“Trench warfare has erupted…”

Via Newshound.  In the Sunday Times Liam Clarke welcomes the “trench warfare” the parties are engaging in over the Northern Ireland Executive’s draft spending plans.   Apparently, it’s better than the sectarian squabbling that went before…  ANYhoo…  From the transcribed Sunday Times article

The eruption of public anger and megaphone diplomacy reflects the poisonous atmosphere around the executive table itself. McGimpsey needled the furious McGuinness by saying, “calm down Martin, don’t get so excited”. McGuinness and Robinson are both accustomed to getting their own way, as well as being leaders in struggling to implement a difficult budget. Yet, however annoyed they may get, there is little they can do to bring “semi-detached” McGimpsey or other UUP and SDLP ministers into line.

Under the St Andrews and Good Friday agreements, ministers are appointed to the executive by party leaders in proportion to their strength in the Assembly. Since only their own leaders can remove them, there is an incentive to dig their heels in rather than take responsibility for unpopular measures. This encourages a “silo mentality”, whereby each minister utterly controls his or her own fiefdom.

That worked well enough when there was plenty of money and a Labour prime minister at Downing Street generally willing to cough up whatever was necessary to keep the peace process on track. Now, after four years of political stability, that has changed. The all-party government is surrounded by checks and balances, “ugly scaffolding” as Mark Durkan called them, which make it hard to deal with the business of taking difficult decisions quickly. It is, in other words, approaching its sell-by date.

The problem is that the system makes no provision for the sort of formal opposition you find in most parliaments. There are no funds, no speaking rights, and no committee chairmanships for opposition parties; so there is an incentive to stay in government even if you oppose government policy.

Read the whole thing.

Adds  In the Belfast Telegraph, Ed Curran makes a related point.

Another week passes and Executive ministers continue to contemplate their collective navels, as they have been doing for months over public spending cuts.

The ministers employ more consultants and announce more public inquiries. No-one seems to be able to break the cycle of inaction.

The procrastination of our Stormont politicians is beyond comprehension. What are they playing at?

As Stormont sat beyond midnight last week, the five leaders of the south’s main political parties debated the future on television – not an encouraging experience, either.

They bickered among one another and engaged in blame games. None appeared willing to acknowledge any part in the Republic’s economic mess.

Meanwhile, the Stormont Executive continues to fiddle while Northern Ireland’s economy smoulders, if not burns. Property prices continue to fall. The percentage of unemployed worsens by the month.

No-one may be lighting any bonfires on Malin Head anymore, but the leaving of Ulster is under way again in earnest and a message of despair is ringing out across this island. Never was political decisiveness and leadership more needed. Seldom can it have been so sadly absent.

, , , , , , , , , ,

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Actually I like it.

  • Pete Baker

    Adds In the Belfast Telegraph, Ed Curran makes a related point.

    Another week passes and Executive ministers continue to contemplate their collective navels, as they have been doing for months over public spending cuts.

    The ministers employ more consultants and announce more public inquiries. No-one seems to be able to break the cycle of inaction.

    The procrastination of our Stormont politicians is beyond comprehension. What are they playing at?

    As Stormont sat beyond midnight last week, the five leaders of the south’s main political parties debated the future on television – not an encouraging experience, either.

    They bickered among one another and engaged in blame games. None appeared willing to acknowledge any part in the Republic’s economic mess.

    Meanwhile, the Stormont Executive continues to fiddle while Northern Ireland’s economy smoulders, if not burns. Property prices continue to fall. The percentage of unemployed worsens by the month.

    No-one may be lighting any bonfires on Malin Head anymore, but the leaving of Ulster is under way again in earnest and a message of despair is ringing out across this island. Never was political decisiveness and leadership more needed. Seldom can it have been so sadly absent.

  • The Word

    FJH

    Quite right.

    “The problem is that the system makes no provision for the sort of formal opposition you find in most parliaments. There are no funds, no speaking rights, and no committee chairmanships for opposition parties; so there is an incentive to stay in government even if you oppose government policy.”

    No conning people into believing that the opposition would much different than they would. Limited traction for false heroics. Maximum opportunity for the best of each party to lead. Throwing tantrums or whacking handbags looks so false.

    If it wasn’t for those twits the voters put in, it would work very well indeed. It’s just a matter of educating those voters about a few things.

  • “This encourages a “silo mentality”, whereby each minister utterly controls his or her own fiefdom.

