Losing Dawn Purvis
Last week Scotland took another step towards independence; the Liberal Democrats continued to slide into the oblivion they deserve; and even people who want voting reform couldn’t be bothered to endorse AV. But for me all these events were overshadowed by the loss of Dawn Purvis from the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Dawn, for those of you not sufficiently ‘local’, was an independent MLA in East Belfast and an intelligent and articulate representative of the working class interests in the area, with a special interest in education.
That a politician of her obvious quality can lose her seat while the Mafia of the Mediocre are returned to Stormont in their droves is a depressing indication of the lamentable condition of Northern Irish politics.
If this election signaled anything it was just how little has changed in the wee six. There were no particular winners or losers among the main parties. The system seems designed to guard against such an outcome. So, as the dogs in the street could have predicted, the government got voted in again, virtually unopposed, since the five main parties share all executive positions between them.
So, Northern Ireland’s elections have become boring (who thought that was possible) – not because the heat has been taken out of unionism and nationalism’s quarrel, but because elections have very little meaningful political content. The parties have no coherent or consistent ideological position on anything other than the constitutional question. And they’ve all agreed to differ on that. When they do try to address other issues, such as education, health or employment, they look like Bambi learning to ice skate.
Elections now serve little purpose other than to allow the mainstream parties to reproduce themselves. The simple formula is that they fight elections therefore they are political parties: they are political parties therefore they fight elections.
Meanwhile the media indulge this, accepting that the central issue of the campaign is always a peace process without apparent end. As Paula Bradshaw points out, this means that political dinosaurs, like the unlovely and unlovable Jim Allister, get disproportionate coverage compared to the likes, say, of Dawn Purivs. Allister, in effect, is presented as the ‘official opposition’, for no other reason than he promises to be a thorn in the side of Fenian-loving Lundies wherever he finds them. On the other hand, anyone who tries to shift the political debate onto social and economic issues sounds like they live in some parallel dimension. Labour must wait, again.
And that is why there is little room for talented and progressive independents like Dawn Purvis.
Anyway, here is the lady herself on education…