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The Northern Ireland electorate heads towards the 5 May with little enthusiasm for the choice being presented, little interest in the institutions, and little understanding of what the Assembly has achieved over its past four years.
No doubt there will be general media attention in the run-up to the election on issues around the budget, perhaps, education, almost certainly, and health. Why bother? With all the main Parties at the Executive table, and assured a place if not the same seats following the election, the electorate has little alternative but to vote for the same old same old, or not at all.
Motivation has been hard to find at the outset of 2011. It’s election year, again. To get started, a view on where matters stand politically in Northern Ireland generally.
The UK Government’s economic measures to tackle the country’s financial deficit will start to impact on all citizens in 2011. It will be a tough year ahead for everyone. The cost of living is rising, with households already noticing increased costs creeping through to the weekly shopping. Just as households need to keep their spending under control, the need for good and efficient government at all levels is essential. Northern Ireland is not an exception in this regard.
What has changed?
The 2010 Westminster election is over. While the poll outcome was inconclusive the upshot is a decisive shift in British Politics where a progressive coalition has burst through the liberal centre/right. In the process, there were no important phone calls to the Northern Ireland parties, who now sit on the Parliamentary margins.
The debates on national television provided an energy to the national election. Locally the election campaign was as lacklustre and uninspiring as the Party leaders on the local TV debates.
All the ingredients were there: the crisis, the Prime Ministers, the big house, the Belfast Telegraph survey, the Parties doing all night sittings and the press pack. At the end of all that we have the “Agreement at Hillsborough Castle” as it is officially described. Not a deal. Not “The Hillsborough Castle Agreement”. Nothing definitive, just ‘agreement’ as part of a step process: same process as the “Agreement at St Andrews‘.
While generally there is nothing certain about the future, one 99.99% certainty for 2010 is a British Parliamentary Election. Voting must take place before the summer, and the general consensus is for a May poll, though March may still be possible if Gordon Brown wants to avoid an unpromsing budget and go for it.
Picture: parliament.uk picture gallery
The opinion polls are erratic, as discussed on thedissenter earlier, and the potential for a tightly hung Parliament is real. A party holding a small number of seats may gain considerable importance. So the performance of local parties is of national interest: though notional until the counts are complete.