“The SDLP’s decision to contest all seats is based on electoral weakness to mask its decline…”

Brian Feeney, in today’s Irish News, was keen to put the boot into his old party of the SDLP for running candidates in all constituencies. From the article:

The SDLP tiresomely accuses Sinn Féin of sectarian politics for standing aside in places like Lagan Valley and East Belfast. Listen, get real. Politics in the north is sectarian because the place’s origin was designed by a sectarian headcount.

The exchanges in the last week between the DUP and UUP make no bones about it. When they talk about ‘defending the union’, they mean maximising their sectarian vote.
Ian Knox cartoon 29/5/24: Alliance leader Naomi Long is set to run for election in east Belfast against the DUP’s Gavin Robinson

The SDLP in East Belfast in 2019 helped strengthen sectarian politics. It polled 1,939 votes. Gavin Robinson’s majority was 1,819. If the SDLP had stood aside, Naomi Long might have won. Instead of supporting a non-sectarian party, the SDLP made it easier for a sectarian party to win the seat. Duh.

Exactly the same is true this time, but more so, because the TUV hopes its intervention in protest against the ‘Donaldson deal’ Robinson helped negotiate will unseat him.

With the new boundaries Robinson’s projected majority is 2,626. If the SDLP polls roughly 1,900 again, there is every chance it will cancel out the TUV vote and elect Robinson. Thus the result of standing will be the opposite of what it claims it intends.

The SDLP running in Lagan Valley will have a similar outcome. The projected DUP majority there with the new boundaries increases to 7,500, but the nationalist vote also increases slightly. With Sinn Féin (projected vote 1,900) standing aside, and a TUV candidate plus the unpredictable effect of the allegations against Jeffrey Donaldson, a projected 1,800 SDLP votes could block Alliance and save the DUP’s bacon.

The SDLP’s decision to contest all seats is based on electoral weakness to mask its decline

It’s evident that Sinn Féin’s decision to stand aside in four constituencies helps the SDLP in South Belfast. Asking Sinn Féin supporters to vote for ‘progressive candidates’ in Lagan Valley, North Down and East Belfast helps the Alliance Party. It’s a decision based on electoral strength and confidence.

The SDLP’s decision to contest all seats is based on electoral weakness to mask its decline. It’s self-serving and misleading to field token candidates in most constituencies.

Is he right? Is there any point in the SDLP fielding candidates who have no hope of winning and will potentially help the DUP?

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