Slugger Awards 2010: Launching with a new format…

Slugger Awards 2010: Making politics better…

Crowdsourcing improvement

In 2008 and 2009, Slugger O’Toole has managed a set of awards designed to ‘catch people in public life being good’. It was intended as an antidote to the world-weary cynicism and negativity that often dominates the media.

Previous years

Up until now, we have worked with a pre-defined list of categories – MLA of the Year, Up-And-Coming Politician, Journalist of the Year etc, and then we’ve asked for nominations from our readers. A panel of judges then selected the winners in advance of an Awards evening, organised in conjunction with our ridiculously energetic friends at Stratagem.

These awards established an important principle – that political blogs can be positive and useful – as well as giving everyone a good cheap night out while raising our issues with hundreds of people in the process

But this year, we’ve grown in confidence. We are sure the awards are more than just an experiment, and we’re keen to make them more meaningful. We’re confident of our ability to involve people and our ability to make an impact with the event and the results.

Gear-change for 2010

So in 2010, we are going to deepen and broaden the quality of participation. We will be ‘crowd-sourcing’ the award categories. In particular we will be asking our readers and contributors to identify the kind of behaviour that we want to reward. There are three over-riding categories:

  • Politics – better representation
  • The Media – a more socially useful  Fourth Estate
  • Public Administration – more accountable, efficient dynamic and effective

We will be asking our contributors to tell us what they want politicians / civil servants / media organisations to do more than they are currently doing?

In the past, the focus has been on a final judges selection process. This time, once the description of the awards has been agreed, selecting winners will be a good deal more inclusive.

To get involved in this process as a partner or sponsor, please call Paul Evans on 07973 714206 or email us using this spam-proof link.

The Slugger Awards 2010 – process.

The Slugger Awards Essays

Over the autumn, Slugger will commission a series of essays from regular contributors and a few guest writers asking them each to identify a unique award category – a form of behaviour that they would like to reward.

Public event – ‘Political Innovation’

We will be organising an event in Belfast to cover the subject of ‘Political Innovation’ in October / November and the Award selection process will form the centrepiece of that event. It is our aim to involve 100+ people in an event at which they discuss what they would like public servants (elected or otherwise) to do better.

Breakfast event

This will be followed by a breakfast event in Belfast at which we will be encouraging different political figures to ‘adopt’ a particular award and make the case for it. The breakfast event will allow the proposers of particular awards to make an ‘elevator pitch’ for their idea in the hope that it will improve the awards final chances of being adopted.

Readers choosing the final award categories

Once we have enough ideas, we’ll then invite the readers to vote on them – choosing the awards that they want instead of the ones we have defined. We will be seeking a partnership with a media organisation in the promotion of this process and will be hoping to showcase these ideas very widely in order to drive traffic to the voting site.


Once this process is complete, we will be using Slugger O’Toole to seek nominations for each of these awards. Having received the nominations, a small team of Slugger’s regular contributors and friends of the site will choose the winners in advance of our awards evening at the end of November.

We’re confident that this process will involve a great deal more active engagement with a wide audience throughout Northern Ireland (with a good deal of interest beyond!)

The Awards Evening

In 2009, we organised an awards evening in Belfast – hosted by Tim McGarry – followed by a ‘Winners Dinner’. While the Winners Dinner was hugely successful and well-reviewed by all who attended, it wasn’t core to our project and we are neutral about whether we do one again. It will depend entirely upon our ability to attract sponsorship.

The awards evening will be much more dominated by a need to provide a mixture of political discussion and entertainment. For this reason, we will be using a professional events management company to handle the production on the night and we will be focussed on making the entertainment for focussed on the political interaction that flows around the website.  We will charge for entry to this event in order to cover our costs.

  • Rory Carr

    ‘…awards designed to ‘catch people in public life being good’.

    Filling the role of a sort of Good News of the World then whereby Pete and Mark and Turgon and Moochin take turns to go about dressed as Arab sheikhs and lure unsuspecting politicians into helping old ladies across the road and such while eschewing thanks or praise and insisting that their good deeds remain anonymous for fear of bringing shame and odium upon their hallowed reputation as conniving gits.

    It’s a terrific idea. I’m all for it.

  • latcheeco

    I suppose any improvement would be better than the fawning bonhomie that got the awards/site caught with its cacks around its ankles last year. Remember when Pooirisgate and Imavictim2gate broke around the same time, and there was all sorts of waffle about how the gloves were now being taken off against the same crowd to cover the redner of previously feting the parties for their generalallroundgoodegginess.

