Last night’s leaders’ debate … and the draft programme for government (updated)

Opinion seems divided about the format and scheduling of last night’s leaders’ debate – available to view online. Personally, I liked the way that the format allowed the five party (northern) leaders to be put on the spot by members of the audience, tackling four areas each. It was at least as illuminating as the bickering bunfight that followed when the leaders got the chance to talk across and over each other.

BBC leaders debate still from above

Update to bear in mind when reading the following paragraphs … Peter Robinson has clarified that it’s not specifically the DUP Programme for Government.

It is not the DUP’s PfG. When I said “we had drafted a PfG” it was the Executive “we” I was using.

One insight that slipped out in the fray was Peter Robinson’s admission that the DUP had a draft Programme for Government up their sleeve so that they could make sensible decisions in the short period between election results and running d’Hondt.

This will have been music to Tom Elliott’s ears, who has been touting his “Game Changer” and the need for a Programme of Government to be rapidly agreed before carving up the Executive ministries.

In today’s Belfast Telegraph, Liam Clarke explains:

The DUP did not elaborate on the First Minister’s statement in what was a fairly quick-fire debate, or say whether he had agreed it with Sinn Fein. However, the DUP is thought to have proposals for a joint commission between Executive parties to tackle difficult issues.

It should be no surprise to anyone that political parties confident of results plan ahead. They wouldn’t be worthy of being elected if they didn’t. And it would be good to put their manifestos to some use!

However, to have had the political maturity – never mind the time – to review the contents between political partners DUP and SF would be quite a sign of maturity.

Further update based on twitter conversation:

  • alaninbelfast – Does the “PfG” simply reflect the recent Budget? Or is it post-budget with additional plans for delivery? Have UUP/SDLP seen it?
  • DUPleader – It is not inconsistent with the budget. (There’s a politician’s answer for you.)
  • alaninbelfast – (Politicians answer = answers half the Q!) Have all the parties/ministers had sight, or just DUP & SF?
  • DUPleader – It’s been the work of OFMDFM Officials in consultation with departments. It has not been brought for Ministerial approval.