This week the election starter pistol was officially fired. We now know that May 6 marks the finishing line for parties, candidates, canvassing teams and the poor old voting public.
All blogging, twittering and facebooking candidates revealed that they were getting a positive response on the doorsteps. Isn’t that so Daphne Trimble ? At present Northern Ireland seems poised to return hundreds of MPs.
The Unionist pact in Fermanagh South Tyrone is a nightmare scenario for the SDLP, says Chris Donnelly at Slugger O’Toole . The nationalist vote will likely now coalesce around sitting MP Michelle Gildernew. Meanwhile, new rumours about the possibility of a Unionist pact in South Belfast have started to circulate on Ultonia as I write.
Elsewhere, O’Conall Street is focusing on another type of political race. A relay team of four MLAs (Conall McDevitt; John McCallister; Simon Hamilton; and Barry McElduff) will take on the Belfast Marathon come May 3. I’m quite sure this relay won’t in any way double up as a last-minute, 26.2-mile long mass canvass. Best of luck lads!
Staying with politics, and this week was the ‘wash up’ at Westminster. (‘Wash up’ is when the government rushes through as much of its legislative programme as possible before Parliament breaks up for the election.) But in order to hasten the rush, wash up debates are often curtailed and it’s possible for many controversial (if however necessary) bits of legislation to be dropped from the final Bill. So it’s not an ideal way to craft legislation.
That’s the context behind this week’s Digital Economy Bill debate, and to the furious reaction of bloggers. It seems that none of the local MPs spoke during the Bill’s Third Reading. Alan in Belfast noted that when the Northern Ireland Assembly Members Bill was debated 24 hours later (it dealt with salaries at the Assembly among other things), three NI MPs spoke in the Chamber.
‘ When it was about money and jobs, a few managed to make it across to London to speak up. Maybe our budding Westminster candidates will commit to better attendance in the next Parliamentary session?’ said Alan.
Jeff Peel’s Diary was equally irritated. N orthern Ireland MPs couldn’t give a damn about the digital economy he said, adding: ‘Why is it that these people send hordes of volunteers right across Northern Ireland to erect election posters when, once elected, our local MPs show such lack of interest in important pieces of national legislation – upon which we expect them to take a stand?”
One commenter on the post, Matt Johnston, said: ‘This cements my opinion – there’s no point in joining established parties which have their own agendas and their own expenses scandals. – there has to be a better way.’
So NI reps leave the Digital Economy debate with reps tarnished? Epic #FAIL , right? But wait! Lest anyone overlook the efforts of one ‘unlikely ally’ to NI’s creative industries, Keith Belfast posted:
‘ In his final act as an MP, former-firebrand and closet silver-surfer, Rev Ian Paisley was the only Northern Irish MP to attend the Digital Economy Bill vote – and he voted against it!
‘ So hats off to the Rev, who has now become an unlikely ally to the expanding Northern Irish tech community.’
By using the last vote of his forty-year parliamentary career to lend solidarity to the users of Pirate Bay, Paisley is down with the kids, according to Splintered Sunrise .
And finally, David Brooks – New York Times columnist and one of the best known political commentators in the US – did an interview for Atlantic Wired recently about his (blogging) reading list. So who does one of the most famous hacks in the US / planet read? The Slate? Huffington Post? Maybe, but not as regularly as he reads Lisburn’s very own Burke’s Corner . Amazing. No, forget David Brooks, I’m just gobsmacked Burke’s Corner has a regular reader. Just amazing.
Geoff McGimpsey blogs on Northern Ireland politics and current affairs at http://bobballs.wordpress.com