Pause in politics can give rise to a deeper contemplation of our own violent past…

For arrogance and hatred are the wares peddled in the thoroughfares. How but in custom and in ceremony are innocence and beauty born? Ceremony’s a name for the rich horn, and custom for the spreading laurel tree. –A Prayer For My Daughter, WB Yeats Interesting to debate with the estimable Malachi O’Doherty on Talkback this afternoon over whether there should have been a pause in the election campaign. He almost won me over with the one line that our pausing is … Read more

We should envy the people of Manchester their sense of solidarity, but defiance in the face of killers is not enough

British reaction to the Manchester atrocity has not yet reached the level of reproaching the authorities for “ the one that got away.” But it soon will, if the reaction to 7/7 is followed. MI5’s investigation into Crevice threw up 55 individuals associated with the plotters. MI5 said it would have liked to have pursued all of them. But it was a matter of resources and only 15 were seen as “essential” targets. The remaining 40, including those later identified … Read more

Political leaders’ first thoughts on #Manchester…

An abbreviated round-up of the reaction of Irish political leaders north and south to last night’s bombing in Manchester…. Arlene Foster, DUP… We all stand in solidarity with the people of Manchester and must unite in condemnation of those who brought terror to so many families as they enjoyed a concert. Whilst terrorists can bring pain and grief, the kindness and generosity displayed by the people of Manchester has already shown that they will not win.” Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Fein… … Read more

London View of #GE2017: Quick thoughts on the latest polls and manifestos…

The poll trends remain good for May and Labour. The Tory strategy to liquidise UKIP and neutralise the Lib Dems could hardly have gone better. They have an average 17 point lead over Labour in all the polls in May. The perception which has concreted is that they will not just win but do so by a landslide. That still seems the most likely outcome. However their colossal leads have precipitated two unexpected events; a bolder than expected Tory manifesto … Read more

Over the cliff edge – what would happen if exports to the EU were subject to tariffs

The continuing deterioration of relations between the British Government and the European Union has led to a renewed focus on the possibility of a hard Brexit, where all trade between the UK and the European Union would be subject to tariffs in line with WTO rules. Previously, I had written about how Northern Ireland would bear a disproportionate cost of a hard Brexit, due to cross-border exports of dairy playing a substantial segment of the local economy. Under WTO rules, … Read more

Theresa May’s local victories are good for the Union cause but give no comfort to special status fans

  A note of caution is needed about  talk of a Tory landslide on 8 June. Although UKIP was obliterated in the GB local elections,  Labour might have done even worse. Michael Thrasher’s projections of the local results to the general election “ for a bit of fun” on Sky News   works out a majority of  48 seats, up a respectable 36 but well short of a landslide and barely worth  the trouble of calling a snap election. John Curtice, election … Read more

Labour facing real risk of wipeout as their polling slump continues

The past days have seen a number of opinion polls released ahead of June’s General Election, and they continue to make grim reading for the Labour Party. The ComRes/Sunday Mirror poll gave the Conservatives a 50% share, double that of Labour on 25%. The last fortnight has continued to give Tories a vote share in the high forties, whilst Labour have been languishing far behind on the low to mid twenties. Were these results to be replicated in the election … Read more

The problem with the Lib Dems’ anti-Brexit strategy

The snap General Election called for June 2017 would appear to be a significant opportunity for the Liberal Democrats. In contrast with Labour’s mixed messages on Brexit, the Lib Dems are offering a much clearer stance on Brexit, positioning themselves as the party who will stop a hard Brexit and keep the UK in the single market. Could this year’s election provide an opportunity for the Lib Dems to become the party to speak for the 48% of the UK … Read more

A centrist alternative to the UK Labour Party?

It’s worth reading this first… …being an equidistant centre party is good for winning votes and terrible at winning seats. That’s three questions anyone wanting to set up a new centre party has to answer, just as a preliminary: What does your proposed party stand for? How are you going to build an actual party, not just an HQ? How are you going to win Parliamentary seats and not just accumulate wasted votes? Once they’ve got the answers to those, … Read more

Is London’s Anglo centric unionism fundamentally at odds with unionism in the devolved territories?

If you read nothing else this week, try this fascinating insight from Richard Wynne Jones, director of the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University (where I’ll be speaking in few weeks), into what may turn out to be one of the key drivers in pushing the United Kingdom apart: English nationalism is a curious concoction, combining a rather unlikely sense of grievance about how England was treated within the devolved UK with a sense of entitlement and even superiority about the UK’s place in the … Read more

Gordon Brown storms in with a “third option” for Scotland and the UK. The ideal compromise, or too much, too late?

