I have previously lauded the broad, inclusive, Pan-UK unionism being espoused by figures within the Ulster Unionist Party such as Johnny Andrews. A central plank of the economic unionism Andrews advances is that Ulster Unionists should be fully engaged in arguing for lower Corporation Tax throughout the United Kingdom, rather than attempting to promote Northern Ireland as an exception which should be brought into line with the Republic of Ireland.
The UUP Party Officer has once again been arguing for this response to the Varney Report in a letter to local newspapers. Andrews links the disadvantageous economic situation precipitated by the DUP’s overseeing of devolution to their weak response to Peter Hain’s blackmailing tactics. He highlights the increased pressure on rate-payers and home owners which will come to bear under the DUP / SF carve-up, the real terms decrease in block funding which they have presided over and the desultory nature of their commitment to growing the private sector.
Amongst the many promises which the DUP have broken was a commitment to link restored devolution to a much improved economic package from Gordon Brown’s government. The party’s economic strategy rests on such subvention from Westminster and despite acknowledgment from Finance Minister Peter Robinson that efforts need to focus on growing the private sector instead we see massive growth of unelected quangoes and other deplorable wastage of public money.
I am not as convinced as Andrews that free market economics are a panacea for society, but I certainly acknowledge that Northern Ireland’s public sector is much too large and that it is essential to grow the private sector and encourage investment. With difficult conditions beginning to develop globally it is particularly important that the rudderless economic ship which DUP / SF are currently piloting be brought back under control.