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?