  Churn over Theresa May’s flat refusal to allow Indy ref 2 continues unabated. The reality of identity politics is proving a lot more complicated than the dream. The big move today is Gordon Brown’s “third option” of a federalising UK  of which more in a moment. But first a verdict on yesterday. May was caught short by Sturgeon springing the referendum demand on her. Did  the prime minister  over-react in haste and did she have only herself to blame … Read more

Gerry Adams ups the ante on Unity, just as it comes under fresh critical examination

 Gerry Adams knows  exactly  how to deploy  sweet reasonableness as a weapon and end up  with a perfect circle of  obstruction. He had had several “businesslike, friendly engagements” with DUP leader Arlene Foster since the talks began, and he had “no reason to doubt” she was innocent of accusations over the “cash for ash” Renewable Heat Initiative which precipitated this month’s Northern Assembly election. However, the affair needed to be “properly scrutinised”. Why block a resolution of the impasse if … Read more

Theresa May’s fightback to support the Union through Brexit is only work in progress. The Irish are creating a benign vision of a United Ireland. Do the British want to match it?

The imminence of triggering Article 50 has at last woken up the British government to the reality of the threat to the Union. In a reported forthcoming tour of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to explain a negotiating  position that has seemed to ignore them,  propping up support for her “beloved Union” has become  Theresa May’s priority. Her first line of defence  will be  to  convince the massed ranks of critics that a “hard Brexit” is a misnomer which  does … Read more

The Pipe Will Never Be Fat Enough: Four Reforms To Deliver Competitive Broadband

When the government recently pledged ‘gold standard full fibre’ broadband, a collective cheer went up. For a short while, until we reflected upon the fate of most such announcements, the realities of stuttering broadband, and the prospect of dealing with one of the big providers. The history of this industry says the ‘gold standard’ will not happen without four major reforms (skip to the end to see them). Just how much of the pledged £1bn will end up in fibre … Read more

“Which means, I presume, that both Sadiq Khan and Kezia Dugdale approve of the SDLP’s aspiration…”

George Kerevan offers us one of the more extreme possible outcomes, ie that Sinn Fein will overtake the DUP giving Michelle O’Neill the job of First Minister, but he also makes this rather elegant blow against UK Labour for its disciplining two NI members for daring to run in Northern Ireland: …the sharp-eyed among you will have noticed that there are no Labour Party candidates standing in the Northern Ireland Assembly elections. Indeed, Labour has just expelled two of its … Read more

Scotland and Northern Ireland move centre stage, says Downing St. ” Save the Union” is the mission

Well what do you know? At the beginning of a very busy news week, the Times leads with a real revelation from right under their noses. After months of  patting the wee Celts on the head with bland assurances that Brexit will be fine all round, “sources “ now say that  “concerns about Scotland and Northern Ireland were discussed at last week’s cabinet.. and the impact of Brexit on the UKs devolution settlement is the government’s greatest concern about the exit … Read more

We missed out on Cressida Dick but the links between the NI police and the Met are strong

Congratulations to Cressida Dick who has overcome the pain and controversy of being the  Gold commander in the operation which led to the fatal shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005, to become the first woman Commissioner of the Met.  The Policing Board  here passed  her over for Chief Constable in 2014, preferring George Hamilton as  the first local man to head up the PSNI. Gender therefore isn’t everything, although her application suggested that the PSNI job could still … Read more

For UK Labour to lose the Copeland by-election would be historic…

Given how fixed things appear to be in Northern Irish politics, here’s an extraordinary piece of research from Matt Singh on what the precedents might be for Labour to lose the Copeland seat as a mid term opposition party: Maybe it won’t happen then? They’ve won other by-elections they were expected to be run close in. However, the presence of Sellafield there means Corbyn’s anti nuclear stance could make him a more active issue than he was in Oldham, for … Read more

Tony Blair has made the case for a rethink on Brexit and Northern Ireland will need a new financial deal. Is anybody listening?

Hurtling at us like a comet but unnoticed by the local worthies is the prospect for repatriating powers direct from Brussels to Stormont, Holyrood and Cardiff Bay. Among them are powers over agriculture and energy, which in Ireland are linked or integrated north and south. How they’ll be divvied up is  hasn’t  even been examined. The British government retain a substantial interest in these areas where powers currently rest with Brussels as it  negotiates new trading arrangements to replace membership … Read more

Theresa May is unmoved by Celtic frustrations over her Brexit stance

After Trump and Turkey week for Theresa May but with the aftershocks still shaking the bones,  Brexit week with the Celts must seem like an anti- climax. Despite all the warms words there is no sign that Mrs May is taking the pro-EU positions of two and half of the three devolved administrations even slightly seriously. The briefings before today’s Cardiff meeting could hardly be more underwhelming. We will not agree on everything, but that doesn’t mean we will shy … Read more