SDLP deputy Dolores Kelly calls for leader Alasdair McDonnell to stand down
The deputy leader of the SDLP has called on her party leader to stand down.
The call by Dolores Kelly follows votes of no confidence from at least four SDLP branches and growing disquiet with Dr Alasdair McDonnell's performance.
The South Belfast MP said he was surrendering his Assembly seat to concentrate on Westminster, where he squeaked in with just over 24% of the vote.
"Now that he is leaving the Assembly he should leave the leadership too at some stage," said Ms Kelly. She predicted that Dr McDonnell will be opposed as leader at the next party conference - probably in November - if he does not step aside.
Ms Kelly refused to comment on who might stand. However party sources say that Colum Eastwood, the former mayor of Derry, is being encouraged by supporters to run. These include some prominent party figures.
Meanwhile, plans to push Dr McDonnell out by a vote of no confidence has been abandoned. A source said: "The parliamentary group isn't ready to pass a vote of no confidence; some people are sitting on the fence. There is a human aspect so it won't be pushed to a vote for a while anyway."