A Slugger agenda for Brown in Belfast

Well now, how about a Slugger’s agenda for Gordon on his visit to Belfast next week? It may be no more than a ritual run round the kingdom, finishing ofF what he started in Birmingham. We can guess that the pre-spin will talk up the economic prospects, and an imminent deal between the DUP and SF – can’t we, just two days before Peter’s deadline?. Or maybe, as we recall what the DUP used to do to deadlines, it’ll only be a “route map?” Could our leaders even now have the brass neck to try squeeze a pound or two or a hundred million ( Olympic lottery funding) out of him for the stadium and the ramparts that’ll separate it from any view of the Memorial H block? Could it really cost between £300 and £700 million, the price for unlocking the logjam and keeping the DUP sweet? Any thought of suspending the Assembly is of course fantasy, as is a hope of a revised Assembly design without designations – unless the whole thing really implodes. I see that Mark Durkan may be backing off, showing him off again, if true, at his verbally incontinent worst. Anyway here’s my little list for Gordon.

New money, mind, new money partly from the Olympics lottery fund to build the stadium plus infrastructure.

Real money to pay for the even higher NI utility bills for the non-elderly poor.
(C’mon give us some dough, we’re not making trouble like Salmond)

Which reminds me, after your Glasgow speech last week could you give some assurances that you won’t try to hit us with tax varying powers when we haven’t asked for them? Are they just a cunning plot to cut the subvention or to try to make us take more responsibility? Good idea but sadly we’re not ready yet. Any idea about what to do after the rates freeze? Please? Pretty please?

While I remember, please get on with much better co-ordination between all three devolved administrations and the Whitehall centre, through a joint ministerial committee of all four governments. We need to swap ideas for governing each area according to each’s different needs without any losing out, and share policies where we can. This is essential for the next, more independent phase of devolution.

After J&P is handed over, has the time not come to say goodbye to Shaun Woodward as the last NI Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and set up a single Secretary of State for the Nations ( I know we’re not but you have to call it something) – so helping co-ordination described above?

With J&P accomplished. co-ordinate plans with Dublin to carry out Bertie Ahern’s promise of an invitation to the Queen to pay that State Visit.

Pledge to reduce UK corporation tax in the medium term.

With Dublin, speed up plans for an all-Ireland economic area ( these days, parity of pain but with better days to come)

Emphasise that there must be no let-up towards loyalist and dissident republican paramilitaries when J&P is devolved.

Remind us that Westminster still has the J&P big picture, the new Supreme Court and UK wide terrorism legislation and much besides..

No attempt will be made to disbar new immigrants from Ireland from voting in GB elections in a new definition of British citizenship. Irish citizens will remain “not foreign” as stated in the 1949 Ireland Act when the south cut its last ties with the Commonwealth.

Be honest about IDs in the common travel area – state photo IDs will be essential, just as they will be on flights from Edinburgh to London .

You’re a champion of constitutional reform. Insist on progress for an NI Bill of Rights. Failure means NI incorporations into the overall British Bill, possibly including specific Irish language rights.

And finally.. explain please how British values apply to Northern Ireland. British values equal Irish values?

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London