Nationalist Parties need to shift away from the “blame the Tories” narrative and embrace the Welfare Reform debate

Nationalism needs a new economic narrative and if you didn’t believe that before, the complete debacle over Welfare Reform is proof positive of the inability to construct a proper narrative on our current economic situation or a long term strategy for fiscal rectitude and a prosperous economy.

We are faced at the moment with a budgetary crisis that puts our very institutions in jeopardy. After all the stop/starts, false dawns and talks about talks, we seemingly had broken the pattern with a durable form of devolution.

As I write this, we are hearing speculation from political leaders about the Secretary of State possibly taking Welfare powers to Westminster which could bring the whole house of cards crashing down around us. After all, what self-respecting government stays in office when they have so monumentally failed to come to an agreement over something as important as social welfare?

Chris Donnelly has regularly commented about the need for Nationalists to make Stormont work. On this I cannot possibly agree with him more. Nationalists have to be about taking more powers away from Westminster and shifting the political centre of gravity to Ireland. This was something that Nationalists did with such confidence over the policing and justice issue.

We actually have at the moment a strategy that not only emphasises Northern Ireland’s fiscal dependence on Westminster but seeks to continue it and entrench it into the future.

When did it become desirable objective for Irish Nationalism to go with a begging bowl to the Conservative government every time we have a problem?

Why are Nationalists not using this opportunity to have a real debate about raising revenue locally?

Instead of saying “blame the Tories” and “we need to protect the most vulnerable” 10 times a day, why not say “here we have some local powers we can use to mitigate these changes, aren’t you glad we have devolution? And would it be a great idea if we have more powers out of the hands of Westminster?”

But nope, this debate is seemingly off limits.

Another thing that bothers me about this entire debate is the idea that Northern Ireland can be sheltered from world events.

I follow politics a whole host of countries from Australia, New Zealand to Canada and every single one of them are debating these issues. The idea that we are somehow immune or isolated from it, just merely heightens an insular world view, rather than seeking to look outwards and following some best practice from around the world.

I don’t want a Nationalism that spouts rhetoric from the 1960s and seeks to follow the economic policies of the 1970s. We need to move off talking solely about welfare and seek to talk about work.

I have lost count of the number of small businesses I have worked with who literally started out as an idea on a piece of scrap paper or as mere thought conjured up on a car ride home. That type of entrepreneurship and how we enhance it has just been totally lost in this debate.

We need to show that aspiration, prosperity and wealth creation are good things and that wanting a better future is something to be encouraged. Yes, it’s okay to have a good standard of living and it isn’t a bad thing to move on and move up.

And being self-critical of my wing of the argument, we need to also recognise that it is important that the prosperity created is used for good purpose and to provide others in society with a ladder of opportunity.

But none of this is being debated because we are all too busy blaming the Tories and trying to press pause on economy that has been stagnating for years.

There is such an opportunity here for Nationalism to break out of its comfort zone and really change the dynamic of politics and debate here.

The Welfare Reform debate can be the catalyst to show that when it comes to the crunch it’s our local politicians who really matter.

We spend so much time fawning over Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP, but we forget that the SNP have largely sought to make their own luck and forge opportunities for themselves.

Nationalist parties here need to be pro-active and use this debate to not threaten the institutions but move the centre of politics away from Westminster.

So far this just isn’t happening.

In short, Nationalists need to take the Welfare Reform debate head on, make a deal, secure the institutions and get the project back on the rails. Nation building is a hard business and this is something not to be missed.

We cannot afford to let Stormont fall.

We cannot afford to let this opportunity pass us by.

Finally, we really cannot afford to forget how nations are built.

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  • Surveyor

    I’d just be happy for them to pay a living wage you right wing nutter.

  • Virginia

    “failed to come to an agreement over something as important as social welfare” is not a reason for a state government to throw in the towel. The education of young people, the maintenance of infrastructure and the physical security of citizens and their homes are far more important. Social welfare is not “that special”. And neither are the politicians.

  • Robin Keogh

    Why insult someone just because they have an opposing view?

  • Skibo

    Not strictly true. We get 2K more per head to provide the same level of facilities as worked out by the Barnett principles. Is it modernising or privatising you would prefer to see?

  • Virginia

    Society is judged by the number of people who use their talents to improve themselves and the society.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    Name and shame those that don’t pay a living wage and while you are at it define a living wage – a London living wage or a Belfast living wage. It’s just socialist cliches. Big business bad / workers good…

  • Skibo

    Failed to come to an agreement is not the same as being forced to accept a failed system. The system is not working in the UK so why bring it in here? The schools are still open, pot holes are getting filled to a certain extent and the police are still hiding behind the bushes clocking speeders. Social welfare is ultra important. It is the catch net for those who fall on hard times. Some have turned it into a business and yes clamp down on them but don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

  • Skibo

    I disagree, society will be judged by how they treat the weakest in that society

  • Virginia

    It is also judged, as the author said, by the society’s fostering of entrepreneurship.

