Here’s Stephen Walker’s segment from last night’s The View on the prospect of Stormont of having an opposition. The fact that there seem to be very few takers (bar Jim Allister, who has prospered greatly from being the only recognisable ‘opposition’ MLA).
Allister in fact is a good example of how Opportunism can have positive effects. In as sense he’s translated the old anti agreement objection to government with Sinn Fein in an essentially liberal one of there being no means of ‘chucking out the bums’.
Indeed he is consistently the one who makes the most cogent arguments for proper oppositional arrangements. It is proof positive that what’s been proposed under the Stormont House Agreement is far from a value proposition to anyone in the cheap seats on the Executive.
As Stephen Farry is showing in his limited role as Higher Education Minster when OFMdFM provide you with the means to force your liberal agenda through a real policy issue (amalgamation of Stranmillis and St Mary’s training colleges) you can only be in a position to pursue that agenda if you have executive power.
So, Martin McGuinness can be pretty certain that none of the smaller parties will go for the new arrangements, as of now at least. They only have strategic value if you use them to keep someone else out of power. Or, perhaps to make the strictly tactical point that the current membership of OFMdFM needs to change.
In this latter regard, any such arrangements could prove a decent tactical base. Mr Allister’s TUV would need some kind serious parallel partner on the nationalist side if he is ever to realise his ambitions for a real opposition.
With nationalism stagnating north of the border, that looks unlikely for quite some considerable time to come…
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty