“Message Board” Politics Is Not Real Politics.

The question of involvement in (party) politics and whether being passive or active is interesting…..as the transition from “tinternet message board” to real life is a bit like getting your first pair of long trousers and entering into the adult world.
Alas the discovery that Politics is actually the Real World………..Education, Health, Pensions, Peace, Justice, Housing, Environment, Jobs, Third World………can be traumatic as I have discovered over the past two months.

Politics is not a Computer Game. The connexion between Message Board politics and “Real Politics” is about the same as those Computer Games (Medal of Honour?) has with actual real life soldiers in Afghanistan.
The best shoot em uppers dont make good soldiers. The best tinternet politicians would make lousy politicians. Politics on the Internet is not much different from playing Super Mario.

In 1968, a new subject “Economics & Political Studies”(EPS) was introduced into my school’s A Level programme (taught incidently by a man who would become a prominent member of the SDLPs backroom team) …soon of course replaced by simply “Politics” and just how many A levels have been awarded in forty years?
And how many Politics degrees have been handed out?
Yet we are told that membershipof political parties is in decline over the same forty years.
A cynic might say that this is because people know too much about politics. Actually it is because they know too little.
Politics as an academic discipline at QUB?.
Politics is a spectator sport watching BBC’s “Hearts and Minds”?
Politics as Journalism?
Politics as a point-scoring interactive internet game?

Yet we are told people join pressure groups. Back in 1968 the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds got an honourable mention in those EPS classes (seemingly they would be consulted on legislation affecting bird life and were a valuable part of the political process).

Yet curiously many of the 63 stallholders at the SDLP Conference were pressure groups/charities all looking after their narrow interest without actually getting involved in politics. Nobody in NICVA, Human Rights Consortium (who have a launch in the Long Gallery at Stormont next Monday) want to get “involved” in party politics. Same is true of trade unions.
All protecting a narrow interest, lifting the phone to the politicians, getting that all important “contact” on a one way street. These groups never seem to see a bigger picture. Just an occasional whinge about no “proper” politics here, which would justify their involvement. But the first number on the speed dial for trade unions, human rights groups and charities representing the disadvantaged is the SDLP. And yet these groups stay clear of Party Politics. They cant have it both ways.

The SDLPs call for engagement with its members, attracting new members or merely engaging with its own voters is frankly a double-edged sword. Existing members will here uncomfortable things from new members from the Partys “gene pool”.
Passive or Active?
A statistic I heard at the weekend. In South Armagh, Sinn Féin has ten times the number of polling clerks than the SDLP. They can work in shifts at polling staions..
Most of us live in polite society where our friends and neighbours and colleagues dont know our politics. “Whatever you say say nothing” even to the canvassers so actually being a canvasser is not something that most people can do with ease.

Essentially the trade unions, human rights groups and charities representing the disadvantaged are USING the SDLP.

But a thought occurs. It is actually the thought of Martin Niemoller.

First they came for the       communists, and I did not speak out–    because I was       not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak  out–    because I was not a socialist;
Then they  came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out–   because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out– because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me– and there was no one left to speak out for me.

And is it not true now?

They cut DLA and I did not speak out. I dont claim DLA. They made people redundant and I did not speak out. I have a job. They closed hospitals and I did not speak out. I am three miles from my hospital. They cut services to the elderly and I did not speak out. I am young. They impoverished students and I did not speak out. I know no students…….But when they come for me….I can probably rely on someone else (the SDLP) to speak up for me.

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