Lewsley to be next Children’s Commissioner…

It’s been the subject of a very quiet whisper for the last few days, but the BBC 11 O’Clock news this morning confirms that Patricia Lewsley is to be the new Childrens Commissioner. We are reliably informed that all ministerial and other procedures have been followed. So hopefully no judicial reviews this time round. We understand that OFMDFM are busy putting together a press release as we speak. The SDLP press office was unavailable for comment. But the loss of Lewsley as sitting MLA in Lagan Valley certainly leaves a door hanging wide open for them.

  • George McFaul

    Mick

    Nice to meet you briefly at Steve’s party last night. Haven’t had a chance to look at the site in detail yet mate but will do over the weekend.

    regards

    Georgie Mac

  • Elvis Parker

    SF’s Paul Butler will fancy his chances.

  • J Kelly

    is this a sign of the sdlp stalwarts seeing the writing Sean Farre, now this were does Alex Attwood go

  • Mick Fealty

    Elvis,

    Agree on Butler. There might be money to be made here.

    JK,

    Winning 5 seats in one constituency is a big ask surely? Even if it is West Belfast.

  • J Kelly

    Mick for a while now I have been saying that the SDLP were under presure in at least three constituencies Lagan Valley, WB an North Antrim so its two down and heres hoping. I suppose its more out of hope than science really

  • Mick Fealty

    I think there is definately a problem for them in North Antrim and now in Lagan Valley. But last time out in West Belfast, SF found it difficult with five to manage the vote to the tight margin that would have allowed them keep Dodds out. With incumbency she is likely to be safe.

    Attwood is probably safe too. SF did a good job getting their support to spread their preferences away from Adams last time out. It nearly got them a fifth seat, but it would have been partly courtesy of that split Unionist vote. Attwood’s incumbency clear stance on policing should segment the electorate there sufficiently to get him back safely.

    I would have thought that Upper Bann holds some possibilities for Sinn Fein though. It could be worth reviewing again after the SDLP selection meeting in January.

  • J_K

    All discussion about the loss of two very able and senior people from the ranks of the SDLP in areas where SF is breathing down their necks aside – Patricia always seems a pretty decent person and should make a good fist of it – the sad death of Nigel Williams has left a big gap – and it will be a hard job to bring his focus to this.

    It does look a bit iffy – the SDLP are well represented across quangoland – but she has a job of work to show that there will be no party political agenda and no favours for her mates in the SDLP.

    Just imagine the uproar if it had been a shinner.

  • Garibaldy

    Is anyone else fascinated by the number of politicians who drop their poltiical commitments rapidly in exchange for a job, be it the speakership or a quango? I do wonder about the political commitment of lots of the NI political elite. When their party needed them most, a number have jumped ship. This is not of course to say that politicians shouldn’t get other jobs, but just that quite often it seems that they take a defeatist attitude and jump at the first chance, unlike in Britain where they at least wait to lose their seats first.

  • Elvis Parker

    Garibaldy – the essential difference is that in GB there is the possibility of exercising political power….

  • Garibaldy

    Elvis,

    Which, theoretically at least, there will be come March, or shortly thereafter. Also, given that NI politics has had an added moral flavour and often required extra commitment in difficult circumstances, I find it even more odd.

  • Elvis Parker

    Garibaldy
    Right now I wouldnt risk a fiver on there being elections. And as for a working Executive in March or ‘shortly afterwards’ – is that a pig flying past outside my window?

  • BonarLaw

    Garibaldy

    “given that NI politics has had an added moral flavour…”

    LOL!

  • here’s the OFMDFM press statement on the issue

  • Garibaldy

    Elvis,

    Do you seriously doubt there’ll be a devolved government here in the short to medium term? I don’t. I have faith in the hunger for power of our politicians of all hues.

    BonarLaw,

    I did think about putting moral in inverted commas, perhaps moralising would have been a better phrase.

