One of the jibes that is often thrown at the SDLP is that its initials stand for Schoolteachers, Doctors and Lawyers Party.
A glance at their candidates for the Westminster election shows how accurate this jibe might actually be. They are standing 18 candidates – one in each constituency – probably the only party to do so. Of these 18:
Five are (or were) teachers: McCamphill, Muldoon, Bradley, Joe Byrne and O'Loan.
Three work(ed) in the medical sector, though only one is actually a doctor: Logan, McDonnell and Kelly.
Two are lawyers: Maginness and Attwood.
That makes 10 – more than half of the total. To these can be added the professional politicians, who appear not to have worked outside the political bubble at all: Durkan, Michelle Byrne and Ritchie.
Only five of the SDLP's candidates come from outside the narrow confines of Schoolteachers, Doctors and Lawyers, and the Party. None – not one – appears to work in industry or as a private sector employee. How effectively the party can represent those who are trying to actually create wealth, rather than spend it, is uncertain. The party seems to be composed almost entirely – at the level of its candidates – by people who live off the public purse. This is hardly a rarity in the north, of course, but it bodes ill for their ability to ever be able to manage a market economy, if that day should ever come.
Now, of course, another of the jibes (from unionists only, this time) is that SDLP stands for the South Down and Londonderry Party. After May 6 we'll see if this turns out to be accurate – if Ritchie and Durkan are the only (re)-elected SDLP MPs.
The last of the jibes – from Sinn Féin supporters only – is that SDLP stands for the Stoop Down Low Party (aka the 'Stoops'). This blog does not subscribe to that point of view, despite regrettable lapses by the SDLP in the past. In recent months the SDLP seems to have been trying to show a bit of backbone – only time will tell whether this came too late.