Noel McAdam in the Bel Tel heightens expectations of a breakthrough over devolving justice and policing in Gordon Brown’s summons of FM and DFM to Downing St this afternoon. Only problem is, there are doubts about Peter Robinson’s attendance. Is this a hard “No, no, no” or just a signal of reluctance? We should know by lunchtime. To the BBC, the DUP spokesman is distinctly sniffy about a mere invitation from the PM. What is a devolved First Minister think he’s doing, behaving oddly like a foreign potentate? Now that the obstacle of the Euro elections has disappeared, London is obviously increasing the pressure to get the thing over with. Surely worth doing if they could narrow the alleged £200m p.a funding gap in the £!.2 billion p.a. budget? However,the UK government are sending out mixed messages. They want to transfer the powers but they also want them to be exercised more cheaply than at present and have been stalling over the funding. This presents the DUP with a terrific excuse to match the government with their own stalling under the slogan ” don’t rush it”. Meanwhile, there hasn’t been a word of intelligent public debate about law and order economies. All we get is this sort of vague warning from the new chair of the Policing Board Barry Gilligan, who seems little better informed than the test of us. Still, it’s a poor lookout if Peter Robinson can’t even face a semi-public appearance in Downing St on the issue.
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