Let’s sound the last post for this sort of electioneering ...
Mike Nesbitt is 100% correct in calling for the complete scrapping of election posters. “There is absolutely no evidence,” says the Strangford MLA, “that they help to get anyone elected — in fact, the response to them tends to be all negative.”
This being so, why do these primitive promotional objects appear, so automatically at such expense to the taxpayer, at each and every political contest?
The first thing potential candidates reach for is the pot of money allocated to them to plaster their mugs across the telegraph poles of Ulster, sometimes four and five per post, till the cardboard horrors are practically at knee-level.
Not only in these days of social media, mass media and — what's that thing called again? — oh yes, television — is nailing a photograph of a grinning individual on a tree an outdated form of publicity, it is also a practice which only serves to highlight the divisiveness of our society.
Just as surely as painted kerbstones, offensive murals, nasty graffiti and, on another day, tattered flags and emblems on the very same lampposts, the posters stake out political territory in a peculiarly alienating and off-putting way.
It's not just that the big chops grin on long past election day (or Lost Deposit Day as it is for so many of the aspirants). It's that the councillors, MLAs and MPs declare in a strange way that their particular political view holds sway among the community they stare down on, and (like a recently deposed Colonel) thereby make life uncomfortable for those who don't share their principles.
In Ulster, we don't run the apathetic politics of the Home Counties. We routinely get high turnouts — the population is stuffed to the gills with politics and those who are interested in exercising their franchise do so to a more than creditable percentage. Meanwhile, those who have opted out of the electoral system are not going to be wooed back by photoshopped images of stout Unionists, hairy Liberals, grey Nationalists and lean Republicans. And because some minority political viewpoint has managed to raise enough funds to put up candidates is no excuse for having a Friend of Joe Stalin or a Ban Cars Ride Bikes Environmental Lobby polluting the roadside for months.
There is no need for this literally ‘in yer face' advertising. We all know who they are of old and what they stand for.
Let them leave our lamp posts alone.