Most Belfast people of a certain vintage will be familiar with the phrase “he is the big lad in the big picture”.It refers to someone rather publicly trying to punch above their weight.
I wonder if this is what the Alliance Party have actually been doing for nearly two years. In 2007, they got just seven seats in the Assembly…and had no seats on the Executive. In 2010, DUP and Sinn Fein appointed Alliance Leader, David Ford as the Minister for Justice. The Party got £97,000 …..chocolate money, innocent money, Quaker money from Rowntree with the expressed intention of winning extra Assembly seats in the 2011 Election. And they duly did…one extra Assembly seat.
Not a particularly good return for £97,000 but importantly it gave them a seat as of right on the Executive ….for Stephen Farry at Employment & Learning. And of course they retain the Justice seat for Ford, mandated to them….as Ford puts it….by the Assembly.
In the months prior to the 2011 Election, I was not a member of the SDLP but pointed out as often as possible that Alliance were Not quite the nice guys they claimed to be. The fact is that they are Norn Irons FIFTH political party. The UUP have 15 seats. The SDLP have 14 seats and just one Executive seat each. The nice guys in Alliance have slightly more than 50,000 votes, eight Assembly seats and two Executive seats.
Alas the Alliance Party got a bit uppity. big Lads in the Big Picture. They acted like they were the Third Party. And effected a curious swagger which started at the top with Ford and trickled down to their grassroots, including their Tinternet warriors.
From being cuddly fluffy kittens they revealed themselves to be pretty nasty. they have cried”foul” that Farry’s seat on the Executive might go due to entirely reasonable premise that there are too many Departments. The DUP and SF still can’t get rid of the Department of Employment & learning.
But it seems that they over-reached themselves at Belfast City Council last month. They believed their own hype that they are the Third Party…a genuine force and were cruelly exposed as amateurs.
What happens next? I expect they will be lobbying aggressively for that designated days at all council offices option which would get loyalist thugs off the streets with the victory they grave and get Alliance off the hook and back under the radar.
Of course the violence meted out to them is a total disgrace. a criminal disgrace. Hopefully the Minister for Justice…David Ford…can actually do something about that. But sometimes I wonder if the Germans have a word for “schadenfreude” but as they say in Belfast…what goes round comes around.
Theresa VillIers might send in the NIO cavalry to rescue the Alliance Party…Im sure the senior members of the Party have been on the phone to VillIers civil servants looking for help.
But where exactly does this leave David Ford? He has been invisible until this weeks resumption of Stormont business but frankly I don’t expect him to be Alliance Leader at Christmas.