What happens when Gordon succeeds?

According to Henry McDonald no one really knows what Gordon Brown might do were he (when he) takes over the reigns of power from Tony Blair. But it doesn’t stop any of the local parties from trying to woo his ‘camp’ to their way of thinking. Slugger’s suspicion is that when he does take over, we will see one or two old faces back at Stormont Castle, whether to continue shouldering executive responsibility or to hand over the keys to the Assembly chamber for once and for all. But, as McDonald highlights, Brown’s man will more than likely lead with an eye to the enormous treasury deficit.

  • Pete Baker

    Well, I took a slightly different emphasis when I noted that piece

    But perhaps we might get some comments this time.

  • Neil Burns

    I do not think any one can speculate what will happen when Tony Blair ends his term. Remember the old quote ” a week is a long time
    in politics”?

  • George

    This question has been nagging me for a while too but it’s all conjecture at the moment as to how Brown would act.

    Tom Griffin wrote a piece about Brown the Union man last year following a speech to the British Council. However, from what I can see, this was more concerned with the link between England and Scotland than what the man wants for Northern Irleand.


    Personally, I think it doesn’t matter who becomes PM, the path is clear. Restructure the whole economy and to hell with the begrudgers.

    There are no votes in paying a whole region off so it can remain irresponsible to it duties.

    Or as Griffin quotes Brown as saying:

    “For the twelve years I have been Shadow Chancellor or Chancellor, I have felt that our country would be better able to meet and master the challenges of ever more intense global competition if we could build a shared sense of national economic purpose.”

  • t o kane

    guys weve seen this all before ,remember how optimistic nationlists were with labour under kevin mc namara as northern secratery or with tony blair because tony blair had relatives in donegal hed be more pro nationlist .or when all the contract for america republicans got elected jeffrey donaldson believed they were all clsoet unionists none of the aforementioned was true .
    most politicians in the uk and abroad outside the odd example airey neave , kevin macvnamara and tony benn etc want stability and the only idelogy they deal with when using northern ireland is pragmatism as tories implementation of AIA in 85 and labours deals with unionists in 79 have shown us , infact denis healy who was second generation in his biography speaks of his hatred of northen ireland due to what he saw as tribal bigotries ansd like most politicians outside ni had difficulty in looking at the situation

  • Ciarán Irvine

    I note The Amazing Fluctuating Subvention pops up in this article as £1.5bn. In the last 2 years I’ve seen the figure put at £1.5bn, £2.2bn, £2.8bn, £3bn, £3.5bn, £5bn and £8bn.

    Does anyone actually know, or is everyone just pulling random numbers out of their behinds?

  • George

    Cain (http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/ni/economy.htm) says the subvention was 3.5 billion as long ago as 1995, excluding military, VAT and courts, but these days the figures aren’t that easily available.

    Maybe someone knows how much tax is paid in Northern Ireland?

  • Ciarán Irvine

    George, I’ve been trying to get a straight answer, preferably with actual figures broken down into categories, for years now. Can’t be done. Either nobody knows, or nobody wants to say.

  • Conor

    will we see ANY faces at Stormont though? remember, the institutions are suspended and will be for a long time if the political situation continues the way its going.

  • Henry Fitzpatrick

    Official Reactionary Fart Press Statement

    Links to external stories open new browser windows. I have no fixed ideological position on whether this is bad or good, but it is undeniably different to the way things used to be on Slugger. Change it back!

    On other news (and vaguely related to this thread too), what odds the DUP being offered something juicy in return for voting for statist repression this evening?

  • slug

    Gordon Brown


    Lib Dem growth in the Commons at the next election


    a more pivotal position for NI MPs


    a greater likelihood of PR being introduced

    which in turn means

    an even more pivotal position for NI MPs.

  • George


    I have found a tax intake figure for 1996, which is 4.3 billion.

    This is from the Irish Times in August of this year:

    “The North’s public sector accounts for over 60 per cent of its economy. The comparative figure for the South is 35 per cent and, while the Republic has benefited from EU transfers, they are a dwindling feature of our economy.

    Northern Ireland will continue to rely on annual subvention from the UK treasury, of the order of EUR 9 billion.”

    From that man Kevin Myers in 2001:

    “Through the history of the UDR, and later the Royal Irish Regiment, what we might call the Ulster middle class remained aloof. The regiment which was the military expression of the union depended for its officer class on the lower middle classes: the rugby-playing classes did not get involved. In essence, the war remained one in which the ruling scions of Ulster were not a factor, would make no sacrifice and take no stand.

    Instead they benefited from the voodoo economics of dependence, which have now descended into a diseased dysfunctionality. Of Northern Ireland’s GDP of (pounds) 17 billion, (pounds) 11 billion is state expenditure. This is, of course, not money raised in taxes from within the province, but consists overwhelmingly of capital transfers from the British Exchequer.”

    P.S. I also found articles quoting 4 billion and 3.5 billion.

