Friday, 9 April 2010

Off and running

THEY are under starters orders and the Grand National…sorry Westminster election campaign… is underway. Who will make the early running? And who can stay the course without unseating their rider?

Everyone and their granny knew the date of the election before Gordon trotted off to meet Elizabeth II at Buck House: in the same way as everyone knows when the Grand National gets underway each year.

The media has been suitably breathless in its coverage, with political editors and commentators deployed like Roman legionnaires, tightly packed awaiting a soundbite and dreaming of a gaffe from a significant candidate.

But even the most devoted politics ‘fan’ must already be reeling from the election onslaught.

After the weeks of the phoney campaign the media has kicked into high gear. There won’t be a battle bus journey, flight to remoteness, baby safe from kissing or press conference that won’t be dissected, analysed and commented upon for the next few short, in terms of the calendar, but lengthy in every other way, weeks.

Just as the Grand National is a four mile plus marathon for horse and rider, so the election weeks will be a marathon race for the candidates and, especially for the party leaders; each hoping to stay the course.

Meanwhile there’s to be a council by-election in Castlereagh on May 6 ….

Twits on Twitter and faces on Facebook

IT’S as if Northern Ireland politicians have only discovered the interweb, but all of a sudden you can’t get moving on social media sites without coming across a slew of declarations, notices about campaigning, slagging off of opponents and generally bothering cyberspace.

The BBC even deployed its technology correspondent for an ‘insight’ into the internet and politics.

Here in Northern Ireland, we might be slow learners but the online battle has been enjoined from Twitter to Facebook, from Youtube to blogs…

Doing the double…

FOR fans of slang, ‘doing the double’ has always suggested a ne’er do well who sponges off the state by claiming all sorts of benefits, whilst still holding down a job.

No, not MLAs and MPs! Now you’re just being unfair. No it was always muttered in hard-working areas that doing the double was naughty, except when caught, and then it was fair enough to call said offender a ‘benefit cheat.’

In other words playing the system earns grudging respect, whereby getting caught is just stupid.

In the same way Parliamentarians of all shades were caught claiming all sorts of benefits for years and no-one said a word until they were caught.

And so the arguments over double jobbing then commenced.

This week, as Parliament prepared to be dissolved without aid of acidic compounds, came legislation on double jobbing.

No longer will MPs who are MLAs be able to lift their entire Westminster salary and a proportion of their Stormont paycheck. Now it’ll be their MP salary and no dosh for being an MLA.

Will this act as sufficient discouragement from doing the double come the poll results on May 6?

A date in history

MAY 6…a date to be etched in history…for it was on this day that George Clooney was born, along with, though in different years, Tony Blair, Ian Paisley Senior and… Graeme Souness!

It was on this day that the Penny Black stamp became the legal way to send a letter; it was on this day that the Hindenburg burnt in New York, and it was on this day that the Channel Tunnel was officially opened.

It’s also International No Diet Day…Time to sit back and prepare to eat, drink and be merry no matter what the result and who you support.

Purdah time again

WHEN an election is officially declared the civil and public services enter a period known as Purdah.

Until the day after polling day civil servants must be careful lest they give away any political views they may (or may not) hold nor release or approve any policies that may be seen to influence or back one party over another.

Equally the media must be seen to provide equal coverage to candidates…unless they are a really, really small party.

This, of course, leaves us in a quandary! We would like to tell you about this super, duper initiative, but we mustn’t. We would like to tell you about the machinations in Norn Iron’s political elite, but we mustn’t…

Suffice to say that until May 6 we salute the members of all parties great and small who toil to post fliers on each and every doorstep, who mount ladders to erect posters, and who prepare their candidates for grilling from that most rapacious presenter of prime time.