Let Cameron’s Respect agenda be mutual

I suppose there’ll be a fair amount of clashing chords in the mood music ahead of David Cameron’s visit to Belfast just as there was from Alex Salmond before the Edinburgh trip – which went well, as it happens. God, how they live up to their stereotypes, these Celtic fringers, the new Home Counties Etonian Prime Minister will be biting his tongue not to say.

In full pomp Martin McGuinness asked the inevitable question: how could Cameron act as an honest broker in the peace process while fighting SF in elections? It’s a Twitterish point I know, but these days you can actually form a coalition with a party you fought against, Marty, haven’t you noticed? Your starter for 10, on which of these islands did political opponents not form a coalition? You’re right, the Isle of Man. Compared to the coalition-forming, honest brokering is a breeze – not that it we should need so much of it any more – haven’t we all grown up a bit now?

In today’s comment  Liam Clarke impressively dismissed fears of the dire consequences of unionist disunity. He argues the paradox that  it’s unity not it’s opposite  disunity that could have the unintended consequence of reviving militant nationalism. Remember the days when Paisley was the Provos’ best friend?

When I’m in a twitter mood, I’m sorry to say that some of my old trade just don’t get it over the coalition. Journos like young fogey Fraser Nelson, desperate  to keep their non-consensual role,  keep asking how it can possibly work after all the bad things they said about each other during the election, which he diginifes as  “ideology.”  The point is the other way round. Parties exaggerate their differences during theatrical events like elections and PMQs while quietly getting on with it in lots of ways behind the scenes. Coalitions can be closer to the truth than the party battle. That’s why I start with high hopes for this one.

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

  • Garza

    Its amazing how only the British parties have to be honest neutral brokers. No word if FF if they run here would be an honest broker, or SF if they ever got into government in Dublin – which I suppose is unlikely.

  • Michaelhenry

    i noticed that a gay couple are sueing the pants of a B and B in cookham berkshire for not being allowed to stay in a double room that they had booked because of their sexuality, the civil liberties organisation liberty is acting for mr black and mr morgan in the civil case, eat your heart out adrin watson of the tory u.u.p party, you are not the only one.

  • Michaelhenry

    know your films, one of those gays that i have mentioned is called mr black, in resevoir dogs mr black would have liked the title of mr pink.

  • Paul

    The same ‘ideology’ is what keeps this part of the world afloat.

  • Cynic


    Nonsense. Perhaps we are behind in that approach but not more so than most predominantly rural areas and not in the younger generation or indeed the middle aged. Many of us know gay people, have gay friends or work with gay people and realise that they are all just like the rest of us. The only people who raise this tend to be gutter politicians seeking votes from an increasingly narrow constituency

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    “but these days you can actually form a coalition with a party you fought against, Marty, haven’t you noticed?”

    You might have also noticed that the 2 communities here have been, until realtively recenty, at each other throats at least in part because the British have not been an ‘honest broker’ i.e. they turned a blind eye to the Orange state and then militarily tried to prop it up and that hardly compares to a polite dust-up in the shires between between the Tories and LibDems.