If you were asked to compare Ronnie Corbett with someone, it’s guessable that the last man you’d think of would be Alasdair McDonnell. But since Ronnie once starred in a TV series called Sorry and Alasdair must have used the sorry word at least ten times during a short interview on The Politics Show this morning, the link established itself.
What was Alasdair being sorry for? Actually nothing - Alasdair doesn’t do apology. What he meant when he said “Sorry” to Mark Carruthers was “You haven’t a clue, here’s the truth of the matter, buster”. Which was? I’m not sure. Apart from establishing that he was a doctor and that there was no difference of opinion within the SDLP, it wasn't that easy to arrive at what he was saying, which was maybe why Mark Carruthers kept asking him to clarify. But Alasdair did promise that tomorrow, despite pressure in Derry, all SDLP MLAs would march up to the plate and, um, abstain in the vote over Alasdair’s Law. If you started the interview with the belief that the SDLP were all over the place on this one, you ended with that conviction riveted in place.
Meanwhile, one of the SDLP MLAs, Colm Eastwood, says that he’s got so many phone calls about his following the party line and abstaining, “it must be orchestrated”. No, Virginia, that doesn’t mean calls came with a musical background, it’s Colm’s way of saying the callers were being manipulated by an unnamed force. You have to say something when you’ve received a lot of phone calls from constituents wondering why you're taking a stand that'll let a discriminatory bill put forward by Jim Allister sail past you without a peep.
Will one of the SDLP MLAs peel off and stymie the bill tomorrow? I doubt it. One of them has said in so many words that talk of electoral retribution is twaddle because an election doesn't happen until 2016 and that's a long time from now. So it is. But some things are easier to forget than others.