Chris Brown’s Twitter feed reveals that Margaret Ritchie is scheduled to hold a press conference in Downpatrick this afternoon. We must assume that the new SDLP leader intends to announce her intention to stand for the South Down Westminster seat, vacated by Eddie McGrady, who is retiring.
Ritchie’s decision is puzzling, whichever way you look at it.
Previous leader, Mark Durkan, resigned his leadership because he rejects the notion that the SDLP can be led from anywhere other than the Northern Ireland Assembly. His party likes to stress its commitment to ‘this region’ and its institutions, as if they stand alone from the larger political framework of the United Kingdom.
Yet, should Ritchie win a Westminster seat, and refuse to stand down as an MLA, the SDLP’s commitment to ending double-jobbing will be questioned. After all, Alasdair McDonnell, the MP for South Belfast, has expressed his reluctance to give up one of his posts.
Like the SDLP, the DUP made some initial noises about addressing double-jobbing, then swiftly reneged when it became obvious that seats would be in danger. As yet the Conservatives and Unionists are the only party dedicated unambiguously to bringing multiple mandates to an early end.