Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Alasdair McDonnell: SDLP have to change or die

Alasdair McDonnell

SDLP leadership candidate Dr Alasdair McDonnell will today issue his party colleagues with a stark message - change or die.

He warned that the party "can change the way we work or we can disappear".

The South Belfast MP is preparing to launch his manifesto today which outlines a strategy to halt the party's steady decline.

The document includes plans to invite his current rivals for the top post to join a 'New Deal' collective leadership if he wins next month's vote to elect a new leader.

"I will be divvying out slices of leadership" he said.

"Rather than seeing myself as a Jack of all trades, I will see myself as chairman of a board."

The South Belfast MLA said the board would meet weekly to steer the party through a crisis which has seen it eclipsed by Sinn Fein.

"The board would be made up of senior politicians, people like Margaret Ritchie, Patsy McGlone, Conall McDevitt and Alex Attwood," he said.

Posts he intends allocating on the board include:

  • A director of elections to continually review strategy.
  • A director of external affairs to "resuscitate contacts we had in Dublin, London, Brussels and Washington" which, he said, "have been allowed to shrivel and fade."
  • A cross-border development spokesperson to encourage an all-island approach in certain areas.
  • A 'reconciliation tsar' to organise dialogue with churches and unionists.

In his manifesto, which will be distributed to party members, he sets the target of raising £20,000 within 100 days of taking over, and warns "we are in danger of being unable to fight elections because we don't have the cash".

Background

The SDLP must pick a new leader at its party conference on November 6 and 7 when Margaret Ritchie will leave the post. Dr Alasdair McDonnell, Patsy McGlone, Conall McDevitt and Alex Attwood will contest the vote. Ms Ritchie decided not to contest the leadership battle, which was called after her deputy Mr McGlone announced he was to challenge her.

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