What to expect at Saturday’s Slugger event

We had over eighty people along for the Political Innovation event in Edinburgh on Saturday. Slugger’s write up is here, and Bruno Panara has pulled together a good timeline using Storify here. And there are five ideas that are going forward towards action.

So, what’s going to happen on Saturday at NICVA’s HQ?

Well, firstly, the subject matter is largely in your hands. We’ll have a panel session of the great, the good (and the slightly wicked) straight after lunch (detail to follow), but aside from that, the attendees are in the driving seat.

There are already twenty ideas for sessions on the Uservoice site – here. To those proposing sessions, I would advise you think about what actions your session might lead to. So think about how you might capture any interest generated afterwards. We don’t want this to be a chat for the sake of chatting event. We do enough of that online as it is.

Just don’t forget to book your place as soon as possible: we need hard numbers for those lovely free lunches

And the day itself? Here’s all the info you should need (though ping me an email – editor@sluggerotoole.com – if you want further guidance):

And lastly, here’s a Slideshow that was put together by Snook that, I hope, captures a bit of the buzz that we got at the Edinburgh event last Saturday:


  • Oracle

    Mick is there not a danger of the Slugger journey finding its self on the long slippery road of conformism as it politically travels from poacher to gamekeeper.

  • Mick Fealty

    Yes. But I don’t sense that we are anywhere close to that yet. One of the people who turned up at Edinburgh calls his blog the Broughton Spurtle (http://www.broughtonspurtle.org.uk/).

    I had to ask what it meant. It turns out that a Spurtle is the spoon you stir porridge with. I cannot think of a thicker porridge to keep from burning than the one we have in NI.

    We won’t do that by underwriting the way things are done now, but by criticising, yes, but also by looking to develop practical ways past the current impasse, however people want to do it.

    I’m not suggesting that all these conversations must end in ‘postive action’. In Edinburgh we have five proposals from about 10-12 conversations. I’m also not suggesting that people come up with anything complex. Agreeing to meet down the pub, once, next Tuesday week to pursue a conversation further is fine.

    I just don’t want this thing to be another facsimile of a pub chat where everything is put to rights and nothing is done. That’s ‘Slacktivism’, as Stephen Tall put it last year’s Government 2010 gig in London.

    BTW, to those who have proposed an idea or voted on an idea at the Political Innovation uservoice site (http://politicalinnovation.uservoice.com/forums/84575-help-us-create-an-agenda-for-slugger-s-belfast-po), you can reallocate you votes and lift ideas from the second page up towards the top so more people get to read them.

    And remember, if you do propose an idea you want discussed on Saturday (we already have more ideas than time to talk about them), then lobby by email, by phone, by Twitter, by newspaper article or anyway you can to get your idea to the top!!

  • Brian Walker

    I suspect many people join in this as a form of entertainment. I’m not exempt, it’s partly why I blog. No harm in that, only that you must expect your influence to be very limited if thats’ your beef.

    But real reform requires data, incisive analysis and commitment. Vague idealism is not enough.Rather than concentrating on blue skies systemic change which could take forever, by far the best approach would be to recommend specific policies of improvement and lobby hard for them. Out of finding common ground in practical affairs comes the idealism, more than than the other way round.

    Tell me I’m wrong, but the only political reform see having any remote chance of sucess over the next few years is the removal of designations to allow for a little more flexible voting in the Assembly – and even then there’s little sign of that happening soon.

    A key problem of governance is the poltical abstentionism of opinion formers, business and social ngos in the affairs of practical politics. The base of talent and ideas is far too narrow. This is because of generations of preoccupation with confict and identity whuch has left constructive politics fairly barren.. To be fair, people of goodwill had enough to do just to keep society going. This has to change. At least the Agreements have created a lot more space in which to develop. It will require sefl discipline and commitment, a change in the mainstream behaviour as well as alternative thinking.

    What’s immedaitely needed is engagment in real life issues like job creation and investment, school mixing and sharing, planning to encourage development and achieve a better balance between town and country- all the hard pounding of practical government. Or perhaps that’s too much like hard work and requires too much self-questioning for comfort?

  • Brian,

    I’d completely agree with your analysis here. It does require a *political* response though. The constitutional settlement in NI not only neuters any policymaking instincts within the officers of political post-holders, it also hands huge powers to the ‘neutral’ and conservative civil service who then impose it upon the rest of civil society (thus your “poltical abstentionism of opinion formers, business and social ngos in the affairs of practical politics.”)

    A ‘campaign for real politics’ works against the interests of the parties who are defined by their attitude to the border. That such an objective non-issue (however strongly a minority believe it’s not) should continue to dominate NI politics works so powerfully is just weird.

    Sure – a top down decision to remove some of the designations would make a difference – but how likely is it to happen if there’s no public demand for it? There’s an educational and campaigning job to be done first, surely?

  • Brian Walker

    Well that’s arguable, Paul. ( i.e. it can indeed be argued).
    The problem is, your targets for education are quite well educated in other ways and identify their interests differently. And isn’t your campaigning mode quite “top down” in its own quiet alternative way? Not that I object in the slightest..

    For my part, I don’t accept that it’s the “constitutional settlement” that “neuters any policymaking instincts.” The roots go deep into society and politics expresses them. Without the settlement there would be no powersharing. It is the system which forces them together against the odds. The next move is to force them into doing something. I don’t blame the civil servants who overall adminstered NI quite well without them for generations.

    Would ” voluntary coaltion ” with a weighted majority be an improvement? Perhaps but there are no guarantees. Would AV help? Yes if people chose to vote say SDLP 1 and UUP or Alliance 2. But not if they have done since when STV came in in 1972, which is to vote mainly within the tribe with very little crossover.

    No, I put whatever faith I have in the pressures of government to deliver, in order to effect change..

    The need to deliver constitutes the real grass roots pressures. It might be better if there was an alternative government but the system does not prevent that.

    Otherwise, if you can identify a rising constituency which is making new demands, fine, then graft political reform unto it. There was a brief flowering along those lines in the civil rights movement of the late sixtes before the ramparts went up. I see no equivalent today.

  • “There was a brief flowering along those lines in the civil rights movement of the late sixties before the ramparts went up. I see no equivalent today.”

    That is, indeed the challenge. And it can only be convened if it’s actually there.

    Is it there? We don’t know.
    Is it being convened? No.

    A lot is changing at the moment though – both in terms of attitudes to sovereignty, the changing status of the Irish Republic, and the broader economic changes that are going to take place over the next few years.

    Maybe it’s there? Small-l liberal democratic vanguardism anyone?