The fight for South Belfast in the next Westminster election will not be the march through that some predicted when the SDLP took the seat in 2019 by a whopping 15,000 majority.
Allianz outperformed them in the May general election, emerging as the strongest party in the constituency.
While Claire Hanna is still the clear favorite to retain her seat, she could face a formidable challenge from new Alliance MLA Kate Nicholl.
Important for the party is the resignation of the local Green City Councilor Simon Lee to the SDLP. It shows that in South Belfast it is still capable of building the coalition of voters that will be crucial to the seat.
Hanna said she was delighted to welcome Lee to the party as “a lovely guy, a great councilman and a true champion of Carryduff.”
She said there was “significant overlap” in the policies of the two parties and her councilors regularly worked together “on Brexit, public services and environmental issues”.
Green Party leader Clare Bailey sided with Hanna in 2019, so the SDLP MP was keen to emphasize that her party intends “not to undermine the Greens, our approaches are complementary”.
Both face a major challenge in next year’s local elections.
The Greens have seven seats to defend – four in Belfast and three on the Ards and North Down councils.
The SDLP will also come under pressure, particularly in Belfast where it only has six councillors. It can’t afford to lose any.
Simon Lee’s decision to abandon ship comes as a blow to the already vulnerable Greens, who are now absent from Lisburn and Castlereagh Council.
By choosing the SDLP over the Alliance as his new political home, he has given the party a boost in what has been a not so good year.
https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/defection-of-simon-lee-gives-sdlp-a-boost-during-a-tough-time-41890793.html Defection of Simon Lee gives SDLP a boost during a tough time