Belfast Telegraph

Why hungry Nesbitt is bringing home the bacon for UUP

By Lindy McDowell

How appealing are our politicians? That's a question, you notice, not a statement. And it's the big question that the parties will be asking themselves now that all the votes have been counted and the damage/gains assessed. In the end it comes down to a very human thing. Political appeal is as much about how your party leaders are viewed as it is about policies.

We now know what doesn't work.

Ed Miliband.

The accepted wisdom is that Ed crashed and burned because he's seen as a weirdo. How then to explain the runaway success of Nigel Farage? Mr Farage, who has been dismissed as leader of a bunch of fruitcakes and loons, could also, I think it's fair to say, be described as somewhere on the weird spectrum.

Yet voters flocked to him and Ukip in droves just as they deserted Miliband and Labour in their legions. Why was that? It can hardly be down to how the respective party leaders looked in media coverage. Dave Cameron assures us that Farage is "not a normal bloke down the pub". But then, none of them, including Cameron, are normal blokes.

Trying to look like normal blokes may actually be the problem. Take Ed's exercise in bacon butty mismanagement where his people organised a photo call aimed at giving him man-of-the-people status. Oh look there's Ed having a bacon sandwich like the rest of us!

Except that Ed literally lost the bap. It was not a good look. And not just because of the evident distaste on Ed's face or the ketchup smeared like political blood about the place.

What looked so very bad was national politics reduced to the farce of a party leader trollied out to eat an 'ordinary' sandwich so that 'ordinary' people would connect with him.

It is this infantile, predictable spin that people find so off-putting and patronising.

Like those standard shots of leaders' wives gazing upon their men with the fixed adoration of schoolgirls clinging to a One Direction sticker album.

Voters aren't the malleable fools the party chiefs take them for. Party leaders would know that if they got out more.

True, Nigel Farage may not look any more ordinary punter than Ed. Post-election he has been a study in unrestrained glee.

His is the triumph of the unlikely. He looks like the cream that got the cat.

His success may well be down – partly anyway – to punter revolt similar to that scenario where viewers download an alternative tune to scupper the X Factor single and teach cocky Simon Cowell a lesson.

In Farage they may have downloaded a loony tune. But commentators at least spotted his potential appeal to voters. Not so back here where the UUP have staged a spectacular comeback. Who saw that one coming?

Mike Nesbitt, assisted by Tom Elliott, has stage-managed a remarkable victory for a party that was all but written off by many. Hands up, I was among those who, at one time, would have said the UUP was so badly holed below the water line it could not stay afloat.

Somehow, and full credit to him, Nesbitt has managed to steer it back on course.

Some analysis suggests that he has positioned the party as more extreme than the DUP. But that is not actually the case. On the flag protest, for example, Nesbitt was initially as woeful as Robinson.

But he regrouped and lambasted the street violence, speaking up for those, who while feeling strongly about the flag, were disgusted by the nature of the protest.

Overall Nesbitt has succeeded by learning from mistakes, listening to potential voters and getting his message across without added gimmick. A lesson there for all politicians.

Summed up – if you're going to eat a sandwich in front of cameras, best to do it for the right reason. Because you're hungry.

The UUP is hungry. Finally it's biting back.

 

An idea that’s well worth flagging up

The Ormeau Road. Or as I like to think of it, Belfast's very own Avenue of the Flags. Is there any place else, anywhere else in Northern Ireland with more flags per square foot?

Not just the lamp-post ones either. Pubs along the length of the road, appealing to the sports fans, greet every rugby tournament, football premiership, all-Ireland final, Giro and now footie World Cup with an array of flags that would do credit to the UN.

I'm not saying this is a bad thing. In fact, if Invest NI are pitching around for job creation ideas they could do worse than sink some money into a local flag production plant. On the evidence of this one stretch of roadway alone, it will never go out of business.

Time US set sights on crazy gun law

Every “expert” seems to have a view on what motivated America's latest mass killer Elliot Rodger to go on the rampage in California, murdering six people.

He is variously described as spoilt, pampered, a whiner ... As if his killing spree can be put down to simple pique.

Rodger was obviously mentally ill. His parents, aware of his problems, had tried to get help for him. But not only did the system let them and their son down, he was able to get his hands on guns.

Both his own father and the father of one of his victims have demanded something be done about America's crazy gun laws.

“When will people say, ‘Stop this madness? We don't have to live like this’,” asks the father of a murdered 20-year-old girl.

When indeed, America?

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