A wrong turn in Constitutional Law…

On Friday, I called the High Court Ruling a constitutional nicety. Could be I was wrong about that. Carl Gardner is about as sober a legal commentator as it gets on the London beat. And he has serious concerns about the future implications of this ruling: Hmmm… Mick FealtyMick 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, … Read more

On Charlie Kennedy

There’s lots of talk about Charlie Kennedy’s talents and his ‘flaws’, often a euphemistic way of talking about his alcoholism. Alistair Campbell has blogged movingly and directly about their shared illness. It was never exactly a secret. I remember canvassing a man in the 2004 European election campaign, a rather grand chap in a very wealthy street just north of Kensington Gardens. “Oh, the Liberals”, he sneered, “Couldn’t possibly vote for a party led by an alcoholic.” “I take it … Read more

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

As with the Red Queen so too, it would seem, with Sinn Féin – who published their 2015 Westminster Election Manifesto today. The BBC report notes Deputy leader Martin McGuinness said that he does not believe any of the main parties in Northern Ireland will play a role in the formation of the next government and that any claims to the contrary were “misleading”. Well, Sinn Féin will not play any role.  But other Northern Ireland parties might, depending on … Read more

The Most Popular Drink in Stormont’s Members Bar?

As the son of a Donegal born bar manager who spent most of his working life in Belfast, I like to sit up and listen when Belfast Barman(ager) has something to say. He’s been looking at some facts and figures about what they drink in the members bar in Stormont (yep, they’ve got one)… What struck me was just how abstemious they all are… – The annual turnover of the Members’ bar for the past 3 financial years i.e. 01 … Read more

Essay: Gough Whitlam and the fragility of parliamentary democracy

However over-quoted a historical figure he may be, Winston Churchill certainly gave his global audience plenty to ponder over whenever he opened his mouth or put pen to paper.  His dictum that ‘democracy is the worst form of government, except for the all the other forms that have been tried’ still strikes ringing chords, five decades after his demise.  Then again, he also said that ‘The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter’, though whether … Read more

Time for Lord Laird to retire

Discretion and tact have never been John Laird’s close friends. Good judgment has been a positive stranger.  Some of his causes like Ulster Scots were accompanied by a fair amount of indulgence, as all the world knew.  John was not part of the temperance wing of Unionism. Reviewing his artlessly revealing autobiography I described him as Ulster Unionism’s jester, a word  less open to misunderstanding than clown or  fool.  I stand by that.  Jesters or clowns are exaggerated performers who … Read more

Ed Balls takes another mauling despite Osborne’s weak autumn statement

Not a great time for either Labour party on either side of the Irish Sea. Here’s an object lesson in which we learn that channeling anger over the dispatch box at a unpopular enemy with a weak economic portfolio, is not simply not enough… Matthew Engel in the FT… What the statement does do, uniquely, is pit the chancellor against his shadow in a Commons set piece (on Budget Day, the Leader of the Opposition replies). Mr Balls had a … Read more

Parliamentary Written Answer of the Week…

They don’t have to be dull.  As demonstrated yesterday by the clearly well-read Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government, Conservative MP, Brandon Lewis.  Here’s the nominated written question and answer Tom Blenkinsop: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether his Department has any plans to deregulate the publication of planning permission applications in local newspapers. [149335] Brandon Lewis [holding answer 21 March 2013]: Ministers have been clear that, in an internet age, … Read more

“unless it’s because politicians in Northern Ireland want to be able to sue newspapers more readily…”

Some interesting added detail in the News Letter report following up on the story of the Northern Ireland Executive’s failure to consent to the Defamation Bill going through the UK Parliament.  To begin with, it’s claimed that it wasn’t the Executive after all… Last Wednesday, the News Letter revealed that the Defamation Bill – the first reform of the UK’s libel laws since the 19th Century – had been blocked from extending to Northern Ireland by Stormont’s leaders. However, the … Read more

“This vote now draws a line under this issue…”

