In politics, as in life, a bit of civility costs nothing and goes a long way…

Last week, it was Michelle O’Neill at Windsor Park. This week, it is Emma Little Pengally’s turn to visit her first GAA club. Paying a visit to St Pauls GAA club in West Belfast yesterday, Emma even had a go at camogie. Commenting on her visit, the Deputy First Minister said:

Only £3.70 a pint? This place is class. I will bring Richard back here for a session

Ok, she didn’t. She said:

Meanwhile her DUP colleague Education Minister Paul Givan was shaking his tail feather at a visit to Irish language medium primary school. He even spoke some words of Irish!

 

It is easy to dismiss this stuff as gesture politics, but in this place, gestures go a long way.

Modern politics seemed to be divided into two camps:

The Montagu Principle: Named after the 18th-century English aristocrat Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, this principle asserts that rudeness should harm a politician’s ratings. Montagu famously argued that “civility costs nothing and buys everything” According to this view, maintaining a respectful tone is essential for public approval.

The Red Meat Hypothesis: Alternatively, some liken personal insults in politics to “throwing red meat to supporters.” In today’s polarised climate, diehard fans may perceive uncivil comments as honest and authentic criticisms that align with their feelings. Rather than harming a politician’s standing, such remarks could strengthen their support base.

Personally, I like to keep it simple. The key mantra we should all live by is ‘Don’t be a dick’, especially in politics.


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