Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Political Darwinism in action.

A good optimistic post over here.

In Northern Ireland currently, the following is happening:
  1. SF and the DUP are at their electoral peak. Both are in government and starting to look a bit grimy to those that didn't think they were grimy already. Both are gradually wilting under a welter of internal divisions and challenges from their ultras.
  2. Northern Ireland is going through a reorganisation. There are 26 councils in Northern Ireland. They will be narrowed down to 11 in the next few years. That means that a lot of councillors are going to retire soon
  3. Double (and even triple) mandates are becoming an electoral issue. Politicians holding more than one of the main elected offices - MLAs, councillors, MPs and MEP. They are becoming less acceptable to the public and can be expected to disappear soonish. So, more de facto resignations of one kind or another.
  4. Politicians who thrived on a highly divided society on the verge (!) of conflict are no longer finding life as easy. Yet more turf on the political Darwinist fire.
  5. New boundaries and electoral settlements mean that politicians are having to reach across communal and sectarian divides and look for second preference votes.
  6. Most of the parties are starting to acknowledge the all-Ireland dimension and are becoming a bit more post-modern in their understanding of sovereignty. The SDLP are actively exploring links to the Fianna Fáil - the largest party in the south. Old rigid assumptions are going out of the window.
What does all of this mean? Well, draw your own conclusions. But I think that it's a good time to be involved in the SDLP (and probably in the Ulster Unionist Party, if you're that way inclined). And it could be a great time to keep an eye on the little dull details of political evolution.

And, bearing in mind the line that Bernard Crick trotted out earlier today - "that local government was the school of democracy" - Northern Ireland could be in the weird position of having the highest standard of political representation anywhere on these islands within the next decade. That would be a total reversal of the current situation.

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