Monday, April 26, 2010

General Election: Ringland for Change?

This is the first in a series of intended impartial reviews of the election literature received for the East Belfast constituency in the General Election of 2010. Hopefully as the series progresses this week we will actually receive the election communications from the other parties...

The Conservatives and Unionist Candidate is high-profile former British and Irish Lion rugby player, Trevor Ringland. His glossy A3 campaign literature was the first received in our neck of the woods, and the only doorstep caller thus far in the election. Change is the big word, both on the title page, and throughout the literature.

Through a series of short articles and soundbites, the Conservative and Unionist priorities are discussed. First up, a message from David Cameron and Sir Reg Empey, which doesn't say much, and emphasises the fact that Northern Ireland's voice can finally be heard in Westminster through the introduction of 'normal' politics via the Conservatives. The other boxes talk about economics, jobs, reducing sectarianism, and 'helping those who need help most'. (Is that a split infinitive?)

Perhaps the most recurring theme is the series of photos of Trevor Ringland in various places within East Belfast. Despite his attempts to vary the photos (some with jacket on, or off), it seems that he took about ten minutes to drive round certain parts of the constituency and get his (sometimes poor) photograph taken at the locations. So, Trevor at Harland and Wolff, Trevor at the Odyssey, Trevor at the Science Park in the Titanic Quarter, Trevor at the City Airport, Trevor talking to two Chinese (tourists?) at the Titanic Pump House, Trevor at a wee shop at the bottom of the Newtownards Road, Trevor slightly further up the Newtownards Road at the East Belfast Mission.

Perhaps these are the recognisable shots of East Belfast, but has he forgotten that Dundonald has been added to his constituency? Not to mention the rest of the Newtownards Road, through Ballyhackamore, Knock, Belmont, and so on...

There seemed to be a few clumsy moments. "A Northern Ireland for all inside a United Kingdom for all, while co-operating constructively for our mutual benefit with the others we share this island with." That last phrase doesn't seem to sit well - is there a 'with' too many?

Or consider perhaps the most ambiguous piece of diplomacy when talking about the Geroge Best Belfast City Airport:

"The airport contributes to the economy of East Belfast, but the needs of the travelling public must be balanced with the rights of local residents."

So are you in favour of the extension of the runway or not, Trevor? Should we seek to expand the economy, create jobs, as you write elsewhere, or do you not want to press that for fear of losing votes from the flightpath of the airport - hence all the photos of you down at the bottom of the Newtownards Road?

Finally, there were big sections on how to contact Trevor, and a space to write your comments or questions. New technologies and social media being used by this Conservative and Unionist candidate are Facebook and Twitter.

Trevor presents a well-crafted local perspective, although he may have a hard job trying to unseat Peter Robinson.

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