Friday, 27 May 2011

Marshall Mathers for Bangor!

THERE can, perhaps be no stranger sentence in the English language that associates North Down with Marshall Bruce Mathers III a.k.a. Eminem.

What will the residents of Cultra, Crawfordsburn, West Bangor and Groomsport make of Eminem – a man alleged to be a foul-mouthed misogynist, with criminal convictions – headlining the Tenants Vital concert in Bangor’s Ward Park?

Last year Ward Park was adorned by the ever so polite nice young men of Snow Patrol, and now the foul mouthed rapper comes to North Down.

It hasn’t arrived yet, but wait for it, there will be predictable cries for Eminem to be banned from, well, the predictable sources.

Some say that the greatest triumph of the DUP was when Ballymena Council managed to ban the innocuous and pleasantly melodious Electric Light Orchestra on the grounds that they would attract "the four Ds Drink, Drugs, Devil and Debauchery”. So what will they make of Eminem?

Goodness only knows what sort of apoplexy TUV leader Jim Allister will slide into trying to link rappers’ potty tongues to Sinn Féin plotting “sordid deals” with the DUP.

Times have moved on since the DUP banned ELO, we have had raves in the Kings Hall and estates around Antrim, we’ve had death metal bands playing all across Norn Iron, but will Eminem be enough to raise the hackles?

However, before the disapproval bounds forth on to The Nolan Show, rips on to newspaper pages and mounts a pulpit, those who are preparing to pontificate should consider two things: Seamus Heaney – Nobel Poet Laureate reckons Eminem is a pretty good wordsmith and secondly, Marshall Mathers knows what it is like to be cast as a cliché.

Just as our politicians can be unfairly stereotyped (we always try to satirise fairly!) so entertainers are too:

“Cause I am whatever you say I am
If I wasn't then why would I say I am?
In the paper, the news, every day I am...”

And, as our politicians sit back of an evening, how many cast aside the tie and suit jacket and consider whether they have become the persona that the public says they should be.

The Allister Employment Scheme

TUV Leader Jim Allister! All hail the Allister Employment Scheme!

In a stroke of absolute genius the one, the only Jim Allister has managed to set up a scheme that guarantees public sector employment of dozens, if not hundreds of humble civil and public servants.

Mr Allister’s cunning plan kicked in almost as soon as he signed up as a Member of the Legislative Assembly – yep that’s the very same one he howled a wee bit about when it was the UUP in charge, and then when his erstwhile DUP friends took charge.

Mr Allister – rather cunningly – has been disguising his employment scheme as “a thorn in the side of the DUP”. Phase one has been to make a lot of noise: always useful in providing cover for the real plan.

Next stage – and here’s the really clever bit, we only wish other MLAs had thought of this – is ask loads and loads of written questions.

These are good because – and it’s not the obvious reason such as getting an answer to cause embarrassment – those questions need answered. The answers come not from the ministers, but from the ranks of civil and public servants who have to dig through records, pull out emails, generate reports, get an Excel spreadsheet together, save it in a format the drones can save in the font that the Assembly uses, and then post it to Mr Allister, and then to its website...phew, that’s a lot of work for a lot of workers.

With barely two working weeks under his belt Mr Allister has lodged more than 10 written questions to the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister alone! At this rate, any hope for cuts in public services will disappear under an avalanche of paperwork and questions, thus ensuring the jobs of many, many people!

Thank you Mr Allister for keeping so many people in employment!

Monday, 23 May 2011

Spin city

THE Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) has a definition of what public relations means. It says on its website that PR is:

“…the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.”

This is of course, what each and every new minister seems to be undertaking since they were appointed…

Within 36 hours of taking their Ministerial pledge, there were stories with culture minister Carál Ní Chuilín and education minister John O'Dowd on a double page spread in the Irish News.

Then we had the exclusive BBC interview with new health minister Edwin Poots. Chunks of airtime, despite the wall-to-wall Royal visit down south coverage, were devoted to Minister Poots.

The first part of the CIPR definition of PR is about reputation. So, combined with the quotation above, we have a clear agenda to gain a better reputation for ministers, goodwill towards them and their decisions, and – get this – mutual understanding.

Well that’s all right then. Our ministers will work to make sure that not only are they going to tell us what’s happening through their organised media management, but they are also going to listen to what service users want and need.

We suspect not. In fact, call us cynical (most people do) but the whole exercise of ministers in the media this past week smacks of a concerted effort to make sure that the public recognises their faces.

So who is behind this propaganda effort? (We’ll not dignify it as PR because the charm offensive will die out as soon as hard choices need to be made)

Is it the Executive Information Service? Is it the party’s themselves? Is it the legions of ‘Special’ Advisers?

Whoever it is, we expect that journalists will find that the word ‘goodwill’ shall be dropped from any definition of PR that equates to ministerial communications.