Interesting thoughts from Brian Feeney on Hearts and Minds last night. He pretty much suggested that the two smaller parties had reduced roles in the new dispensation, and they should think themselves lucky to have that much. Interesting because, by and large, it’s true.
Why? Because, since the St Andrews Agreement, gaining or keeping the office of First Minister can now be flagged up as the only thing that matters. Theoreticians tell us it doesn’t matter. The voters seem not to agree.
If the panel discussion at the beginning of the programme is anything to go by we have a more urbane and civilised politics; but one in which voting for tribal champions (as opposed to ‘along tribal lines’) is the only game in town.
Just look at the collapse of the UUP in Castlereagh into the DUP voting bloc. Why did they do it? To avoid, I suspect, getting an endless roasting for weakening the now minority Democratic Unionist voice on the council.
So the reason Brian can pronounce the demise of the smaller parties with such confidence, is not just because they are weakened and split. It’s because the new system devised by the two major parties at (and after) St Andrews provides a constructive means for the gradual diminution of their smaller rivals into irrelevance.
The ‘race’ for senior office at OFMDFM is now being touted as the biggest game in town… And it’s one that only two can credibly play (at any time)… Welcome to Democratic Centralism…
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty