I just happened to be in Westminster this afternoon when first of all David Cameron breezed past followed shortly afterwards by a very sober looking Peter Robinson and a smiling, glad-handing Martin McGuinness as they made their way to the ‘putative’ Prime Minister’s official chambers… I managed to grab a quick interview with Owen Paterson shortly afterwards (of which more later).
First this letter from the PM to Sinn Fein and the DUP. Slugger understands that it was sent to the FM and dFM on Monday of last week, on condition that they could not share it until they had completely agreed a deal. Ever since the Tories have been jumping up and down saying that the letter should have been shared with the other parties in the Executive (see the beginning of Hearts and Minds last Thursday).
Paterson for his part is playing the ‘we’re playing a straight bat on this, in other words they we stand by a committment to fund any increased pull on resources in response to further civil unrest:
“We have always supported the final stage of devolution and endorse the main elements of the financial proposal. It is now to up the four party coalition on the Northern Ireland Executive to resolved the final details.
He was quite animated in wanting to hammer home this point about it being a decision for the four parties of the Executive, and not simply the two incumbents of Stormont Castle… In all other respects they are backing Labour. This is all endgame stuff for Labour, who are trying to manage the end of the Brown era by ‘redding up’ a few outstanding issues.
How Shawn Woodward thought he could exert pressure by telling them not to disclose the contents of the letter conjures just how much the Labour government seems to have ‘unlearned’ in the last few years about constitutional nonsenses.