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SDLP and UUP should take a leaf out of Allister's book

By Liam Clarke

Published 09/09/2011

It is the Stormont Executive's first meeting of the new term today and there are also hard choices for the smaller parties to make.

Of the three tiddlers who are on the Executive, only Alliance has found the knack of working creatively with the Big Two. It has grown its support, although from a small base.

The SDLP and UUP both tried playing internal Opposition in the last term - they were on the Executive, but opposed many of its decisions including the Budget.

Even though they picked popular issues, like health cuts, being semi-detached members of the Executive didn't work out for them and they lost votes as a result.

This term, people need to know where they stand - in Opposition, or in Government. Both are in disarray and decline. There is a strong argument that they need a period in Opposition to restructure, rebuild and recover.

This argument was once taboo, but now Mike Nesbitt and Conall McDevitt - rising stars in the UUP and SDLP respectively - have both raised the issue publicly.

The Executive table is a place where teamwork, not carping, is needed. The Opposition benches provide the proper platform to scrutinise policy and exploit any perceived flaws.

Jim Allister has shown what can be done in this regard by one man; more could be achieved by two parties working together.

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