The Slugger Awards 2008: Best MLA

As August comes to a close, we announce the last couple of Slugger Awards categories. The late David Ervine MLA might have been an obvious and popular candidate for this award – because of his ability to transcend the normal babble of day-to-day politics, to cross from the boundaries of his Loyalism (he often polled as the most trusted unionist, by nationalists) and to communicate articulately (some commented that he often spoke too articulately, and teased about his having ‘swallowed a dictionary’. I know more than one colleague who signed up to http://dictionary.reference.com/ for their learned ‘word of the day’ in Davy’s honour!) So, you have 108 to choose from – leaders, ministers, speakers, humble backbenchers, they come in all shapes and sizes, colours and flavours. Who has caught your eye? Now remember you already have been taking advantage of your opportunity to nominate for Stormont Committee Chair of the Year and theoretically there might be other overlaps – Councillor, Participation, Blogger awards spring to mind…

How do we measure the performance of our politicians with any objectivity – that’s the question. Already judges have been taken by those of you big enough to make nominations form your own party of choice and then from another. Mark McGregor’s admirable praise of Jim Allister’s political skills (albeit not his political position) stands as a worthy credit; others have joined in. Let’s have more of that.

Eight parties (Alliance, DUP, Green Party, Independent Health Coalition, PUP, SDLP, SF and UUP, not to forget Independent MLA, Gerry McHugh) are ploughing their furrows with varying degrees of diligence. Attendance matters, but more important to the voter, probably, is delivery… who has changed something, promoted a new idea, challenged an orthodoxy or inspired with their oratory?

If we are to imagine a Belfast or rural omnibus, about whom would the passengers be talking? Who would inspire a transfer at the next Assembly elections across that strong invisible community barrier?

You have all been behaving rather well in recent days on the positivity register – indeed I have had feedback from some ‘lurkers’ about standards on this Slugger Awards site rising, to their obvious pleasure – so don’t hold back from your creative and imaginative ways of giving credit where credit is due, and by implication, less to certain others.

And remember the last Award of all will allow you to elevate some more trenchant and critical analysis of our public and elected servants, so hold your collective breaths a little more yet!

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty