This article first appeared in the News Letter on Friday December 3…
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Raucous standing ovations, Union Jacks waving furiously in the air, exuberant pensioners, BBC cameras everywhere – it’s either The Last Night Of The Proms or a DUP conference.
And so it was. The DUP conference took place last weekend and was widely regarded as very successful. So what did the tweeps and bloggers make of it all?
There’s a new star in the making according to one twitterer. ‘Good day at #dupconf liking the new panel format and reckon @simonhamilton could be the new Parky.’ There can be no higher praise than this.
So we’ve spotted rising stars – but did anyone see a black hole? Yip. According to @alaninbelfast: ’… rising star Jonathan Bell left out of the list of “Your DUP Team” in #dupconf programme – black hole of Strangford!’ Oops!
Over on Slugger, Alan added: “It was the DUP’s best-attended conference. The overflow car park overflowed – a local church that was running a craft fair and wasn’t impressed when their car park filled up with non-shoppers!”
However, I did go into the church after the conference to ask how their craft fair went. I can exclusively reveal that the Church had an excellent afternoon. All’s well that end’s well.
So the activists were left hungry for victory, but what about the hungry lobbyists? The prodigious Alan in Belfast again wrote: “One or two people standing beside a branded table. Usually some free pens, sample literature and a box of Quality Street to get people to pause at the stall and start up a conversation. This year there’s been a tendency for some exhibitors to offer fruit too.”
Unsurprising really – especially if they’re standing around like a couple of lemons. My big regret though is that someone snaffled NICVAs M&Ms before I arrived. (Though I suspect the chief culprits were wearing NICVA name-tags.)
Mike Nesbitt put in an unexpected appearance at La Mons. But before the UUP begin assembling the firing squad, Mike explained on his blog that he was merely there for a charity ball. “The words “political” and “asylum” do not apply – rather it was: “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world …..” Quite.
(Incidentally, I did a panel discussion on blogging with DUP strategist Lee Reynolds and Nelson McCausland. My thanks to the Party for their invitation, and to the audience for their forbearance in listening to me.)
Elsewhere, there’s a lot of heresy against the accepted orthodoxy that corporation tax cuts are a good thing. The debate got rekindled when tax expert Richard Murphy questioned the logic of losing £300 million from the block grant to support the move.
Eye on the Hill blamed the politicians: “We think there is a wee sneaky voice in most politicians advocating lower corporation tax in Norn Iron that occasionally whispers in the darkened night, when conscience creeps towards realisation that the wee voice is uttering just two words: ‘gesture politics’.”
Ian Parsley blamed the BBC: “NI Corporation Tax Move Slammed” screams BBC NI here – another shoddy piece of economic journalism (or even basic reporting), however, as the report reveals seven organisations in favour of the move and only one person (with trade union links) opposed.”
The debate goes on. And finally, the big world news story is Wikileaks – which hasn’t gone unnoticed by Northern Ireland’s micro-bloggers.
Sage advice. I think we can all take something from that.