  • Skibo

    Big business does not subsidise welfare. The majority of the money cones from direct and indirect taxation with those who earn the least paying the largest proportion of their earnings. If you can increase the earnings of the lowest paid you actually increase tax take as they spend at home and increase their proportion of indirect taxation.
    I have no hatred of big business but you will find the subsidies offered to them are horrendous. When they get caught pilfering their tax the sums allow them to pay off a percentage while you and I will be pursued for every penny. If you don’t agree, try not declaring a bit of overtime to the child tax credits system.

  • Skibo

    The majority of those employed are done so through small and medium employees i.e the entrepreneurs you mention. They normally pay around the minimum wage so their employees are actually part of the welfare system as they will be in receipt of tax credits. You want them to take the brunt of the cuts?

  • Sergiogiorgio

    You are right to an extent. Welfare is funded through taxation of individuals, most of whom ( in mainland UK anyway) work in the private sector, that is, business. To arbitrarily increase the wages of the lowest paid you have to accept some will loose their jobs as business revenue minus costs (primarily salaries) equals profit, and when margins are squeezed people are laid off. The other alternative is tax reduction to the lowest paid which this and the last coalition have reduced year on year, so rethink your dislike of “big business”, as frankly, they pay the bills.

  • 23×7

    Even the term “welfare” is horrible and assumes it’s recipients haven’t paid for the insurance through their salary.

  • 23×7

    The fact that you equate banking with big business is embarrassing. Banks produce or create nothing.

  • 23×7

    Yet another tired cliche. The banks were pretty happy to accept socialism when they went tits up in 2007/8. Capitalism would surely have seen them fail and go out of business.

  • Skibo

    Public employees pay tax also. Like i said previously I don’t hate big business but I do believe the government bend over backwards to keep them in the country. A similar treatment of small to medium businesses may be better spent. These businesses are less liable to up and leave for better tax concessions elsewhere.

  • Surveyor

    Amazon for one don’t pay a living wage, not that it matters to you as you’ll probably make an excuse for them. I’m more interested in why you seem obsessed with benefit claimants despite them making absolutely no difference to your life whatsoever. Hypothetically if there was full employment tomorrow would you be paying significantly less tax than you are paying currently?

  • Robin Keogh

    huh?

  • Surveyor

    Everyone pays tax, VAT on goods ensures that they do.

  • Robin Keogh

    Yes all of us on the island will pay for it all

  • Robin Keogh

    Yes and there are no fixed criteria under which he is obliged to come to that conclusion. By the way you are trolling again…thats usually a sign of immaturity or senility.

  • Robin Keogh

    Where did i redefine the law?Are u ok Chris, u seem to be a bit off balance

  • Skibo

    Last one i can find was the Irish Times in 2012 where 64% backed a UI with only 8% against

  • Robin Keogh

    so ur take on southern society is based on the antics of O’Brien? Good lord

  • Skibo

    And public service employees pay income tax and national insurance

  • Robin Keogh

    The last referendum was on equal marraige Chris, whats up with you man !!??

  • NMS

    K, In the old Stormont, the balanced budget concept was debased going back to the 1920s and there were a variety of adjustments made, including reducing effectively to nil the NI contribution to the central Uk or Imperial budget as it was then described. The “balanced budget” at a regional level was a sham. However in the past, a higher proportion of money spent locally was raised locally by way of charges or rates within local authorities. There has been a dilution of that source of income (South & North) over the past forty years.

    The proposal from London is just to reduce the size of transfer so in effect to retain a Uk safety net, if closer to the ground. The conflict arises in the sense that the NI parties like spending, but don’t really like income raising. At the same time, there has also a greater dependence on State spending.

    The UK is moving towards a less centralised model and this includes funding. Northern Ireland is screwed one way or the other.

  • NMS

    Chris – I am not sure how you deal with it. In Dublin I watched various so-called left groups oppose bin charges. The charges were reasonable for a decent service. They of course disrupted the funding of the service, led to it being disposed of to the private sector. The household charge has fallen, the condition for the employees have dis-improved dramatically and the wider service such as street cleaning and recycling have suffered.

