SDLP to streamline party and will not be appointing a new deputy leader

The SDLP says it is “streamlining” how it operates as a party.At a meeting on Saturday party members agreed to no longer appoint a deputy leader.Nichola Mallon had been the SDLP deputy leader but lost her north Belfast seat in May’s assembly election.Members of the party are currently attending the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool.Speaking about the changes in the party South Belfast MP Claire Hanna told UTV,“It's fair to say that over the years we have been focusing a lot on political firefighting and maybe not so much on our organisation. So we brought forward a lot of proposals which the membership endorsed just about making us a leaner I suppose, more modern campaigning organisation.”The SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the changes would mean more members would contribute to deciding the direction of the party.He said, “We’re going to have a broader leadership team. And of course we have Matthew O’Toole as the leader of the opposition at Stormont, if we ever get government up and running. We have Claire (Hanna) people like Daniel McCrossan, and others. We want to build a united leadership team where everybody's involved in those decision making processes.”The restructuring of the SDLP will also mean fewer membership branches. Until now there have been almost 60 SDLP branches across Northern Ireland, but those will now be reduced to represent constituencies.The SDLP lost 4 seats in May’s Stormont assembly election, including some high profile names. The poor results have forced the party out of any future executive and into opposition when an assembly sits.Colum Eastwood denied that the party is managing a crisis on the back of the last election.He said, “Well, look, there were lots of reasons for that election, it was a particularly bad context, but it doesn't stop us analysing where we need to change and I think it's important in any organisation that it looks closely at itself, so that it doesn't have to talk about itself all the time. So it can be focused on the future and outward looking and talking to the community.”

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