Government by tweet is a curse as it fends off searching inquiry. Twitter is a blessing for the non-information strategies of government by politburo. I’ve never known a time when it’s been more difficult for political correspondents to do their jobs. Is Liam Clarke of the Belfast Telegraph right when he fears a slow slide to a snap election? What would that change? What about a border poll? Yet another ridiculous distraction. At best it’s a sign that the public would like to get it out of the way. At worst it’s evidence of the poverty of political debate about the real issues that affect people’s lives. Will Sinn Fein be punished by the voters for refusing to accept Westminster austerity at a cost only to those same voters? You bet they won’t. Today George Osborne ups the ante about continuing cuts without the slightest thought about Northern Ireland politics.
What’s behind the unrest in the DUP? Guilt over their dismissal of Paisley? Personal ambition thwarted by the policy of rotating offices, a move necessary in a system which makes a party’s dismissal from office by the voters all but impossible? I’m obliged to Newton Emerson in the Sunday Times (£) for making an attempt to explain. As Theresa Villiers has apparently granted Peter’s request for separate consideration of North Belfast parading, he feels the DUP can no longer resist all-party talks on parades flags and the past. Some in the DUP disagree.
Talks maybe, but to what end? We are no clearer. And while they get around to talking about the past what about the deadlock of the budgetary crisis over welfare? Do Sinn Fein have an exit strategy for their brinkmanship with Westminster? Do they feel they don’t need one as their voters are four square behind them?
Obama said notoriously a few weeks ago that “we have not yet a strategy” towards Iraq and Syria. They have one now, sort of. In our tiny theatre can anyone detect the bare bones of a strategy or are we fated to stay bogged down in petty scheming pretending to be politics? My feeling is that they are all in a monstrous sham fight which shows only contempt for the public interest.
While the public show many signs of wanting to come together, as voters they retreat to the default because of their fears and lack of trust of the other side, as expressed by the political parties. This is an indictment of our politicians who can’t even plead major public pressure for refusing to work together better. It is a cycle which could be broken. The deadlock is largely the product of their introverted and self serving approaches which unfortunately are an unintended consequence of the power sharing system which continues to defy reform.
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