Postscript on the election ‘speculation’…

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PS: With a deal in the bag, the election talk is now being officially denied by Sinn Fein. Yet, there was an awful lot of unattributable material appearing from somewhere yesterday at Stormont, at precisely the same time as Gerry Adams’ highly talented PR was talking to any journalist who moved. The thing about plausible deniability is that it has to be plausible to work.

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  • kensei

    Mick

    That’s true. But when you have to lie in order to change that perception (having already done so to your support in private), that’s also not good news for the future of the party. The lie becomes the narrative.

    In the first instance I don’t believe anyone will give a fiddlers if in 6-12 months there is an Irish Language Act and devolved P&J;. We’re years out from an election for a start. In the second it’s also irrelevant if the “lie” is swallowed by their electorate.

    Third, I’m not sure there is any lie. It is only a lie if they get nothing out the process and don’t follow up on it.

    I do agree that this is Stormont bubble stuff, of r now. But these things have a way of suffusing through to the wider world.

    I disagree. If SF manage to pull some delivery from this no one will care. What will matter is if the party is split. That always leads to behaviour that affects governance, creates a narrative and moves out of the bubble. In which case this is merely a symptom.

  • kensei

    Ahem

    GB has no intention of unraveling the settlement here. And if you exclude the largest nationalist block, unravel this will. Moreover, about the only thing that would dig SF out of that hole would be the giant martyr card “moving on without you ” would hand them.

  • Dave

    Malachi O’Doherty, writing a few weeks ago in the Belfast Telegraph, was ahead of the pack in flagging up difficulties that could arise when the leader of the party is a seperate role from the leader of the Executive:

    [i]“The separation of the roles of party leader and Deputy First Minister in Sinn Fein creates the potential for every crisis on the Executive to compromise the authority of the party leader or the Deputy First Minister.

    And the party must be aware of that vulnerability, must ultimately want what every other government has got, the power for the removal and appointment of ministers to reside within the Executive.

    How would Gordon Brown or Brian Cowan like it if senior party officials could veto their ministerial appointments? They would not accept it.

    Theoretically, Gerry Adams can even remove Martin McGuinness. It is inconceviable that he would try.

    And a further uneasy thought occurs to anyone reflecting on this problem.

    Surely, Gerry Adams’s political career is entirely oppositional and subversive.

    So can he be trusted outside the Executive to make decisions which are in the best interests of the Executive?

    Look at some of the political antics he has got involved in since the Executive was established.

    His campaign for truth was ridiculed as a campaign for half-truth, because he wanted to pressurise the British into disclosing their own sins and secrets while continuing to deny that he had ever been a member of the IRA. It was laughable.

    The parade organised in Belfast in support of this campaign was flanked by men with berets and rifles, presumably replica rifles, though the police usually do not presume that rifles exposed in the street are replicas.

    The campaign itself appears to have withered away, but looked too much from the start like the work of someone with time on his hands.”[/i]

  • Ahem

    But Kensei, the only sense in which the current settlement would have ‘unraveled’ would have been in Sinn Fein had walked away from it. And as Gordon curtly enough pointed to Gez, you do that if you want son, but more fool you. Speaking as a Unionist who dislikes substantial elements of the present dispensation, I’d be delighted if SF wrecked it for us. But, however dimly this is understood, seemingly no matter how loudly they bluster, just about every one in SF seemingly appreciates that it won’t get any better for them than this. Hence their utterly humiliating volte face.

  • steve48

    those in the dup who were against a deal in the first place were cock a hoop last night believing they can run this to the eu elections next year and possibly longer without moving on anything. Means they have a chance to counter TUV’s claims. however if they intend to give nothing that is fine but if they can not hold out to 2011 they may be going into elections then on the basis of having accepted an irish language act and more

  • kensei

    Ahem

    Have you been privy to the internal meetings of the last few days, because all I saw reported was more talks. It is only a “volte face” if you believe that they had any desire to collapse it in the first place. As I stated consistently, I don’t think they wanted to do it. They wanted enough to show movement and call it off. They got a minimum. What matters now is what falls out of the process.

