It would be interesting to know how many people who were eager for the return of the Assembly now feel the same way after witnessing the spell of – largely – flailing around, procrastinating, point-scoring and mixed messages we’ve endured since Coronavirus really hit the local headlines.
And one place where the true motivation, character and talent of individual political representatives has been laid bare? Social media.
While some are making their mark, the old fallbacks of political bunkers, blame culture and needless sniping at the nearest electoral competitor are all very evident.
Worst of all the accursed ‘question social media post’ – where a political rep asks a gallery-playing question despite it being their role to research and answer the question for themselves then educate their audience – is a grim reminder that in our politics a three word truth reigns supreme: plus ça change. Even in the face of rising death tolls.
A Simple Test
A crisis is a great leveller and a great revealer. After all, what could be a better litmus test than an emergency impacting everyone in a constituency?
So, is your own MLA reverting to type or doubling-down on old habits when real leadership is needed?
Here’s a simple test: Take each of your your chosen rep’s last ten social media posts in March on any platform.
- Supported any decision outside their political comfort zone: Add one point
- Published useful information: Add one point
- Attacked a political opponent: Minus one point
- Asked a question they should’ve researched and shared themselves: Minus one point
You may well find that the ‘when every problem is a hammer….’ cliché is glaringly evident. Even in the face of rising death tolls.
The Optimist vs The Pessimist
It’s said that the optimist and the pessimist will both arrive at the same destination but one will have a much nicer journey.
For some of us, the cheap sniping, leadership vacuum and conspiratorial bollocksology seen locally in response to Coronavirus will have shaken our existing view of local politics and altered our view of social media platforms a little (especially if we caught ourselves being optimistic enough to expect any different).
Yes, there have been glimmers of hope and even some apparent road to Damascus moments from those who rarely look beyond from their political and behavioural blinkers.
But, beyond politics, some particularly sickening sights have come to the fore: some in the media lazily undermining isolation guidelines for the sake of something to say and also the prevalence of trolls with a degree in virology from the University of WhatsApp drowning out lifelong specialists who are trying to pass on life-saving information. Even in the face of rising death tolls.
An (Even More) Simple Question
As always, we’re clearly seeing the value of individual political representatives thanks to one question: do they communicate what they are for or what they are against?
Many political reps are making it very obvious which of these describes them in a crisis.
To those leaders: if you’re paid to represent people and you can’t raise your game during a global pandemic…perhaps you have no game to raise.
Even in the face of rising death tolls.
Conor Johnston – @CJohnstonNI – writes about subjects including culture, identity and media.
He also blogs at: