Thursday, April 29, 2010

General Election: An SDLP Future?

It can be easy to feel sorry for the SDLP candidate standing in the General Election in the East Belfast constituency. In an area which is resoundingly unionist, you might almost think 'what's the point of standing?' Yet fair play to Mary Muldoon. Her campaign literature arrived in the post yesterday, so she shall be my fourth review today, leaving the TUV for tomorrow and Sinn Fein if we receive any before Saturday.

Compared to the big booklets and huge folded sheets of other candidates, Muldoon isn't spending much on her campaign literature. One glossy A5 sheet with picture and slogan on one side, and some blurb on the other. The battle Muldoon faces isn't so much to win the seat, but rather seems to be worded to reflect the battle within the nationalist and republican community: 'It is vital to vote in this election and to vote for an honest voice who will take their seat and represent the people of East Belfast.'

Following some biographical information, mostly on her experience in Belfast City Council, there are also the promises of what she will do if elected. That's a big 'if' - perhaps emphasized by the exclamation marks at the end of each pledge: e.g. 'I will oppose cuts to the NI Budget to ensure funding for Hospitals and Schools!' I'm not sure if those exclamation marks are well chosen, but they are perhaps the most enthusiastic of the election promises being made by any of the candidates thus far.

Because there isn't a great deal of detail on her campaign literature, it's harder to discuss it and pick faults, but perhaps what is worth noting is that she firmly comes out against the runway extension at the City Airport - the most open statement I've seen on the issue.

As well as the writing on the back of the sheet, there's also the obligatory pictures, so we see Mary with a constituent when she was canvassing during her last election run out (which must have been the 2007 Assembly election), one with new party leader Margaret Ritchie, and one down in Titanic Quarter in which one of the Harland and Wolff cranes makes an appearance.

Again, social media isn't being widely used in East Belfast, indeed there isn't even any contact information at all (apart from that required by the legislation of printer and publisher/promoter).

Not much detail, but then, to be fair, her candidature will help the overall performance of the SDLP in terms of vote share (being the only party standing candidates in each constituency), but not much chance of taking the seat.

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