    You’re also futuring as fact, there. I’m not sure what would happen if things collapsed. I wouldn’t primarily worry about Unionism or the British. If I was SF the only fear I would have is from the Nationalist electorate. If they stood behind SF then the concerns would eventually need dealt with, just as the DUP’s were. If they lost the people, they’d be toast.

  • http://organizedrage.blogspot.com/ Mick Hall

    Jenny

    The problem is surly if SF as one of the alleged two most senior elements in the Stormont administration are unable to pass into legislation its party platform, a program that benefits the constituency we both support, for example devolution of policing, equality in education etc, then I would again ask what purpose do they serve in being part of such an administration?

    Take eduction, from were I sit you either have a comprehensive system or no matter what you call it, you end up with selection. Some political principles cannot be negotiated down to a very thin gruel.

    As to policing, if it is not devolved ‘immediately’, SF have betrayed its core constituency and is left, even by their standards, supporting a totally British administered police force.
    The only way this circle can be squared with honor is for policing to be devolved at the same time as the new ministers are appointed, for the Shinners cannot accept yet another blank cheque as they have already been shafted one by accepting such a dud in the past.

    It will be enjoyable to see how SF spin there way out of this one, as it seems that is the road they have chosen. Those who have claimed here that the items in question have always been on the table are mistaken, as some of them had been taken off the table having been done and dusted.

    Best regards

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Ahem,

    it is difficult to know who ‘won’ but we do know that the DUP told their elctorate they would not be allowing SF to run the courts and police any time soon and it now looks like Robbo will be giving it his ‘urgent attention’ – before xmas is my bet and probably in the autumn.

    The DUP deserve credit for signing up to P and J in the STA which obviously is very difficult ( understandably ) for the Unionist population to stomach.

  • Ahem

    Hey Kensei, you can take or leave what I know or don’t know as you see fit. The Prime Minister told his West Belfast supplicant: “Bog Off”, sez I. And boggeth off, in return for sweet FA, he did. Either that’s how it happened, or, Gez, intentionally, on his own and without provocation, set himself up, knocked himself down, and all to demonstrate, at most, that the status quo prevailed (there being not one new thing on the table that wasn’t already there – oh, and ino the bargain, he also, somewhat tellingly one might have thought, fibbed, fibbed again, then fibbed some more for good measure about what he had just done). One of these tellings, I’d suggest, is more credible than the other. But again, it’s up to you of course to say which you feel most comfortable with.

    As for ‘futuring’, I’m not, I have to admit, desperately keen on blogvented words (see, they’re awfully ugly). But even if one accepted it as a useful conceptual tool, your employment of it, I’d argue, falls down, as you’re equally positing a vision of the future, simply in contradiction to my own. Thus, ‘futuring’, if it is taken to mean, “don’t assess the present with a view to what s plausibly possible about the future consequent on the present”, isn’t much cop. If there’s some other definition, naturally I’ll gripe about that when I’m told it.

  • Ahem

    Sam, I’m giving my ‘urgent attention’ to composing a reply to your post. And it’ll do you as much good as the Punt’s will Gez n’ Murderin’ Mart.

  • Mick Fealty

    Ken,

    “If SF manage to pull some delivery from this no one will care. What will matter is if the party is split.”

    Again, I partly agree. About the split, yes, certainly. But as Liam Clarke says today, the public don’t give a stuff about most of this stuff, the activists do. Maybe they shouldn’t, but they do. Many of those activists are not far from the Stormont bubble.

    As for delivery, well, where is it? What is it, precisely? Whatever it is, it depends entirely on the largesse of the DUP (playing the same trick twice doesn’t work, as Ian Paisley discovered to his cost with the 1977 strike) Which means, I suspect, that this whole exercise has been about pain avoidance rather than management.

  • Mick Fealty

    Ahem,

    It’s not ‘blogvented’, just blogdefined…

  • Ahem

    Your children may be precious to you, to me they can go to school in the snow in their bare feet.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Ahem,

    So my good fellow – when do think Wee Robbo and the Dupers are going to deliver P and J to SF?