    That worked well enough when there was plenty of money” LC

    It may have worked after a fashion and Ministers may have taken advantage of a few opportunities that have come their way but transparency and accountability get very low ratings. Some of our supposed watchdogs, including the MSM, have failed to make timely interventions in the public interest.

  • iluvni

    I wonder if Sammy Wilson still believes he’ll raise £10million a year when he levies rates on empty homes…and does he still believe that the housing market is ‘beginning to move again’ ?

    http://www.northernireland.gov.uk/news/news-dfp/news-dfp-june-2010/news-dfp-29062010-empty-homes-to.htm

  • Cynic2

    They disagree? Bears ….woods …….

  • joeCanuck

    If it wasn’t for those twits the voters put in, it would work very well indeed.

    I deny that. The system is the only one of its kind in the world that I know of and it was an experiment to try to bring a modicum of peace to N.I. That was laudable and successful to a degree but it’s essentially unworkable. But since they are now talking to each other and showing some respect, I would dedicate the next Assembly to finding a better way. There is a desperate need for a proper opposition.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I dont know how its the responsibility of the Assembly to make sure it works. And certainly not the responsibility of any Party or individual Party.
    Sinn Féin in particular have no interest in an internal system working. Their attitude was always “Heads or Tails we win”.
    Havin four parties in opposition to any minister at any given time means theres actually too much opposition for a coalition. Not enough.
    We have five parties in Government.
    Four in opposition.
    And the last time one of the five governing parties was not in government, they did a heck of a lot of crawling to get into it.
    The whole Agreement sinks or swims together.
    Those most agin our strange government arent really concerned about the arrangement itself ….but rather the fact that the DUP and SF are running it. Thats what really pisses the bloggers off.
    There were no crocodile tears when UUP (Trimble) and SDLP (Mallon) were running things. No grea principle of government and opposition at stake.
    It wasnt supposed to be like this…..Sunningdale for slow learners after all.
    A revival of UUP fortunes and SDLP fortunes at the May Election will rapidly change the bloggers minds again.
    But the thing that really gets them is that the electorate and not the bloggers decide.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I don’t really buy much into this “we can’t go into opposition unless somebody gives us some money” thing. Alliance provided opposition in its own small way. The party didn’t need extra funding or advisers to be able to challenge the Executive’s line. I don’t see why a party such as the UUP, with more MLAs available to look into things than Alliance does, should see the financing of a couple of advisers to be a fundamental prerequisite.

    It’s the DUP and SF who between them have the ears of the government. They’re not likely to give consent to an arrangement where the other parties would be subsidized to oppose them in government. So the only chance you really have of changing things is if some kind of crisis arises that causes the government to grind to a stop.

    This is really all just pre-election flimflam.

  • Comrade Stalin

    There were no crocodile tears when UUP (Trimble) and SDLP (Mallon) were running things. No grea principle of government and opposition at stake.

    The basic problem is that the UUP and SDLP have been completely outdone by the DUP and SF, so now they’re clutching at straws.

    A revival of UUP fortunes and SDLP fortunes at the May Election will rapidly change the bloggers minds again.

    Indeed, or possibly a rise in Belfast Telegraph circulation figures.

  • joeCanuck

    FJH,

    If it’s not the Assembly’s responsibility and not the responsibility of the parties, then whose is it? David Cameron and/or Enda Kenny?

  • The Word

    “The system is the only one of its kind in the world”

    Do you really think that that’s going to be the case for long?

    The systems there because it rids the world’s “democracies” of the phoney wars that we’re hearing lauded here. Eventually there’ll be no need for parties.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Have to agree with Comrade Stalin here…well mostly. Fighting DUP and SF is really a better option than complaining about the rules……for the very good reason that theres a lot of areas where DUP and SF are vulnerable. Whether its “Water” or “Education” or “CSI” or jobs (how many people in Derry will lose civil service jobs as a result of SF budget support?) theres a lot of snapping at the ankles of SF politicians to be done….and the SDLP seem to have a few politicians who are in SF faces….relentlessly.
    I prefer to see the UUP (unlikely) and SDLP doing that .rather than sulk.
    I fully take Comrade Stalins point about Belfast Telegraph sales but it is a counsel of despair to think that theres no room for improvement in the anti-SF/DUP vote.
    Alliance can hope for a modest improvement. Extra seats in East Belfast and North Down……maybe Upper Bann if they handle it sensibly.
    SDLP I think can also be reasonably optimistic.
    Im not sure about UUP.
    But AP taking a seat in Executive as of right and the possibility of SDLP taking two rather than one seat at Executive level has to be a target.