  • Henry Fitzpatrick

    Speaking very much as a Tory Unionist, the sooner the subsidies are turned off the better. And I of course include the pernicious middle class subsidies rightly referenced above. It is disgusting the way that our entire political (and much of our paramilitary …) class have allowed themselves quite literally to be bought off.

  • Ciarán Irvine

    Makes you wonder. Every single time the issue comes up, somebody puts a totally different figure on it. And we also all know that a huge amount of it is totally wasteful spending that serves no real purpose other than to keep Bangor people in yachts and Mercs.

    If the north was run on exactly the same basis wrt the public sector as the Republic, would there be a subvention at all?

  • Henry Fitzpatrick

    Ciaran, the problem with the comparison you want to make (with the RoI, rather than with the rest of the UK) is the EU. The UK as a whole (ie inc NI) is a net contributor, whereas the RoI, absurdly, is still a net recipient.

  • George

    it is my view that if we got back to some semblance of private sector / public sector balance rather than the dependancy we have now then Northern Ireland could be breaking even in say 15 years.

    The problem is that nobody is going to make the tough decisions necessary so it will be more of the same.

    The best example I can give is DUP man Edwin Poots. After the five girls were killed on a school bus in Meath this year, he was everywhere talking about how seatbelts were needed on NI buses. Action was needed, he said. I was impressed.

    From September 2006, seatbelts will be on all school buses in the Irish Republic. Action has been taken.

    Poots hasn’t opened his mouth since about the situation for children north of the border. We shall have to wait for a tragedy before this issue is raised again by a unionist politician.

    Why? Because they know they can do nothing about it so they do nothing. Better to live in a dreamworld where you believe your constituents are more interested in their constitutional position than the safety of their children.

    Sure when the Newsletter boasted about the massive Titanic Quarter investment they conveniently failed to mention it was all southern money.

  • barnshee

    “Maybe someone knows how much tax is paid in Northern Ireland?”

    Nobody knows how much tax is paid in N Ireland because
    1 the records are not kept that way
    2 some items are very hard to determine.

    Companies (like say M and S) account for PAYE centrally items like this would have to be stripped of their NI component and collated centrally — they are not.

    Companies who trade here and generate profits here would have to calculate the N I element of their Corporation tax–again not done

    Vat and excise duties are slightly easier but only slightly and are hoplessly distorted by cross border evasion so in short nobody really knows the tax take in N Ireland

  • Ciarán Irvine

    AFAIK, the Republic moves to being a net contributor next year. The EU budget is worked out on 6 or 7 year cycles and when the last budget was drawn up Ireland was still entitled to funding. And I really don’t see how that invalidates any comparison, given that EU transfers are a miniscule proportion of the Republic’s GDP nowadays.

    The question is fairly straightforward, and nobody has ever done the sums: if the north ended up in a UI tomorrow morning, being run in the same way as the rest of the south (assume, for the moment, that the transition could be done instantly) i.e. same dole rates, childcare, taxation, level of public spending per capita on health and education and so on: what would the tax raised and public sector spending actually be, and thus what would the real deficit be?

    Then fast-forward 8 or 9 years when the north has the same opportunities to attract FDI as the rest of the Republic, the expansion of southern firms northwards etc.. What is a likely prognosis for taxation and spending then?

    Is the “subvention” actually real, or a simple product of a wasteful and bloated public sector combined with an underdeveloped private sector in the north?

  • slug

    I guess in all countries there are bits that subsidise other bits. There is a formula (Barnett Forumla) governing UK subventions which tends to be generous to places like Scotland and NI.

  • mnob

    Perhaps the more pertinant question is not how much the subvention is in absolute terms but how much NI is advantaged in relation to other less wealthy regions of the UK (lets face it probably London and the SE are the only regions who are net contributors to central coffers).

    The ‘subvention’ figure (as with all statistics) changes to suit whatever argument is being framed at the time. The issue is that the UK government seems to have decided to claw back some money from NI so I guess we will be hearing large figures for some time.

    For an example of how you can totally distort the figure one way or another just look at oil revenues – Scottish or UK ? Take your pick.

    The exact figure is impossible to calculate (so I’m surprised at the weight that is put on them) as :

    The taxes of those educated in NI now working in GB (and vice versa)
    Corporation taxes for UK wide companies with operations in NI
    Public services delivered from NI to GB (eg call centres)
    Public services in NI which arent classified as public services in GB (eg MOT centres)
    Taxes paid centrally by large corporations (though the tax office knows the address of the emplyee)

    Maybe we could have this discussion better if this was not framed in terms of whether NI is successful economically or politically.

  • George

    FYI: I read that while the UK is 4th largest economy in the world, London and the SE would be the fifth on its own.

    Also, figures released today show that, for a second month in a row, the UK was a net importer of oil.

  • Scotsman

    Does the Treasury/NIO not produce its own figures on regional tax and spend? In Scotland we get the annual GERS estimates on tax and spend. They were instigated by the Tories to “prove” that Scotland was a hopeless basket case reliant on public subsidy from the English. Every year we have a tedious debate about whether or not the Scots can “afford” independence.

    There is a lengthy PDF document discussing the technicalities at http://www.devolution.ac.uk