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Showing posts from October, 2008

Readers endorse Tory deal

A word about the results of the latest Three Thousand Versts poll. As you will observe, a rather underwhelming 34 votes were cast, 18 (52%) adjudged themselves more likely to vote UUP in the event of a deal with the Tories. 29% would be less likely to vote UUP, for 2 people it makes no difference and 11% would scrutinise the detail of any deal and then decide.

So tentative support for a deal of some form from this blog’s readers.

Unconvincing unionism is better than no unionism at all

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The long awaited by election in Glenrothes takes place next Thursday. Scenting much needed victory Gordon Brown has visited the constituency twice this week. Alex Salmond, meanwhile, has campaigned eleven times already, in the run up to the poll.

Scots’ nationalism’s Il Duce is accustomed to this style of politics, treating every by election as if it is a plebiscite on his own popularity. Although I deplore Labour’s mismanagement of the Union, it is important that the nationalists do not win next week’s contest.

Labour may make inept and unconvincing unionists, but even if they appear sometimes to be dismantling the United Kingdom inadvertently, at least its dismantlement is not the party’s stated aim.

Belfast SDLP dances to Shinners' tune

You would not expect the SDLP to play dog whistle politics in the mould of Sinn Féin and neither has the party done so as regards Sunday’s homecoming parade for troops in Belfast. Instead the SDLP has urged nationalists to avoid Belfast city centre at Sunday lunchtime, but this in itself is a problematic intervention, because it implies that the event is exclusive to one community.

Although many spectators who wish to attend the parade on Sunday will be unionists, there are nationalists whose family will be involved, no doubt there are nationalists who simply may wish to watch the event and by no means should politicians be invoking a communal imperative that they should stay away. The politics of Belfast dictate that the SDLP must continue occasionally to make sectarian shapes in order not to be outflanked by Sinn Féin.

In contrast SDLP councillors in Ballymena, including veteran nationalist representative PJ McAvoy, will be in attendance as the town welcomes back RIR soldiers toni…

Tom Elliott gets stuck into Labour's Britishness policy. More of the same please.

UUP MLA Tom Elliott has made a welcome intervention in the ‘Britishness’ debate. He shows a sound grasp of Labour’s paradoxical approach to the Union and to British identity, on one hand visiting untold damage on the institutions which shape Britishness and on the other attempting to impose it from on high.

“You cannot undermine the very institutions and history that define what it is to be British and then lecture the public about the importance of Britishness. And yet this is precisely what Labour has done.”

Reading closely Elliott’s comments, I am not sure he is placing enough stress on the most damaging of the government’s assaults on Britishness, but he is nevertheless identifying much of what is wrong-headed in New Labour’s policies on the Union and the constitution. Although immigration and Europe are issues which could be handled better, to the benefit of the Union, they are relatively tangential when set against the erosion of basic British rights and freedoms and persistent …

An electoral pact next week is good. As long as there's a new political movement by Christmas

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On Slugger, Pete Baker has picked up Frank Millar’s aside that an ‘electoral pact’ with the Conservative Party is likely to be formalised by a UUP executive meeting next week. Millar is an insightful and well informed journalist, particularly as regards Ulster Unionism. It is likely, therefore, that movement on the proposed deal will take place next week.

Interesting questions therefore remain. What will be the extent of movement which we can expect from next week’s executive meeting and will this movement encompass the whole of any emergent deal?

Millar uses the rather amorphous term, ‘electoral pact’. Recently the same vocabulary was deployed to accuse Ulster Unionists of reaching an agreement with the TUV, recommending mutual vote transfers in the 2009 European election. Perhaps the language implies that whatever is agreed next week may not include the full range of exciting possibilities which David Cameron and Reg Empey’s joint statement initially suggested.

My suspicion is…

Ross and Brand - proof that Britain loves outrage

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A great many people want to be outraged. It is an observable facet of human nature. Perhaps they glean some manner of perverse enjoyment from being driven into barely contained hysteria and exercising muscularly whichever circuit of the brain is engaged in generating self-righteousness.

Recently a leaflet was posted through my letterbox, inviting me to protest against paedophilia. Now I, along with 100% of other right thinking members of society, am opposed to paedophilia. I’m opposed to paedophilia being tolerated and opposed to paedophiles carrying out whatever unpleasant acts they feel compelled to perform. Why would I need to engage in a protest in order to clarify this stance? Barely anyone disagrees with me. No serious pressure group is proposing that paedophiles should have the right to engage in their favoured activities!

I can only assume that the entire purpose of this rally was in order to vent outrage and anger that such a phenomenon exists in the first place. It…

Britain Day isn't dead, it's just resting.

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It seems that the death knell for a national day sounded prematurely yesterday. The BBC reports Labour rowing back on Michael Wills’ previous statement. O’Neill is suitably scornful of the mixed messages issuing from government. It does rather reek of, ‘what the minister meant to say ………..’.