    Is Comrade Stalin suggesting an Alliance landslide? Hardly. Or just more or less the same again. I have a feeling that there will be movements of the pendulum in May.

  • joeCanuck

    If there are no parties the thugs with the biggest guns will take over. Haven’t you noticed?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Mr Canuck,
    Theres no incentive for anyone to behave “responsibly” (ie do what other parties want). All they need is a mandate.
    If its the responsibility of Kenny and Cameron to find a Sunningdale” for very very very slow learners……then the whole thing unravels. On the wish list of the Overclass for quite some time.

  • The Word

    You may have noticed, joe, that that’s already the case.

    I believe in God. Your argument doesn’t arise in my mind.

  • joeCanuck

    Well, God hasn’t done much a job of his wonderful creation, has he (she?). How many children did he cause to suffer and die today.
    Mind you, if he made us in his image, that explains a lot.

  • Comrade Stalin

    fitz, I am not completely convinced that people will buy the rather shallow argument that they should vote SDLP (or UUP) to oppose the cuts and/or job losses. The cuts are unavoidable, each of the five parliamentary bodies in these islands are being compelled to implement them. Of course, if the SDLP/UUP come up with a more imaginative plan then things will get interesting, at least we can have a debate which is what this is all supposed to be about. I’m not fantastically optimistic that this will happen.

    You may have been interested to note that Alliance announced two candidates for Upper Bann earlier this week. One of whom is Harry Hamilton.

    I personally think Alliance is in line to gain at least two or three seats provided the campaigns are run properly and effectively, and I am confident that this will be the case. It would be a mistake to underestimate the SDLP as a challenger although I think they’ll be doing well to hold at their current level. The UUP will lose, the question is, how badly. UUP types are privately preparing themselves for the worst.

    I don’t see this as a reason to despair, I will relish the day that the UUP disappears for good and I’m ambivalent at best about the SDLP. I’m not at all disturbed by the prospect of Martin McGuinness as First Minister any more than I was disturbed when Third Force “don’t come running to me when they burn you out” Paisley took the job. The principle I voted for in 1998 was that there we would have to all learn to work together and put the past behind us. In that spirit, McGuinness is a fine statesman and I think he is serious about making this place work. Likewise the DUP, they’re not the extremist force they once were, and they are all the stronger for it. I commented in another thread that I see the main differences between them and the UUP as questions of competency, drive and constituency work. The DUP vote is pretty much a sure thing, but they go to lengths to ensure that you feel that they have earned it.

    I do not see that Alliance have an entitlement to the justice ministry. Obviously I think Ford is the best man for the job and I know that he puts inhumane hours in behind his ministerial desk. But if the day comes when the Assembly can jointly agree that there is a better candidate – as they did when the first Speaker was elected – I’d consider it progress, very much not a setback.

    The Word, you are that John O’Donnell bloke from Derry who thinks he’s Jesus, I claim my five pounds.

  • Mark

    Father O ‘ Donnell ….?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    The argument that the SDLP (and UUP) are making about opposing cuts…..may or may not be shallow. But it may get some votes. That’s what matters.
    But first off in relation to Harry Hamilton. I had heard that he has been added to the Upper Bann ticket and as always Im glad to see that Alliance Party feels able to take my advice that this is the one case where fast tracking makes sense. I expect that Mr Hamilton will win a seat or at least go very close. And of course I understand the local sensibilities of long standing AP members that allows Ms McQuaid to save face and still be on the ticket. But it’s a reasonable assumption that Mr Hamilton is APs lead candidate here….but of course you may wish to state that all AP candidates are equal.
    You will understand that before I commit myself to making predictions in respect of May elections, I must finish off my spreadsheets, look at demographic data, look at previous elections, look at the geography and listen to my gut feeling……before basically guessing. Don’t let any analyst tell you that its more scientific. We are all spoofers at heart.
    But lets start with two assumptions. The first I agree with you….the Alliance will gain two or three seats. A second in North Down seems likely (all kinds of scenarios there including a person not yet declared……who might well on victory discover his AP credentials are still there after all). A second in East Belfast and the afore-mentioned Upper Bann. You may of course wish to add North Belfast and East Derry as “winnable” . Personally I think not. But wherever the balance of probability is that these seats (lets say three) will be gained from UUP which you correctly state is under pressure and like you, I will not mourn UUP being consigned to the dustbin of History. They are the weakest piece on the board.
    Yet by definition if the UUP are not losing seats (on their left)to the Alliance Party, they will be losing them to the DUP. The balance of probability is that IF UUP lose say five seats, it will be 3:2 in favour of AP.
    Again if the SDLP stay where they are (as you put it) it effectively means that Sinn Féin stay where they are. My feeling……..and we are a long way off Election.is that five SF ministries and just one SDLP ministry is not representative of nationalist/republican feeling and that the nationalists/republicans will make that adjustment. As I understand it a net gain of two seats will guarantee a second Executive position. That has to be the target and is probably attainable. Please note my qualification. Moving from 16 to 18 might well be possible (allowing for the rub of the green in County Antrim seats and Strangford) and the near certainty in West Tyrone. There are three key things…..the SDLP seems to have a few people prepared to take on Sinn Féin, have some good strategists, and a few other things Im noticing at council level.

