Friday, 5 November 2010

Should I stay or should I go?

AS The Clash sang: “if I leave there will be trouble, if I stay it will be double”… Such may have been the thoughts of Paula Bradshaw as she took the plunge to move from the Ulster Unionist Party to the Alliance Party.

Ms Bradshaw stood as a Westminster candidate on the UUP/Tory ticket, and while she scored credibly did not make a major impact. And, to add insult to electoral injury she was not selected as a candidate by the Ulster Unionists for the forthcoming Assembly election.

Now she claims that the Alliance Party is the party that is really working towards a ‘Shared Future’.

This, at least, will make for fun conversations over the breakfast cereal with partner, former Alliance member, and current Tory Ian Parsley…

Musical Chairs

AS we approach the Assembly elections, the candidacy for each party has become something of a mini-plot before the election kicks fully into gear with all the back-biting and outrageous statements that fill this and every other column from January.

At the very least we will see a new crop of MLAs with many standing aside, such as former SDLP and current Sinn Féin member Billy Leonard.

The Ulster Unionist party has seen several standing MLAs and potential new blood candidates pushed aside. Sitting MLAs George Savage and David McClarty are in jeopardy, new faces such as Harry Hamilton are likely not to appear on the UUP ticket. This leads some to question whether there party will ever seek to reduce the average age of its MLAs below 50+.

And, the SDLP has seen shifts in their Derry powerbase structure with wrangling over who will fill Mark Durkan’s shoes.

Helen Quigley has left ‘public life’ with the BBC claiming there was a disagreement over Mark Durkan’s replacement. Donegal native Pól Callaghan has taken Durkan’s spot in the Assembly until May, with Derry city councillor Mark H. Durkan saying he wants to win a seat rather than be co-opted.

Add into the equation the fact that the DUP has already inserted several new MLAs, who no doubt will be seeking election and there is a very real prospect that the 108 MLAs returned in May will have many new faces – will party officers be able to corral them all, or will there be fresh thinking? We’ll leave you to decide.

Chubby-sized flak jackets needed

IT is honourable – even desirable – for politicians who support military action [we’re talking about Afghanistan here – please feel free to add your political prejudice in this space] to visit the troops at the front.

So Lord Ken Maginnis and David Simpson MP were determined to be able jet out to see the Royal Irish Regiment in Helmend Province to offer support and a few words of wisdom.

But, alas the visit was postponed. The reason? Messers Maginnis and Simpson needed size 54 flak jackets, which the army didn’t have to hand. No one apparently thought that stitching two size 27 flak jackets together might have kept the portly politicians protected, nor did anyone think to mention to the two politicians that the bigger you are, the bigger a target you are.

But, it seems that the Army is scrabbling around to find the XL body armour for the pair to be able to visit the front line before the RIR’s tour of duty is completed.

Which, of course, will be a great relief for the men and women on duty; as they face the daily threat of ambushes, insurgent attacks, grenade and mortar fire, roadside IEDs and booby trapped buildings.