Belfast Telegraph

Can Margaret lead SDLP in from the wilderness?

By Gail Walker

So farewell then Mark Durkan, pipe and slippers await. There aren’t many women in Northern Irish politics with a realistic chance of taking the top slot in their own party and still fewer with a chance of the top slot in government.

So well done Margaret Ritchie for becoming the new leader of the SDLP.

It was a narrow squeak in the end — a difference of 35 votes between herself and ante-post favourite Alasdair McDonnell.

The party has chosen on two grounds — gender and aggression. The one hope for the SDLP is to get nasty with Sinn Fein. The biggest challenge will be the Westminster elections.

Unfortunately that won’t be a dry run for anything else. The SDLP are defending three seats and anything less than that will be deemed a failure. That’s politics.

It’s a parable for the party that members were still coaxing themselves into making a choice of leader while the Shinners were celebrating at Hillsborough in front of the world’s Press.

There’s a lot of ground to be made up. And so little time to do it in. And so few people who care.

Belfast Telegraph

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