Our politicians are neither mainstream nor confident…

Barry White identifies a problem with the Peace Process™: ie the way in which it has infantilised our political classes. His experience of the dearth of political engagement with civil and business society accords with my own (albeit limited) experience:

Risks will have to be taken on all sides if we’re ever to get out of the present impasse, and the first move must be to speak to each other. If we don’t and just communicate through the media or officials, there is no prospect of a lasting power-sharing executive being achieved. Meeting in Stormont committees is a start but it isn’t enough.

It’s strange but, three years after the DUP and Sinn Fein were voted the top parties, they are still in the margins when leaders of opinion, business etc meet. In the run-up to Christmas, I meet all sorts but, in groups of 50 to 100, I couldn’t identify more than two or three supporters of those parties. They still aren’t mainstream, confident of their place in society, but they want to govern us.

There’s a mismatch here, which will have to be overcome if we’re to make progress politically, economically or – thinking of those tragic figures for loyalist-area schools – educationally. Either we do it ourselves, developing some common purpose together or we’ll stay in our rut, never maturing.

,

  • fair_deal

    I fully accept our politicians do need to get out more but the lack of engagement hasn’t been a one-sided process.

    First many in business only want to relate to those in power so their relationship building has been targetted at civil servants and DR ministers.

    Second there was the usual safety factor, not wanting the business identified with politics or a particular party in case it led to being targeted.

    Three there are a few ‘leaders of opinion’ who will be demoted if/when devolution returns. Politicians never like being treated with disdain/arrogantly and have memories.

  • kensei

    “It’s strange but, three years after the DUP and Sinn Fein were voted the top parties, they are still in the margins when leaders of opinion, business etc meet.”

    1. If true, then surely that says more about business leaders and the like than the parties themselves.

    So, political parties here should move away from the man on the street and towards “elites”? That is why apathy is killing English politics.

    2. Statistically, at least some are probably lying.

  • Wilde Rover

    Roll on Joint Authority.

  • Ziznivy

    “So, political parties here should move away from the man on the street and towards “elites”? That is why apathy is killing English politics.”

    And old fanshioned point of view might see part of a politician’s job as bridging the gap between the “man on the street” and elites.

    The populist rabble rousers of SF and the DUP can never bridge this gap. Of course a further problem with the DUP is that they should also be able to integrate fully with elites in the rest of the UK and Westminster in particular. They are still less able to fulfill this function.

  • kensei

    “And old fanshioned point of view might see part of a politician’s job as bridging the gap between the “man on the street” and elites.”

    An old fashioned view is that a politician’s job is to faithfully adhere to his manifesto promises and the platform he stood on.

    “The populist rabble rousers of SF and the DUP can never bridge this gap. Of course a further problem with the DUP is that they should also be able to integrate fully with elites in the rest of the UK and Westminster in particular. They are still less able to fulfill this function.”

    Nonsense. No doubt DC will appear to correct me, but it seems to me there are plenty of Populists in the US system that bridged the gap, for example (indeed got too close to the elites…). The problem is no power, and I have no doubt that if an Assembly was up and running both those parties would be capable of engaging with those people and that those people would be more interested.

    They could of course, totally fuck it up. But there is no basis for any conclusions at all, really.

  • Ziznivy

    It has less to so with power (which the two parties have been in the box seat to claim for some time) and more to do with genuine revulsion at the inherent unpleasantness of both parties.

    The business lobby have spent their careers attempting to create wealth and move Northern Ireland forward, Sinn Fein have devoted 30 years to sabotaging those efforts and making the country economically unsustainable. Which businessman in his right mind would wish to be associated with such a party? That’s leaving aside the flirtations with Marxism etc.

    Similarly business leaders are necessarily a section of society most integrated into the rest of the UK. They are embarrassed by the sectarianism of the DUP, their little Ulsterism and their failure to engage with the rest of the political class at Westminster.

    More of these leaders may swallow hard and speak to such people if devolution gets up and running, but the regard they have for them will not increase.

  • Token Dissent

    This highlighs the lack of political engagement that has characterised the business and middle classes here for years. Showing distain from the sidelines and refusing to get involved with tribal politics – whilst secretly agreeing with many of the opinions of the tribal leaders.

    The failure of the these people to rally to leaders from O’Neill to Trimble has been vital in driving events.

  • Yokel

    Sorry Wilde Rover. There will be no joint authority…next….

  • kensei

    “It has less to so with power (which the two parties have been in the box seat to claim for some time) and more to do with genuine revulsion at the inherent unpleasantness of both parties.”

    This is frankly bollocks. Business men would dance through hoops and tell them them loved them if they could promise them lower taxes.

    If they come in, and do an effective job, then they’ll get respect. As it is there is no basis to judge anything. Sweeping generalisations don’t change anything.

    Love the assumption all business people are Unionist, by the way.

  • George

    Yokel,
    there may not be joint authority but business in Northern Ireland listens to and works with leaders in authority.

    This is what one such leader has been saying to them recently:

    “The status quo is not an option. It is an unsatisfactory place for Northern Ireland to be…

    The politics of the past must now give way to politics for the future. There is a duty and a responsibility to look at what will best serve the next generation…

    I am convinced that with stable and agreed politics, Northern Ireland can be among the most successful economic areas in Europe…

    There is absolutely no reason in a stable political environment why the economy here… cannot be a world-beater…

    We believe that economic progress is a central issue for the future of Northern Ireland…

    It was clear to us that business leaders in the North have the ideas, the energy and the ambition to do just that. That drive and determination can also be seen in the trade unions, farmers, the public and voluntary sectors. The task now faced by the political parties is to give the leadership which society needs….

    Northern Ireland needs an economic policy tailored to its needs and a locally accountable government to deliver it. I have watched the vigorous and well-informed debate on the economic future that would face an incoming Executive. There is clearly a consensus on the challenges. And there is a large degree of consensus on the solutions. That has to bode well for the future.

    But the task that faces the Executive will not be easy. It will face key issues such as public service reform, managing the public finances, deciding on investment priorities and building up the private sector. It will also need to invest in the future – in education, skills, enterprise, Research & Development and infrastructure….

    The question is: will the parties take on those challenges and work together for the people they represent? I hope they will.

    Frankly, and in all honesty, I cannot see any good reason for them not to do so.”

    If Northern Ireland’s politicians don’t face up to the challenges Yokel, businessmen and women there will turn to the people who can wield the power, like the man who said this, Bertie Ahern.

    It will be quasi Joint Authority for the business community.

  • Ziznivy

    The majority of business leaders, if they are not politically unionist are functionally unionist, simply because they are functioning in the UK market-place.

    So the assembley will be setting taxes now will it? That’s a hell of a leap in powers.

    You seem to have a disdain for the people in our society who are creating jobs and driving our economy and will increasingly be expected to do so. I trust you’re wages are coming out of the public purse.

  • kensei

    “The majority of business leaders, if they are not politically unionist are functionally unionist, simply because they are functioning in the UK market-place.”

    That’s a hell of a definition. And if they aren’t aiming for European and World markets these days, they deserve to be nowhere.

    “So the assembley will be setting taxes now will it? That’s a hell of a leap in powers.”

    Shorthand example. the Assembly can probably do some things that are equivalent to a tax cut, anyway.

    “You seem to have a disdain for the people in our society who are creating jobs and driving our economy and will increasingly be expected to do so. I trust you’re wages are coming out of the public purse.”

    Actually, you are confused. I have disdain for people who talk nonsense, which is why I’m picking on you. I also have disdain for the type of person who would look down on anyone because they dare vote DUP or SF. True, they ain’t done anything. but last time I checked, neither have the UUP, the SDLP or anyone else here.

    Perhaps best to judge when have something to go on, no?

  • lib2016

    “The majority of business leaders, if they are not politically unionist are functionally unionist…..”

    This may be correct for manufacturing industry, which is also in free fall of course, but in service industries and the Civil Service this decade is when it all changes. From now on the elites will be dominated by people from a nationalist background, as the Fair Employment Commission has been pointing out for years.

    Having an aging population suffering from a brain drain leads to certain repercussions. No-one realises this better than the DUP which is why they need a deal now.

  • smcgiff

    Whatever about Mainstream and confident, what about cheeky?

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/wales/6188147.stm

  • Dread Cthulhu

    kensei: “”It’s strange but, three years after the DUP and Sinn Fein were voted the top parties, they are still in the margins when leaders of opinion, business etc meet.”

    1. If true, then surely that says more about business leaders and the like than the parties themselves. ”

    Of course it does… business actually have to do or produce something to remain a going concern. The politicians don’t.

    kensei: “Nonsense. No doubt DC will appear to correct me, but it seems to me there are plenty of Populists in the US system that bridged the gap, for example (indeed got too close to the elites…). The problem is no power, and I have no doubt that if an Assembly was up and running both those parties would be capable of engaging with those people and that those people would be more interested. ”

    They don’t really end up bridging the gap — they typically run populist to get elected and then… well, it depends. For starters, there are those Populists who talk a good game but lack the courage of their convictions — the Congressional Black Caucus would be a good example of this — they make a great deal of noise, but live tamely on the Democratic plantation, regardless of the slights and short-shrift they receive and the preferences of those they claim to represent. There are others who are quite true to their constiuencies and positions — Southern “blue-dog” democrats and New England Republicans are prime examples of these, although whether its a matter of populism or getting re-elected is a matter of how cynical the observer.

    This is to say you may be wrong, but the only way to prove it is to be a mind-reader.

  • Yokel

    George

    It isn;t de facto anything. They’ll still work under the UK regulatory system, which in large part will be the EU regulatory system which in turns feeds in to the Irish system.

    Apart from some work on common standards etc and so forth, there’ll be no more joint authority as there is between any two other nations in the EU who co-operate economically. The EU is a single market so moves to a ‘single market’ between NI & ROI in the likes of energy and telecomms are mirrored elsewhere. For example interconnectors ship electricity from nation to to nation in the EU. Only economic protectionism prevents foreign takeovers etc in such key sectors but Ireland and the UK host more liberal regimes with regards to trade so its not a big dramatic barrier. Its no big shock really is it.

    You know and I know what the Wilde Rover was saying when he mean’t, political joint authority and that isn’t going to happen in a hurry, if at all.

  • George

    Yokel,
    “It isn;t de facto anything. They’ll still work under the UK regulatory system, which in large part will be the EU regulatory system which in turns feeds in to the Irish system.”

    I never said “de facto”, I said quasi. Of course the business community will work within the UK system but if they find they have a better chance of getting their problems solved if Bertie lobbies the UK government too, then Northern Irish business will do so. Of course the UK will have the final say.

    “Apart from some work on common standards etc and so forth, there’ll be no more joint authority as there is between any two other nations in the EU who co-operate economically.”

    That isn’t what is happening even now, never mind going into the future.
    I don’t know of other countries in the EU where the leader of a foreign country is lobbying for a specific region to have its corporate tax changed.

    I don’t know of any other country that, for all intents and purposes, includes a region of a foreign country (with that country’s active encouragement) in its national development plan and, if the story is to be believed, invests 1 billion in its infrastructure.

    Make no mistake, if a businessman in Tyrone needs a road upgrade to help his trade, in the future he will be quite likely to look south for it to help him in his cause.

    This can all change if there is a port of call north of the border, namely an assembly.

    “You know and I know what the Wilde Rover was saying when he mean’t, political joint authority and that isn’t going to happen in a hurry, if at all.”

    Of course joint authority won’t happen. With the quasi method, the Irish government gets some credit for the good things and none of the blame for the bad. It’s a win-win situation.

  • I wish that people who throw around terms like “joint authority” would be more careful with their terminology. There’s a precise legal definition to such a concept and it has nothing to do with any lobbying by Bertie etc.

