SDLP: I swear they are real republicans

On May 12th I posted a mocked up version of SDLP MPs making their solemn declaration/affirmation of allegiance to ‘Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors’ It was variously described by pro-SDLP contributors as a ‘new low’ for Slugger (x4), ‘inane’, ‘masturbatory, a ‘steaming log’, ‘lowering the tone’ and even resulted in one claim of a commenter leaving the site. So I apologise in advance for directly linking Margaret Ritchie actually taking that affirmation to her Queen: And the … Read more

The Irish News and operating profitably on the net…

Roy Greenslade has an interesting piece on the Irish News’ firewall. Not least the money figures: If you click on the Irish News website up comes a page demanding that you pay for access to a digital edition. There is a choice: £5 for one week’s editions, £15 for a month’s and £150 for a year’s. The result? According to, since its launch in December 2009, the News’s site has secured just 1,215 paid subscriptions: 525 weekly, 370 monthly … Read more

From the Scotland Bill to Scottish independence…

The inclusion of the Scotland Act amongst the UK Government’s 22 Bills has pushed Scotland’s place in Britain back up the discussion list in many quarters. Personally I am surprised that the Conservatives have moved so quickly on the issue when it potentially poses such a risk for the continuation of the union, particularly given that David Cameron claims to have the Union Jack stamped onto his insides like a stick of rock. For me, the implementation of the Calman … Read more

The importance of ‘ human engagement’ in online conversations…

I have to confess I am ambivalent about anonymity online. I took a decision fairly early on to do most of commenting (mostly on other people’s sites) in my own name. My reasoning was twofold. I felt the most valuable contributions online I could make would be ones I could live with and defend in real (ie, non virtual life), commenting in my name would constantly remind me that what I said online would have to be defensible in ten years hence … Read more

Was Friedman right? The debate on American post-1980 reforms

Interesting debate in the US blogosphere on the pro-market reforms implemented in the US (and other countries including Britain & Ireland) since 1980. Paul Krugman defends the large rise in American living standards pre 1980 liberalisation and contrasts it with more moribund growth there after while Scott Summer highlights the reversal of the American economies (and that of other reformers) relative decline. Krugman – Read almost any conservative commentator on economic history, and you’ll find that the era of postwar … Read more

Strange bedfellows in Labour leadership bid

How odd to learn that Kate Hoey, who when it comes to the politics of her native Northern Ireland has been closer to the DUP than any other party, is backing  Labour left winger John McDonnell’s token leadership bid, along with fellow Labour awkward squad member Frank Field. In their opinions of Irish republicanism, they’re poles apart from John. Some years ago Frank and Kate joined together to attack the decision to give SF MPs offices and expenses at Westminster. … Read more

Every unionist action should demonstrate life’s better with the union

Since the election I have been avidly reading the debate on this site regarding the future direction of unionism, with two themes standing out, unionist unity, and providing a positive vision for unionism focusing primarily on “bread and butter issues”. Some, like the DUP and David McNarry have stressed the former, others like Basil McCrea and Liam Clarke the latter. Personally, I cannot see why Unionism cannot do both. Divided unionism has always been a contradiction in terms, and the … Read more

Why – really – did Gordon Brown walk away from coalition?

It is now nearly three weeks since the general election and something still keeps nagging away at me. Back on May the 10th and a few days after the election, the intensive Tory-LibDem talks which had been going full tilt, had run into difficulty. The Daily Telegraph was reflecting the deep anxiety that must have been sweeping through the Tory party that they had been ‘outflanked’ as the LibDems had now opened talks with Labour. To add to Tory unease, … Read more

New NI Attorney General Appointed, Queries Missing Powers

Nominated as the new Northern Ireland Attorney General in November 2008, John Larkin was finally appointed today.  UTV has his initial “grateful” comments.  But the BBC notes that he’s already noticed that something’s missing… Unlike his direct rule predecessor, Mr Larkin will not have any powers of supervision over the Public Prosecution Service. “It’s something that should be urgently looked at I think,” Mr Larkin said. “The decisions about unduly lenient sentences, about other forms of statutory obligation, which were taken by the attorney … Read more

Service not available in Northern Ireland

Channel  4’s decision not to broadcast the Marie Stopes ‘Are you late?’ TV advert in Northern Ireland raises questions about what information it is criminal to distribute here.  The Chief Executive of Marie Stopes International told the Guardian that ‘the advertising of abortion facilities, their contact numbers or addresses is against the law in Northern Ireland.’ The fact that the advert in question does not contain the word ‘abortion’, and is for an organisation that provides a wide range of … Read more

“the start of a period of classic left-right debates”?

BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport with a slightly different take on the message delivered to the Northern Ireland First and deputy First Ministers by the new Prime Minister than Brian noted. By telling our ministers they can take the pain now or take it in the next financial year, the Prime Minister has posed the Stormont Executive with a difficult choice. Their track record on water charges and freezing rates would appear to indicate the Executive will choose procrastination (or … Read more

Police to get more discretion on charging suspects (in England and Wales)

At The Guardian‘s Law blog Afua Hirsch assesses the Home Secretary Theresa May’s announcement that police officers in England and Wales are to get more power to decide whether crime suspects should be charged for minor offences The Conservatives believe that the current system is inefficient. The police have to prepare a “pre-trial file” for prosecutors anyway, but then hand over the actual decision whether to charge, which the Conservatives regard as a waste of time and man-hours. Involving prosecutors also leads to … Read more

Euro crisis: “We all know what to do, but we don’t know how to get re-elected once we have done it.”

In the Irish Times, Arthur Beesley identifies “one of the fundamental dilemmas in political leadership” being faced by eurozone politicians caught in a manifestation of  “the political trilemma of the world economy” This presents a cocktail of nasty choices for EU leaders, many of whom seem more comfortable in the local arena than in the European amphitheatre. Previously, they were free to do as they pleased in a currency system that did not hold debt-addiction to be any great sin. Now, national … Read more

After the election: Did the Internet make any substantial difference?

Mark Pack from the LibDem voice blog spoke at an RSA event last week which discussed the degree to which the Internet influenced the outcome of the election. In terms of its basic promise, ie to make politics less hierarchical, he notes just how quickly scale and structure form themselves around what are essentially egalitarian tools like Twitter.

After the election: Why a coalition is good for the UK…

In passing, last week’s editorial from the Economist (who had backed the Tories) on the nature of the UK’s new coalition government is worth noting: The parties will share responsibility for unpopular fiscal decisions, which should make them easier to take. The fact that, together, they have 59% of the vote will help persuade the electorate to accept painful cuts. Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg have struggled to marginalise their parties’ loonier fringes, and their alliance may assist them in … Read more

Republicans and Unionists both need to look at their directions of travel

Guest blogger Mr Crumlin argues it is high time both Republicanism and Unionism stop coasting in the same gear they were in during the conflict. And he asks: “Does unionism genuinely want to work with their fellow countrymen in the north? If so, then it is up to republicanism once again to show leadership and to travel the extra mile for the national good.”

Conservatives considering their options in Northern Ireland?

Interesting news from Jeff Peel on status of the Conservative party staffers in Northern Ireland. Slugger cannot confirm whether it is true or not, but we understand the Conservatives did indeed expend a great deal of time, money and energy on trying to help get Ulster Unionist (as well as their own) candidates elected in the latest general election. Mick FealtyMick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the … Read more

Euro crisis: The shrinkage of politics?

Via a post by Crooked Timber’s Chris Bertram.  Here’s a point worth considering from Dani Rodrik on the growing crisis in the Eurozone. Deep down, the crisis is yet another manifestation of what I call “the political trilemma of the world economy”: economic globalization, political democracy, and the nation-state are mutually irreconcilable. We can have at most two at one time. Democracy is compatible with national sovereignty only if we restrict globalization. If we push for globalization while retaining the nation-state, we … Read more

After the election: Has unionism the courage to debate a united vision?

Another great piece from Open Unionism, this time from David Vance, fresh from the streets of East Belfast who argues the time has come and gone for a single unionist party. He observes: Seduced by the Stormont Assembly they are relatively disinterested in traditional unionist values and even recoil from that which is branded Conservative. A Sovietised economy and memories of historical betrayals make even brand Cameron seem toxic. UCUNF was perhaps a noble aspiration but it foundered because it … Read more