  • The Word

    Comrade/Mark

    I’m sure your respective employers know much of my views. Each of you may be in government but with a begrudging admission that on all issues they are not in power, or with a powerful position.

    Maybe they’re even hurting now that the squeeze gets really tight. Always do the right thing, that’s what I always say, if you want to live your life in peace.

  • “I know that he puts inhumane hours in behind his ministerial desk”

    CS, my friends in the north approached a range of elected representatives for support in the Rathlin ferry saga. David is a regular visitor to the island but AFAIK all he asked about was this:

    “To ask the Minister for Regional Development what time the last ferry sailed from Ballycastle to Rathlin on Mondays and Fridays in (i) September; (ii) October; and (iii) November, in 2008 and 2009.”

  • LC: “The UUP is currently pushing for funds to allow an opposition, and the DUP are expected to release a paper on this before the election. The SDLP are also looking at the idea, and voluntary coalition is Alliance party policy. … Last week Conor Murphy, Sinn Féin’s regional development minister, said bluntly that neither of the [UUP and SDLP] parties would be much missed.”

    Would the DRD Minister be much missed – in or out of opposition? He’s been dogged by bad news stories during his time as Minister and the MSM has paid insufficient attention to his apparent ‘micro management’ of NI Water. He made a comment recently that pipework needed to be buried more deeply but didn’t elaborate. NIW folks told me today that there’s an air valve problem in the design of the new plastic mains network. They said that the valves in old system were well buried in the ground whereas the new ones were much closer to the surface and were quite vulnerable under severe frost conditions.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The Word, ah, so you are John O’Connell or whatever. I thought I knew that mix of anti-SF “John Hume is Jesus” stuff from somewhere. I’m not an Alliance employee or elected party official. Just a supporter. I’ve given up trying to decode your weird mystical ramblings so, have fun.

    fitz, I know nothing about the split or the ordering of things, only that there are two candidates. Sheila McQuaid has been a councillor for a while and sits on a number of community forums/etc. Harry will obviously have a high profile in his own right.

    The UUP are being squeezed on both sides. The DUP have moderated to an extent that it’s acceptable to vote for them (or transfer to them) in a way that was not possible ten years ago. They’ve stopped wrecking and have dramatically toned down the rhetoric. They still manage to set their public image as being tough and uncompromising but fair. I think that works. It won’t work with the hardcore F the pope types of course, but they’re lost anyway.

    The split of ministries between the SDLP and SF is disproportionate but it is, of course, an outworking of the system that the SDLP championed during the GFA talks. I am not so sure that people will vote so that the ministerial split is enhanced .. it’s a bit like trying to vote for a hung parliament. I am, on the other hand, wondering how much SF will be damaged by NI Water, education, or Gerry’s move Southwards. It would be very unsafe to bet that they will suffer much. I am far from a pseophologist though.

  • 241934 john brennan

    “In the south, mad red Sinn Fein lashes out all round, about an austerity budget which could strangle an economic recovery and drive more people into poverty. In the north, deep Tory blue Sinn Fein lashes out at the SDLP for making precisely that same case about the budget, which SF is implementing with the DUP on behalf of the coalition in London.
    Maybe it was disgust that made Gerry Adams head for Dundalk.