  • NMS

    An Leon Dearg – Rates & Corporation Tax are of course two different things. Corporation Tax is paid on profits,rates are based on a property charge, which is the deemed cost for the use of local services. Part of the problem, is that the business which pays a lot of rates and probably employs a lot of staff, may make a very small profit. I think Kris Nixon could write a detailed piece on that. Whereas another business not dependent on a well located large property, may make a substantial net profit. Think Mick Fealty and his computer.

  • NMS

    Chris I am happy to have a referendum on the issue any day.

  • NMS

    C – I have no doubt it will be hammered in Ireland (the State) and in UKNI. This would result in a island wide majority.

    I am happy to have the referendum anytime.

  • Robin Keogh

    OK Lets do it then

  • Croiteir

    No it does not legally underpin virtually everything. It just underpins the power sharing executive that I dearly wish to fail

  • Croiteir

    They di not have to settle for anything

  • Croiteir

    Which is one reason alone why it should be ditched

  • Croiteir

    Your nationalist?

  • murdockp

    Define weakest. The hoods in West belfast getting their benefits and motability cars don’t strike me as being weak or vunerable

  • Gopher

    Its the parable of the art dealer and the buyer.

    One day a long time ago individuals within a country suddenly became very rich. Lets for arguements sake call that country the Republic of Ireland. Art dealers began to notice that paintings started to sell especially when the prefix “Irish” was appended to the artists name. Soon art began to fly out the gallery doors, demand was such that it encouraged anyone who could hold a brush, paint and was “Irish” to suddenly find talent that no one knew existed when the country was not so wealthy. Its almost as though art dealers had an Irish art oil well. Paintings that had hung around for years with no greater value than a compliment suddenly became an investment oportunity, the word “Irish” was taken as a most valuable providence. The price of those investments went up and up as the rush to find the next “big thing” in “Irish” art continued unabated, the next big thing one understands as the percieved value.
    The value of anything of course is only worth the price people are prepared to pay for it and one day later the economy crashed. Now all the people of that happy Republic were sad, all had an “Irish” painting but now its value reverted to its true worth. They tried to sell it back to the art dealers but they wernt interested not even at a fraction of its value they had galleries full of them, they tried to sell it to their family and friends but they all had paintings too. Now some of those painting arnt described as “Irish art” at all, they are post modernist, they are landscapes, they are modern. They are still not selling..

  • Old Mortality

    Skibo
    Actually, a good many of them, if not a majority, haven’t.

  • 23×7

    Completely incorrect. The vast majority of people receiving “welfare” have paid n.i..

  • Old Mortality

    ‘The nationalist parties in N. Ireland don’t seem to have a clue how to achieve this. They want N. Ireland to remain a welfare dependency of London.’

    That’s because the principal nationalist party built its support not only by killing people but also by assisting social security claims, helped no doubt by the implicit fear of ‘we know where you live’ among timorous low level officials. They can’t now tell people it’s time to get off their backsides and look after themselves, even if they know that’s in the best interests of Irish unity. There is no doubt that these issues throw nationalists into deep confusion

  • Sergiogiorgio

    I want to see the taxes I pay (and they are bloody significant) utilised as best as possible. I want them used to give our kids the best education possible, I want then used to provide NHS services for those in need. I don’t want them used so someone can sit at home and earn £23,000 pounds per year. If there was full employment tomorrow the tax take would increase and cumulative pot would increase, meaning there would be scope to reduce my taxes and the taxes of others. If you can’t calculate that then I suggest you go back to school.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    As I’ve stated before, and been castigated for, even though it’s a factual statement, public employees salaries are paid for by tax payers in the private sector, that is, businesses – small, medium and large. Public sector employees contribute nothing to my salary as its paid for by the “big business” I work for. Should said “big business” leave the UK then I go on Welfare. It’s not rocket science Skibo.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    If you can’t see or perceive the link between big business and banks then it’s not me that’s embarrassed.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    Well at least you have the decency to admit that government played their part in the collapse with their “light touch” policies. And I’m sorry but I don’t see where I deny the behaviour of the banks was the key contributing factor. My usual issue is this socialist misunderstanding that big business bad / workers good. The latter is totally dependant upon the former. It’s a shame your own party can’t grasp that economic reality when wearing its two faces in the Welfare debate.

  • Croiteir

    The devolved government of the six counties have only devolved powers, the govt in Westminster is the sovereign power. And I want to keep them on the hook of responsibility. Stormont is just the outworking of their ulsterisation policy and nationalists should have no part in that. No power should be allowed to reside outside of either Westminster or Dublin

  • barnshee

    Stop quoting those annoying facts The green filters on SF er filter them out

  • barnshee

    All the other taxes were the same

  • barnshee

    Boasting of the demographic tide in favour of Roman Catholics and then suggesting that young people driven out are “more likely to be Protestant” -some mistake surely?

