Why we need a political opposition, Part 327: To toughen up our thin-skinned politicians

Tony Grew in the Bel Tel quotes Lord Black of Brentwood…

“As a journalist, I can tell your Lordships that it is not so much what happens in the courts but the prospect of what might happen which has such a chilling effect on free speech and encourages the imposition of self-censorship.

And he added: “After talking to diverse journalists in the Province, it seems to me that many of the Province’s politicians are notoriously thin-skinned about criticism.

“Journalists and writers complain of their easy resort to the threat of defamation and keep [solicitor] Mr Paul Tweed, whom the noble Lord, Lord Lester mentioned, busy issuing threats of defamations.”

Most opposition that’s not coming from Jim Allister (whom Squinter dubs as Slugger’s Man of the Year), is coming from the media. The retreat from political opposition on the hill (Phil Flanagan of SF seems to be the only other MLA playing that role at the moment), means that there is no coherent political critique of this and other issues available other than that which journalism makes on its own behalf.

Besides one of the notable characteristics of the current set up is just how sensitive the folks on the hill are about anyone speaking out of turn. Hardly surprising since it so rarely happens in the chamber, that early (and often unreasonable/unsustainable) resort to the law has become commonplace.

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