Stand up against the politics of bullets and threats

AlliancePolitics is macho at the best of times – strength and power, even clarity is used in a ruthless context.  All too often there are militaristic metaphors: “I intend to march my troops towards the sound of gunfire” (Joe Grimond 1963).

Indeed, it has always been my experience as a campaigner, member of staff for the Party and as candidate, that macho effort is often valued above more subtle contribution.  You often hear Conference bar boasting about the number of by-elections attended (usually citing the first exciting one that we won, forgetting the less sexy ones: Ogmore or Bootle 2), the number of nights, days, weeks and indeed months (in the case of Brent East) spent at said by-election, and the first by-election attended (often Christchurch or Eastbourne, being a direct reference to the decades of perceived thankless service!).

This set of war stories (sometimes proven by an old canvassing sticker or badge), are further illuminated by ‘home achievements’: number of leaflets printed in a year, hours spent over a riso, number of delivery rounds delivered, number of hours to deliver the ward single handedly etc.  The list goes ever on.

Some years ago, I was running a series of elections in Somerset, we had a particularly excellent candidate from a fairly non-party political tradition. She was a successful businesswoman and one of the lifeblood figures in her own village.  She was shocked at the unreasonable expectations of activism, the hours spent in dark rooms plotting, printing and folding (she said it reminded her of university communist and socialist groupings work styles!) and the generally unhealthy lifestyle expectations that went with it.  She also pointed out, and it has stuck with me since, that it engendered an essentially male political class and encouraged language that made politics seemed remote.

This discussion came back to me with the passing of Dr Ian Paisley the other week.  And the extent to which I always felt he was the worst of politics: about refusal, the value of loud noise and use of demonstration as a form of physical intimidation.

The passing of Dr Paisley is the passing of a political figure, but for me it was also the change from Ulster politics of the negative, to a politics of aspiration, hope and vision…

And so today comes the news that two Alliance Party members, Councillor Emmet McDonough-Brown and South Belfast representative Duncan Morrow, have had a bullet hand delivered through each of their doors… A BULLET, designed to scare, threaten, indeed warn of an intent to kill.

This is no casual act, it is deliberate, provocative, and it has no place in a modern country.  Everyone involved in UK politics should be shocked.

But for me I remembered my candidate back in Somerset and it made me reflect that politics is still the stuff of macho assertion, of military metaphor, and indeed of exclusivity.  I have no doubt that most of the responses from those outside Northern Ireland would be to fight, reject, resist.  All this at the very time when people need to work, listen, understand, repair and assist.

Two of the brightest things to have happened to UK politics in recent years has been the elction of Naomi Long and Anna Lo.  And it is precisely the constructive work that they have been doing that cause folks such as Duncan and Emmet to get involved, to stand up and be counted.  Not threatened by the past, or by the bullet.

If you are as shocked as I am at the threats to Emmet McDonough-Brown and Duncan Morrow then you might do one of several things:

Just don’t do nothing.

* Ed Fordham is a councillor on Chesterfield Borough Council and runs Brockwell Books of Chesterfield, selling many thanks, not least ephemera he bought from Liber Books over the last 25 years.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Neil Bradbury 23rd Sep '14 - 1:32pm

    I like the Alliance Party and have donated it in the past but I would just make the point that Naomi has refused to sit with the Lib Dems in parliament and they have left ALDE. We support them but do they support us?

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Sep '14 - 7:34pm

    Talking about the politics of threats, we need action against those who are threatening Emma Watson. I wasn’t going to sign the heforshe thing, because I still felt the campaign was a female centered version of gender equality, but I’ve now signed it to stand in solidarity with her and in order to not be a nit-picker.

    I don’t know much about the Northern Ireland situation, but bullets are completely unacceptable.

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