The world after double jobbing – learn to be good ministers.

In a welcome sign that we no longer need or deserve special treatment, it’s clear that Northern Ireland is not going to remain the one area where multiple mandates are allowed, as noted by Mick and Pete. Looking ahead, now that devolution is more or less established, the profile for most senior public representatives inevitably shifts away from their role as parliamentarians and focuses on them as ministers. This may create difficulties for the DUP in particular, with their games of musical ministerial chairs, but there it is. In the past, I agreed with Malachi below that multiple mandates made some sense, for three main reasons.

1. In the absence of a local administration, they allowed politicians to build authority at home as a counterweight to violence – Sinn Fein included.

2. Election to Westminster enhanced their prestige and therefore their bargaining power.

3. In the early stages of devolution, leading MPs from Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland who were also devolved ministers could form effective and well-briefed informal caucuses at Westminster to raise matters of common interest and raise the level of devolution awareness, which remains persistently low. However, NI MPs, particularly the DUP, didn’t do nearly enough of this and tended to stay severely apart, except latterly, when we saw Paisley and Salmond flirting with each other. In any case, there’s nothing to prevent joint lobbying from continuing in the next generation in several forums. The framework is there, waiting to be exploited.

I share some unease about the expenses tail wagging the mandate dog. Whatever the abuses, democracy is about more than value for money. However the time has come to end double jobbing. The alleged precariousness of the Assembly is no excuse; indeed ending multiple madates t should concentrate minds to make the Assembly work better. It’s true though that the overall UK devolution settlement needs better networks of co-ordination..
It’s true that the overall UK devolution settlement needs better networks of co-ordination. Now that Labour dominance has ended in S and W and tension over the Barnett formula for financing the devolved areas is increasing, the original nods and winks of memoranda of understanding and concordats need to be put on a more formal footing at cabinet, civil service and parliamentary levels ( see Constitution Unit Devolution and the Centre monitoring Report May 2009). . Such reforms may be unpopular in some quarters in Whitehall which prefer to divide and rule, and with devolved administrations wanting to keep cards close to chests, but they are now being discussed under Department of Justice sponsorship.

A Secretary of State for Nations and Regions should replace the territorial So Ss. As the recession bites, the system of joint ministerial committees should be used to head off some clashes of interest and issue public reports. The British-Irish Council remains the best model for intergovernmental relations including those with the Republic. And the newly dubbed and enhanced British-Irish parliamentary assembly is a decent forum for exchanges between public reps from all the parliaments in our islands. All in all, there are plenty of spaces here for politicians to strut their stuff. As you can see, they’re not exactly overused.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    As SF dont take up their Westminster seats then presumably they will have a strong and reasonable case for an opt out of so-called double jobbing – ocassional visits to an overseas parliament hardly counts as a second job.

  • Panic, These Ones Likes It Up Them.

    we could certainly do with some new talent(any talent?) coming into the ranks. Maybe this one man one job might let some others (women, gay, black or rainbow) onto the scene.

    I am bored with straight(as far as we know)white guys fighting over the hetrosexual comb.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Panic, These Ones Likes It Up Them,

    what an apposite handle for such a conversation – what about the quarefellah from Newry – Paul Berry?

  • joeCanuck

    Panic,
    As I wrote on another thread, there would appear to be such a lack of talent that recently the DUP had to stand an Assembly Minister for a council post in Fermanagh.

  • Panic, These Ones Likes It Up Them.

    SammyMcNally

    What do you mean (scratching my head pensively)

    You have to ask yourself why you have gone down that line of thought.

    I am sure the Dads Army writers had completely(? ? ?) innocent conotations to their words as I have (oh yeah) with mine.
    Have I trapped you or let you OUT.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Panic, These Ones Likes It Up Them

    Such naivety, in these times that are in it, is refreshing.

  • Brian just doesnt understand. He thinks not only the Northern Irish but the Scots and Welsh should confine themselves to their reservations and not involve themselves in the politics of the UK

    The story here is not about being ‘good Ministers’ it is about how the Robinson’s greed is going to be curtailed

  • USA

    I agree with the comments that the end to double jobbing certainly will concentrate the minds of Assembly ministers. For if they let the whole thing go south then they are out of work, no guaranteed Westminister MP salary (and expenses) to fall back on.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Elvis,

    re. “7.Brian just doesnt understand. He thinks not only the Northern Irish but the Scots and Welsh should confine themselves to their reservations and not involve themselves in the politics of the UK”

    Well most Nationalists in Norn Iron think that too – given that they dont want their MPs wasting their time travelling to an overseas parliament. It has not done Unionism any good truning up, being betrayed (according to themselves) and largely ignored – why bother anyway when they can simply go straight to number 10 like Robbo does if something important crops up.