  • Mick Fealty

    Right lads, just back from travelling. Thanks for the backing Rory (I think)… Only, it’s more about asking readers to define what kinds of ‘helping old ladies across the road’ behaviours are desirable in a politician.

    Erm, care to put that another way Latch, so the rest of us get what you mean. I mean, I think I know some of what you are getting at, but it would help if you were specific in a less ‘dancing around your handbag’ sort of way. [BTW, the Awards were last November, ie, two months before Irisgate]…

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Well said.
    There is a certain “hostage to fortune” in praising politicians.
    And our politicians and journalists are already too close…playing football together. etc

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Sounds great. Count me in. Its around the time of our wedding anniversary and Mrs FJH is always saying I take her nowhere.
    Look forward to seeing old and new friends.

  • latcheeco

    Christ Mick, thon jacobite even understood!
    What I mean is (and I suspect you know rightly what I’m getting at but you’re just a tad peevish at any criticism) that you can’t cosy up to them in November over canopes and then pretend to be the hot end of the poker sifting through the ashes of their shenanigans a short time later. Especially after it was the usually pitiful and paid-for MSM that finally pointed out that the emporers of Stormonia had no clothes. It makes what could be a cutting edge and revolutionary medium look like bandwagonism, opportunism, and careerism.
    Slugger is best when it sticks to allowing anonymous ordinary punters to have a say; that they can then feel smug and good about themselves is the bait that catches something rare which can’t be found elsewhere. The mediocre chancers and rogues who populate political parties don’t really need its help in this regard. It would be much better for everybody if they feared Slugger rather than liked Slugger. If you disagree, ask yourself when has the site been most successful?
    As for dancing around handbags….ahh.. the Shamrock Club, drunk girls, and DuranDuran… good times, and much more fun than just playing along 🙂

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Mr Baker and Mr McGregor are among many who fight against the world weary cynicism and negativity which often dominates the media.
    Slugger is no place for that kinda thing.

  • Mick Fealty

    Honestly, if I was being peevish, it’s only becauseI would prefer you be blunt and come out and say what you actually mean, rather than being coy and enigmatic.

    I agree with the thrust of what you are saying to this extent: it is better to be respected than to be loved.

    But the Awards are not about being loved. It is coming from exactly the same place the criticism is coming from: ie, an intelligent concern to make our politics better.

    The trouble with getting stuck in critical mode all year round is that you can end up sending out signals that you disapprove of everything to do with politics, and whilst you and many other of our commenters may have good reason to feel like that, that’s not how I feel.

    In fact what we are trying to do here is to continue that critical vein. Asking what needs to be done to make things better is an implied criticism that the way things are now aren’t good enough.

    If we can winnow these notions down to a set of robust reader generated categories, and then select good exemplars we’re not saying well, that’s that sorted. We’re merely identifying qualities which if ramped up into the ambitions of other politicians should, in theory, help improve the quality of the wider pack.

    Mediocrity is a natural corrolly of having a small democratic state (in the case of the Republic) or region (Northern Ireland). 108 MLAs from 1.7 million pop is bound to through up an embarrassing lack of riches for the job in hand.

    And there are sparse resources around (even for the better parties) to help them do their jobs. Brian’s written an excellent piece on how we need to create external policy rich resources which would enable politicians to bring something of their own to the party rather than leaning on top civil servants to conjure up new policy responses.

    This is not just a northern problem. What we are witnessing (though for my money we have not been paying enough detailed attention to have really benefited from any insights arising) in the Republic is an historic public involvement in debating public policy.

    Now, get your thinking heads on and come back with some suggestions for essays, or even a complete essays pitching what you think makes a good politician/media/public affairs trait…

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    While politics in a small democracy is a problem certainly….it would be foolish to think bigger democracies…..India, USA are “better” than Holland or Denmark.
    There are indices for this kind of thing.
    Likewise Holland a smallish nation reached the World Cup Final…..England didnt.
    Is that not a danger in small places.
    Is American journalism better than English journalism.
    English journalism better than Irish journalism.
    Republics journalism better than Norn Irons.

    But a self elected elite interested in making politics better? That would be an “intelligent” concern to make politics better. Rather like the proto liberals of 19th century did not actually want the franchise extended below their level.
    Why does Politics have to be better?
    How does that help anyone?
    Seriously….”effective” politics is the priority for most people.
    “better” politics is not even a s tarter.