  • slug

    All of UUP, SDLP, and Alliance have now lost their big hitters in Lagan Valley over the last 3 years. There is therefore an interesting possiblity for new people to emerge. UUP have this Basil McCrea, while it remains to emerge who Alliance and SDLP will choose.

  • Elvis Parker

    Garibaldy
    Its probably just the dark days of December – I promise to be upbeat in the New Year. However.. giving the last few years it is hard to be optimisitic. Maybe by next autumn……

  • Garibaldy

    Elvis,

    Not full of Xmas cheer then I see. What’s another
    6 months after the last 10 years of dancing about?

  • Michael Shilliday

    Apparently Alliance have selected Trevor Lunn. Can’t see him winning a seat. Brian Heading will have a tough fight against Butler, but I reckon that transfers will probably see him through. If Heading gets incumbancy, he will be much much harder to shift than Lewsley is/was for SF.

  • Brendan, Belfast

    Michael, if Brian wins in March, why would he be harder to shift by SF than Lewsley would?

  • Chris Donnelly

    Apparently Alliance have selected Trevor Lunn. Can’t see him winning a seat. Brian Heading will have a tough fight against Butler, but I reckon that transfers will probably see him through. If Heading gets incumbancy, he will be much much harder to shift than Lewsley is/was for SF.

    Michael

    Patricia’s jump was undoubtedly influenced (if only partially) by her own reading of her electoral position. Sinn Fein’s Paul Butler surpassed her on first preferences in 2003, and by last year’s Westminster election she was 500 votes adrift of Butler.

    With Sinn Fein’s vote only likely to rise further in the constituency- given the overall mood within nationalism and, more crucially, the demographic growth of the strongly republican Lagmore area within the consitituency in the past 2 years, Lewsley has decided to get out whilst she could.

    And, by the way, I’d like to wish her good luck in her new post.

    The SDLP are in a terrible predicament in Lagan Valley now. With no candidate with any semblance of a profile, the party must choose between Brian Heading- an able but completely unknown first time councillor from the strongly republican Dunmurry Cross end of the consitituency- and/ or a parachute candidate, with Tim Attwood’s name being floated by a number of sources.

    Either way, Sinn Fein are clearly in pole position in Lagan Valley for the solitary nationalist seat on offer.

  • BritishLisburn

    With Lewsley gone and the transfer repugnance of Paul Butler from Sinn Fein there is a real chance of a fourth DUP seat.

    Lewsley gone, Butler beaten, four for the DUP. No nationalists is Lisburn!

  • Jane Smith

    I suppose it would be asking too much from the SDLP not to parachute anyone in. It is a sign of the party being finished when it decided to drop someone in. The SDLP are stuck for candidates in Lagan Valley. But surely parachuting the SDLP’s Tim Attwood in is a serious sign of weakness by the SDLP. I agree Heading has only started to build his profile but is he not now the senior Cllr for the SDLP?
    Anyway Butler must be rubbing his hands hoping its Tim Attwood.

  • Observer

    I think Cllr Heading would stand a good chance at getting the seat in Lagan Valley even more so than if Patricia Lewsley was to stand again.

    I suspect Lewsley conseeds that she herself may not hold the seat or she is just fed up. Plus, whats her new salary? £75K or something?

    Heading has a good profile within Dunmurry Cross, but is not known across Lagan Valley. He is very able and could get a strong message across.

    I do suspect that he would win on transfers.

    I don’t believe Sinn Fein have much of a chance here. However their eventual, yet belated, decision on Policing may create a more positive outcome for them.

    I’m not sure Trevor Lunn will hold the same vote as Seamus Close whose vote collapsed in 2003 and indeed who held a great personal vote. This may work to the advantage of the SDLP. Lunn has been picked (has he yet though?) because he currently has a profile being Lord Mayor.

  • miss fitz

    I was hesitant to make any comment on this issue, and I want to be as fair as possible.