  • Framer

    To prohibit double jobbing is not fair to the electorate who may want an representative in both parliaments.

    Indeed it may contravene the ECHR.

    It is best dealt with by stopping the salary and all expenses at Stormont if someone is also elected to Westminster.

  • fin

    democracy is about more than value for money

    It is indeed Brian, but, getting rid of the financial incentive for been involved in politics should result in people with a real interest in democratic politics coming to the fore.

    On a slightly different note, its a shame no slugger blogger has done a post on the PUP’s clash with the UUP in Stormont over the causes behind the conflict in NI, many people on here highlight and complain about the narrow ‘tribal’ narrative of politics in NI, yet here was Dawn a unionist pointing the finger at unionism as the reason. Its even more surprising as the arguement involved her pointing out to a middleclass unionist that his parties opposition to a republican ministers policy on education was condemning working class unionist kids to a crap education.

    the unionist posters here continually discuss unionism as a block, a single entity, yet here is a small party rocking the unionist boat. Its refreshing for nationalists that for once the debate among unionist politicans was not about just how much you hate republicans, but rather how unionist politicans were failing unionists on a real life subject. GO Dawn!

  • cut_the_bull

    The big Unionist parties possibly fear the PUP as much as they fear SF.
    The peasants are not shouting from the sidelines any more.
    No they’re in the face of upper class unionism in the big house on the hill.
    No longer being told whats good for them, but making decisions in relation to the needs of a largely ignored working class unionist community.
    Oh the times they are a changing

  • Comrade Stalin

    Dawn talks a lot of sense. Unfortunately working class unionists won’t vote for her party. Why exactly that is is not immediately clear. It’s not the paramilitary angle, because they have no problem voting for paramilitary linked figures who are involved with the DUP or UUP, and Dawn herself has never been a member of a paramilitary organization.

    I do not know whether or not it is illegal to ban double jobbing. Fundamentally, I think it should be up to the electorate to decide whether a candidate is capable of representing them effectively, just like it should be up to the electorate to vote for a candidate in the full knowledge that he/she may not take his/her seat.

    Furthermore, this report hasn’t been implemented yet. I would expect both Sinn Fein and the DUP to request that the double jobbing be permitted to continue for the time being, using the stability of the political process as an excuse. The DUP would have a hard time building up credible candidates to take over its Westminster seats in such short notice, which would create an opportunity for the TUV. Life would also get very interesting for Sinn Fein; does Gerry Adams go to Westminster or the Assembly ? (not that it makes a lot of difference as he is never in the assembly anyway). And then what happens if the Assembly falls ? All of a sudden you’ve got all these senior SFers out of work.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    fin,

    Dawners also came out with a scorcher at the party conference “You get no sense of the poverty, the slums that passed for houses, the sectarian rants and rabble-rousing politicians threatening to fight to the last drop of everyone else’s blood”. Perhaps it is not an original line about the blood – but I hadnt heard it before – obviously a chip off the Irvine baock.

    Perhaps there should be a Slugger political quip of the year – that would get my vote.

    The PUP also had something on their website which was less than complimentary about Repbulicanism implying that the United Irishmen were good eggs whose tradition has been thrashed by the IRA. Interesting stuff.

    re. Education – it was disappointing that the recent Education debate in Stormo was not covered here on Slugger as Ruane was excellent and dealt confidently with all the harranguing – last time I heard her she was very poor – perhaps Grizzly is putting the Stormo bunch through their paces.

  • alan56

    CS
    I think your view that the paramilitary link has not been a problem for unionist voters is wrong and proved electorally. The UDP disappeared and the PUP are not exactly growing massively. Overt links to a paramilitary organisation is the ‘kiss of death’ for a unionist party.

  • John East Belfast

    cut the bull

    cut the bull

    You would be better staying silent and letting everyone think you are an eejit rather than posting on here about unionism and confirming it.