  • Reader

    Comrade Stalin: I don’t see why a party such as the UUP, with more MLAs available to look into things than Alliance does, should see the financing of a couple of advisers to be a fundamental prerequisite.
    I agree about your manpower and money issue. What might allow for a more effective opposition would be to run d’Hondt down the list to committee chairmen as well as ministers. A party that wanted to go into opposition could hold off on ministerial positions and have the pick of the committee chairs instead. That could suit Alliance as well, I guess.

  • Neil

    Not this guy: http://www.johnoconnell.org/Revelation.htm?! Thinks Adams and Paisley are the anti christ, used to be John Humes left testicle?

  • “The principle I voted for in 1998 was that there we would have to all learn to work together and put the past behind us. In that spirit, McGuinness is a fine statesman and I think he is serious about making this place work.” … CS

    Our thoughts don’t coincide. I voted YES in 1998 but I recognised the contradiction between the tug-of-war constitutional ‘settlement’ and the opportunity to develop a shared society here and strong relationships with our neighbours across these islands.

    Statesmen are very thin on the ground. The bloke’s a joke, not a statesman; a cross between a gombeen politician and a Mafia godfather who just happens to have the patronage of London and Dublin – and a mandate which is an insult to the families and friends of the victims, dead and alive.

  • “The principle I voted for in 1998 was that there we would have to all learn to work together and put the past behind us. In that spirit, McGuinness is a fine statesman and I think he is serious about making this place work.” … CS

    Our thoughts don’t coincide. I voted YES in 1998 but I recognised the contradiction between the tug-of-war constitutional ‘settlement’ and the opportunity to develop a shared society here and strong relationships with our neighbours across these islands.

    Statesmen are very thin on the ground. The bloke’s a joke, not a statesman; a cross between a gombeen politician and a Mafia godfather who just happens to have the patronage of London and Dublin – and a mandate which is an insult to the families and friends of the victims, dead and alive.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Comrade Stalin….excellent answer re McQuaid & Hamilton. Exactly the one I would have made myself if I was an Alliance Party member. :)…..although interestingly I did not suggest there was a Party “split” merely that adding new boy (but higher profile and possible winner) Harry Hamilton to a certain losing ticket (long standing member McQuaid) is the best way of dealing with local sensibilities.

    Traditionally in places where two candidates stand, areas are divided between them. Will be interesting to see how this pans out in Upper Bann and see if it differs in North Down for example…..and whether poster designs are different.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I dont really want to comment on “Martin McGuinness being a fine statesman”. History will judge. But it is perhaps a surprising comment from an Alliance Party source. Perhaps my memory is playing tricks but not Comrade Stalin suggest that he might give DUP his second preference vote at one stage.

    No big problem with second preference votes. Even if people dont fall out over first preferences……second preference votes really do produce a lot of sterile non debate……….but is it a sign of the times (budget) that AP finds it has more in common with Sinn Féin and DUP than SDLP and UUP.
    Of course it perfectly ties in with my theory about the difference between rivals and eneies in politics.
    ie……the SDLP and UUP are not enemies of AP but are certainly rivals and therefore cannot be supported.

    For myself, when I voted a resounding Yes to the Agreement, I was totally aware that Creative ambiguity was the achilles heel. It cant be all things to all people and any “re-negotiating” or “progress” had to be resisted.

  • fjh, it would appear that some AP folks are still affected by the fog of ambiguity when, say, it comes to policing; perhaps blinded by the spin.

    Kevin McAuley, photo-journalist, independent DPP and an Independent candidate in the forthcoming local elections, has been prepared to speak openly about what he sees and hears, despite efforts at censorship by a range of state-paid officials. He’s got no great appetite for crumbs that might fall from the top table.

  • 241934 john brennan

    THERE’S A HOLE IN THE BUDGET

    There’s a hole in my budget, dear Peter, dear Peter,
    There’s a hole in my budget, dear Peter, a hole.

    Then fix it, dear Sammy, dear Sammy, dear Sammy,
    Then fix it, dear Sammy, dear Sammy, fix it.

    With what shall I fix it, dear Peter, dear Peter?
    With what shall I fix it, dear Peter, with what?

    With a grant, dear Sammy, dear Sammy, dear Sammy,
    With a grant, dear Sammy, dear Sammy, a grant.

    The grant is too small, dear Peter, dear Peter,
    The grant is too small, dear Peter, too small.

    Demand more, dear Sammy, dear Sammy, dear Sammy,
    Demand more, dear Sammy, dear Sammy, demand it.

    How shall I demand it, dear Martin, dear Martin?
    How shall I demand it, dear Martin, how?