  • Mad Dan McMad

    Too much democracy seems to be the problem. Every couple of years we get to take our vote for a walk down teh polling station and then use it with all the sense and discretion of a dog pissing on a lamp post. I wonder sometimes if there were elections every 10 years or so would the electorate actually have to think about what sort of imbeciles they were electing? ‘Vote for me and I’ll ensure that there is no lasting peace, prosperity, safety, health care or education but I’ll make sure the other side dont get any either.’ is not likely to attract many votes from people with an IQ higher than their shoe size. On that particular kernel, Why do we have a general franchise anyway? Its the Dog and lamp thing again. We dont routinely let monobrows command nuclear submarines, but we do let them select the people who tell the commander what to do. Now thats frightening. I know this isnt terribly pc/liberal or whatever, but these days democracy seems to be the least efficient and lets be honest, competent form of government we could have.

  • FJH,

    I don’t normally respond to your comments here, but I’ve rarely seen anyone strain so hard to make a contrarian point, so maybe I’ll regret this and lose the will to live before I get to the end of any reply you’ll give me. But…. here goes.

    Politics has its party-political variety, the kind that goes on far more busily and invisibly within the civil service, or the kind that is conducted by journalists in that parallel universe where everything is simple and all processes can be reified into personal peeveishness.

    But, at the bottom of it all, it can be better, and if that’s the case, I can’t think of a reason why it’s not a good thing to work to make it better. It can get better if we find a way of rewarding people for doing things that make it better.

    It should allow policy to be influenced more by rationality and by diverse experiences rather than the he-who-shouts-loudest pressure group politics, the ‘demagogic simplification’ of the mass media or the little self-serving monopolies that dominate government everywhere (and NI in a particularly pernicious way).

    There were respectable reasons, by the way, that proto-liberals didn’t want the franchise extended downwards – not ones that were borne out by history, but ones that weren’t *purely* reactionary either.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I read the first sentence. I thought if I finished it, it would give the post credibility.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Yes but some people cant be trusted with a computer keyboard… I wouldnt trust them to command a nuclear submarine.

  • I can’t agree with any of that Dan, but it’s one of the best comments I’ve read in a long time either way.

  • latcheeco

    Mediocrity is as much deliberate party leadership policy as it is demographics.

    Mad Dan,
    But what would the content of Slugger be like without the North’s election industry to keep it going? Everybody wins and you have award ceremonies to celebrate the great game.

    Inviting a bunch of self-promoting tossers who are by and large responsible for prolonging the mess in the North to a glorified after work wine and chattery party isn’t going to change a thing and if you really think it will (and I doubt you really do), you’ve lost the run of yourselves.

  • Latcheeco,

    I don’t understand your position. It’s not that I’m unfamiliar with the trope that all politicians are lazy / corrupt / incompetent, it’s just that I’ve not ever seen this view explained satisfactorily in terms of the alternatives.

    As Churchill said, “Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

    I keep coming across disappointed consumers of politics such as yourself – moaning that nothing in the shop is very good. Firstly, it’s nonsense. There are plenty of intelligent and competent people who get involved in public life at all sorts of levels – people who work hard and strive to represent what they believe to be the public interest. Some of them even get elected.

    Secondly, if you’re actually right, what are you going to do about it?

    It all smacks of self-righteousness and self-pity to me.

  • Mil

    Think I’d prefer the wine and cheese of political chicanery in the debating chamber to the whine of blood and bullets on the battlefields of civil conflict. The Balkans have shown us all that though politicians may be lazy, corrupt and incompetent, better such extravagances to the bitter pill of generational grief.

    I’d always much rather live with venial politics than have to face the barrel of a gun. I suppose the only real issue with such a position is when the former gradually but irrevocably slides towards the latter.

    In which case, I have no answer.

  • latcheeco

    I know what your saying, but I’d suggest one eventually leads to the other.

    Perhaps, but a dash of self-righteousness and self-pity (others, more unkind, might call it disgust) easily trumps a dollop of self-importance and self-promotion, especially when it’s nauseatingly disguised as altruism.

    So, if I think your shindig is at best specious, and at worst spurious, I’m against the whole idea of democracy…. really? That’s your extrapolation? It really must be an important event.

    As for, what am I going to do about it? My alternative is… ere…not to fete and backslap the deviant and criminally responsible sods, but that’s just me being self-righteous.

  • So the thing you *are* going to do is that you’re *not* going to…. *facepalm*

  • latcheeco

    That’s right: I am not, therefore, I am 🙂

  • Alan Maskey

    This Slugger award to Martin FL McGuinness has not got many hits.