Tim Luckhurst mirrored my own error by assuming that Wills’ statement actually reflected government policy. On ‘Comment is Free’ he advances a puzzling argument that in abandoning plans for a ‘British day’, Brown indicated that he no longer needs ‘Britishness’ as a concept.

Now that it transpires the government has not ditched the idea, Luckhurst’s point is moot, however the insinuation that such a day would galvanise Britons around British identity or that it would help to shape a ‘British narrative’ remains.

The author mentions July 5th, the date of formation for the NHS in 1948, and September 15th, which carries historical resonance, both as a high-tide mark in the 1940 Battle of Britain a…

Parade must not be dragged down to Sinn Féin's level

Last night I watched the Nolan programme. I’m not proud of myself. In my defence a mate of mine was in the audience and had been quite insistent that I should watch.

Naturally, given that Sinn Féin’s protest against young Irish men and women walking freely the streets of Belfast is a matter likely to inflame passions, Nolan opened with a rabble rousing debate on that topic.

The very fact that the welcome home parade has become a matter of such contention is the result which Sinn Féin was seeking.

Sunday should be, certainly would have been, principally a family occasion. There should be, certainly would have been, an orderly crowd in celebratory mood, joyfully welcoming back young people who have been doing a difficult job in dangerous circumstances.

With republican protests, whether organised by an extreme lunatic fringe or the lunatic fringe to which we’re more accustomed (i.e. Provisional Sinn Féin), I fear that the parade will acquire an added frisson for disreputable elements…

Tug of war continues as Ukraine faces cold winter

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The IMF is to lend Ukraine £10.4 billion in an attempt to stabilise its economy. Although the conditions are as yet unclear, it would appear that a programme to save banks and trim costs will be required. In the face of this crisis Victor Yushchenko seems determined to continue his feud with Yulia Tymoshenko and force an early election.

Ukraine is particularly susceptible to the current financial crisis because it has borrowed heavily in order to bring its economy into line with the west. With steel exports collapsing and the hryvnia rapidly devaluing there is real risk that inflation could spiral higher than its current level of 25% (already the highest in Europe).

Divisive leadership has contributed to Ukraine’s woes and there does not appear to be any will, on Yuschenko’s part, to mend bridges in order to tackle the crisis. Economists have warned that an election will exacerbate the inflationary pressure on the hryvnia and prevent the stability which Ukraine now desperately nee…

Poppy Day represents a more authentic 'Britishness' than Labour can ever hope to engineer

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Michael Wills MP, Minister of State for Constitutional Renewal, has indicated that plans for a mooted ‘national day’ have been shelved. Answering a written question from Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell, Wills confirmed that although parts of Lord Goldsmith’s citizenship review would be considered, “there are no plans to introduce a national day at the present time”.

Hopefully it is correct to read between the lines that there are actually now no plans to introduce a national day at all. The initiative represented Labour’s belief that a greater sense of Britishness can somehow be engineered by launching top down, state sponsored gimmicks. Gordon Brown’s instinct is to impose, rather than encourage or nurture.

With identity, in particular, that is an approach which cannot work. Labour is chasing its tail in attempting to encourage more British sentiment amongst people in the United Kingdom. It is top down constitutional reform which diluted felt Britishness and damaged the Union…

Celebrate Parliament's sovereignty, don't attack it

The government’s procedural manoeuvre, in order to block parliament voting on an amendment to extend the Abortion Act to Northern Ireland, was widely applauded by unionist politicians. Indeed Jeffrey Donaldson had gone so far as to threaten ‘constitutional crisis’ should the amendment be considered and accepted. On last night’s Hearts and Minds, Donaldson continued to argue that it was not Westminster’s business to impose abortion legislation on Northern Ireland.

Although Noel Thompson made a passable fist of exposing the paradox at the heart of Donaldson’s contention, he did not make the most pertinent point. Abortion is a justice issue. Policing and justice are issues which have not yet been devolved. The Sewell Convention, West Lothian question etc. may be related issues, but they are merely incidental, because policing and justice are reserved matters and the crux of the DUP’s present impasse with Sinn Féin is that the unionist party believes they should remain reserved for…

Sir Dave attracts the MOPEs, again

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Is this perhaps the most ludicrous piece of MOPEry yet recorded? David Healy has been subject to death threats after some Celtic fans construed a comment he made in an interview, following his goal against San Marino, as a sectarian remark. Let me provide a verbatim transcript of what Sir David actually said.

“I am pleased the famine or the drought or whatever people would call it is over. I am pleased with the score sheet and pleased that we won.”

Confused? I don’t blame you. It takes ingenuity to find offence in such an innocuous observation. But if you’re bitter enough, self obsessed enough, deluded enough – then you MIGHT manage it. Listen carefully.

