Sunday, September 27, 2009

No comment(s), for once

Much excitement in our small part of the world over the beginnings of the SDLP leadership race. A week ago, Mark Durkan announced that he will stand down as SDLP leader if he’s re-elected as an MP, in order to concentrate on his work at Westminster, where significant cuts in public spending will be made. And that the SDLP, as a nationalist party, shouldn’t be led by an MP in the UK Parliament, where he intends to be doing all this valuable work.

The next day, we are told that’s that, there will be no more to say until after the next election. Two days later, leadership nominations open on November 1st, apparently for a decision at the SDLP conference in February - he’s now going earlier. Today, a week after Durkan’s original announcement, the front runners are Alasdair McDonnell and Margaret Ritchie.

I find it very hard to have an opinion on this contest. I’m curious about the direction the SDLP will take after the votes are cast: towards Fianna Fáil, towards Irish Labour, or carrying on muddling through as at present. I’d like to think that the new leader will help to redefine Irish nationalism and identity through addressing the tensions in the party between nationalism and democratic socialism. I’d welcome stronger alliances with other parties in both the Republic and Britain. I hope the party will move further towards the non-sectarian ‘middle’ of NI politics, assisted by the removal of community designation in the Assembly. The really interesting stuff begins next February - at a time when the Executive will be under increasing pressure to make cuts, and the bigger question may well be whether it can survive that pressure or whether we’ll see the return of direct rule.

Truth is, the SDLP leadership contest is not my fight. So I’ve decided to say no more about it on this or any other blog. I’ll just sit back, pour myself a large one and watch the story unfold.
See also an excellent analysis from Roe Valley Socialist


nineteensixtyseven said...

"I’d like to think that the new leader will help to redefine Irish nationalism and identity through addressing the tensions in the party between nationalism and democratic socialism."

Interestingly, Jenny, that was a major topic at the SDLP Youth conference. Myself and another comrade prepared a green paper on it, which will hopefully become a white paper for the youth wing in December before being submitted to Party Conference in February. The party cannot fudge the issue any longer because there are enough people not willing to let them. You can have a look at it after the meeting in December hopefully.

Jenny Muir said...

Thanks Liam, that will be interesting and I know SDLP Youth has been particularly keen to do some thing on this matter. Putting the paper out to the public in December, i.e. in time for the leadership contest, will hopefully inspire debate.

BUT do you think any of the possible candidates are interested in taking this forward? I hadn't really understood until I wrote this post that the option of continuing to muddle through is still there - especially if members have different views about the direction in which they want to go.

Also I should have linked your excellent post on the subject, have done so now

nineteensixtyseven said...

That's my worry, Jenny... the leadership election will be very very interesting.

Jenny Muir said...

Yes indeed - I still think Eamon Gilmore would be te best successor! But from now on, I'm keeping quiet

nineteensixtyseven said...

Well, he is a party leader of mine too.. if you catch my drift.

Jenny Muir said...

Aha... well maybe there is stll hope