    However, I was really struck by reading Ms Lewsley’s background and qualification for the job. She qualified as a cook and has an interest in children.

    I have an interest in the Orange Order, but lack many of the qualities required to be Grand Master and dont aspire to the job!

    Obviously we dont know the field of candidates, and there is every chance ms Lewsely was the best person on the day. But knowing some of the very fine people in Northern Ireland who have dedicated their professionals lives to chilrens’ welfare and who are experts in the areas of concern, I must admit to being a little surprised at the level of entry to this position.

    Unless there is something that isnt in the public domain that qualifies Ms Lewsley for this job, other than a kindly interest in children, I think its very worrying that this post wasnt filled by someone with solid expertise in the area.

  • Garibaldy

    Shame on you Miss Fitz. Suggesting that quango jobs should be appointed on the basis of expertise rather than other, inevitably political, criteria.

  • obvious

    missfitz

    “Unless there is something that isnt in the public domain that qualifies Ms Lewsley for this job, other than a kindly interest in children, I think its very worrying that this post wasnt filled by someone with solid expertise in the area.”

    The info you need is in the public domain.

    Chief Commissioner of NIHRC – Nationalist
    Police Ombudsman – Nationalist
    Chief Commissioner of Equality Commission – Nationalist imported from RoI
    Children’s Commissioner – Nationalist

    And when Unionists are appointed to commissions (Victims or Parades) they get dragged through the courts pretty much for being Unionist and their qualifications queried. It fits the pattern and continues the subtext, unionists not to be allowed near ‘rights’ bodies.

  • kirsty

    obvious,

    I couldn’t agree more re: quango appointments.

    On the subject of the Lagan Valley selections anything which gets Brian Heading out of the Queen’s Students’ Union is good news!

    He won’t be getting my vote though!

  • I Wonder

    What “obvious” whinging.

    The process whereby the appointment of the unionist/Unionist reps. to those bodies was rightly criticised because of the way in which the SoS bent the rules and also due to the dubious behaviour of at least 1 apppointee to the Parades Commission, re. their referees.

    But don’t let facts get in the way of a whinge that unionists “always” get a raw deal.

  • miss fitz

    Well, no wonder I hesitated, I really didnt want a crap debate on nationalist v. unionist in these posts.

    No matter which job we are referring to in the public sphere, I thought we should aspire to getting the best qualified person for the job who is appointed on the basis of merit following an open and transparent process.

    The Police Ombudsman is a highly qualified individual who applied for the job in an open competition. As are some of the other posts named by obvious. The difference with the Victims Commissioner was that it was not publicly advertised and no-one else had a chance to apply for the post. That is unfair and it was right to challenge the appointment. As I’ve said before, i’ve heard little but praise for Mrs mcDougall from people I know who have met her, but that really isnt the point. All public appointments must be fair, open and transparent.

    You all seem to be so short sighted about the appointments on the Parades Commission. Very little has been said about the Chairman, Roger Poole who has done a pretty fine job this year, and brings a tough no-nonsense approach to his job.

    My main point though is that I remember looking at the Childrens Commissioner job when it was in the Telegraph and being a little wistful as I didnt consider myself adequately qualified to apply for it. So yes Garibaldy, I am a little taken aback to see that the job has gone to a politically qualified person who doesnt appear to have a substantial background in childrens affairs.

  • IJP

    It’s alright lads, I’m sure the “Elderly Commissioner” will be Unionist to even it up…

  • IJP

    MissFitz

    You’ll be suggesting that Lisburn and Newry weren’t ideally qualified for city status next… 🙂

  • Garibaldy

    Miss Fitz,

    We certainly should be surprised at this appointment but unfortunately I don’t think any of us are. Except maybe that it didn’t go to an Alliance person, or someone from the thankfully-defunct Women’s Coalition.
    The government uses its financial clout to neuter and buy off potential opposition. It’s disgusting but common.