Image via Wikipedia
Fergal Keane’s report for BBC Panorama this evening was typical of the journalist’s self-obsessed style – sycophantic interviews, old mates, his old school – new enigmatic beard and flowing, greying locks.
Forget investigative journalism, think masturbatory journalism.
It doesn’t have to be like this. Try Michael Lewis’ analysis of the Irish economic mess in Vanity Fair
UKIP Leader Nigel Farage will be in Northern Ireland next week. Image via Wikipedia
A commenter on a previous post has drawn attention to the fact that The Belfast Telegraph is reporting that veteran comedian Frank Carson is planning to put his hand in his pocket to support UKIP – to help introduce non-sectarian politics into Northern Ireland. Well done Frank – and Nigel Farage, UKIP Leader.
Carson is quoted in the article as saying, “People in Northern Ireland vote for their church, they don’t vote with their heads, it is ridiculous.” Well said. And I wish UKIP every success establishing their brand of national, non-sectarian politics here.
It’s interesting, however, that, according to the Telegraph piece, UKIP wishes to scrap the Scottish and Welsh assemblies, as well as the Barnett Formula, but plans to maintain the NI Assembly. Although there are heavy hints that the party wishes to make our local legislature rather smaller. Can I suggest no more than 20 elected members?
It’s interesting that despite not having constituency associations everywhere and hordes of members UKIP plans to contest the Assembly elections. The Conservative Party has been organised here for two decades but appears reluctant to do so. However, it’s encouraging that at least one national party has the guts to contest elections in every part of the UK. Well done Frank and Nigel.
Read more: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/politics/comedian-frank-carson-backing-uk-independence-party-15076686.html#ixzz1DNcISwbO
On the same day that Conservatives in Scotland and Wales will be electing members to their Parliament and Assembly, Conservatives in NI will be barred from so doing. Image via Wikipedia
Alex Kane has written an excellent piece in Today’s Newsletter. Here’s just a taster. You can read the full article in the comments to my previous post.
“It is worth noting that I have seen the words ‘unequivocal support’ used in Central Office documents in 1989, 1992 and 1996. It turned out to mean nothing on those occasions and it means nothing now. On the same day that Conservatives in Scotland and Wales will be electing members to their Parliament and Assembly, Conservatives in NI will be barred from so doing. Not by their own choice, mind you, but simply because Central Office doesn’t want the Secretary of State to have to take sides when it really matters. It seems he can say what he likes when he is in Opposition—but not when he is in Government!” – Alex Kane in Today’s Newsletter
Is Cameron serious about detoxifying our politics? Image via Wikipedia
This is an extended version of a comment I have made on my previous post. I felt it deserved greater oxygen.
A few of my former colleagues in the local Conservative Party organisation have criticised me for being a tad lukewarm re. yesterday’s announcement about Party organisation here. This is my attempt at an explanation. Interestingly, Alex Kane, former Head of Communications at the UUP, agrees with me (see comments on yesterday’s post).
The point I have made is that the local Conservative Party Area Executive threw all its toys out of the pram because CCHQ refused to contest the Assembly elections. The Area Chairman, Irwin Armstrong, resigned over the issue. Now he has un-resigned when nothing has changed.
The excuse for the U-turn is that because of the delay in reaching an agreement with CCHQ it would be impossible to get ready for elections that are still several months away. But that’s nonsense – as has been pointed out by Seymour Major over on his blog.
Even a single candidate put forward for the Assembly elections would make clear that the Conservatives are serious and intend to define themselves as a brand distinct from sectarian “Unionism” and “Nationalism”. There is no point to democratic politics if elections aren’t contested. Constant preparation for success is not the point – it’s about democracy, plain and simple. If the brand is dodgy, no-one will vote for it. That’s politics.
But the end game in the process is about de-toxifying our politics. We’re either in that game or we aren’t. And, it would appear, the local Conservatives seem to have decided that they are not – and that implies sloppy and wimpy leadership.
Image via Wikipedia
I have received a media release from Conservative Central Office confirming that the Party will be organising in Northern Ireland from here on as the Conservative Party (no reference to “Unionist”). The release makes clear that the Party will be contesting local government elections in May.
However the release makes no reference to the Assembly elections.
I’ll be commenting in more detail on this announcement later. (In fact, no need, just read my comments on this post).
The full text of the release from CCHQ reads as follows:
The Conservative Party in Northern Ireland has committed itself to an ongoing programme of campaigning and development and will shortly move into a new campaign headquarters in Bangor, Co. Down. A full time member of staff will be based at the headquarters and one of the Party’s most senior campaign directors has been appointed to liaise with the Party in Northern Ireland.
The Party is committed to the development of progressive centre right politics which offer the electorate of Northern Ireland the opportunity to cast their votes for and participate directly with the national Government of the United Kingdom. The Party will continue to review how Conservatives in Northern Ireland can play a full part in the Conservative Party as in every other part of the United Kingdom and senior Conservatives in Northern Ireland will work with the Board of the Party to develop that relationship.
Central to that development will be the Party’s desire to see Conservative Associations formed in every Northern Ireland constituency and an active programme of membership recruitment at a local level.
Conservative Party co-chairman Baroness Warsi said: “The Conservative Party in Northern Ireland has the unequivocal support of the Party nationally. Politics in Northern Ireland continues to evolve and we are determined to be at the heart of that evolution. Our approach will be one of active engagement – starting with the fielding of candidates in the Local Council elections in May.”
Published February 2, 2011
Image via Wikipedia
Martin Maginnis made the bizarre claim today that cuts to the Northern Ireland budget represented a threat to devolution. What’s he suggesting? Perhaps that his next hissy fit will demand that direct rule be reinstated if the cuts aren’t reversed. Or perhaps he plans to declare fiscal UDI.
Although if the latter course were pursued he may find that the fiscal deficit would be on a par – if not worse – than the Republic of Ireland. Hence the need for massive UK subvention – cuts or not.
The fact is that the block grant has been hardly affected by ‘cuts’ at all. It is true that capital allocation has been reduced but the current account has been held static. If public sector pay can be restrained, and revenue generation enhanced, the overall effect will be minimal.
But I suspect that an epidemic of hissy fits will develop if – as has been suggested by the Secretary of State – Northern Ireland achieves self-determination in terms of corporation tax setting. I cannot see Maginnis – or many of his leftie DUP buddies – agreeing to breaks for companies at the expense of the block grant. The stumbling block is always going to be lack of vision on the part of our nanny-dependent politicians.
Strategic vision is required, of course. The Northern Ireland Economic Reform Group has been very eloquent in terms of filling the communications vacuum – arguing the strategic case for corporation tax reduction. However, I’d suggest that it, too, is shuffling away from an immediate and radical reduction in corporation tax. A better strategy, in my view, would be to argue for an immediate and radical reduction in corporation tax rate – with the block grant cost phased (rather than the other way around). But there must be pain in order to focus minds on the end-game.
To date the ‘cuts’ have been minimal. More radical cuts may indeed be required if we are to have a competitive corporation tax rate compared to RoI. But that is a price worth paying – and it will require the Executive to start thinking about the businesses it wishes to attract. It will also need to focus on the skills required in the local workforce to service the needs of businesses – local and not-so-local – that will locate and grow here as a result of competitive business taxation rates.