  • Robin Keogh

    Boasting? or just staing facts backed by stats. It only appears as a boast to you because you don’t tlike having it pointed out to you. Rather than being churlish and juvenile about it why not try and engage around the topic.

  • Zeno

    LOL, brilliant.

  • barnshee

    Er the inability to control the trouser snake is hardly a something to boast about. If there is a “rising tide” of “republicans” ie MORE of them -where this an unemployment-due to job shortages then MORE Romaan Catholics than Protestants will be “driven out” Its aritmetic/proportion

  • whatif1984true

    Does any one else cringe when our politicians go running to the USA looking for attention like spoilt children. Do they have no perception of how they look to others. Playing politics with nearly every matter and crying NO.
    Can anyone point to any aspect of Welfare Policy that either Sinn Fein or the DUP have suggested that should be changed which will improve the system and get more help to the more needy.
    Suggestions to pay out more money is not Politics for Grownups.
    It is always so much easier to be in Opposition.
    To Lead you need to have New Ideas and Solutions to old problems and the gumption to stand up for your vision and ideas.
    Balancing means as one side goes up the other goes down. Simple concept except for Sinn Fein.

  • whatif1984true

    You are making a mistake saying earning £23,000. Someone sitting at home and getting £23,000 into the hand/expenses paid is getting a lot MORE. How much do you need to be getting as a Gross amount to get £23000 into the hand.
    I am not saying that there are not circumstances where someone should be getting the £23000 in benefits but when discussing benefits and wages we are comparing apples and oranges. Comparing benefits to wages when wages are gross and benefits are net.
    Example :How much is a DLA car actually worth in pretax income.
    Indeed why are DLA cars replaced after 3 years (KIA have 7 year warranty, Hyundai and Toyota 5 year warranty). Why are they bought through dealers? Why is there not a simple choice of two or three cars (presuming different needs of disabled client) ordered on line and delivered/serviced by dealers under a global contract.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said. There is clear “graft” going on in Welfare. The DLA example you rightly mention. I’ve also heard the West Belfast stat on DLA trotted out that 1 in 4 receive it. If that stat is even close to being correct its a farce. A rip off to honest tax payers.

  • chrisjones2

    That’s just a SF myth. Hollowed out defeated and steered into politics.

    You even had the hated British PM’s adviser writing bits of your leaders speeches

    If you don’t believe how bad it was read this

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/gerry-adams-relatives-used-as-spies-by-british-military-intelligence-31268034.html

    In the end it seems that they were all over PIRA.

    And if you still don’t agree ask yourself how Bobby Sands would view SF Ministers sitting as MLAs in a British Assembly in the UK where every law has to go to Liz for her signature – the ultimate form of welfare dependency

  • chrisjones2

    Post GFA.

  • chrisjones2

    Oh Hasnt it all gone quiet in here. Connolly House not put out a Line to Take yet?

  • chrisjones2

    In the UK it was the banks.

    In ireland a key driver was the greed of people. It was us that did it, all ourselves. There was a huge housing bubble in which the banks and governments connived but which was led by our own belief that houses would grow in value forever and we could borrow and spend with impunity. That led to the problem.

  • Old Mortality

    Are you looking at the UK as a whole, or just NI?

  • Reader

    Robin Keogh:Nationalism manages 40% from a pretty subdued and unmotivated electorate …
    Do you look back fondly to the days when the nationalist electorate was highly motivated? Can SF get back to those glorious days? Or do you need more unionist help to enthuse the nationalist electorate?

  • LOL.

  • Ian James Parsley

    The UK can borrow (and has borrowed) a small amount for centuries.

    But it cannot borrow any amount. It has to borrow from someone. That someone will want to know with reasonable certainty that they are getting their money back, or they will charge a punitive interest rate (or will not lend at all).

    Currently the UK Government spends more (i.e. of what we give it in tax) on debt interest than on policing – almost half as much, in fact, as it does on working-age welfare. It is, at the very least, legitimate to ask whether that is wise and whether we should not seek to bring that figure down somewhat.

  • Ian James Parsley

    I don’t think that is a problem. Yet I support reform.

    The fact is, for a lot of people, it actually costs to take a job. That is morally wrong. Anyone who cannot see that needs to ask themselves exactly what kind of society they are trying to create.

    You tackle that problem, of course, not just through welfare but also through encouraging reasonable pay and reducing income tax. The Coalition had a 50/50 record there!

  • John Collins

    Try telling that to Bernie Maddock