5 May 2005 Edition
The 5th Column
McGuinness's Paxo stuffing
JEREMY PAXMAN and BBC2's normally reputable Newsnight rolled out an hilarious "exposé" of Sinn Féin leaders Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Martin Ferris being on the IRA Army Council — and, surprise, surprise, in the week before the elections.
The Newsnight investigation included so-called re-enactments of IRA Conventions: chain-smoking, grubby and furtive-looking IRA men (yes, all men) on their way to top-secret locations after being picked up by Hiace vans after shiftily hanging around in public car parks on the Falls Road (!) upon being summoned by text messages from P O'Neill. And we knew it was P O'Neill because the security-conscious IRA publicist has his/her caller ID helpfully listed on-screen on all outgoing messages!
What was even funnier was the line-up of 'authoritative' sources: Justice Minister and Progressive Democrats "rottweiller", Michael McDowell; the deranged, one-time republican, Seán O'Callaghan; and recently sacked RUC Special Branch chief, Bill Lowry.
But somehow — before the Newsnight terrier's inquisition of an unflappable Martin McGuinness fell apart — Paxo & Co forgot to tell viewers that Bill the Branchman was also the star guest speaker at December's DUP dinner in Ballymena, where Ian Paisley made his infamous "sackcloth and ashes" speech. The former head of the RUC political police urged his fellow dinner guests at the partisan political rally not to engage with Sinn Féin. "If you lie down with Sinn Féin dogs you will get up with fleas," the DUP rabble rouser claimed.
An impartial police witness?
IT'S A JUNGLE out there in South Belfast's Sandy Row in the tribal war between the Ulster Unionists and the DUP for a local council seat.
The DUP Laganbank council candidate, Loyal Order member and News Letter columnist Christopher Stalford has accused his Ulster Unionist rivals of employing "Mugabe-style" tactics.
"It is apparent that the people responsible are of sub-normal intelligence," thundered Peter Weir's right-hand man.
So what did the UUP "Mugabe-style" vanguard do in South Belfast? Seize DUP allotments and re-distribute the land to UDR and UDA war veterans? Ransack Sandy Row Golf Club and plant maize on the 18th tee? Kidnap the Free Presbyterian Church meals-on-wheels dinner ladies?
Er, no. Brother Stalford is accusing the UUP of pinching some of his posters and putting up their own.
Robert Mugabe must be smiling at the thoughtful comparison.
SKY NEWS' political sage Adam Boulton pondered last week on whether Conservative Party leader Michael Howard openly accusing Tony Blair of being a liar was acceptable in the norms of political campaigning, personally insulting or even a wise move.
Boulton went on to tell viewers — including Blair's top-level, eagle-eyed media monitoring team — that he had earlier asked SDLP leader Mark Durkan if he thought Tony Blair was a liar. Durkan reportedly replied: "Tony Blair lies to me all the time."
If Durkan hangs on to his SDLP leadership after this week, it will be interesting to see how Blair takes the SDLP leader's undiplomatic incident.
Tories' leave to appeal
ALASTAIR CAMPBELL and his British Labour Party spin meisters have been using all sorts of scare tactics to get disgruntled Labourites to vote for Blair today, including threatening that not voting for Tony will mean people wake up with Michael Howard's Tories. No need. They should have just used the words of Conservative Party leader's wife, Sandra Howard, instead.
She said: "There is a very deep dislike of Tony Blair's government. Some people have told us, 'Please, please get him out or we'll leave the country.'"
Let's hope there's an airbus big enough. And don't leave racist Jim 'Nick, Nick' Davison behind.
Oasis's fount of wisdom
OASIS'S Noel Gallagher told MTV why he'll be voting for Tony Blair.
"If the Conservatives get back in, Phil Collins is threatening to come back and live here. And let's face it, none of us want that."
Fight to the death
DESPERATE CANVASSERS for Blair's Labour Party have been so carried away with lobbying for every last vote that the would-be MP for Stroud, in Gloucestershire, has had to apologise for their behaviour.
One canvasser approached a parked black limousine and knocked on the window to ask the passenger if she would be voting Labour. The passenger, Carol Hughes, said she would and the canvasser skipped off, chirping: "Oh, good. Have a nice day!"
Carol Hughes's limousine then drove off... to her father's funeral.
We have ways of making you vote
THE NEWS LETTER is concerned about the unionist voter turn-out. It wants to make voting compulsory and emulate Australia, where people can be fined if they can't be motivated to vote.
"Compulsory voting in Northern Ireland," the News Letter editorial intoned on Monday, "would certainly reinforce the Union in numbers that are conclusive." Conclusive, that is, in a political entity with an artificially created, inbuilt unionist majority.
Name of the game
BRIT LABOUR has been at pains to ensure that its activists don't descend into the negative campaigning that's been a feature of the Conservative Party's dirty campaign.
"At this stage of the campaign," a posting on Labour's official website notes, "it is important that we avoid sinking to the personal insults and name calling that we have been getting from those unprincipled scumbags in the Tory Party."