    With a gun, dear Sammy, dear Sammy, dear Sammy,
    With a gun, dear Sammy, dear Sammy, a gun.

    But the gun is empty, dear Martin, dear Martin,
    The gun is empty dear Martin, empty.

    Then load it, dear Sammy, dear Sammy, dear Sammy,
    Then load it, dear Sammy, dear Sammy, load it.

    With what shall I load it, dear Martin, dear Martin?
    With what shall I load it, dear Martin, with what?

    With bullets, dear Sammy, dear Sammy, dear Sammy,
    With bullet, dear Sammy, dear Sammy, bullets.

    Where shall I get them, dear Martin, dear Martin?
    Where shall I get them, dear Martin, get them?

    Buy them, dear Sammy, dear Sammy, dear Sammy,
    Buy them, dear Henry, dear Henry, buy them.

    With what shall I buy them, dear Martin, dear Martin?
    With what shall I buy them, dear Martin, with what?

    With money, dear Sammy, dear Sammy, dear Sammy,
    With money, dear Sammy, dear Sammy, money.

    Where shall I get it, dear Peter, dear Peter?
    Where shall I get it, dear Peter, where?

    From the budget, dear Sammy, dear Sammy, dear Sammy,
    From the budget, dear Sammy, dear Sammy, the budget.

    There’s a hole in my budget, dear Peter, dear Peter,
    There’s a hole in my budget, dear Peter, a hole.

  • That’s discrimination, JB; you left out Dave, Maggie and Tom 🙂

  • The Word

    Comrade Stalin

    I’m sure Alliance would be glad to rid themselves of your support. A sociopathic Alliance Party member. That’s interesting. But, you know, if the British goverment wants to pay you for your service, who am I to throw a spanner in the works.

    Of course I never throw spanners in the works. I just shine a light on these things.

    Thank you, Neil.

  • 241934 john brennan

    Here is a recent statement from that unlikely SDLP Rottweiler, Dolores Kelly

    “It is clear that in an attempt to distract from a shambles of a budget that Sinn Fein has now decided to indulge in black propaganda.

    The SDLP has not held any discussions with anyone with regard to the funding of an opposition in Stormont. In any case, it is Sinn Fein who is happy to accept millions of pounds from the British Government at Westminster for their party, while failing to represent their constituents.

    Unlike Sinn Fein we do not indulge in secret meetings. We conduct our business in the open and again unlike Martin McGuinness can recollect all our meetings, whatever their nature.

    It was only a few weeks ago the Secretary of State was praising Mr McGuinness, coincidently around the same time the deputy First Minister and Sinn Fein were meekly accepting Tory cuts.

    Martin McGuinness should drop the slurs and get serious by confronting the tsunami of evidence, growing by the day, that the SF/DUP/Alliance budget is not fit for purpose.”

  • “We conduct our business in the open”

    Well, apart from business with Dublin’s DFA that is processed through BIIGS and isn’t subject to parliamentary scrutiny. Unless Dolores has been out of the loop …

  • joeCanuck

    Does a pair of wellingtons protect against trechfoot? How important is the rural vote?

  • Comrade Stalin

    fitz, when I say “split” I am referring to how the election will be planned in terms of which candidates will focus on which parts of the constituency. To maximise the vote all parties have to manage their split carefully, as you said. Getting it right requires someone who really knows their stuff.

    I’m not really an Alliance Party source, I do not speak for the party. There are certainly people who disagree with me. I think my view is balanced in that I believe that Paisley deserves a great deal of credit for coming right in the end and leading people down off the barricades. There are definitely people in Alliance who disagree with me on that one. I am not religious in any way but I do believe that forgiveness is the right course especially if people try to make amends for what they did in the past. I’m sure I read that in the bible somewhere.

    I will be transferring to the DUP after Alliance up here in East Antrim because they are serious about their constituency work and because, warts and all, they are keeping things moving and selling the deal to their supporters. The SDLP have little or no presence, SF likewise, and the UUP are pretty much dead as far as I am concerned.

    Incidentally my opinion on McGuinness wouldn’t extend to Adams. There is a fundamental difference between the two and I have a suspicion that the next term in Stormont will see more progress now that Gerry is out of the way.

  • “East Antrim because they are serious about their constituency work and because, warts and all”

    CS, I’m told that some folks in East Antrim keep a close eye on NALIL blog – something to do with developers. Do you have a ‘community’ organisation similar to Castlereagh’s Hanwood Trust?

