A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Labour in Northern Ireland

I'm troubled by Alan Johnson saying Labour will run candidates in Northern Ireland.

How does this square with our solidarity with and commitments to our sister party, the SDLP? Surely it is not comradely to run against a fellow member party of the Socialist International and Party of European Socialists?

Why couldn't we do a deal to run joint SDLP and Labour (maybe joint with the Irish Labour Party too) candidates, rather than splitting what little centre-left vote there is in the North?


Blogger Chris Paul said...

The Co-Op Party is the answer, and/or LP doing a similar deal as the one with Co-op with SDLP i.e. joint membership.

I voted against organising in NI. My folks live there. They used to be activists in Bristol. They haven't joined yet.

I doubt AJ has seen the membership numbers for Brit LP in the 6C or he would not be saying this.

Making it class politics is however the next step. But I can never work out which Unionist Sects are for the workers ...

12:52 am, June 01, 2007

Anonymous Andrea said...

"Surely it is not comradely to run against a fellow member party of the Socialist International and Party of European Socialists?"

I'm not sure this is a huge problem. In other countries (for ex Italy) there are some examples of 2 parties being both part of Socialist International and contesting elections against each other.

"rather than splitting what little centre-left vote there is in the North?"

They can always transfer to each other.

9:05 am, June 01, 2007

Anonymous Ian Kingston said...

As a Northern Irish (be that one living in Hackney North) member of the Labour Party I do think we have address to the issue memebrship. The SDLP is representative of the nationalist middle class and it is believed it is only a matter of time until they merge with the right wing Fianna Foyle. Whats more the SDLP didnt behave very commradely in the vote of no confidence on Callaghan in 1979, if they had voted with Labour rather than abstaining Callaghan would have won.
I think we should help the fledgling Labour Party that does exist in NI organise but we should so in partnership with our colleagues in the Irish Labour Party offering a joint membership.
I think it is a pretty sad state of affairs that the people in Northern Ireland cannot for (or against the party that ultimatley governs them).
Let's try and put secterainism behind us and offer an altnernative to the Orange and Green politics of dead Kings thats shows people living in the Northern Ireland/6 counties there is more that unites them that divides them.

9:44 am, June 01, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

ian kingston - "the nationalist middle class"? Have you ever been to Derry? The markets in Belfast?

Yoyu don't know what you are talking about. The last time there was an attempt to get the SDLP to merge with FF it was thrown out by the party's conference and instead they voted to strengthen their links with other European social democrats.

Whateever else Mark Durkan is, he is no stalking horse for Fianna Fail.

This whole thing is more proof that Johnson is an idiot

11:05 am, June 01, 2007

Anonymous ian kingston said...

Anonymous- Yes I have been to Derry and I passed through the markets in Belfast an Tuesday.
The fact is the SDLP are unashamedly a Nationalist party, middle class or otherwise.
For some time Fianna Foyle has been trying to model itself as a party of the 32 counties and I believe the SDLP could find themselves in a merge or die situation.

The main crux of my agruement is that Labour should offer an alternative to both the unionist/loyalist parties and nationalist/republican parties. Both the Green Party and the Alliance Party increased their vote and seats in the last Assembly elections I think this shows there is support for parties that want to move on and want a different kind of politics in Ulster-the 6 Counties-Northern Ireland.

11:53 am, June 01, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ian, you party would be little more than a unionist rump then. Though I note you no longer are parotting the Sinn fein claim that the SDLP are a middle class party and have got down to brass tacks - you are a unionist.

Fair enough. We've had "Labour Unionist" parties before and they all went nowhere. I don't see why my party (Labour) should waste its money on this little escapade though.

12:07 pm, June 01, 2007

Anonymous ian kingston said...

Anonymous- As I mentioned earlier I am a member of the Labour Party, I have never voted for or been a member of a unionist party.
What I am proposing is we put together a model of a Labour Party offers joint membership of the Irish and British Labour Party. I would be proud if the party which I belong to, put a sensible amount of resources into building a cross-community Labour Party.

12:38 pm, June 01, 2007

Blogger Chris Paul said...

Anyone interested in the Co-Op Party model? Or inviting Durkin and Co to merge into Labour/Irish Labour. The Co-op Societies have membership from all classes, sects and faiths. They have equivalents in the 6C and the "free state". Both Mr Durkin and Irish Labour (and Sinn Fein who may or may not be a workers' party - discuss) are regulars at LP Conference. Along with the Irish Society. A social every night can be had with a good craic.

Declaring interests. Mum from Derry, her family from Donegal/Inishowen; Dad partly from Cork/Bantry Bay via Wales. They live in Ballycastle. Papa Doc is their MP.

1:08 pm, June 01, 2007

Blogger Harry Barnes said...

Good grief, I never thought I would have to consider voting for Alan Johnson, but he is sound on Labour Party rights for people living in Northern Ireland, even if we are nowhere near candidates being run at the moment. I would have hoped that the line for socialists would be that we are neither green nor orange, but red.

This was also debated at -

3:09 pm, June 01, 2007

Anonymous Liam said...

"Labour should offer an alternative to both the unionist/loyalist parties and nationalist/republican parties"

I don't think this is possible. For a British party to organise in the north of Ireland automatically characterises them as unionist in any eyes (I would imagine) but certainly in the eyes of the nationalist community.

