“…almost half of the electorate are choosing not to vote”

Catching up somewhat from Monday, here’s Alex Kane on OFMdFM’s mini Queen’s speech (erm, presser about what they plan to do from September onwards), and the walkout from the UUP it provoked:

So dull and uninteresting was it that the only aspect the media focused on the following day was the withdrawal of the UUP from the cohesion sharing and integration (CSI) committee. Now then, I know what most of you are thinking: goodness gracious, the UUP actually made a decision about something!

Anyway, they didn’t really have much of a choice in the matter, for this is what Wednesday’s statement had said: “The First Minister and Deputy First Minister have received a report from their representatives on the CSI working group. They are encouraged that considerable progress has been made. The First and Deputy First Ministers will meet with party leaders in early September to conclude the process.”

In other words, the DUP and Sinn Fein had absolutely no interest in what the representatives of the other parties thought about progress.

All that mattered was that the two big parties had clearly been working to their own agenda and were satisfied that they could nail something into place in September. All that Nesbitt and McDonnell could expect was a meeting, in which they would be presented with a take-it-or-leave-it option.

He concludes:

The DUP/SF concept of a shared future seems to be one in which the age-old dividing lines and parties remain in place, but with enough safeguards and us-and-them symbolism to keep both sides happy. And maybe they are right.

But that still leaves us with the fact that almost half of the electorate are choosing not to vote: and that divide between what the voters are settling for and what the non-voters are not settling for strikes me as a fundamentally more important division than the one between Protestants and Roman Catholics or unionist and republican.

To some extent we know what unionist and republican voters want, because they are voting for it at Assembly, Westminster and council level. But we don’t know what the non-voters want (although the fact they have stopped voting for the existing parties tells you something) because there is no one offering them new platforms or agendas.

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