Mark McGregor is of course right. At the very least the disclosure of the d’Hondt private run by the Executive Twitter account was a violation of the Assembly’s right to be first to know. It was like that in 2007, and is now. However there probably is some justification for it, given that such an important series of events almost certainly benefits from being run free from the procedural constraints of the Assembly floor. That said, it is of course procedurally meaningless, and Peter Robinson remains free to pick Education first on Monday morning.
What is not justified, is the Executive Twitter account giving a live rundown on the choices for which Assembly members will hold it to account. The fact that the legislature and executive have a degree of separation in the Westminster system, indeed most democratic systems, is high school stuff, not high political theory. It is a gross violation of the separation of powers for the Executive to assume any role whatsoever in Assembly business, particularly Assembly business concerned with holding the Executive to account.
Who is responsible for upholding the Assembly’s rights and privileges? It’s the Speaker and one could almost describe it as “protecting” the Assembly. Willie Hay does not have a good track record of protecting the independence of the legislature from the Executive.
So what will Willie do? One course of action would be to rebuke the First and deputy First Ministers. On which point, I notice that the description of the conventions concerning impartiality of the Speaker on the Assembly website no longer outlines that the Speaker cuts all ties with his party on appointment. I assume this must be conducive to ensuring that “members must be confident of the impartiality of the Speaker”.
Jolly good then.