Wednesday, 13 April 2011

What shape the NI Executive?

ACCORDING to two parties, the Norn Iron Executive (that is our powersharing cabinet) was a dysfunctional trading floor, where bullying and stitch-ups were the norm.

At least one other party wants to reform it, for what appears to be singular self interest.

But, realistically, what cabinet is not dysfunctional, made up of compromise and occasional ill-will? We only need to reflect on the Tory/Lib Dem cabinet to see it in action in Whitehall, and cast your mind back to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s tenure at Downing Street, and the various biographies show that she had to compromise with the ‘Wets’ no matter what might have been said by the Iron Lady in public.

So, realistically, barring a total meltdown in the vote of the UUP and SDLP, it will be a cabinet where Sinn Féin and the DUP carve up the issues they agree on, fight on ideological issues, ignore junior parties and hand out money to the justice budget whenever David Ford creases his beard.

Given the recent attacks and murder of Constable Ronan Kerr, a dysfunctional, rowing Executive may be a price worth paying.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Media confused but battling on as usual

YOU cannot get moving across the mainstream media broadcast channels and the acres of newsprint without seeing a political analysis. You can at least switch off the party political broadcasts, but BBC, UTV and the main three daily papers are crowded by politicians and pundits.

But there is an element of confusion appearing in the coverage.

The more enlightened (or naive) journalist wants to talk about health, education, water charges or other ‘proper’ political topics. Talk shows on the radio are even devoting hour long specials on these.

In the meantime, McGinty’s goat is sure that as long as you pin the right rosette on him close to election he’ll get voted in.

Phoney campaign over

THE phoney war may be over, and the jabs and punches being thrown since the May election last year have been merely a prelude to a full-on conflict.

But we need to be clear. This is a truly sectarian vote. Before you find a high horse to mount while muttering about a new Northern Ireland and the return of normal politics, hold on a moment.

It is sectarian in terms of the unionists trying to take votes off each other, and the nationalists trying to take votes off each other.

Sinn Féin will not capture many disgruntled DUP or UUP voters. Any first preference votes they gain will be at the expense of the SDLP and vice versa. No UUP voters will switch to Sinn Féin, nor will any gravitate that way from the DUP.

So it is a sectarian slugging match waged on each side of the tribal fence, which leaves the Alliance Party caught in the middle as usual...

Like Rory, who will choke on the final run-in?

WHILE all hearts go out to unsuccessful Masters golfer Rory McIlroy, the question is which party will choke as May 5th comes closer.

Rory played wonderfully and already unfair commentators are concentrating on his final round, rather than the other three fantastic days. But while Rory will grow and learn from his mistakes throughout the summer tours, political parties have only one shot at the Assembly every four years; one misplaced drive at the opposition and voters are less forgiving than the Augusta course around Amen Corner.

Will the rifts that appeared in the UUP be papered over to preserve the vote? Will Caitriona Ruane’s poll rating as the least popular minister affect her electoral chances? Can Alliance capitalise on Naomi Long’s Westminster poll or slide back into perennial pretenders? Will the DUP smite once more the TUV’s challenge?

The hustings are unforgiving places for any politician, and the battle won’t be won or lost by who has the most posters on the lampposts. Instead we have a new phenomenon creeping into the election – the reactivated social media politician!

During the Westminster election politicians scrambled on to Twitter and Facebook, and then promptly forgot about it! Now, as an election looms that may affect their pay packets you cannot get moving on Twitter for tweets from parties and increasingly desperate candidates.

Goodness only know how any normal people are expected to organise parties, keep track of sporting fixtures when politicians are clogging up social sites, and punters are changing predictions daily on the same.

In the meantime, there is something particularly unforgiving about the social media. In previous elections what was said on telly or in the papers was quickly forgotten. But in the social media what is said is not forgotten. It is there forever. One wrong word, one misplaced phrase can come back to haunt; one post about the opposition can be cast back whenever your enemies choose.

We think we might just actually read some of those Tweets and Facebook updates – who knows what material we may find there!