I first met David Gordon decades ago when he and I were involved in the Campaign for Equal Citizenship (CEC) – the organisation that campaigned for Northern Ireland’s sectarian-based politics to be replaced with the politics of Left and Right. All who were involved in the campaign at that time would have been Labour or Conservative activists if we had lived elsewhere in the UK. I always assumed David was more aligned with Boyd Black’s wing of the CEC – those who wanted to see the Labour Party organise here and campaign for election. I was aligned with the Tory side. But our political objectives were similar. We wanted a political discourse obsessed with the border and religion replaced by one that focused on ideology.
I left Northern Ireland around the time that New Labour was first elected – in 1997. I lived in England for 10 years and then America for two. Meanwhile David Gordon was making a name for himself in journalism here in Northern Ireland.
When I first returned to Northern Ireland around the start of the new Millennium I avoided any involvement in politics. But when I eventually returned to the Conservative Party I considered David to be one of the few local journalists who might empathise with what others might consider political pointlessness i.e. trying to establish right/left politics here.
David sent me a copy of his book on the Paisley dynasty to review. Then he invited me to write several guest articles when he was at the Belfast Telegraph. When he arrived at the Nolan Show he contacted me and asked if I might be a regular guest contributor. I was somewhat reluctant. I had real difficulty with the format. But soon I was being called in frequently. I became, in David’s words, “our favourite right-wing pundit.”
But it wasn’t ideal. For every two or three invites onto the show I only agreed to one. Sometimes I was asked to contribute to a topic and then was summarily dropped.
Meanwhile I had a day-job to attend to. When the Nolan TV programme started I was asked on repeatedly but mostly declined – although I appeared once or twice. And then, when I became active in the Brexit campaign, I was asked by David to appear in the Nolan Brexit TV debate. This I considered to be a near-fiasco. I wrote about it here on Slugger.
Since that post was published I was not invited back to the Nolan Show.
And then, last Wednesday, social media was buzzing with the news that David Gordon was leaving the BBC and was becoming the Chief spin-doctor for Stormont. Today the Newsletter is running a story about how some strange, lesser-known protocol was invoked by the First and Deputy First Ministers to appoint David without any need for formal civil service recruitment procedures. David now joins 160 or so other media relations people at Stormont (on the public payroll).
Needless to say, the most obvious BBC programme to investigate this course of events would be the Nolan Show. The programme’s stock in trade is exposing string-pulling cronyism at Stormont. But who’s going to make the decision to cover this story? The programme editor? Will David Gordon be questioned by the Nolan Show on how he was appointed? Might he be asked, by the show he previously edited, about whether he was he having meetings with Ministers at Stormont about the new role he might take up during the time he was Editor of the show?
But there’s a more fundamental question to be asked. When David Gordon was involved in the CEC all those years ago, and then built a career in journalism, did he envisage that the ultimate end-game was that he’d be appointed, by the joint offices of the DUP/Sinn Fein leadership at Stormont, to be their spin-doctor on a salary of £75k?
However, I appreciate that Northern Ireland is a mere village. The journos and PRs and politicians and bloggers all know each other and people move from one role to another. Perhaps, over time, principles and ambitions for a better Northern Ireland seem like fanciful notions of youth years.
But now it’s over to the Biggest Show in the Country to ask some big questions.