Why intelligent criticism is good for government (and politicians)

I was uncharacteristically lost for words when I discovered, through Mark Devenport’s latest post, that a senior and highly capable Sinn Fein MLA was using material gleaned from a UK based right wing ginger group (funded so far as we can tell, by non taxpaying British expats) with a known record of rolling together own brand ‘dodgy dossiers’ (see Pete’s post for the detailed links).

Adds: Just had one reader contact us to point out that this could be interpreted as a measure of the distance Sinn Fein has travelled from nominal party of the left to mainstream centre right…

This case illustrates why it is important for good journalists to remain sceptical (but not cynical) about what politicians tell them.

By contrast, the BBC are doing trailers for Nick Robinson piece on Radio Four tonight, which highlights a conversation Cameron had with his wife the night before the Conservative leader did with the Lib Dems, in which her husband tells her he doesn’t think the deal can be done. Pillow talk elevated to the status of political significance.

Critical independence in journalism actually helps politicians spot failings early, and do better. Even if, as I suspect I would in their position, politicians hate it when it happens to them. But just replicating talking points empties the public space of meaningful discourse, even on the hyperlocal level. And reduces the provenance of politics with the voters.

Take the Newcastle Rocks site for instance, who a few weeks ago noted that the local DPP site had not updated the minutes of their meeting for four years… Now, whilst it is true that the DPP’s are in some kind of limbo awaiting possible amalgamation, a few weeks later, after a four year break, the minutes are finally back in place

This is one of the points I’ll want to raise when I give the keynote speech at the Parnell Summer School on Sunday 8th August

, , , , , ,

  • slug

    We lack a good economic institute that is independent of the OFMDFM for its funding and that can comment on the Executive’s economic policies. The EIRNI does not answer to this description.

  • You would have hoped that one of the two major parties in government would have had some sense of the budget, and what was plausible and what wasn’t. Especially when they are looking to make cuts.

    What does this say about the quality of our political leadership?

  • One of the points I have tried to make in the blog is that I think local bloggers can help to hold public representatives and bodies to account.

    So Down DPP has finally published four years’ worth of minutes. That’s great and possibly a small victory for newcastle rocks. But most of the rest of the DPPs remain hopelessly out of date with publishing their minutes – and therefore in breach of their own code of conduct and just plain failing in their role as a bridge between the people and the police.

    From newcastle rocks a couple of weeks ago:

    “Disgracefully, Down DPP is not unique. Just looking at meeting minutes published as an indicator, for Banbridge, the DPP has apparently only ever published online the minutes of one meeting, held in March 2006, Larne – none since September 2007; Newry & Mourne – April 2008; Antrim – September 2008; Magherafelt – October 2008; Newtownabbey – none since November 2008; Omagh – November 2008; Cookstown – November 2008; Fermanagh – November 2008; Ards – none since January 2009 (however, they do helpfully tell us the date of the next public meeting – Oct 2009); Armagh DPP – February 2009; Strabane – Feb 2009; Belfast – April 2009.”

    Who will hold them to account? Can Slugger shine a bright enough light? What if there were a network of local blogs, in Banbridge, Larne, Newry… each rattling local cages?

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Anyone?

  • HeinzGuderian

    Who’s the shinner MLA ??????? 🙂