NI Leaders’ Debate: BBC got the best out of them

5 05 2010

Below is a brief review which I put together for the News Letter website’s election section.

Only seconds in and it became clear that, sartorially at least, everyone had learned from the last debate.

Gone was Reg’s strangely brown suit, and gone was Margaret’s angry red coat. In its place, nice Tory blues for Reg and a calming, inoffensive mauve for Margaret.

But most importantly for the SDLP leader, she also dropped the handheld prompt notes this time out. Ritchie was much more settled and fluent. Both she and her advisers had done their prep work and it told.

The Sinn Fein leader again was relaxed, but this time he had some bite in his performance. Adams had a couple of decent lines – dubbing the SDLP leader ‘Margaret in Wonderland’, and turning up with blacked out bills for McGrady’s gardening was a decent move.

Reg Empey is naturally cautious, but he’s good at being indignant. Both Reg and Peter Robinson put in strong performances.

The BBC’s bulk, multiple question format might have tripped people up but the increased audience input and the podium set-up made for a more accomplished, engaging spectacle. Politics has been well served by the leaders debate process – they all upped their game.

With polling day only 24 hours hence, all the leaders should be pleased – it was a good night’s work.





Election 2010: Bloggers’ review the campaign

5 05 2010

Here’s the link to an interview I did for the BBC website about the election.

Also check out the blogs of the other contributors:





NI politics as a self-parody Pt2653

28 04 2010

It's no use Perm Sec... he says he still wants to run for election!

The whole double-jobbing issue has not been resolved satisfactorily. Peter Robinson and Margaret Ritchie are still convinced that it’s possible to do more than one job (and perform something less than a full-time role in all that they do).

I wonder, how do you get them to see the error of their ways?

I guess you need an inscrutably independent type respected by all sides of the community. Tsk.

But who could perform such as role?

Step forward civil servants at the NI Assembly!!

Administrators at the NI Assembly have stumbled out of the tea-rooms only to discover that there’s an election campaign on at the moment. As a result they’ve issued guidance to all MLAs on what the implications of the elections could mean for them. (Sure it’s half over, but better late than never eh chaps?)

The below was part of that guidance:

If a Member’s employee is intending to stand at the General Election, the Member could allow the employee unpaid leave to campaign. If the employee is elected and is actively performing his/her role as an MP, this employee will be unable to fulfil his/her contract of employment with the employing Member.

So, erm, the NI Assembly believes that if you become an MP… then there’s no way you’d be able to hold down employment at the Assembly as a researcher. Why stop there? That seems like a reasonable position for all forms of employment at the Assembly, right?

Consider the present scenario – being a full-time MP is incompatible with being a full-time researcher, but being a full-time MP is perfectly compatible with being an MLA.

How can you end double jobbing by researchers but preserve it for MLAs?

Memo to the Members Bar – trebles all round lads!





News Letter starts up twitterfeed…

22 04 2010

Belfast News Letter has finally bit the bullet and started up an official twitterfeed. Check it out here.





Green Party PEB? Top marks…

22 04 2010

Well, congratulations Green Party! You’ve produced by far the best PEB I’ve seen for quite some time.

This was an innovative use of the format, but the key lay not just in the cleverly produced visuals (based around Ian Knox cartoons). The success lay in how well the visuals operated in concert with a very well-written script.

The Greens managed to convey themselves as a three-dimensional political movement that has advanced beyond the stereotype of environmental pressure group. They confront things like the expenses question head-on (‘Green politics is clean politics’) and youth unemployment (Adam McGibbon looks like the younger voter he’s appealing to).

Yes, they do still sound a bit sub-Alliance but there is a maturity and sophistication about the Greens now.

What could they have done better? They didn’t make enough of the fact that the Green Party is part of a bigger UK-wide organisation. Introducing that kind of breadth further positions them as serious political players at Westminster – but that’s a big message and it shouldn’t have been relegated to the slightly flat finale. It ought to have been right up front and properly addressed. Also Brian Wilson’s Assembly Chamber speech didn’t need to be there (his introduction was enough) and the economy section was a bit too long, so the pace got snagged up in places.

But this is nit-picking. I know the Greens better for this PEB, and I certainly view them more positively than I have ever done before. If others think like me then that’s no bad thing with polling day just over two weeks away.





This week’s blog column from Bel Tel…

20 04 2010

This week’s round up of the blogging week can be found on the Bel Tel website here. Have also pasted it up below too…

Read the rest of this entry »





The DUP PEB… fine till it turned into the God Channel

18 04 2010

This PEB is definitely the product of the Sky generation.

There’s three acts to it: Nigel Dodds does the History Channel bit (up to 1 mins 30secs); Peter Robinson does the CNN trailer (up to 2 mins 26 secs); then Peter fronts up the God Channel section.

The History Channel bit is very useful, and recalls a heritage before the Troubles which should be a source of pride. Politically, the concept of restoration and re-establishing some sort of Golden Age is as old as the hills. But in the case of Northern Ireland, it works. It begins with Carson but then quickly moves into the economic history of ships, planes, ejector seats, defibrillators and so on.

The CNN trailer works well enough – though can the DUP really claim to have done all those things, was that not the Executive? It offers a pleasing array of optimistic images of the new Northern Ireland etc.

And that’s where it should have ended. The God Channel bit – with Peter as the tie-less, casually dressed pastor – really shouldn’t have happened. I can understand the desire to rehabilitate Peter, but what is that set up supposed to be? What is being emulated here? Why not go for an intimate town hall meeting? Why go to a darkened studio?

The nodding adoration goes on far too long, and it struck me that this was a congregation containing only true believers. Why not create a more inclusive situation through which to sell your message to all Unionists (and not just a few nodding admirers)?

Nevertheless, there was a positive message in here which concentrated on selling the DUP’s record on delivery – as opposed to denigrating the record of others.