Towards a new politics, or just more groping around in the dark?

Looking ahead to the twin delights of the Stormont recess and the climax of the marching season, thoughts are turning to the prospects for ” a new politics. ”  Well c’mon, it’s a slogan they’ve heard somewhere recently – was it from Westminster?

David Gordon has kicked off a series of articles in the Belfast Telegraph, asking fundamental questions about the shape and direction of local politics. And not before time. For far  too long the paper has lived off its ” why don’t we catch ourselves on” tradition of the sixties and has left too much of what passes for new thinking and grass roots examination to the Irish News and even a reviving Newsletter.

Today in the Newsletter for example, touching the theme examined below by Mick, the prophetic Alex Kane doubts whether a united unionism would be greater than the sum of its separate parts, whichever luminary succeeds Sir Reg.

In the Tele, Queen’s politics professor Rick Wilford welcomes the SDLP’s rejection of nationalist unity and identifies low turnout as a particular problem for unionism, due to ” disillusion, not satisfaction.” He finds in  the recent election results some encouragement for the idea of a ” shared platform” beyond the negativity of keeping Martin McGuinness out of the First Minister’s chair.

Margaret Ritchie’s determination to resist electoral seduction by Sinn Fein, suggests that there may be the opportunity to forge a shared platform embracing the UUP, the SDLP and, perhaps, Alliance.

Devising a campaign on common, cross-community ground rather than, in the UUP’s and SDLP’s case, diving for cover into their respective communal trenches would herald a decisively new kind of politics — though not as game-changing as the preparedness of a unionist to serve alongside Martin McGuinness as deputy First Minister, should such |circumstances arise.

Good idea, although hardly an original one. And reaching some common ground with Scotland and Wales over the block grant might help. What we need now is an inkling of what that shared programme might be about. Like placing  conviction about cross community initiatives above  fearing the  dwindling core vote?   Bold enough to recommend transfers across the divide?

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

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