More last thoughts on the election

I salute Fair Deal on the last of his magisterial contributions. I marvel at his ability to bring so much insight to what seems to me the politics of the dead hand. “Politics in NI is a blood sport,” is how he sees it. Perhaps, but this blood sport resembles more a bag of struggling ferrets than the primordial passions of bullfighting. It’s long overdue for this blood sport to come under pressure to wrap up, like all the rest. On what exactly will the DUP now “ consult its electorate?” Are they now intent on building a new stockade entirely out of their own insecurities? The threat (to them) of Irish unity, while never so transparent, has never been less looming. Fair Deal touches on another legacy of the election. Dynastic politics have surely been dealt a hammer blow. Where Mrs Dodds stumbled, Ian Paisley junior may well fall humiliatingly flat on his face. The DUP barons gathered up jobs like priests of doubtful sanctity accumulated benefices for their illegitimate children in the age of Cardinal Wolsey. Who will be today’s Thomas Cromwell to lead the new Reformation? A final thought. Did the written media (BBC on line included) pull their punches on the local impact of the expenses crisis and indeed the threat from of TUV? Good factual reporting from the likes of David Gordon in the Bel Tel and plenty of workmanlike analysis aside, the sense of a gathering storm was strangely muted in the local media, unlike the UK nationals on the Westminster scene. I’m not a regular listener, but I’m told growing public feeling it was raised in the usual group therapy sessions of Nolan and Talkback. Why the hanging back in the journalism? Fear of losing increasingly scarce readers or complaints from politicians? Or did they just fail to appreciate the scale of the story?

  • Silverline

    We talk about how bad the DUP were but should it not be the case that the TUV siting MEP lost over 100,000 votes hardly a good job endorcement.

  • Intelligence Insider

    DUPes claimed it was a DUP vote that got JA elected in 2004 and not a personal one.

  • Brian is obviously right about the scale of the expenses scandal, but is looking at it from the perpective of a London-based journalist. The Daily Telegraph paid either just under or just over 100k for the stolen data in order to get first go at every development day after day. The other UK national dailies picked up the first editions of the DT and moved the story on accordingly, with the BBC doing something similar.

    However, the Belfast papers had no option other than to wait another 24 hours before bringing the details to their readers, so it inevitably moved down their news schedules.

    Many of the details about the benefits available to the Robinson family and the abstaining SF MPs were in the public domain here before they surfaced in London, but they were certainly given huge momentum by the DT.

    As has been pointed out in other posts, not only the pol corrs but the bookies were widely predicting a TUV vote of at least 50,000/60,000. While Allister produced the old Alex Ferguson trick of claiming that un-named people had written him off, it had no substance. He was a sitting MEP with a high profile and considerable resources, up against a little known DUP candidate who had a party machine but struggled in front of the cameras from the start.

    Both the Belfast Telegraph and the News Letter had no shortage of TUV coverage, while the Ian Knox cartoons in the Irish News at the opening and close of the campaign neatly summed up the contradictions faced by Diane Dodds.

    There are plenty of criticisms which can be made of the Belfast papers, but they cannot really be expected to compete with the Daily Telegraph’s cheque book.

  • PACE Parent


    Since you seem to know something about the local print media scene but little about modern electronic media. Your comment about the delays in reporting by the Belfast media is curious. Are you suggesting that the electrons and photons delivering the Daily Telegraph to local subscribers were slowed down by some as yet unnamed force?

    I am also interested in your criticisms of the Belfast papers, particularly the Bel Tel, since I noted the same story on the Odd Couple’s curtains expense from their political correspondent, Noel McAdam, reprinted two days in sequence which was lifted verbatim from the Daily Telegraph published the previous day.
    Like the politicians do the Belfast media really think the people are stupid?

    On the 14th May McAdam ran a story titled “DUP MPs confident about their expenses claims”. He did preface the peice with a caveat that it was an apparent damage limitation exercise but neither he nor Davy Gordon, their self-styled “investigations reporter” have followed up with more indepth detail for readers.

    A subscriber left a commenton the Bel Tel site.

    “I feel that our local politicians are getting an easy ride.What happened to good proactive investigative journalism or is there another agenda to prevent to much emabarrassement being heaped on to the local assembly.Get out there an bring them to book knowing some of our local personalities they will be up to their necks in the trough.”

    Posted by stephen jamison | 23.05.09, 10:47 GMT

    Perhaps you or Brian will address his concerns?

  • PACE parent seems to have difficulty understanding why the Belfast morning papers had to wait 24 hours before covering the expenses revelations in their London counterparts so I will try again.

    The Daily Telegraph paid huge sums of money to have first go at the stories each morning, and so the Belfast papers followed them up the next day.

    Some of the material about the Robinson family and the abstaining SF MPs was new, but some was not.

    PACE parent obviously missed the entire Slugger debate about the letter from Robinson and McGuinness to the Belfast Telegraph, but the good news is that it is still on the archive.

  • ecthelion

    maybe the local papers are more averse to hyteria and a general witchhunt than mainland papers,

  • Brian Walker

    old hack and PACE.. The Belfast papers like all papers national and local were dependent on the Daily Telegraph for the facts of the expenses story. Money is not the issue, the follow-up is. From what I read, I just think the local media pulled its punches somewhat in the way the running story was treated. I attribute no sinister motives, just a certain reticence in an election period that was absent in the UK national press.

  • Sorry Brian, but money was very much the issue here. Without the cheque, the Daily Telegraph had no story and we would all have had to wait until the release of a bland official report with all names and the key details omitted.

    No one is saying that the Belfast papers distinguished themselves through their follow-ups, but the packages being received by some of our senior politicians already represented familiar territory.

    Peter Robinson complained long and loud about the coverage he received long before the DT onslaught arrived, while Martin McGuinness has also attacked the Belfast papers over what he claimed was negative journalism.

    The likes of Ian Paisley junior and Caitriona Ruane in particular would be unlikely to agree that punches have been pulled in their cases.

  • Different Drummer

    Reticence there certainly was – no one wanted to go further than simply report the London Telegraphs ‘facts’ of the Robinson’s westminster expense budget – leaving me to assume that no local paper would risk a law suit by going beyond what the London Telegraph had reported – unionists dirtdiggng/suing unionists – both out of the question in any case.

    However the real story that had ‘legs’ became double jobbing – for the simple reason that D. Cameron made it an issue when on his visit to the UUP conference. That is he wished to give the UUP a shot in the arm – by repeating one of their briefs – that no one would touch prior to the cameron visit.

    My guess is that the new Conservative regime in London will aim to try and a coalition rather than SF/DUP back again. But who knows what the long term effects of Jim-Ulster-Allister’s future campaigns will be…

    This way to Protestant Unionist Party Mark II ?