Paid By Commission

So ….in May, Westminster Elections take place. And I daresay  fifteen of the seats are “safe”. At most three seats are marginal….Fermanagh-South Tyrone, South Belfast and East Belfast.

The First-Past-The Post System and only one successful candidate in a constituency is of course completely different from Proportional Representation and six winning candidates (as in Assembly Elections). There is an element of Apathy in maybe fifteen consituencies, meaning that the unionist vote in (say) Foyle and West Belfast and the nationalist vote in (say) East Antrim and Lagan Valley has no incentive to get out and vote.

This will not stop analysts making (too) much of the results.

Westminster is a sideshow. Stormont is where the real action (or inaction) is. Political anoraks will be concentrating on just three marginal seats.

It is right and proper that we scrutinise the (around) one hundred candidates in eighteen constituencies. At the end of the day, we are paying their wages. There are of course some political parties…the unionists …whose view of the world and Ireland is different from mine. I wont vote for them. But I respect them. I do not of course feel the same way about the Alliance Party. I dont like them. I dont respect them.

Yet in an Election Campaign, I can offer a measure of respect to the candidates of any Party, who put their name forward. They will be abused at many doorsteps. They dont deserve it.

But during the course of the Summer, a lot more people will be taking Public Money….the men and women, appointed to the various Commissions, Panels and the like set up under the Stormont House Agreement.

Who are they? Well on past form, some will be retired politicians, who have the approval of their poliitical Party. Arguably, freed from the discipline of active politics, such people can give a more balanced view.

But essentially these appointees will enjoy the patronage of the Norn Iron Office, the permanent Government of Norn Iron. It is unlikely that Teresa Villiers, the current Conservative Secretary of State for Norn Iron or any Labour Secretary of State (Ivan Lewis maybe) will know that much about the list of names that they are asked to sign off. Thats all held on file in the Norn Iron Office.

Yet it cant be right that the candidates for election in 2015 are scrutinised and abused, while the lucky appointees to these new Quangos escape scrutiny and abuse.

Who are they? Well probably not YOU.  And certainly not ME. But I think most political anoraks like you and me could probably guess at some of the names likely to be selected….academics, clergymen, (and probably one clergywoman) former senior police officers and solicitors and others from the Golden Halo of Do-Goodery who will get the blessing (and nice little stipend) from the Norn Iron Office.

It is not that hard. Just update your Linked-In profile to show a lifelong interest in Conflict Resolution, get a few selfies with some important people, appear as an expert on something on BBC Norn Iron, notably “The View” or on the radio “Sunday Sequence “, eat a few vol au vents at the launch of any old ministerial initiative in the Long Gallery at Stormont. Maybe attend a charity function by The Ulster Tatler would boost the CV. Getting seen at the Fourth of July and Bastille Day events hosted by the American and French consuls might be a good idea. And….the next thing you know Old Jed’s a Millionaire…..or at least getting a nice little earner.

Of course, it goes without saying that we have eminent academics who know all about Flag protocol in (say) Quebec and Catalonia. There are academics who know about Conflict Resolution in Nicaragua and we have clergy who do the whole Reconciliation thing. And we also have a right bunch of chancers who climb the greasy career pole by networking their way thru every  LetsGetAlongerist pressure group.

I dont begrudge anyone earning an honest crust. Even if the Taxpayer bakes the bread.

But at some point during the summer, we will be seeing names released to serve on various panels that we will pay for. We will recognise some names. We wont recognise other names.

But where is the scrutiny?





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14 Responses to Paid By Commission

  1. Rowan Silverbeard says:

    I didn’t look at it too closely but I got the impression that the Stormont House Agreement was “Christmas time” for the residents of Quangoland.

    (By the way the UUP think that Upper Bann and South Antrim are marginal seats and their folks are working hard there. I see that D Ford is not standing this time out which may help Danny Kinahan).

    • Yes but if the Big Narrative is Open Government and Transparency, why is nobody asking questions?

      • frank7778 says:

        Is your point one of democratic accountability? Do you think these things are better done by politicians? Or do you think it is better for the politicians to delegate them because the politicians themselves are subject to electoral pressures that mean they will never take long term decisions that are in the best interests of society? Heathrow expansion being an example in London of political cowardice leading to no decision being made at all.

        This sort of thing has happened with things like NICE (the drug regulator) and the Bank of England independence where technocrats take the decisions free from political pressure. In a way it is as though even the politicians have decided they aren’t capable and direct democracic control doesn’t work that well and we need an overclass (your word I think?) of wise people to make the decisions!

  2. Primarily its about Money…Public Money.
    Perhaps you dont believe in Democracy….that politicians are incapable of making decisions because of electoral pressures. That may well be true. But as you know, Democracy is the worst system, apart from all the others.
    The Overclass….yes its my word….the middle class who tell us they are too posh to vote for Norn Iron politicians.
    They might despise the ” Underclass” (THEIR word!) as joy riders in Twinbrook and glue sniffers in Gilnahirk but essentially the Overclass and the Underclass have opted out of a system….unless of course there are benefits. The Overclass might well despise the welfare payments ti the poor but are happy recipients of a lot of subsidy (kids at university for example) and the elite members can get their snouts in the quango trough.
    Politicians as cowards? Edgar Graham? John Turnley? John Taylor? Shena Campbell? Paddy Wilson (a friend of my fathers)? Or for that matter the shocking attacks on the homes of Alliance Party members since the Flegs Dispute. I suggest that putting your name forward for (say) SDLP in North Down or (say) Sinn Féin in East Belfast requires a degree of courage. I have seen UUP canvassers in unlikely territory. Fair play to them.
    Worse they will be subject to ridicule on radio phone-ins “They are all the same” and even verbally abused at front doors. No thats a form of courage.
    Of course you are not making that point. Rather you are making the point that it requires a degree of courage to make decisions. I would take that point of course but politicians present a manifesto to an electorate, and dutifully respect their mandate. Seems like a good thing to me.

    But we do have problems that cannot be resolved by politicians. Parades? In what way do we actually NEED a resolution? The Orangemen are stuck in a caravan at Twaddell Avenue. I dont actually give a damn.
    Of course it is bad for the whole New Norn Iron image. So people putside politics are APPOINTED to resolve it. No Accountability. But plenty of Cash.
    Any one of us with a reasonable understanding of how Norn Iron works, could make a good guess at the names….on the NIO list. If there are (say) twenty names, I bet you could guess seven of them. So could I. So could most of the people reading this.
    The point I am making is that it is all under the radar.
    People might well have been sounded out. Indeed some of the requirements of the new Quangos seem to have been drawn up with specific individuals in mind.
    But where is the Public Discussion?
    Where is the “Spotlight” Documentary.
    If you are the right sort of Academic, Clergyman/woman,retired politician….the NIO has probably been in touch already.

  3. Political Tourist says:

    I don’t know if it still happens but there was at one time a couple of hundred people out there that used to save up coupons from cornflake packets etc.
    And this couple of hundred would win prizes of various kinds, some of the prizes were cash and some were holidays or colour tv’s.
    The same people won the prizes over and over again because nobody could ever be bothered saving coupons off 50 packets of washing up powder.
    And you can bet there’s a couple of hundred “quango people” in NI doing the circuit.
    It also shows what money is slushing about out there.
    So much for the “cutbacks”.

    • Its the “Linked In” Generation.
      I actually opened a LinkedIn account a few years ago but I forgot all about it until about three weeks ago.
      Let me emphasise that I am a COMPLETE NOBODY. Bit the interesting thing is looking up people “who think they are somebody”.
      As my Auntie Sheila would have said ” the big lad in the big picture”
      One of the most depressing things I have seen in the last few years has been the shameless networking that has been going on at the fringe of politics. Bloggers included.
      At least some of it is done with an eye to personal and financial advancement.
      Stuff is going on behind the scenes. Where is the Scrutiny?
      As I have said, the politicians are at least prepared to be scrutinised and even abused…but there is a group of people who ate beyond scrutiny.
      Of course there should be an understanding that the right people are appointed to the right and NECESSARY quangos on the basis of their expertise in a certain field. But we have gone beyond accepting expertise at face value.
      It is not all selfless.

  4. Political Tourist says:

    I look at a number of blogs that appeared during the Scottish Referendum campaign.
    Some are major league blogs ie tens of thousands of hits like Bella Caledonia.
    Most are more like this blog.
    But i’m amazed that a few of the smaller blogs ask for money.
    It might be called crowd funding but to me it’s just chancing their arm.

    • This blog is a very basic and free account (Word Press).
      It costs me nothing and I enjoy doing it.
      It started in August 2011 and I was lucky to get 10 or 15 views a day.
      The first boost was early in 2012 when I got mentions on Slugger (thanks Mick!) and it grew during 2012, with Parades and Flegs being a big boost.
      The biggest boost was after February 2013 when I went to Texas to do a lecture and got maassive hits in Summer 2013. Totally massive and looking back it was very hard to cope…giving commenters (sic) the time they required and the courtesy of a reply.
      I gave up for about two months.
      In 2014, I didnt get anything like the 2013 views but somehow it was more manageable but I took another career break in September 2014.
      The trick is to keep things in proportion.

  5. Political Tourist says:

    On the question of public money, I see the chap who runs Translink, annual salary of £150,000, has resigned to…….preach the gospel.
    Northern Ireland, it just keeps giving.

  6. benmadigan says:

    coming late to this discussion – but for what it’s worth have started commenting on the various NI seats in the upcoming election – i’ve done North belfast
    east,east,east belfast
    hope you enjoy reading them. others will follow when i have the time and inclination!

    as far as regards crowdfunding for blogs like ours – (like FJH and many others i do it for free) but i have often thought it might be worth putting heads together for some joined up thinking to get some money and create a greater impact. Would be like herding cats I imagine but worth reflecting on!

    • Going out shortly but will take a look later. I urge other readers to do the same. Herding cats…yes but I do like blogs within the broad nationalist community.
      There is room for more “co-opderation”

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