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Can Margaret lead SDLP in from the wilderness?

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