    Your benign view of the likes of McGuinness appears to be shared by quite a few people, presumably for a wide range of reasons. I hope it’s not widely held by Alliance politicians.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Oh Comrade Stalin, I think youre being far too modest. While you may not actually speak for the AP, Im sure any Alliance MLAs reading this might say Comrade Stalin is one of us. You never seem off-message. Im sure if you went into a room where the AP Executive was meeting….or the Parliamentary Party……..theyd all know who you are.

    But Im glad you confirmed your second preference choice for May.It surprises Nevin perhaps but not myself as it fits perfectly with my “Enemies and Rivals” theory.
    The average AP voter or supporter sees things differently. The traditional AP voter might well see UUP or SDLP being the next choice on the political spectrum.
    The political insider might see them as rivals for the same vote rather than the nearest thing to their views.
    Of course in the case of Alliance Party 2011…..there is the factor that David Ford got his job courtesy of DUP & SF…and they are all new best friends because they agree on the Budget.
    Incidently Im agreeing totally that DUP and SF have moved a long way. I believed that even before David Ford was spending inhumane hours behind his Dept of Justice desk.

    But this is as much about Tactics as it is about Principle. No harm in that. I have written about Second Preference Votes…..but my theory is that it is something Political Parties love to get (from friends/rivals) but are relunctant to give (to rivals/friends).
    In East Belfast the SDLP probably doesnt mind that second preferences would end up with Alliance Party. Les be frank the AP will be factoring that it.
    Likewise in Fermanagh/South Tyrone the Alliance Party wont mind if the second preferences end up with SDLP. They factor that in also.
    It is divisive to advise supporters to send their second preferences in a specific way……..except of course in a bland way.
    An interesting experiment is to take a spreadsheet and list the 18 constituencies and assume you vote AP as #1 in each of them. Your #2, #3 #4 might go to completely different parties in different constituencies……and of course you might justifiably claim that theres local factors…..the constituency work of an individual but surely for Party insiders or analysts…there has to be an element of tactical voting involved. How can my vote be influential beyond that #1.
    Do I support those closest to my views (my friends) or do I damage those closest to me (my rivals)?
    But Strangford and East Antrim are not Fermanagh-South Tyrone and East Belfast.

    So lets look “up here in East Antrim” where there has been a traditional safe seat, usually boosted by “unwinnable” nationalist/republican votes.
    2007 and 2010 (slightly different boundaries) provide some clues.
    Further caution advised because in the FPTP Election there is no real incentive for AP or nationalist/republican voters to actually turn out.
    About 4,500 will be the quota in May.
    2007 AP get 4,700 votes (15.8%) Neeson 3,100 and Dickson 1,600) clearly a safe seat.
    SDLP get 1,800 (6%)…..(SF get 1,200 ….4%)
    SDLP got about two thirds of SFs transfers on elimination. and about one third of APs transfers (Neesons election).
    The final candidate to be elected without reaching quota was a UUP man comfortably 900 votes ahead of the “seventh man”….SDLP.
    So with respect Comrade Stalin it is just silly to say that the SDLP “have little or no presence”
    Now of course you may well believe that they have little or no presence but then you would not be able to claim that North Belast (5% of vote) and East Derry (5.5%) are winnable for AP…as they would be even less of a presence.

    If we move to 2010, the combined nationalist/republican vote actually increased to 13.5%. AP dropped to 11%
    In terms of the possible quota (say 4,500) AP on just 3,400 votes seem further away from a quota than they were in 2007 when they exceeded it.
    SDLP are 300 votes closer at 2,000.
    SF (actually 50 votes ahead of SDLP in 2010 but will struggle for transfers) with potentially two thirds (1,500 votes going towards SDLP) which certainly brings SDLP more into the race than before.

    Now Im not suggesting that SDLP win the seat.
    Nor am I necessarily suggesting that any gain would be at the expense of the AP seat.
    Nor am I suggesting that AP will lose a seat.
    Nor am I suggesting that AP & SDLP cant both win seats as there could well be a loss of a UUP seat.

    But what I am suggesting is that AP does have a fight on its hands for its seat. And any AP strategist would know they need UUP & SDLP transfers and need to stem any leakage to these parties. So tactically its a good move for AP to give a #2 vote away from SDLP or UUP.
    What surprises m is the dismissal of SDLP as having little or no presence there.
    You cant con a conman 😉