The decision to elect Margaret Ritchie MLA leader of the Social, Democratic and Labour Party is the decision which will destroy the party.

To be fair, the choice was between a political operator at turns smooth and utterly unsophisticated whom many in the party couldn’t bring themselves to have lunch with, let alone vote for (Alastair McDonnell) and a political operator with slightly less charisma than the Executive round table she sits at as the party’s only member.

But I can’t help but think that Margaret Ritchie, who when talking about politics comes across as a primary school teacher explaining fluid dynamics to chimpanzees in her second language, will simply make the SDLP seem irrelevant, and that can’t be good for politics in Northern Ireland.

For my money, Mark Durkan is just about the only proven effective and nimble actual politician the SDLP possesses.  It’s been a while since the real intellectuals other than Durkan have had profile within the party; the disastrous attempt to out-green the shinners for a couple of years was wrongheaded and alienated the middle-class base of support within the party. But it seems to me he’s still the best hope the SDLP has to remain somewhat relevant.