On Friday night David Cameron made some remarks regarding the public sector in Northern Ireland. He commented, after saying that some parts of the UK have economies with state sectors of Soviet scale:
“In Northern Ireland it is quite clear – and almost every party accepts this –that the size of the state has got too big. We need a bigger private sector. There are other parts of the country, including in the north-east. The aim has got to be to get the private sector, to get the commercial sector going.”
Eamonn Mallie suggested that this reminded him of Harold Wilson’s “spongers” speech. For the record in that speech, Wilson said:
The people on this side of the water – British parents – have seen their sons vilified and spat upon and murdered. British taxpayers have seen the taxes they have poured out, almost without regard to cost – over £300 million a year this year with the cost of the Army operation on top of that – going into Northern Ireland. They see property destroyed by evil violence and are asked to pick up the bill for rebuilding it. Yet people who benefit from all this now viciously defy Westminster, purporting to act as though they were an elected government; people who spend their lives sponging on Westminster and British democracy and then systematically assault democratic methods. Who do these people think they are?
So we are comparing “who do these people think they are” with “and almost every party accepts this”. It has been well rehearsed that the DUP and Alliance Party are severely disingenuous in their outcries over this matter, but shouldn’t we expect better of mainstream journalism? It leaves the door wide open for accusations that the only people who see these comments as Wilsonesque, or scorched earth policies, are those who wish to believe that they are.