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

donate to keep slugger lit