#AE16 #SluggerReport: Whose election bubble is it anyway?

Here’s this morning’s first edition of a revived SluggerReport broadcast live on the Slugger Facebook page (so please do give it a “Like” if you want to keep up with them).

Three questions:

– Who is responsible for what must count as a third boring Assembly election in row? The parties (and if so, in what measure each)? Or a much-depleted press corps who’s attitude is becoming more “entertain us”, a la Kurt Cobain than ‘come on and tell us, a la Jeremy Paxman?

– What does opposition mean in the context in which no one can actually be kicked out of power? In other words, what exactly is the meaningful governing logic of this contest? For which, we need to ask the question of where power and responsibility lie within the Stormont institutions?

– Finally, who’s bubble are we operating in, and do we have a clue as to how voters are consuming election material? Does dropping turnout over the last two election suggests serious disengagement from the democratic institutions, especially on the nationalist side?


  • Msiegnaro

    I don’t find this election boring as such but I’m a nerd and find some of the micro battles quite interesting across the various constituencies.

    What is underwhelming is a lot of the predictability as to how seats will fall with much of the real interest around who will get many of the 6th seats.

    No party has impressed with regards to policy although the TUV have put forward a number of interesting proposals including appointing DR ministers who the Assembley will hold to account.

    The UUP stormed out of the last Executive over paramilitary activity only to return after this election without one iota changing while the DUP are feigning an interest in education while refusing to take up the portfolio. The SDLP have a completely uncosted manifesto while Sinn Fein are in disarray particularly in FST where they’re four candidates have poorly thought out wards.

    Overall it’s not boring but I am waiting for that big punch, perhaps a few TUV MLAs in the “naughty corner” will help liven things up?

  • Peter Huey

    Msiegnaro, I find your comment interesting because I come from a similar standpoint previously (i.e. election nerd), but really struggle to be engaged with this one at all.

    I think, taking Mick’s three points into consideration, it is that question of opposition that drains any sense of purpose the most: if, in voting for any of the mainstream parties, I am actually voting for a continuation of the current situation; yet those snapping at the outside don’t appeal much either – what is the point?

  • WindowLean

    Not boring if you’re in the bubble like most of us are but yes I think a lot of voters don’t even realise or care that there’s an election coming up! I agree with Mseignaro, I live in FST and SF are all over the place with four candidates and no campaign. Maybe they’re waiting until after the Ard Fheis?

  • Neil

    It’s boring because we know pretty much the same people will be back regardless of who votes. Like a game of musical chairs, some will lose out, some will gain, and the net effect of whatever minimal change occurs will be negligible. The only thing that may be of some interest to me will be the effect of the equal marriage campaign ongoing, if it has any effect.

  • mickfealty

    My concern is that the purposelessness of the election (as advertised) becomes corrosive in the long term and an active factor in driving down turnout, with issues of legitimacy to follow.

    Frustratingly though it’s not actually as purposeless as it looks via the more favoured narratives. I also get the feeling it’s becoming a piece of light entertainment more than politics. Strictly, it ain’t.

    I think the scenario from the south should tell us something important too. How does any poll corr or pollster for that matter account for how badly wrong they got the southern election?

    And indeed cast your eyes across to GB and the last Westminster election, where we were told we were going to get one scenario (ie, before the fact) when we actually got something rather different.

    I’m not predicting such divergence for us in NI, but we do need to care if the accounting mechanisms are not giving us the relevant ‘data’ because it contradicts or undermines some inner consensus.

  • Peter Huey

    An important difference when glancing either south or east though, Mick – turnout in recent GB or ROI elections has been two thirds of the population or higher, whereas in NI its a good 5% lower – and falling.

    It occurs to me that your light entertainment observation rings true. Maybe it’s a product of now living in Belfast, rather than west of the Bann, but it seems to me that up in the big smoke the political narrative in public consciousness is more or less driven by whichever scandal the BelTel are choosing to focus on at the moment., lending disproportionate voice to sideshows about flegs, NI21, Alliance in Belfast East, and so on. Whilst they can’t be blamed for giving the people what they want, to me this mirrors the general media trend (both traditional and social media).

    As a result, I would struggle to (a) tell you in detail about any particular party’s stance on a ‘normal’ portfolio issue (education, health, justice), but know more than I care to about a few justifiably large, but IMHO far too dominant issues. As a result, when I look down the list of candidates for my own Belfast South, I can discern little real difference between the main parties and those who rail against them, whilst simultaneously propping the whole circus up through mandatory coalition.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Speaking of bubbles

    I was just reading the “Northern Ireland First” Manifesto.

    “At the start of the troubles everyone who was not Northern Irish required a work permit, even the English, because we were an area of economic hardship so how is it possible that now anyone can move here and claim benefits?”

    I am not entirely convinced that the English, Scots and Welsh were banned from moving over to Northern Ireland and making benefit claims, deterred perhaps.

    Willing to admit I am wrong if this actually turns out to be a bizarre fact, perhaps the NI Parliament stopped UK and Irish citizens who were non-denizens of NI from claiming benefits or something.

    Anyway, No hard feelings. No publicity is bad publicity and all that.

  • murdockp

    Apart from the strategic seats that the party leaders will secure, I have to say watching distinctly mediocre people that are, if you are brutally honest, not that bright, inspiring or employable, fighting to secure a thankless job that earns them £38k per annum and a pension, reminds me not only how little life experience most of the younger career politicians have, but that for most of these people, joining the assembly is big step up the career ladder.
    I think this has to be a key reason why the calibre of our NI assembly politicians is so poor.

  • ted hagan

    Well fair play Mick on a Grand National of a think piece with a bit of Nirvana thrown in.
    You finished the course and came in a good fifth, I’d say.
    I’ve been away for twenty years now but try to keep in touch with developments and that was an interesting take on things, although I’ll not pretend to have understand everything. At least we seem to be at the flinty tools stage of political evolution.
    Keep up the good work.

  • QuintinOliver

    Careful – two voters have been murdered during this election…

  • Reader

    Certainly it’s true that people moving here from the mainland needed a work permit, as my dad helped to arrange some in the 60s.
    However, that related to work, not benefits. I don’t think there was a restriction on free movement, just that you needed to justify taking a job.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Thanks for the fact check with regards to the island of Britain.

  • Msiegnaro

    Starting salary is £48k, not too bad.

  • Reader

    Another fact check – the island is called “Great Britain”

  • Nevin

    Turnouts across each of the regions of the UK have fluctuated quite dramatically during the course of the past six elections:

  • Nevin

    “turnout in recent GB or ROI elections has been two thirds of the population or higher”

    Peter, turn-out in the Welsh assembly election in 2007 was 43.7%; in 2011 it was 42.2%.

  • Peter Huey

    Yes, fair comment Nevin – I was referring only to the generals, which I had quickly checked to compare the most recent with the one previous.

  • Nevin

    Have you seen the turn-out table, by region, that I posted? There are major fluctuations during the course of the past six elections. Eg, 2001 was a good year for NI but a bad one for the rest of the UK. The referendum tussle in Scotland will probably have given a boost to the turn-out in 2015.

  • Esmee Phillips

    You should be grateful for boring elections and stability, compared with the abject shambles of politics in the 26-county offshore region of the EU down below.

    For Ulster folk not to be interested enough in politics to kill each other is a thoroughly welcome development. Long live apathy, and let’s have more garden centres.

  • Esmee Phillips

    Mediocrities that don’t incite or practise the murderous violence which made the rest of the UK sick of the very words ‘Norn Iron’? Sounds good to me.

    Count your blessings.