Or not, as the case may be.  ANYhoo…  A Conservative Party backed proposal to redraw UK parliamentary constituency boundaries has been defeated in the House of Commons.  As the BBC reports MPs voted by 334 to 292 to accept changes made by peers, meaning the planned constituency shake-up will be postponed until 2018 at the earliest. It was the first time Lib Dem ministers have voted against their Conservative coalition colleagues in the Commons. The two parties have been in … Read more

“it is necessary to extend the Non-Jury Trial system at this time…”

In March 2010 the then-Criminal Justice Minister Paul Goggins announced a “comprehensive review [], including a full public consultation” of the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007 provisions for non-jury trials “before it next falls to be renewed in July 2011” – those provisions had previously been extended in 2009. Today the NI Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, announced that he is “laying before Parliament an Order to extend the Non-Jury trial provisions for a further period of two years”.  From the NI Secretary of State’s … Read more

“we have delivered Mr Adams to the required destination…”

Room for one more post to follow Brian’s coda on the appointment of Gerard Adams to the position of Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead. The BBC reports today, the Shadow Leader of the House, Hilary Benn, has called for a change in the constitutional rules on MP’s resignations.  From the BBC report In the Commons on Thursday morning, Hilary Benn asked his opposite number if the government would consider changing the rules. He said: “Does the Leader … Read more

Gerard Adams, Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead – Updated

The UK Treasury confirms what the Prime Minister, David Cameron, told the Commons today.  From the Treasury’s press notice The Chancellor of the Exchequer has this day appointed Gerard Adams to be Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead. And, while Adams’ spokesman may be suggesting otherwise to the BBC and to UTV, here’s the significant section of the House of Commons Disqualification Act – which I linked to previously. 8 — (1) No person being a member of the House of … Read more

The resignation that never was…

I had suggested, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that the numerous reports of Gerry Adams’ “formal” resignation as the MP for west Belfast meant that he had applied to become a paid officer of the Crown. That was because an MP cannot simply resign.   A parliamentary seat is deemed to be a position of trust which can only be vacated by death, expulsion, or disqualification. But Sinn Féin sources evidently told Mark Devenport otherwise…   Although it’s worth noting that becoming a TD is not grounds for … Read more

Phil Woolas: “This is the end, I’m out”

Former Labour Party MP, Phil Woolas, has lost his bid for a judicial review of an election court’s ruling that stripped him of his Commons seat and barred him from politics public office for 3 years.  The election court ruling was in relation to Woolas’ campaign team’s plot to “get the white vote angry” against his electoral rival, the Lib Dem candidate, Elwyn Watkins, in the 2010 General Election.  Woolas won the seat by just 103 votes. Now the Speaker, John Bercow, … Read more

“the ball is in Sinn Féin’s court”

Interesting to note that the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, told the NI Affairs Committee that he had had discussions with Sinn Féin about what would be required for them to take their seats in Parliament.  And, as the BBC reports The Secretary of State has said that he has asked Sinn Fein for an alternative text to the oath of allegiance to allow their MPs to sit in Westminster. Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has previously said that a … Read more

“there is therefore no good reason why its Members should not take their seats at Westminster”

As the BBC reports, the government has stated that “Over the coming months Ministers will be talking to all Northern Ireland parties to address how to take the issue forward in light of the views and clear issues of principle we discussed today.”  The issue being the payment of allowances expenses to MPs who do not take their seats.  As the Deputy Leader of the House, Liberal Democrat MP, David Heath, told MPs yesterday The Committee on Standards in Public Life recognised when … Read more

Lib Cons bring in provision for minority government…

House of COmmons logo

Interesting switch in the detail of the new legislation proposed by the Liberal Democrat/Conservative government. The fixed term can actually be thrown out before the five years are up. But not on a simple majority. You have to get 55% to get em out. So Gerry Fitt and Frank Maguire would not have been able to buck Jim Callaghan out in favour of what turned out to be the Thatcher era. David has the detail: The parties agree to the … Read more