Rattling the begging bowl one more time is a bankrupt strategy

Why are Executive leaders squealing together “fight the cuts”  in this fashion when it’s so divorced from reality? It’s just the sort of loser’s strategy that produces panic in the system and bad cuts as a consequence when it fails, as Oxford Economics have warned. Times really are a- changing, why don’t they recognise it? Have they really no other shots in the locker?

It’s one thing to use Keynesian arguments in NI’s favour, quite another to try to convert the St Andrew’s Agreement of 2006 into a legal charter guaranteeing at least £18 billion capital funding over 10 years. It’s so left field it’s out of the park. In any case the capital funding is in the budget already if the Executive so chooses to designate it.

Adds  In  an interview with UTV’s Ken Reid, David Cameron dismisses claims that pledges to NI weren’t being honoured.

“We are honouring the budgetary support for Northern Ireland. If you take specifically for instance the issue of security and policing, I agreed from Opposition with Gordon Brown a very generous package to make sure we supported the devolution of policing and justice matters.”

“People in Northern Ireland should know that I believe in the UK and I want to keep the UK together. I will support Northern Ireland and have talented ministers there and I will always listen to the representation of the parties there. I want to make sure the Northern Ireland economy is a success.”

 Very politely  this prime minister seems to be refusing to give into the old version of  NI exceptionalism. Yet  he has surely given all the assurances he can here,  in advance of the comprehensive spending review on October 20.

The only case I can think of for such hopelessness  from FMDFM  is that the cuts for NI may turn out to be more manageable than trailed as I’ve suggested here,  and that local ministers will then disingenously claim whatever credit is available.  But let no one be fooled. However measured, NIs share of UK public spending is better than fair and the comprehensive spending review is unlikely to change that. But if local ministers spend the next few months of campaigning in a holy alliance of Blame the Brits for everything, they’ll all be regressing even further into political cloud cuckoo land.

Adds  More from the Cameron interview.

“It’s going to take 25 years to move Northern Ireland from the position where the state is such a large part of the economy to a position where it is a more reasonable part…. 

“We have to be flexible. Northern Ireland is a special case because the state takes up such a large share of the economy”, Mr Cameron said.

“But I would say to the people of Northern Ireland that they know and we all know that we have got to have a transition so the private sector gets bigger and the commercial sector gets bigger and we get proper economic growth and over time the state takes a smaller share of the economy..

If we put off these decisions, if we decide to do nothing, if we take Labour’s advice and do it all later, the interest bill mounts up and the debt gets worst and the cuts would have to be worst”, Mr Cameron said.

It would be a false choice, for Northern Ireland included, if we were to put off these difficult decisions; like your credit card bill the longer you leave it the worst it gets; the deeper the cuts would have to be.”

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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