Today the Executive, tomorrow Westminster

Malachi O’Doherty had an interesting If you ask me last night. In it he suggests that thus far, public perception is that Arlene Foster isn’t doing all that well in Environment, which is perhaps fingering the wrong individual. He also alludes to the possibility of the Jim Dixon effect working against the DUP this time in F&ST.

His final point is interesting:

But if our parties are going to treat the executive primarily as a runway for the take off of political careers into Westminster, voters here might feel a little used and have something to say about that themselves.

Nigel Dodds and Gregory Campbell didn’t have that problem in 2001. The Executive is certainly a springboard, but in times gone past, Westminster wasn’t where the action was. How long before the Northern Ireland Government is once again an end in itself for political careers? When it does happen, do alliances with mainland parties become inevitable for Northern Ireland MPs?

  • Actually I found Malachi’s piece last night quite dull and predictable.

    Certainly it appears that Sinn Fein have even less interest in Westminster than before, other than the obvious prestige involved in gaining decent results from a purely electoral basis.

    For what it’s worth I think that Ruane will capture South Down. Word has it that she has been far more visible on the groune within the overall constituency than Margaret Ritchie.

  • interested

    Malachi actually had an interesting piece – saying a lot more than just about Arlene Foster.

    But then you wouldn’t let that get in the way of your petty party political posting.

    Didn’t we have these problems some time back…..

  • Quite frankly, unless Air-Miles can be factored in, I cannot see what the up-sides of Westminster now are for young persons from NI on the political make.

    There’s no hope of ministerial (or even Front Bench) prominence.

    Unless one somehow becomes a Big Beast by other means, there’s precious little scope for a high profile in the non-NI media. And, for the time being, the NI quota of Big Beasts is fully-taken.

    Have you seen the attendance and attention given at NI business in the Commons?

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch it’s a Caucus Race:
    At last the Dodo said, “Everybody has won, and all must have prizes.” [“Alice in Wonderland”, Chapter 3, for the culturally handicapped].

  • Bob Wilson

    ‘There’s no hope of ministerial (or even Front Bench) prominence’

    Malcolm – you are assuming that the current political structures remain

  • pacman

    Thanks for ruining my tea Michael with the shuddering thought of someone (anyone) fingering Arlene Foster. BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

  • Bob Wilson @ 03:04 PM:

    Au contraire: the one thing I now assume is that the UK is transforming before our eyes. The empire of the Wessex Saxons is for the knacker’s yard.

    By the way, remind me of those numerous Ulster Unionist MPs who made it to the Cabinet, over all those decades of loyally taking the Tory Whip. Surely the Tory High command must have rewarded their talent with office?

  • páid

    I was beginning to worry about the Conservatives when the blog referred to Fianna Fáil, complete with síne fada on the a in Fáil.

    But as whoever wrote it then referred to “Fianna Gael”, I relaxed again.

  • Cuairteoir

    Catriona is wide open on her silliness about the Irish language but it’s hard to see the SDLP killing that sacred cow, even for the chance of beating her with its tail.

    It seems sometimes that Malachi doesn’t know his arse from his elbow – what does the above actually mean?

  • gaelgannaire

    ‘what does the above actually mean?’

    Caitríona’s enthusiam sometimes gets the better of her sure but does M O’D really believe that if Margerat Richie adopted some sort of DUP style anti-Gaelic stace she would get elected?

    That is not to say that every nationalist in South Down is an Irish language activist but if Richie started ‘beating [Ruane] with its tail’ would she break into three figures?

    ‘Wide open’ – my thón.

    I is hard to believe what you can get money for doing.

  • graduate

    Quite honestly, it’s about time we got rid of triple mandates, never mind the oft-argued dual mandate. MPs should be at Westminster all week- too much legislation affecting us goes through on days other than Wednesday and MLAs can’t be giving the job full attention if they’re flying over there every week. You should either be an MLA, an MP or a councillor,Not all three. The jobs aren’t an extension of each other and it might allow some people to rise through the party ranks (all parties). I was going to say talent but that’s a whole ohter argument!:-)

  • IJP

    Good blog, Michael. A lot of interesting points raised, I’ll not get near to all of them!

    You do sense that:
    a) parties are using the Executive as a springboard to Westminster; and
    b) this is somewhat missing the point – actually a Government Minister in an Executive which deals with all aspects of home affairs (including, soon, justice) has considerably more power and influence than a back-bench ‘federal’ MP in London.


    Agreed as usual.

    But what is more interesting (and behind Michael‘s point) is: when will the electorate catch up with this?

    Most of our MPs get elected by being seen a lot and making phone calls to fix street lights – which is actually a Mayor’s and a Councillor’s job.

    The job of an MP is in fact to act as an advocate of the constituency at UK level, but also (even more) to legislate on fiscal, defence and foreign affairs.

    All the evidence is that our MPs fail catastrophically in even attempting to do the job they’re supposed to be doing (for, if they did, the assumption is they’d have no hope of re-election).

    But I’d say the electorate will catch up sooner rather than later.

    (Your response to Bob is also noteworthy! The simple fact is NI has never been central to UK politics in the way Scotland and Wales have.)


    You make a well-argued point, but actually I disagree.

    It should be more than possible for an MLA (dealing with domestic affairs only) also to be an MP (dealing with fiscal/defence/foreign affairs).

    All English MPs are both ‘MLAs’ and MPs at the same time, to all intents and purposes.

    What is interesting is whether Stormont/Holyrood/Senedd/GLA and Westminster will evolve specifically to allow such dual positions (i.e. Westminster would specifically take England-only business early in the week, moving on to fiscal/defence/foreign later in the week). I certainly wouldn’t rule it out.

  • Richard James

    “The Executive is certainly a springboard, but in times gone past, Westminster wasn’t where the action was.”

    Not quite sure that’s true considering all Stormont did was tamely enact the major legislation at Westminster here (as I’m sure you know there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth in the UUP regarding the welfare state but that didn’t stop it arriving here). Also considering it controls the budget, the impact it had then and now is significant.

    “How long before the Northern Ireland Government is once again an end in itself for political careers?”

    Now if you’re a member of the UUP :o)

  • Alex S

    “Quite frankly, unless Air-Miles can be factored in, I cannot see what the up-sides of Westminster now are for young persons from NI on the political make.” Malcolm Redfellow

    The money and the status, mainly the money!

  • Jonathan

    This point got me thinking. I believe it was the DUP which first used the excutive to groom Westminster conteders. I was looking through a list of the excutive in 1999 and the only other name which might have been thought of as a potential MP I can see is Brid Rodgers.

    This did work well for the DUP and now this looks like the done thing.