Okay, ignore the Grauniad’s misidentification of Nigel Dodds as the leader of the DUP, and focus on the subject of the Op Ed…. In contrast to most of the political mudslinging that passes for politics in Westminster these days, the tone is incredibly relaxed and polite.
Before he gets to the main course, here’s the opener:
It’s a pity if the two – current – main parties can’t make themselves attractive enough to most voters, but it explains where we are.
I can’t claim the generation-long consensus between the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems over Northern Ireland has served the province well. But I acknowledge it exists. However, in the context of a hung parliament, it’s irrelevant.
While we, naturally, will always want the economic and social interests of the people of Northern Ireland as a whole protected, politically we would not seek to exploit for narrow and selfish reasons any leverage at Westminster over devolved matters.
That’s why we have Stormont and the power-sharing executive, to which we’re committed.
The Stormont House talks demonstrated once more that whatever turbulence parties like Sinn Féin might attempt to introduce with their threats to upend the process, we’re determined to make devolution and power-sharing work.
He makes it clear what the price is, and that it would be in a strictly UK wide context:
On social justice, we think Westminster can learn from what we did at Stormont over the bedroom tax. Despite the need – agreed across the political spectrum – to reduce public expenditure, we were determined that this failed policy should not be extended to Northern Ireland. It is time in the next parliament that the inhumane and ineffective consequences of the bedroom tax are revisited in the rest of the UK. [emphasis added]
It’s hard to describe the actions of any party in Northern Ireland as having an actual strategic impulse (although that does not stop many journalists and commentators from doing so). You need modest realisable targets for that, and a willingness to compromise.
But as a strictly tactical move, whilst Sinn Fein, as David notes, try to get back control the message in this debate, this looks like a measured and timely attempt to outbid any future pitches by Sinn Fein for a larger welfare budget.