Friday, 21 October 2011

Fox, Tories and the UUP

WE hate the term lobbyists. It conjures up images of sharp suited types smarming round the corridors of the Congress and the Senate in the US to make sure more kids are addicted to tobacco and oil companies are allowed to kill wildlife.

Here in Northern Ireland there are few lobbyists. These include professional, dedicated consultants who work in an open transparent way with their clients and politicians. As opposed to say the way a certain Mr Werrity is alleged to have operated…

Mr Fox stood up in the Commons and, like a naughty school boy on front of the headmaster said he done wrong, but if it wasn’t for them touts in the media…

Now, much as we have the occasional dislike for the media and their scurrilous ways, it is a bit rich to say the media were misbehaving because I was misbehaving and that wasn’t fair; if you catch what we mean.

Instead of the mutual respect public affairs professionals here in Northern Ireland share with politicians, policy officers and their aides, the Fox affair has the potential to cause the sort of chaos that occurs when…well when a fox gets into the henhouse. (You can now park all your ‘long runs the Fox’ comments, we’ve heard them all)

While this year’s Tory party conference was marked by there being more “lobbyists” than Conservative Party delegates, here in Norn Iron party conferences are generally more sedate and, well more gentlemanly type of affairs. A long weekend, getting to know candidates and colleagues, influencers and decision-makers alongside the politicos and their acolytes.

And lo and behold this weekend the Ulster Unionist Party conference is to be a much truncated affair, a private session for party members to work out where it all went wrong this afternoon (Friday) and a brief opportunity for those lobbyist types to mingle tomorrow morning (Saturday), before the main session concludes at lunchtime.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Oh do behave!

THE ability for Norn Iron’s politicians to behave as clowns for the entertainment of the chittering and chattering classes has no bounds.

Whoever is in the Assembly speaker’s chair has to contend with TUV leader Jim Allister for a start – the politician with more red cards than Wayne Rooney. They also have to contend with people shouting, people making statements while sitting (a definite parliamentary no-no), people making statements instead of asking questions and at least one other language.

Deputy speaker Roy Beggs showed a red card to Dominic Bradley last week, who was asking a question/making a statement/ordering lunch in Irish but refusing to translate his words into English. While some other Gaeilge speakers in the chamber could understand Mr Bradley’s point, frankly we couldn’t really be bothered, when the comedy value of another MLA getting a red card was out there.

Of course, there was no real sanction. Not being able to speak in plenary sessions is a skill many an MLA has acquired and judging by the empty benches during debates, attending challenges more than a few.

So what would be a real sanction for an MLA? A cut in wages for a week or month or a fine should be one option. Repeat offenders could be made to apologise publicly to their party Assembly grouping, or better still their constituents?

But all of this belies the fact that most MLAs manage to work hard, both in committees and on behalf of constituents.

While much has been done to profile the Assembly and educate the population on its structures we feel that the real problem is that MLAs never really explain their work or profile their jobs. We fear that no amount of money could hire Max Clifford or other PR publicists to tackle that Herculean job!