Interesting to note that on a day of major concern to national security in the UK, there were no Unionist representatives in Westminster yesterday. Jacqui Smith drew plaudits from all sides of the house and got good reviews in most British newspapers yesterday for what most agreed was a calm and reasoned response to the current crisis in Britain. Frank Millar notes:
At Westminster yesterday there was cross-party congratulation for Ms Smith’s “calm” and “dignified” response to the security crisis, coupled with relief on Labour’s benches at 10 Downing Street’s assurance there would be “no rush” to legislation in response to it.
No Northern Ireland MPs were present to contribute to the exchanges on Ms Smith’s emergency Commons statement, during which she thanked the Scottish Executive and its officials for their co-operation in response to what she called a “pan-UK threat”.
The Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and nationalist parties reacted positively to Ms Smith’s assurance that she would proceed with a new anti-terrorism Bill, probably in the autumn, by way of extensive consultation with other parties and communities outside parliament.
Eddie McGrady of the SDLP managed to show up for the Policing debate in the evening, but even then the DUP were nowhere to be found. McGrady has the advantage that he doesn’t also hold down a job at Stormont. Sylvia Hermon, the UUP’s sole MP, and another single jobber, generally arrives on Tuesdays.
The obvious question: did the DUP really need all nine of its double jobbing MP/MLAs at for a formal (but largely inconsequential) education debate in Stormont, when as the Home Secretary put it, there is a ‘pan UK threat’? Or is Northern Ireland now sufficiently ‘unto itself’ that UK (or indeed local policing) matters no longer concern the party?