Northern Ireland

Alasdair McDonnell wants 'radical' change in SDLP

Dr Alasdair McDonnell
Image caption Dr Alasdair McDonnell will reveal his leadership manifesto on Monday

The SDLP leadership candidate Alasdair McDonnell is promising to create an expert commission to reorganise and regenerate his party.

The South Belfast MP launches his manifesto on Monday and has warned that his party needs radical change to survive.

Margaret Ritchie stepped down in September saying she wanted to concentrate on constituency work.

Dr McDonnell is one of four men vying to replace her.

The others are deputy leader Patsy McGlone, South Belfast MLA Conall McDevitt and Environment Minister Alex Attwood.

Dr McDonnell narrowly lost the last leadership vote to Ms Ritchie two years ago and said that some party members thought his plan was too extreme last time.

Now, he said, the SDLP had to be twice as radical to stop the decline. He told members the SDLP could not continue with the myth that it had lots of branches.

He said there needed to be a permanent recruitment drive and better organisation.

About 300 delegates will select the party leader at conference on 5 November.

Dr McDonnell also said in his manifesto that, having given a lifetime to the party, he is determined to secure its future.

"I am not going to stand by and watch the further decline, disintegration and eventual disappearance of this party," he said.

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