I don’t like to be overtly electorally partisan on this blog, but today is a double-election day and, well, it’s my blog…
I would ask those of you in Northern Ireland today – and indeed elsewhere in the European Union over the coming days – to cast your preferences for the Alliance Party candidates, followed by all other Progressive candidates.
Why Progressive? Northern Ireland is making great advances – but few of these are due to its communal politicians. What passes for politics here isn’t generally about the issues, nor even about “the border”, but purely about identity. This holds us back – it restricts us to considering our own “side” only, to being ignorant of the “other”, and to then being surprised (even fearful, sometimes even violent) when things don’t work out the way our “side” wants because the “other” dared to have an opinion. In a society where we are all minorities, it makes no sense to vote purely within a minority framework. There is a positive alternative offering progress – in the form of a range of individual candidates, but any vote cast down the list for to include Alliance and also a range of Green, NI21, Conservative and Independent candidates is a vote for that positive alternative. Those candidates (as well as some others in other parties) offer a combination of anti-sectarian, social-liberal and fundamentally fair political representation – thinking and feeling for all of Northern Ireland, not just a minority interest.
Why Alliance? Most obviously, because the Alliance Party has come under direct attack merely for pursuing its perfectly reasonable objectives democratically. The clearest response you can give is to have your vote counted as a first preference for reason and democracy. No other vote does that so clearly.
More positively, and put simply, the Alliance Party offers representation at every level up to Westminster, and the Alliance candidates themselves offer competence and experience of delivery well in excess of their rivals – thus a guarantee that they will put your interests first and actually make a difference. It is essential that we use our vote not just to vote for people who offer progress and anti-sectarianism, but who will have the capacity to deliver on it.
The party’s MP, Naomi Long, is the very representation of that, a courageous advocate of her constituents’ interests at home and at Westminster where she has made a difference on issues as varied as animal cruelty and religious persecution, as well as offering a cogent voice against racism and xenophobia and in defence of vulnerable minorities.
The party’s Ministers have delivered on issues as varied as legal reform and skills. No one will agree with everything they do – that is what government is about – but it is hard to argue with this record of clear, indisputable achievement delivered by an Alliance Minister.
For me, even more than this, there is the astonishing competence of the party’s local candidates. Just look at the areas of interest to me in terms of where I work, where I am based, where I live, where I come from and where I myself represented in the past:
- across Belfast – a certain Paula BRADSHAW (for Director of an inner-city regeneration charity), Duncan MORROW (past Chief Executive of the Community Relations Council), Maire HENDRON (past teacher and long-standing Council Group Leader), Michael LONG (a dentist and also long-standing Council Group Leader), Andrew WEBB (an economist) and many others;
- across Lisburn – Stephen MARTIN (a solicitor), Amanda GREHAN (a successful large-scale caterer and now a constituency manager), Owen GAWITH (a legal professional, now volunteer), Johnnie McCREA (a medical professional) and Aaron McINTRYE (an apprentice in specialist manufacturing);
- in Newtownabbey’s Threemilewater DEA – Tom CAMPBELL (a solicitor) and Lynn FRAZER (a nurse by profession, now a constituency manager);
- across North Down – Gavin WALKER (managing director of a publishing firm), Andrew MUIR (a public servant and the current, and as it happens first openly gay, Mayor), and many others.
That level of experience and professional competence – in other words, the proven ability to get things done on constituents’ behalf – is hard to come by.
Then there’s the genuine diversity of the Alliance candidates (which is so natural to them that they never have to mention it) – including an Indian (Vasundhara KAMBLE in Castlereagh), a Zimbabwean (Kate NICHOLL in North Down), and a Spaniard (Elena ACEVES-CULLY in Carrickfergus) – in a 40% female line-up (and one which, not that anyone’s counting, is in fact similarly balanced in terms of religious background).
All of that is leaving aside the brilliant and wonderful Alliance European candidate Anna LO, who has come through an outrageous barrage of racist and xeonophobic abuse (despite living here longer than those hurling it at her) to, no doubt, stuff my first-preference total from five years ago!
So, for experience, competence and delivery, I personally recommend a vote for all your Alliance candidates first and next preferences, and then to Conservative (in North Down), NI21 (at local level where standing) and Green (where standing) candidates according to your own viewpoint from right to left – as well as some of those in other parties (make sure all Progressive candidates are on your ticket!)
If you disagree, that’s your right in a democracy – but by the way it’s too late to persuade me anyway, I’ve already voted…