Face it – Anna Lo and the Alliance Party are the only show in town

Anna Lo’s  remarks  show how Alliance can still impale themselves on the old cleft stick.  Anna tilted in the right direction but overbalanced, provoking a bit of electoral frothing at the mouth by the usual suspects. Never mind.  She must be doing something right to attract 240 Slugger comments  even if many of them are private chats as usual.  Personally I welcome a bit of overbalancing in a progressive direction  for a change.  Who doesn’t like Anna for heavens’ sake!

The party’s best bet is  not only to opt out of the zero sum of “either or” but go far  more strongly  for value added “both and” with a lot more substance and vigour. I may have missed it but I never hear them talk about it.   However I can’t see any other party who deserves my vote if I had one. It’s a no brainer frankly and I actually regret that.  What other party tries to work  power sharing evenly and honestly? It’s the old Lib Dem problem before the coalition , people  would  vote for them if only they thought they would win. (And before you jump in I wager the Lib Dems will be back in government after May 2015, so don’t  knock them).

Yes  ok, and in spite of Naomi’s appeal Alliance are still too Cherryvalley and  down in the cheaper  haunts of cathedral quarter . But try as I might I can’t see any alternative to voting for them as a party although I have a soft spot for a few individuals elsewhere.

Alliance should argue that  C21 is an era for making links not breaking them. Sovereignty is still important but can be shared or pooled. It is already – haven’t you noticed? – through British – Irish and north – south and the EU. More than all of that, there is the apolitical thing just going up or down the road and the myriad relationships that are starting to build up again –( but too slowly for the taste of the likes of Andy Pollak) . That’s what really counts. And we could do with more and regular information about them.

It isn’t all or even mainly up to the North ; the South has to meet us half way. And although there are plenty of good intentions and warm words, I can’t see much that would persuade not just strong unionists but those who want a quiet life to make the national leap. I hand it to Micheal Martin. Of the Dublin leaders  he makes the most thoughtful speeches and Fianna Fail’s limited entry onto northern politics will be worth watching. Targeting Sinn Fein but hitting the SDLP more ?

In all important respects we have political equality now even if we don’t know what to do with it.   Closer association doesn’t   necessarily lead to unity – indeed it might be a substitute for it. That’s the big idea for our day isn’t it? And the one Alliance and all people of good will and good sense should  work for.

If over time unity would seem a natural and unforced step and was the settled view of a substantial majority (well over 50%), it could be put to referenda north and south. But it’s a racing certainty no government will make that move until or unless that point is reached.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London