An idea whose time has come

More on a similar theme. Thanks to Eamonn for drawing attention to Platform for Change, a new campaign that’s a real antidote to despair. It’s the brainchild of Robin Wilson, the academic and journalist who ran the much missed Democratic Dialogue, NI’s only think tank and a past editor of Fortnight. Its aim:

The next assembly election in 2011 can not be allowed to become, like the European Parliament poll in 2009, a political arms race as to which
‘community’ will be represented by the first minister. Over time, the hope has to be to move towards a more conventional political argument, between those who seek to expand the public realm and those who favour the private sector. But this means we must also lift our heads and adopt a more outward-looking political perspective.

Platform headlines below the fold. The Platform urges

Substituting “ both and “ for the “either or” zero sum game

An end to Orange and Green Assembly designations

An end to the culture of intolerance ( by adding a new pledge to the Members and ministerial codes?)

For a shared future, replacing “ parity of esteem” with a policy of integration, making savings from inefficiently duplicated services, building intercultural educational contacts, voluntary shared neighhourhoods

A Green economy, mostly locally controlled under devolution, to create thousands of jobs, refurbishing work premises and homes and building more social housing.

School performance to be assessed by exam at 14 not 11 and build area based school partnerships to extend curriculum choice.

PSNI to ensure universal rule of law to provide the security to bring down the peace walls

Zero sectarian appropriation of flags and emblems

A Bill of Rights to guard against majoritarian power

Co-operation without restriction, north-south and in the context of UK devolution

A full Platform for Change agenda, ready for next year’s Assembly election supported by thousands of signatories.

The Platform’s bold prescriptions are well worth reading in full. Many politicians would agree with much of the diagnosis, if not all the remedies, as they tend to blame the other side for the glaring failures. One of its strengths is that it appears to chime in with the unfocused but very critical public mood. Its problem is how to nudge the political class towards a better place and prevent reform being highjacked as a device for isolating Sinn Fein. If the Platform is complemented by a hard-nosed reform strategy that goes with the grain of public opinion and the better side of MLAs, it could become a real catalyst for change at a time when all the parties are feeling insecure. It’s a breath of fresh air that deserves to blow away the fug.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London