  • http://sammymorse.blogspot.com Sammy Morse

    First para, 11:00PM. Hard to read otherwise, Sammy.

    No, there I’m sneering at the Ógra SF Internet Cumann spinning a victory out of nothing on this website.

    But in any case you are missing the optics for those annoyed by SF taking everything the DUP has thrown.

    I’m not. The danger for SF is that they are seen by those already disillusioned with their capacity to deliver in government is them rolling over to the DUP again. As I said, maybe time will prove me wrong but I’m struggling to see the win for the Shinners in that communiqué.

    5 seats in WB?

    The Shinners would win 5 out of 6 in the West without Gerry.

  • Ahem

    You give yourself away rather too crudely Sam. I don’t suspect that the Punt & chums are *ever* going to ‘deliver’ Policing & Justice to Sinn Fein. Not least as there are several dozen expedients for contriving a guaranteed Unionist local home affairs minister, should such a post actually be brought into being in any substantive form. And as far as local input into, say, the NI Attorney General’s appointment goes, I can easily see that being of the most nominal kind. Such as, for example, the Advocate General being meaninglessly confirmed by the assembly, while in fact being nominated by the Lord Chancellor/Justice Sec/NI Sec or AG. If you have any doubts on this score, merely consider how there’s zero chance of even the most nominal input by local pols as far as the appointment of NI’s judges goes.

  • kensei

    Ahem

    Straw Man. Try again. GB has arranged talks between the parties at Downing Street and has taken the matter fairly seriously. There was no need for talks with the parties in the first place.

    Second, futurology has been around look before blogging. Second, I’m aware that 100% of what I say is bollocks. I’m simply thinking out loud and know I could well be wrong. As I said, I’m not sure what would happen if SF forced a collapse, but my gut tells me it would depend on the electorate. I claim no certainty in the way you do, and think it a bad habit.

    Mick

    About the split, yes, certainly. But as Liam Clarke says today, the public don’t give a stuff about most of this stuff, the activists do. Maybe they shouldn’t, but they do. Many of those activists are not far from the Stormont bubble.

    I’m not sure what the activists are going to care about here, if the talks produce some movement?

    As for delivery, well, where is it? What is it, precisely?

    Depends on the outcome of the talks on those issues. They are now not simply on the table, but up the agenda. As I said above, they need a win.

    Whatever it is, it depends entirely on the largesse of the DUP (playing the same trick twice doesn’t work, as Ian Paisley discovered to his cost with the 1977 strike) Which means, I suspect, that this whole exercise has been about pain avoidance rather than management.

    The mutual veto remains. The ability to collapse the Assembly remains. The DUP have also indicated things they want. SF are not powerless, and it is wrong to suggest they are. Which is why I have said, repeatedly, that if the result of these talks is no movement from the DUP, SF should walk as the only credible option. They might get away with seizing up government as a prelude.

    But perhaps I have misunderstood what is meant by

    Gordon Brown will then hold talks with the two parties in Downing Street on Friday.

    I’m assume there is going to be some movement quickly, here.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Ahem,

    Crude? I do apologise. Let me try again with more moderate language. When do you think the Democratic Unionist Party will deem that the time is right to transfer P and J powers ( strength of which is another days discourse) to the Assembly in Northern Ireland. a) In the Autumn b) before the new year c) sometime in 2009 d) No time soon e) Never, Never Never.

    One letter reply will suffice.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Sammy,

    I am not a nationalist, but I feel that peace and justice powers must be devolved urgently to deal with the apparent inability of the PSNI to come to grips with the perception of rising crime and levels of anti-social behaviour here. This is not a Sinn Fein issue and the DUP have already indicated that they are favourable to the idea. I believe this issue is far more important to SF’s electorate than either the stadium or the Irish language act.

    I imagine that the disbandment of the IRA army council will be a part of any further package, although I don’t see it as a precondition.

