Northern Ireland politics: the new electric thingy age


Bob Balls highlights what i believe is just the start of the 'new electric thingy age' for NI politics.

South Belfast Conservative candidate for the General Election, Peter McCann, has put together a facebook group called ‘Peter McCann for Parliament’. And while he seems to be more organised than most, he is not alone in using social media.

One thing though is how our politicians and budding politicians actually use social media.

Peter, like many, is using Facebook to promote themselves to the general public. He has both a private personal profile and the 'open to the public' campaign page.

Both can be used in conjunction to fully engage the public in a conversation.

I would like to pint out though that sometimes there is no point in being a politician on Facebook and just using a personal page. Another issue is the use of the suffix of an elected representative as a username, as during election time politicians are not allowed to use those suffixes (such as MP or MLA).

Some MPs have actively used Facebook to engage with the public, such as Steve Webb, Liberal Democrat MP for Northavon, who held a “drop in surgery” on Facebook.

He advertised the time in advance, to his 3,867 Facebook friends: “Steve will be online on Facebook Chat tomorrow (Thursday) between 11 and 11.30am. Log on and chat if you want to raise anything with me.” Around 200 of his friends – a mixture of constituents, party members and others – were online for the chat session.

In addition, using a political page also allows a politician to send out updates, including direct messages, to their followers. Political pages can be linked up to other platforms, such as Twitter, to cross post.

This is not an electoral 'panacea', but it does help.

There is also Twitter to consider. I have had a few good interactions with elected representatives through this wondrous little platform. During the Irisgate scandal, Twitter was awash with political hacks letting tit bits filter out. The main culprit for this was @Eamonnmalie. He is still pumping out teasers regarding the ongoing Policing and Justice negotiations.

There are lots of tools at a politicians disposal, even blogs (such as blogger), for them to take the social media bull by the horns. In the recent debate on compulsory voting it was noted by many of the contributors to the debate that there is a serious issue with lack of political engagement. Well, politicians could begin to engage more through the digital media.

We have Web 2.0, which is all about conversations. Politics needs to catch up.

Northern Ireland politicians need to embrace the new electric thingy age

Nesbitt is da man....maybe....


It has been reported that Mike Nesbitt has been touted to stand for the UUP in the Strangford constituency in the General Election.

Yes, of course, i too would leave a £64,000 safe job for a possible £64,000 job without at least three other people to share the blame with. It would also be slightly unfair to the candidates already selected to go to the UUP selection committee and then having to contend with the prospect of standing aside for a Conservative candidate.

This does remind me of the Tim Collins period.

Not that Mike wouldn't do well. Indeed i think he would probably be a great candidate, and sounds a little like Northern Ireland becoming a place were people can become more involved in politics without feeling too embarrassed. But I don't think it will happen.

But then again, in Northern Ireland stranger things can happen. And some mighty strange things have happened.

Vote on voting. (poll: will you vote in General Election 2010)


I have a little poll up and running on the right hand side of .

Please participate and let me know if you intend to vote, not vote, or are yet undecided.


After the 2009 and 2010 political scandals, would you vote?


Well, after a big build up on what was to come this weekend in the papers, it was a bit of a damp squib on one front and more disturbing on the other.

While it was a bit lacking on more scandal for the DUP, the heat was cranked up over the Adams family issue of who knew what, when and how it was handled. Susanne Breen, from the Sunday Tribune, interviews two women from two well known republican families on how they were sexually abused by republicans and of how that abuse was covered up by Sinn Féin and the Provisional IRA. Accusations of abuse of any kind, especially of children, will begin to put real pressure on Sinn Féin and how it has handled the allegations, and whether or not they advised victims to go to statutory agencies.

With the debate on policing and justice ongoing, it could be an issue for the public on how they view the capability of any political party to take on the job of Justice Minister. I think the 'community confidence' is much wider than the DUP interpretation. Does anyone have the confidence that our politicians could take on the role now?

There seems to be cover-ups all over the place and how are the public supposed to react to elected representatives when the media shine a light on shady goings on over the past number of years? Being an elected representative is a privileged position of trust where the politician must act in a moral and ethical approach to the duties they have to perform. They should bear in mind thoughtfulness for others, kindness in the community, honesty in their business, courtesy in society and fairness in all things. There is a fully functioning 'Code of Conduct (which i wrote about previously here)

The number of political scandals covering 2009 and 2010 so far does not seem to reflect the Codes of conduct. Nor will they instil trust in the electorate.

Political disengagement by the electorate is becoming a big danger.

So what would make anyone want to vote?

Well one solution is to make voting compulsory, as it is in Australia. Indeed it is a debate coming to the NI Assembly today.

Danny Kinahan (UUP MLA for South Antrim) has tabled
"That this Assembly notes the positive effect that compulsory voting has had on democracy in the Commonwealth of Australia; and calls on Her Majesty’s Government to consider introducing similar rules for elections in the United Kingdom."
This could be a way to staunch the loss in voting habit.

I have supported this for notion for a long time, but with the important proviso that there is an option for 'None of the above' on the voting slip.

There have been long winded debates about people should be able to exercise the option of voting or not. It is illegal not to be on the electoral register, so why not move that debate on and extend the legislation to cover the actual issue of voting as well.

The big danger is that if voting numbers continue to decline, government will become more and more focussed on the issues of those who actually vote. Why would they waste resources on people who do not vote? A politician is not going to worry about a non-voter - why would they?

People need to, no matter what the current political climate, go out and vote. Even deliberately spoil their vote at the ballot box to show their disdain. Otherwise the representatives elected will reflect a more extreme view of an electorate who have strong enough held views to actually go out and vote.

Politics impinges on all our lives and we must engage to make a difference.


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