Thumbs down for Peter’s coalition strategy

Alan Trench points out the wider implications of Peter’s offer to Dave.

The price would be to shelter Northern Ireland from budget cuts through the Barnett formula.

Such a policy, if the Tories were to adopt it, would seriously undermine the idea of a Union. It would reinforce the existing (and huge) disparity in levels of public spending in Northern Ireland and in other parts of the UK, which has been declining in recent years. It would reduce the incentives for the devolved government to reform public services (which have largely missed out on the reforms of the 1980s, never mind those of the 1990s or under New Labour), or to bolster other aspects of Northern Ireland’s economy. And it would be impossible to reconcile with the needs-based approach to funding that Cameron has promised in Wales (though, curiously, not in Scotland), reported in the Western Mail here.

Twisting it that far for Northern Ireland simply invites further twisting elsewhere, and rewards those who can shout loudest and act in the most aggressive fashion. For a party committed to a strong defence of the Union who boast in their manifesto ‘we will not put the Union at risk’, it’s a high-risk strategy.

Actually Dave threw in ” based on need ” as one of the soothers in the La Mon speech. Can it be that he doesn’t know how Barnett works? Not that I’d entirely blame a former Treasury special adviser from the Home Counties for that.

 

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

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