know him.

  2. SDLP activist - North Down says:

    I have a lot of respect for Tim. I understand his reason for not seeking re-election for the SDLP is that he doesn’t support the FF link. It’s a loss to Belfast politics. (It should not be assumed that all those who do stand are happy with the FF link).

    • True. A lot of the 30% will be standing as candidates and presumably signing a declaration to support the Party. And they have a perfect right to stand.
      If this partnership goes wrong then we certainly need people to pick up the pieces.
      But I am wary of people who will stand for SDLP and have their name next to SDLP logo on a ballot paper and then have a very public and tearful crisis of conscience later in the year.
      As the line emerging this week from Chuka, Soubray and the rest of that bunch is “I didn’t leave the Party, the Party left me”.
      I really don’t want to hear any SDLP person issue a statement like that.

  3. I think you are correct about those with a crises of conscience. I was told by someone running who I met at an event tat he would stand to get elected and then “do something”. Never said what that was. I left wit the tought in my mind – “what an absolute shite”

    • Then I hope he does not get elected.
      Usually I spend election day going round constituencies (free bus pass after all) and the next day at a count. This year I cant be bothered. Even watching TV will be an effort.
      Everyone feigns optimism during a campaign but as soon as the first boxes are open, then a certain honesty takes over. Albeit an honesty that has an agenda.
      Thus the SDLP candidate you spoke with might be interviewd at a count and blame his defeat on Colum Eastwood. Likewise BBC and UTV will seek out a rent-a-quote critic of Colum to come into a studio talking about mixed messages to electorate and making a thinly disguised leadership pitch……..or that tearful “I didn’t leave the Party …the Party left me” speech followed a few days later by a press conference announcing a new “progressive” grouping.
      Perhaps the Euro elections and the prospect of a Westminster Election will put people in a holding pattern for several months. Certainly ambitious people will look at Thursdays votes, take soundings in their constituencies and weigh up options of going Independent or staying while the possibility of a seat at Westminster is real.
      There is a lot of moves going on.
      Frankly I think that Blackmountain is lost. I cant remember the name of the candidate but I think Tim Attwood was the only person who could have kept it.

      Of course, it is possible that SDLP (going into this with 66 or so seats…nearer 60 with defections) could actually hold their ground. But just holding on is no longer enough.

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