Hearts and Minds: Hain to pull ‘legitimacy plug’ in November

Some of you may have seen this already, but if not try and catch it after Let’s Talk tonight. But Peter Hain tells Noel Thompson that if the parties cannot agree to a deal by his deadline of 24th November, then the 2003 Assembly will be suspended (ie, killed off). That effectively means that not only will the MLAs not get any money, but they lose their status too. Watch the party reaction to this development very closely. The two big parties, the DUP and Sinn Fein, have been preparing assuduously for the financial wilderness a suspension pay/expenses would bring. The SDLP, at least have not incured major losses, and the UUP may still have some excess equity to re-mortgage in Cunningham House.

So, in theory, all parties may have the wherewithal to withstand the desert conditions coming up. But, this move by Hain intimates a scrapping of the whole of Strand One of the Belfast Agreement. No elections need take place again in Northern Ireland: not in May, or indeed ever. After the displacement activity of the last eight years, effectively there may be no need for local politicians for the foreseeable future.

New Labour populist instinct at its sharpest? Or (another) bluff?