I thought Eddie McGready was going to burst into that old Joan Baez number ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’ this morning. “For everything there is a season” Eddie said. “A time to stay and a time to go”. And Eddie is going. The South Down MP is in good health, the SDLP (he says) is on the rise and will eclipse Sinn Fein, so Eddie is…retiring.
Mmm. At first I assumed it was Eddie at his wily best: wait until Margaret Ritchie had become leader of the SDLP and so tied herself to Stormont, then at the point where she can’t avail of it, announce there’s a Westminster vacancy coming up in the SDLP. But according to the Irish News, nothing of the sort – Margaret is almost certain to be the SDLP candidate for South Down and will be pitched in an all-woman no-holds-barred fight with Sinn Fein’s Caitriona Ruane.
Great stuff for the headline writers but aren’t public representatives supposed to give up on double-jobbing (or treble or quadruple jobbing, as it used to be in the case of John Hume and Ian Paisley)? And if they are, as SDLP leader isn’t Margaret R going to have to forego the delights of hearing her own voice echo around the near-empty Westminster chamber for the more intimate environs of Stormont? Or maybe she’s decided she’d prefer to be an absentee leader. Stormont is such a cockpit of constitutional adversaries, the SDLP leader might feel more at home in Westminster, oath of fealty to Her Majesty and all. Could it be that Margaret is getting ready to lead the SDLP into its (second) bright new day as a post-nationalist party?