  • Wilde Rover

    Just flying a balloon.

    Anyone for Joint Authority Lite?

    (Now with 25% less fenian interference)

  • Ziznivy

    “Actually, you are confused. I have disdain for people who talk nonsense”

    The depths of self-loathing that must consign you to is unfathomable.

    Incidentally the comments “Business men would dance through hoops and tell them them loved them if they could promise them lower taxes” and “1. If true, then surely that says more about business leaders and the like than the parties themselves” clearly sum up the healthy respect you have for those privately building the economy. Clearly our businessmen should be breaking their backs to associate with a group that supported economic terror for 30 years and those so interested in protecting the interests of their “Volk” that they have constantly sacrificed the economy for their own imperatives.

    Of course once the Valhalla of a Stormont administration headed by these twin pillars of sanity is up and running everyone will be pulling successfully in the same direction and the business community will be flocking to cooperate with the ex-bombers and extreme clerics.

    And how remiss have these business people been thus far? Going about their busy lives providing employment and failing to seek out their representatives to educate them in the trifling matters of every day life.

  • kensei

    “Incidentally the comments “Business men would dance through hoops and tell them them loved them if they could promise them lower taxes” and “1. If true, then surely that says more about business leaders and the like than the parties themselves” clearly sum up the healthy respect you have for those privately building the economy.”

    Don’t know enough about them to give them my respect or otherwise. I’m sure the group constituents both good and bad people, but if they are really so out of touch with everyone else in general, then that is a bad thing.

    Capital chases cheap taxes and cheap labour. It’s an immutable law of the universe.

    “Clearly our businessmen should be breaking their backs to associate with a group that supported economic terror for 30 years and those so interested in protecting the interests of their “Volk” that they have constantly sacrificed the economy for their own imperatives.”

    If those people are voted in democratically, then yes, they should be making some effort to talk to them be them SF or DUP or whoever. Whether or not they like them is an irrelevance. But I actually believe in democracy, unlike so many that shout about it here.

    “And how remiss have these business people been thus far? Going about their busy lives providing employment and failing to seek out their representatives to educate them in the trifling matters of every day life.”

    This place is still dominated by the public sector to a staggering degree; we are clearly lacking both the conditions conductive to business and the talent to make new businesses a success. So again, while we have both good and bad people, I wouldn’t necessarily hold them up as a paragon of virtue.

    There are things that could done by both Politicians and Businessmen without one single body being set up; certainly there a lot of people that need skills and a lot of businesses that could use them. The fact nothing is done reflects on both.

  • Ziznivy

    “This place is still dominated by the public sector to a staggering degree; we are clearly lacking both the conditions conductive to business and the talent to make new businesses a success”

    The talent isn’t lacking, as is patently obvious from the successive of Northern Irish people in the rest of the UK. More to do with the arteries of inward investment being ossified by a 30 year terror campaign by the same scum that the business community should now be dropping their bags to facilitate.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Kensei: “Capital chases cheap taxes and cheap labour. It’s an immutable law of the universe. ”

    So close, yet incorrect. Capital chases the best return on investment. When starting from scratch, yes, areas with favorable tax regiemes and inexpensive labor are favored. However, when dealing with going concerns, the calculation is far more complex.

    Kensei: “This place is still dominated by the public sector to a staggering degree; we are clearly lacking both the conditions conductive to business and the talent to make new businesses a success.”

    Assumes facts not in evidence — given the poor conditions, even above-average talent would have difficulty making a business a success — beginnings are such fragile things. The combination of a non-business dominated economy, relatively expensive tax regieme and a poorly motivated work-force in which a sizable minority enjoy what economists have described as “voluntary poverty,” N.I. simply is not a good risk for starting a businesses. Likewise, the social condition may actually impede the development of entrepeneurs for most of the same reasons as above.

  • JG

    This infantlaised political class is what Eric Waugh wants to be the next Isle of Man?