Tag Archives: unity

Test for democracy in Northern Ireland as Sinn Fein set to win most assembly seats

Northern Ireland will have a nationalist leader for the first time in its more-than-100-year history after last week’s local elections. But will the unionists accept it?

Ever since the power sharing agreement was set up that made the NI Assembly in Stormont possible, the leadership has been held by a Democratic Unionist Party representative.

In practise, the post is interchangeable with that of the deputy leader, but the role is also symbolic – and the unionists may decide they don’t like the symbol they’ll be asked to support.

This Writer has previously heard rumbles that suggest the unionists would abandon the power-sharing agreements if they can’t be the leaders; that would have serious consequences for the representation of democracy. How can an elected assembly be democratic if only one party can be allowed to take the leadership?

It seems those rumours are not set to become reality quite yet. But the unionists are demanding changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol that prevents a hard border between NI and the Republic of Ireland by keeping Northern Ireland inside the European Union’s (EU) single market for goods. It also creates a new trade border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The demand isn’t unreasonable; there should not be a hard trade border between one part of the United Kingdom and the others.

But it is a part of the agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland in 1998 that there should be no hard border between it and the Republic.

And the UK’s departure from the European Union means that a border where goods and people passing through are checked has to be placed somewhere, because the Republic is a member of that bloc.

It’s a problem that can’t be solved, it seems. Certainly the UK’s Tory government seems to have no intention of trying, with promoted-past-his-pay-grade Northern Ireland Secretary Damian Lewis hinting that there will be no plan to introduce new legislation on the protocol in the Queen’s Speech next week.

There may be leeway for discussion; new assembly members have until the end of 2024 to vote on whether to continue with the parts of the protocol that create an internal trade border within the UK.

One aspect of the change to a majority nationalist assembly that is unlikely to cause trouble – at least for now – is Sinn Fein’s aspiration to unite the Province with the Republic once again.

The law rules that the UK’s Northern Ireland Secretary may only agree to hold a referendum on reunification if it seems a majority of people in the Province are likely to support that change – and that hasn’t happened yet.

The most recent opinion poll, published in April, puts support at around 33 per cent.

Party leader Mary Lou McDonald has said planning for a unity referendum – also known as a border poll – would come within a five-year framework.

So it seems that, even if a way can be found to resolve problems with the Northern Ireland Protocol, arguments are likely to break out over reunification.

It seems clear that Northern Ireland’s history will continue to be difficult for some time to come.

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Swinson is STILL dragging her heels over ‘government of national unity’ – because she’s a Tory-supporting Brexiteer?

I hope people in Brecon and Radnorshire who were fooled into tactically voting for a Liberal Democrat – in the belief that she would oppose Brexit – feel wiser now.

In fact, that constituency’s by-election was only won by Jane Dodds because the Brexit-supporting vote was split – if the Brexit Party had not stood a candidate, Conservative criminal Chris Davies would have won again.

Habitual Labour voters were persuaded by a barrage of junk mail – the Lib Dems must have spent a fortune on it – to support Ms Dodds in the belief that her party would do everything it can to prevent Boris Johnson’s “no deal” Brexit.

And the Liberal Democrats are doing everything they can to make “no deal” Brexit happen.

Don’t be fooled by Jo Swinson’s plea that Mr Corbyn wouldn’t have the numbers in the Commons, even if her party supported him.

She was referring to the 21 former Tory MPs from whom the Conservative whip was withdrawn after they supported the Benn Act that outlaws “no deal” – falsely.

She does not know that they would not support a short-term Corbyn-led government with just two priorities – preventing “no deal” and calling a general election.

So, in fact, she – and her party, including Ms Dodds – is the only obstacle to that government being formed; SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford was on the BBC’s Politics Live today, calling for her to change her position.

But her loyalty to the Conservatives – this is the Lib Dem who called for a statue to be built in honour of Margaret Thatcher, remember – seems to be unswerving.

The best comment on her behaviour so far – in This Writer’s opinion – is from a social media user whose name has become lost (sorry). In a message to Ms Swinson, this person stated:

“If you can work with David Cameron for five years, you can work with Jeremy Corbyn for five weeks.”

That’s the fact of the matter, yet still she drags her heels.

It seems clear that Jo Swinson and her Liberal Democrats are now the UK’s greatest force in favour of “no deal” Brexit. What a shambles.

Source: Opposition rift remains over who should lead anti no-deal Brexit government

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Has Swinson been caught LYING about her preferred ‘unity government’ leader, Ken Clarke?

Jo Swinson: She’s not talking to Kenneth Clarke here, obviously.

Remember when Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson proposed Kenneth Clarke as a possible leader of a “unity” government in what we now see as a desperate bid to avoid supporting a Jeremy Corbyn-led short-term government?

She said she had spoken to both Mr Clarke and Harriet Harman about the possibility. “I have been in touch with them because obviously you don’t just mention people’s names without checking that they’re OK with that,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

But Mr Clarke seems to be telling a different story.

According to The Guardian, he “told the BBC on Friday that he had been on holiday and had not followed the news closely about a potential unity government, said he was nevertheless willing to be considered as a potential leader of a unity government”.

So it seems to me that Ms Swinson was lying when she claimed to have spoken with Mr Clarke. She can’t be trusted to even say the right thing, let alone do it.

And people have noticed:

https://twitter.com/ToryFibs/status/1162708745123708928

Some have tried to say that Ms Swinson called Mr Clarke while he was on holiday but this doesn’t match the evidence.

Besides – if she had spoken to him before putting his name forward, she would have known that he supports the “soft” Brexit that Jeremy Corbyn spent months trying to get Theresa May to accept, and wouldn’t help facilitate a second referendum at all:

It really screws up Ms Swinson’s whole narrative.