  • Ian

    Kensei:

    “But they’ve threatened the nuclear option. The problem is that having done that, they now need a win from the resulting process. If they can’t get one because the DUP continues to refuse to move, then they have to pull the trigger. It’s the only credible move, and if they are spinning this was all in everyone’s heads they have got it entirely wrong. They should maintain it may still happen if the DUP does not honour commitments.”

    But Ken, there’s a danger that if they spell it out too explicitly that the DUP will clam up and reply with “We don’t respond to blackmail”, references to metaphorical guns being held to heads in place of actual guns that were recently decommissioned.

    The way it’s panned out, the threat of MMG resiging has been left as the “elephant in the room”, focusing minds without being perceived as an overt threat to the institutions.

  • Mick Fealty

    steve,

    Intriguing. That makes sense. Some time after the Euro elections would be strategically smart.

    Ken, I thought Robo had an interesting line on vetoes in his speech:

    “Applying a veto is not a sign of strength or success, it is a sign we could not agree”.

    Regarding P & J, the DUP have a veto as long as it is politically expedient, for them. I’m stumped as to how Martin walking out of office is a threat to the DUP. Or indeed how anyone is to take such a threat seriously after this the uphill downhill games of this week?

    The deal was struck last year and left the leadership offside with the membership. It then failed to come good on the promissory note it gave members last year, and as a result it is engineered this mini crisis to cover its bare assets.

    That’s worked, now they’ll go back to work. This came from nowhere and it will disappear to nowhere. I would be surprised if we hear another word about this until such times the DUP decide to ante up with P & J. I would not even attempt to guess a time to set your alarm clock.

    Of course, I could be wrong. But I don’t think so.

  • Mick Fealty

    PS,

    If you want an idea of just how damaging trying to get reforms through without consulting your colleagues, just look at the utter shambles Catriona has made of education.

    Though I see Sammy Wilson is being moved up to a ministerial post, that might make things easier for some kind of compromise. Word is they still aren’t talking to the DUP about it yet.

  • http://ulstersdoomed.blogspot.com Horseman

    Mick,

    … I would be surprised if we hear another word about this …

    You’re joking, I hope? Having raised this to boiling point so publicly, there is no way it can be just left to sit. People’s attention has been attracted. If some things don’t go SF’s way fairly soon, then their own supporters, the dissidents, and the public at large, will be very quick to point thaat out.

    If, as you claim, their assets (!) were exposed, then by drawing even more attention to this, and then getting nothing, would be the stupidest tactic possible. I know you’re not a fan, but surely you don’t think that lowly of them?

  • kensei

    Mick

    Regarding P & J, the DUP have a veto as long as it is politically expedient, for them. I’m stumped as to how Martin walking out of office is a threat to the DUP. Or indeed how anyone is to take such a threat seriously after this the uphill downhill games of this week?

    If MMG “walks out of the office” he collapses the institutions and forces the elections. You seem to be missing my point by some margin — SF should be maintaining the pressure on this, and the threat to the life of the Assembly should still remain, at least rhetorically until they have something concrete. If they are not doing that, they they are indeed doing it wrong.

    You cannot up the stakes in this fashion and then back off with getting a result. All they have done with the talks is push out the time they have to get the result. But the clock still ticks.

    That’s worked, now they’ll go back to work. This came from nowhere and it will disappear to nowhere. I would be surprised if we hear another word about this until such times the DUP decide to ante up with P & J. I would not even attempt to guess a time to set your alarm clock.

    Of course, I could be wrong. But I don’t think so.

    Having raised the stakes this high, there is absolutely no way they can just bury it. No P&J;= ever increasing pressure from the base. No ILA = ever increasing pressure from the base. They have bought more time to get a win, and that win might not be all that – a solid date for P&J;, rather than immediate devolution, a ILA that is not everything they originally wanted etc. But they have essentially only bought time to get one they can spin.

    This is only a worthwhile exercise, and any optics benefits are only worthwhile if there is ultimate delivery. Otherwise it rebounds, and is badly, badly damaging as Horseman points out. So in the event of the DUP refusing to budge, they need to pull the trigger. And they need their narrative right before they do it and sign post it well in advance.