‘Pay us to agree!’ is the clear subtext of the emergence of a call for a payment of £1Billion if the DUP and SF agree to the Irish and British governments’ proposals. None of the other political parties here seem prepared to question this – it would be a difficult line to take publicly – but there are reasons why the political cover provided by such a payment could adversely affect future politics here.Without the necessary consideration of financial prudence (to borrow a phrase) an escalation of a spending ‘war’ as parties promote themselves as ‘building a new future for the people’ is inevitable.
Difficult decisions, such as the prioritising of budgets, would become secondary to the promotion of pet projects in the scramble for a slice of that cash (while it lasts) for the various ministries – making the role of Minister for Finance even more pivotal than before.
And crucial issues such as the vexed question of water charges (or rather the first step towards privatisation of the Water Service) will no longer seem quite so controversial – with no infrastructure investment to fund the increases won’t need to be quite so severe.
It won’t be a pretty sight though and with, as is likely, a DUP minister in the Finance chair the allegations of bias are likely to come thick and fast – unless the ‘dividend’ comes ready-divided for use, but then wouldn’t that just be ‘direct rule’?
Just one other point. Why the raising of this now? Are the parties really saying that this is a ‘deal-breaker’? What would happen if Gordon Brown says, “On yer bike”?