    The PUP is not on any mainstream unionist’s radar and the majority of “working class” unionists dont vote for anyone.

    and Alan is totally right in that the unionist electorate (ie those who do vote) have no time for so called loyalist paramiliteries either

  • Comrade Stalin

    alan56:

    I think your view that the paramilitary link has not been a problem for unionist voters is wrong and proved electorally. The UDP disappeared and the PUP are not exactly growing massively. Overt links to a paramilitary organisation is the ‘kiss of death’ for a unionist party.

    So why didn’t the UUP suffer electorally after Trimble cavorted with Billy Wright at Drumcree (this event did not harm Trimble’s career – in fact, it contributed to his rise to UUP leader), and why didn’t the DUP suffer over Ulster Resistance or the 1978 strike they organized in concert with the UDA ? And several current low-level DUP individuals have paramilitary histories. They do, of course, say that it’s all behind them ..

    Why didn’t the UUP get punished by the unionist electorate for supporting Hugh Smyth as Lord Mayor of Belfast, and subsequently supporting Frank McCoubrey and Hugh Smyth (again) as deputy Lord Mayors in later years ?

    The electoral evidence is that UUP and DUP politicians do not lose votes for associating with loyalist paramilitaries.

  • alan56

    CS

    Trimble covorting with Billy Wright… rubbish..
    anyway whis is it that the only unionist group that have enjoyed real growth recently are the TUV and they are no friends of loyalist paramilitaries. Also the DUP did suffer as result of Ulster Resistance link. They only became the lead unionist party when the unionist electorate realised that they too were up for a settlement.

  • alan56

    for whis read why !

  • Comrade Stalin

    Also the DUP did suffer as result of Ulster Resistance link.

    Now that they are the largest unionist party, would you concede that the electorate forgave them ?

    Face it, Alan. Unionists don’t get punished by the electorate for associating with paramilitaries. In fact, going by often unionist politicians are willing to stick up for paramilitary interests (like the DUP speaking up for the enquiry into the murder of Billy Wright), they clearly feel they have some kind of responsibility for them.

  • Comrade Stalin

    By the way, you evidently aren’t aware that there was TV news footage of Trimble talking to Billy Wright at Drumcree. And indeed wagging his finger at RUC lines.

  • alan56

    CS
    Of course I was aware of this. I covered this story. But it was you that used the word ‘covorted’. Trimble did indeed talk to Billy Wright…. to tell him to back off. Was he wrong to do so?

  • fin

    is there a narrative emerging along 3 strands
    1)the established old school unionist UUP/DUP/TUV which is maintain the union at all costs, and no conversation regarding the man in the street, they should be happy just because the union is secure

    2)middle ground, SDLP/PUP/Alliance making NI a better place for the people.

    3)Nationalist, SF, this is where it gets interesting, SF, gets a great deal of flak from strand 1 for creating a stream of talk- possibly not well delivered or with a great deal of content- but wanting a united Ireland, but not the old school united Ireland and thats it it will all be be fine afterwards but a united Ireland for reasons of benefit to all.

    The SDLP obviously can also be lumped in with SF quite easily, the Alliance claim to be neutral on the union and so could fall into 3) in the future.

    Someons claims that working class unionists don’t vote, really. Dawn is not the first working class unionist to rock the boat, however previously that voice of discontent at the status quo came from people like Gusty Spence. Can working class unonism find a political voice, can it get these ‘new’ voters out on election day? and who should be more scared if they do?

  • aquifer

    At least in Westminster elections you have the prospect of some cross-community votes for a ‘least sectarian’ candidate such as Alistair McDonnell in South Belfast. In the Assembly the ultras always get elected.

  • Comrade Stalin

    alan56:

    Of course I was aware of this. I covered this story. But it was you that used the word ‘covorted’. Trimble did indeed talk to Billy Wright…. to tell him to back off.

    You were there ? You have minutes of the discussions ? I’d love to read them.

    If you were not there, of course, then you are simply making excuses for what amounts to negotiating with active terrorists.

    Was he wrong to do so?

    According to Trimble and his party at that time (1996) yes, it was wrong to talk to terrorists – even ones that were on ceasefire, which Billy Wright was not.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    CS,

    In an interview re-run on Slugger in the last few months Trimble stood over remarks made by Bill Craig about Vanguard liquidating the enemy and being prepared to fight. In the context of betrayal by Britian (ie a greater role for the government of Ireland in 1974) this could only have meant a resorting to ‘terrorism’ and we all know what it means for Northern Nationalists when ‘Ulster’ decides to fight.

    I understand Wee Reggie was also manning the barricades at that time – perhaps a bit of work there for the HET?