As the singer Billy Bragg tweeted: “While the #FBPE [mob] continue to dismiss Corbyn’s offer because “he’s a Brexiteer”, have they bothered to check out the position of their preferred PM Ken Clarke? Turns out he’s a Brexiteer!”

This is what happens when children try to do grown-up politics. I’ve taken to describing Lib Dem attitudes as “toddler politics” and it seems the sentiment is catching on.

Will kiddy playing politics @joswinson be making a remix of Clegg’s Sorry?” asked Gracie Samuels on Twitter. “Like when she was in coalition with the Tories last time and she helped them push through the health and social care bill (now Act) that is now destroying the NHS and social care?”

In case anybody has forgotten that song, plenty of people have been tweeting the link to remind us. Here it is:

And people across the UK are clear about exactly who will be responsible for breaking the bid to stop Boris Johnson if BoJob gets away with his “no deal” Brexit plan:

There’s this from @xpressanny, direct to the Lib Dems: “Oh for goodness sake GROW UP! This is future of Great Britain you are deliberately messing around with. Either get involved with Tories, Green & SNP or be seen as Tory AND No Deal Brexit Enablers. Time to join the adults. Your choice.”

And ‘Monsignor it’s all Corbyn’s fault, proud crank” stated: “‘I won’t vote for him because they won’t vote for him because I won’t vote for him’ just isn’t a credible or honourable justification for not backing the only guaranteed way to stop no deal Brexit and convinces no one, least of all those who voted Lib Dem as an anti-Brexit party.”

The message is clear:

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Trouble at the top – who’s best for Britain?

There’s trouble at the top of both the UK’s main political parties, according to the latest Guardian/ICM poll.

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has become slightly more popular than the Labour leader Ed Miliband, allowing the newspaper to stoke fears of a new power battle at the top, mirroring the problems of the Blair/Brown rivalry.

But the Conservatives are no better off, after George Osborne was singled out as the weakest member of the Coalition cabinet and the one most people wanted moved in the much-anticipated autumn reshuffle.

The Guardian article asks you to believe that Balls and his shadow treasury team have become hard work, demanding that no commitments can be made on anything that has spending implications without clearing it with them first. He is said to be demanding that shadow ministers should just keep repeating his five pledges for growth.

I think this is media-manufactured mischief.

My instinct tells me it is an attempt to continue a narrative that has been created around Ed Balls, that he was a key supporter of Gordon Brown against Tony Blair, while Brown was preparing to take over as Labour leader and Prime Minister, a few years ago – by suggesting that he remains a disruptive influence today.

This would be invaluable to supporters of the Conservative Party, which is losing support rapidly for reasons I will tackle shortly.

But I think it is a false assumption. We’ve all moved on a long way from the time when Mr Miliband parroted the same answer, no less than six times, to a series of questions from a television interviewer. That made him – and Labour – look silly and Mr Balls would be a fool to encourage any repeat of that situation now. And he’s nobody’s fool.

The Blair/Brown rivalry was played out while Labour was in power; today that party is in opposition and the greater priority by far must be the removal of the Conservatives from government. All other considerations should be secondary to the people at the top of the party. If Ed Balls is guilty of the kind of posturing suggested by the newspaper, he needs to suck it in, get behind his leader, and show – by example – that Labour is united.

The problems within the Conservative leadership are far more serious.

I think, as a nation, we are more or less agreed that George Osborne’s tenure as Chancellor of the Exchequer has been a disaster.

His spending review in late 2010 stalled the economy. Growth flatlined for a period, then the UK fell into double-dip recession, with GDP now less than it was when Labour left office.

His budget in March this year is now generally considered the most ridiculous travesty in living memory, featuring plans to give a tax break to the richest in society – the now infamous cut in the top rate of tax from 50 per cent to 45 per cent – which would be supported by a range of hare-brained schemes including taxing static caravans and heated pasties.

And it is now accepted that the Coalition is unlikely to reach its two main economic goals – the reason the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats came together to form a government in the first place – before the next election in 2015, according to the Tories’ own Centre for Policy Studies thinktank. This is due to the failure of Mr Osborne’s fiscal policy.

The coalition had already given up hope of getting rid of the structural deficit by 2015 and the chance of ensuring that public-sector debt is falling by the time of the next election is now slim, the organisation has stated.

The Guardian/ICM poll says 39 per cent of those who voted Conservative in 2010 want Osborne moved to a different cabinet role, if not sacked outright. Asked if Osborne is doing a bad job, agreement goes up to 44 per cent.

But it seems Mr Cameron might keep Osborne, firstly because the chancellor is his closest cabinet ally – his own position is stronger if Osborne remains in place; and secondly, because he believes changing chancellor midway through a Parliament indicates weakness to the country – and, in particular, the markets.

Mr Osborne might be the most prominent problem for the Tories, but he isn’t the only one. There have been calls for the sacking of Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary who brought privatisation into the NHS despite Mr Cameron’s claim – on Tory election posters – that he would not harm the health service. Michael Gove and Jeremy Hunt are also in the firing line.

Transport secretary Justine Greening has threatened to resign over plans for a third runway at Heathrow airport, and internecine squabbles have broken out, with Nadine Dorries attacking fellow Conservative Louise Mensch, who is quitting as an MP, for being “void of principle”.

So which party is in the most disarray?

Call me a loony leftie Labourite if you want, but on the evidence above, I don’t think there can be any doubt. Despite attempts to manufacture disunity in Her Majesty’s Opposition, it is the Conservative Party – and therefore the government – that is falling apart.

Or am I misreading the situation?