I think Labour should stay out of Irish politics. Both SF and SDLP are already putting forward progressive politics in the interests of working people, as are the PUP, and as the DUP will be forced to to some degree to maintain their working class base.

I don't agree with a Labour forum involving British and Irish Labour because it leaves NI in an unresolved state with regard the union and partition.

If Irish Labour started challenging in the north though...i might support them.

7:10 pm, June 01, 2007

Blogger Johnny Guitar said...

“How does this square with our solidarity with and commitments to our sister party, the SDLP? Surely it is not comradely to run against a fellow member party of the Socialist International and Party of European Socialists?”

And I thought it was only Harry Barnes and I were obsessed with this matter…

Luke, I suggest you take a closer look at the SDLP. The left wing members of the party jumped ship over 20 years ago. It is a nationalist party. That is how it is perceived by the public here, its members, its voters and it is how party members register themselves when they enter the Northern Ireland Assembly. As a socialist living in NI I sincerely want a centre left alternative. At the moment it doesn’t exist. So what do we do?

“Why couldn't we do a deal to run joint SDLP and Labour (maybe joint with the Irish Labour Party too) candidates, rather than splitting what little centre-left vote there is in the North?”

I think you’ve hit on a good idea. Clearly it would be a disaster to have the British Labour Party, the Irish Labour Party and the SDLP all contesting elections. I think the (British) Labour Party running under its own banner could potentially flop and go the direction of the Tories. People here in NI - nationalist and unionist - both do view the ‘mainland’ parties as some kind of exotic set of foreign creatures! Similarly, unionists are aren’t fond of all-Ireland parties (though the Green Party has been a surprising exception).

Leaving the SDLP out of the equation for now, I think the British and Irish Labour Parties should recruit and organise separately in Northern Ireland. However, I think they should pool their resources and pull together on a united platform when it comes to election time (perhaps under some kind of “NI Labour Party” banner). Perhaps we could even draw in some of the more leftish members of the SDLP into such a formation.

In a perfect world I would like to see the SDLP split, with the majority nationalist faction doing its own thing and the left leaning SDLPers finally making themselves known. Whatever happens, a realignment of politics is needed here because at the moment a coalition government of homophobic Christian fundamentalists and former terrorists is not doing the people of the north justice.

So fair play to Alan Johnson. My door is open to the Labour Party.

9:07 pm, June 01, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is now a new urgency to this matter. Fianna Fail (note the spelling) Leader and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has announced that FF are setting up a committee to organise in Northern Ireland. SDLP leader Mark Durkan has welcomed FF's move and said the SDLP will engage with Fianna Fail's committee.

As an Irish Labour member who canvassed for the SDLP before I concur with the description of the SDLP as a middle class nationalist party - they are not a Labour Party.

There is a motion at the Irish Labour Party conference in November to allow Labour council candidates at the 2009 Northern Ireland local elections - obviously this would be better done in conjunction with the UK Labour Party. At present our position is:

"at present the Labour Party only contests elections in the Republic of Ireland, the Northern Ireland Labour Forum is in all other aspects a branch of the Party and members participate fully in campaigning and debate. The NI Labour Forum is also seeking a formal structural relationship with the British Labour Party"

For your information please find below Mark Durkan's statement welcoming Fianna Fail to Northern Ireland:

"SDLP Comments On Fianna Fáil's Designs On Northern Ireland

SDLP Leader Mark Durkan MP MLA has today responded to An Taoiseach’s announcement that Fianna Fáil is to establish a new committee on all-island strategy:

"The SDLP was the architect of the Agreed Ireland which has now at last come to pass. We have always said that this new Ireland would bring realignment and exciting change in Irish politics, both between North and South and within the North. With many of the institutions finally up and running, the flux that we have predicted is now beginning to appear.

"We are a party that plays its role in response to the public needs of the time. For decades, we worked in the national interest to secure peace. In recent years, we have continued to take on the real issues of the day, North and South, not least through our ‘North-South Makes Sense’ strategy for all-island cooperation. We have worked closely and extensively with Ministers from Fianna Fáil on the National Development Plan which is now paying huge dividends in investment for the North.

"Now, as we look forward to ever-greater focus on everyday economic and social issues, and in particular to the North-South Parliamentary Forum which has yet to be set up, we see huge opportunity for new partnership and cooperation.

"Today, An Taoiseach indicated that Fianna Fáil is approaching the questions of island-wide politics. For our part, the SDLP has also been considering this in the context of a review of party development. Indeed, members of the review team recently met Dermot Ahern TD as well as members of other parties in the South.”

"We welcome today’s announcement and look forward to continuing our engagement with Fianna Fáil through Dermot Ahern’s new working group, where we will set out our vision of the future development of national politics. As a true republican party, we believe that the social and economic interests of the people of the entire island are best served by ever-deepening cooperation between North and South. We anticipate a healthy and forward-looking debate as a means to forging a new political path for the whole country.

"We all need to approach these issues with the aim of maximising the opportunities of the new political alignments for the people of Ireland and not just increasing the number of parties contesting elections in the North. In the meantime, our focus is on making the best possible contribution to people's lives and living standards, through positive representation and strong social democratic policies."

12:40 am, September 26, 2007

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