The DUP launched its election manifesto this week, and thus far I haven’t seen any critical analysis of it. Mine goes thus:
1. “Let us continue the unionist revival” – Stormont is suspended, PIRA activity continues, Direct Rule Ministers impose education cuts and the water tax: what revival? Furthermore, this sits uneasily beside Paisley’s statement at the manifesto launch that the a DUP victory would be the ‘salvation of the union’ – he can’t have it both ways.
2. “Keeping Unionism Number 1” – hypocrisy from the Party that is splitting the unionist vote in Fermanagh and South Tyrone and South Belfast and threatening to hand these seats to Republicanism and Nationalism.
3. The mysterious silence about the Comprehensive Agreement – pages 7-12 of the Manifesto discuss the SF-DUP negotiations. Much is made of the DUP achievements but the phrase ‘Comprehensive Agreement’ is buried away on page 11. No web link is noted for the text of the Comprehensive Agreement. Paisley’s introduction to the Manifesto mysteriously also fails to make any reference to the document. Why the embarrassed silence?
4. Very weak policy profile
Crime (page 19): no support for ASBOs or ID cards (UUP Manifesto – strengthening ASBO legislation, ID cards to fight terrorism and organised crime).
Health (page 21): vague comments on reducing bureaucracy, but no proposals; no policies on primary care (fundamental to a more effective NHS); no clear public health agenda, beyond smoking ban and vague ‘encouragement’ for healthy living (UUP Manifesto – replacing four health boards, Primary Care Groups, modern IT infrastructure, public health agenda on obesity, MMR and smoking ban)
Local taxes (page 22): talks of opposition to water tax, then provides a plan to implement it; only refers to “delaying” imposition of capital values basis for rates (UUP Manifesto – sets out alternative agenda for rates reform, and alternative to the water tax)
Education (page 25): vague reference to, but no proposals for reducing bureaucracy in administration; reference to improving standards for all but no policies to achieve this (UUP Manifesto – emphasis on literacy and numeracy in primary education/fairer system of academic selection)
Older citizens (page 26): a “substantially increased state pension” but no ideas as to how much or how it would be funded
Environment: receives passing mention under ‘local government’, but nothing else (UUP Manifesto – create Environmental Protection Agency, Marine Act etc)
Economy: no reference to economic policy in the manifesto. Is this the Party to represent Northern Ireland in Westminster?