We have heard much these past days about the willingness and necessity for the SDLP to listen to the electorate and take heed of lessons learnt from a truly battering election result. All over the North, they were embarrassingly humiliated by a collapse in their vote, having been dragged into the campaign by a weak leader who should already have resigned. There’s no doubt that any political party which does poorly in an election needs to evaluate its position if it aims to improve, but what if it’s simply fighting for survival? Surely that circumstance is distinct in itself.
For there are figures within the SDLP who immediately tried to gloss over the result as a temporary period of bad luck for the party, but realistically, when has its luck been in these past two decades? All they do is lose more and more ground, yet retreat further and further into their rotten core of pro-Brit sentiments and Neo-Redmondite ideology. They can’t seem to fathom that the nationalist electorate is well to the Left of what is called a “Social Democratic and Labour Party”; one which wants to give away Irish sovereignty to the unelected EU Commission. The nationalist people are also much more class conscious than before, knowing that figures within the SDLP, like Alasdair McDonnell, are really more their ‘class enemy’ than their “class warriors.” Even just recently, a North Belfast football team was disgusted to find that SDLP Councillor Donal Lyons was involved in trying to hinder the prospect of an Ardoyne club playing at grounds in leafy suburban South Belfast.
But back to the fundamental question: Can they change? Well, not with figures like Colum Eastwood at the helm – who base their political approach on the same defunct politics of Seamus Mallon and Brid Rodgers (two great “socialists”). Not when they select people as controversial as Daniel McCrossan. Not when family members appear to benefit from public-funded appointments. You see, as Chomsky outlined, you can’t have representative democracy with a party stuffed full of wannabe middle-class toffs, otherwise you end up with “bourgeois democracy”, just like in America. Of course, they try to paper over this by standing people from working class areas, like Martin McAuley; but in reality he aligns with the same Europhile fanatics that talk “Left” while acting “Right” – enforcing brutal austerity measures as so-called “socialist” governments in Europe.
Then you have the ‘Equality’ issue, where it gets really ugly with the SDLP. For here’s a party of the “Left” which allowed insufferable individuals like Alban Magennis to vote down equal marriage in the Assembly, alongside the right wing fanatics in Unionism. Here’s a party who’s Council leader in Belfast, Patrick Convery, refused to vote for a motion condemning those who harass women who happen to have had abortions. The same Councillor also opposes equal marriage, alongside some of his local government colleagues, and has done for years – but has never been expelled? Likewise, the same people willingly throw themselves before the Queen’s New Years Honours List, to get the very same awards dished out to the British soldiers that slaughtered nationalist people in these areas – like alleged OIRA man, Pat McCarthy MBE (reference below). Think about that, a former “republican” internee accepting an award from the same Crown administration that detained him without trial. It’s almost beyond belief.
The fact remains, the SDLP is totally unable to attract the kind of diverse demographic of youth and other people, to build a solid party of the Left which has recognisable credentials on the National Question. You can’t have genuine social democracy under partition, when all the economic levers remain at Westminster. And they are never going to out-“Green” Sinn Fein, because nobody in the SDLP would ever have fought and died for the cause of Ireland. They let other people’s sons and daughters do the fighting to obtain Nationalist human rights under the Agreements, while they sat back claiming the political rewards for years when republicans didn’t stand in elections.
So my view is that no, they cannot change. And they don’t even want to change; the prospect is only being considered in an attempt to try to win back a seat in the British Parliament. Instead of accepting the dismal result they were handed, these intrigues are alleging “voter fraud”, to insinuate that somehow they were the people’s real choice. Any self respecting person in the SDLP needs to do what Brian Feeney and Paschal O’Hare did decades ago; ditch this coalition of “Catholic Bishops in suits” and align with a party that cares for the cause of labour and the cause of Ireland as One Nation.