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Choose SDLP and we'll help rid country of both austerity and the Tories

The old way of doing politics must end if we are to move forward. Instead of petty squabbling and reckless, headline-grabbing actions, the SDLP offers mature, focused and honest politics with one aim: to make Northern Ireland work. By the party's leader Alasdair McDonnell

Published 28/04/2015

SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell with the party's Westminster Election 2015
SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell with the party's Westminster Election 2015

Not since the peace agreement have the people of Northern Ireland had the power to change our society in such a significant way with their vote. The choice is simple. It is five more years of crippling austerity, which has devastated our communities. Five more years of Right-wing Tory rule. Five more years where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Or people choose a better way. We can choose to invest in prosperity and rebuild our communities. We can choose to lock the Tories out of government. We can choose to defend the vulnerable, support the struggling and reward the successful.

If you choose the SDLP, you will be represented by a party that is rejecting the old way of doing politics. You will get a party that is looking to the future and seeking to create a society you can be proud of. We want to build a society that is fit to be a home not only for you, but for your children and grandchildren.

On May 8, 2015, the SDLP will be instrumental in deciding who leads the next British government. The First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, has already said that he believes the Labour Party should look to the SDLP for support in forming a progressive government. The penny is now dropping with other parties that the SDLP is the only political group from Northern Ireland with the strength and values to be relied upon.

All the polls are telling us there will be a hung parliament; that no one party will be able to form a government. Seen through that prism, what people here choose to do the day before is of the utmost importance. This election is our opportunity to radically change our relationship with London for the better, to put your needs at the heart of decision-making.

You have two options on May 7: switch off, believe things will never change and stay at home - or you can decide enough is enough and send a message by voting for the SDLP. David Cameron will look to the DUP and Ukip for support to form a government and Sinn Fein will be his silent partners.

Together they would force through more austerity in the form of £30bn-worth of cuts and endanger our membership of the European Union by holding a referendum that will destabilise our economy and jeopardise investment.

We say that would be a disaster for Northern Ireland. We are not alone in thinking that. We have an entirely different relationship with the EU than people in England, who could choose to end that relationship.

But when we are asked to support the next government, we will demand that there is a devolution lock put in place which will prevent us from being forced to leave it against our will.

We know from our conversations on the doorsteps that people are fed up: with cuts, with Stormont and with the problem parties. The SDLP is fed up, too. We expected peace to become prosperity. That chance has been squandered.

Now we urge you to join us in taking control once again and choose a better way. Alongside the SNP and Plaid Cymru, we will form a progressive Celtic Coalition that holds a Labour government true to its values. We will ensure Labour abolishes the "bedroom tax", makes big businesses pay their fair share and ends zero-hour contracts.

But, more importantly, we will seek support for our Prosperity Process.

The incompetence of the DUP and Sinn Fein in government has allowed our economy to stagnate, unemployment to rise and communities to be abandoned. We have a new vision for prosperity that will give us the ability to re-engineer our economy, transform our society and work toward fiscal self-determination.

It is on such a scale and of such importance that we see this as being phase two of the peace process. We know that there is no point in putting a price tag on our support, because it gives us no real control. We, instead, want actual powers to determine our own future.

We want to grow our workforce to one million people. That means adding an extra 220,000 jobs to our economy. Doing this would return more than £1bn in revenue. Doing this would transform our society.

To achieve this, we would start by completely changing how we work with our block grant in order to invest now in building up our infrastructure.

We would create a proper roads service in the West and improve the rail links to encourage businesses to set up base across Northern Ireland. Investment follows the motorways - you only need look at what happened in the south.

We export a university-worth of students every year. That has to stop. We are the only part of these islands which is reducing student places.

Through our Prosperity Process, the SDLP would expand university places so our students can stay here, study here and create skills clusters to attract investment from business.

Only 417,000 people have vocational qualifications. We would increase apprenticeships, so that we grow the workforce. We want to kick-start our economy and make Northern Ireland fit for purpose.

The SDLP is the only party in Northern Ireland that has the ambition required to achieve such a reality.

We believe the old way of doing politics must end if we are ever to move forward. Instead of petty squabbling and reckless headline-grabbing actions we offer you mature, focused and honest politics with one aim: to make Northern Ireland work.

At Westminster, we will be in the chamber and in the committees doing the business of Members of Parliament. That means representing our constituents where it counts, when it counts. It means pressing the British Government for a better deal for people in Northern Ireland.

It means voting against the worst elements of austerity at their inception and following through when they come before the Assembly.

Our MPs were there to vote against welfare reform and the welfare cap at Westminster.

It was the SDLP that tabled more than 30 amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill in the Assembly.

Each and every single one was voted down by the DUP and Sinn Fein. We are a progressive, constructive force and we will continue to offer people an alternative.

On May 7, choose prosperity, not austerity; choose a better way; choose the SDLP.

Belfast Telegraph

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