The rationale of these idiots is that a proportion of Rangers’ supporters sing a bigoted, anti-Irish song entitled ‘The Famine is Over (why don’t you do home)’. David Healy is Northern Irish and comes from (presumably) a unionist background; ergo by using the word ‘famine’ the striker was alluding to the anti-Celtic, sectarian son…

The Duke's still Special

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I knew that there had to be an advantage (other than convenient access to international matches) to living in Northern Ireland as opposed to the rest of the UK. Availability of Duke Special’s second studio album, whilst mainland Britain must content itself with the equivalent download, finally provides one. My understanding is that contractual issues with Duke’s previous record company have dictated that the CD is not available in the shops in England, Scotland or Wales.

Waiting for a few more months to acquire the disc might not seem like a great imposition, but ‘I Never Thought This Day Would Come’ is appositely named. ‘Songs From the Deep Forest’, Duke Special’s brilliant first album, was first released well over two years ago. It has been a long wait for fans, mitigated only by the release of EPs, downloads and regular touring.

The ‘tricky second album’ is a well worn musical cliché, so does the Duke’s album fall into this trap? Duke Special is relentlessly creative and the a…

With Sinn Féin it's still always the police's fault

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Old habits die hard in Sinn Féin. Although the Provos are now reputedly 100 per cent signed up to policing and the rule of law, whenever republicans riot, it is perpetually the police who are at fault.

Normally this instinct is manifested by claims of heavy-handedness. The PSNI’s mere presence in an area is often presented as sufficient provocation for an attack.

Then there is the old chestnut of agents and informers, whereby every instance of republican misbehaviour is attributed to perfidious securocrats, who infiltrate all manner of organisations, in order to instigate mayhem in the name of innocent republicanism.

John O’Dowd has plumped for the latter option in order to explain republican violence in the Craigavon / Lurgan area last night.

An impartial observer might submit to O’Dowd’s reasoning. Perhaps the PSNI is so starved of excitement that it foments all manner of dissident disorder, which its officers can then enjoy at close quarters.

On the other hand the observer migh…

Russia and its rational responses

Previously I applauded Sir Roderic Lyne’s reasoned approach to ‘reading Russia’, although I noted that Lyne did not extend to recognising Russia’s foreign policy interests. The former British ambassador’s attempt to inject a little rational argument into the debate has been answered by Fyodor Lukyanov, who offers a comparative assessment, examining how Russia’s actions have been reactive to changes in the world rather than aggressive in instinct.

Lukyanov’s point is that Russia is often considered in isolation, as if its actions are apropos of nothing and as if its ‘self-confidence’, ‘resurgence’ and ‘aggression’, (as perceived by western observers) are instincts engineered exclusively within Russia, arising independent of external events and driven only by a peculiar Russian mindset. His argument is that Russia is not operating within a vacuum.

“In reality Russia is a fully-fledged and essential part of the many and varied currents in today's world. It is a question not just…

In the wrong hands - parasites strip LFC of profit to pay their debt

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Liverpool FC could be in the possession of Dubai Investment Company right now. DIC would have financed a new stadium, taken on any debt held by the club and provided something toward a transfer kitty, in order that Rafa Benitez might rebuild his team.

Indeed, having had their initial bid spurned, in favour of American owners Gillett & hicks, the Arab investors have returned several times, offering the pair substantial profits on top of their initial investment, to sell the club and unburden it of the requirement to pay debt which they incurred in its purchase.

Against this background, Liverpool will announce profits of £40 million, £25 million of which will be immediately siphoned off to service the borrowing which landed the club with these parasitic Yanks in the first place!

Apparently the pair reaffirmed their ‘commitment’ to Liverpool and their intention to remain owners for the foreseeable future. Their commitment is not wanted or needed. The club need new owners, who c…

Boring myself and others - UUP / Tory deal again

To be honest, I’ve bored myself writing about the Ulster Unionist – Conservative talks. My perspective is that I want the deal done and I want the deal done now. Then we can begin to build the type of inclusive, pan-UK unionism which Cameron and Empey promised and which can transform Northern Ireland’s politics for the better.

Since I last touched upon this topic (and it wasn’t very long ago) several further, lengthy pieces have graced newspapers, either defending or criticising the UUP leader for his handling of the mooted alignment, either proposing or rejecting the notion that such an arrangement would be a ‘good thing’ for Sir Reg’s party.

I do not intend (on this blog) to sift these articles for arguments which accord or do not accord with my view, although those arguments are there and they are worth reading. What I would like to do is draw attention to the strength of the original ideals on which a UUP / Tory compact was to be forged and ask whether these have not been lost si…

Panorama - praise where praise is due

I have previously recorded my rather dim view of the BBC’s ‘flagship’ current affairs programme, Panorama. From the moment Jeremy Vine introduces the show in trademark overblown fashion, I frequently find it sensationalist, gimmicky and facile.

Therefore, I am happy to report that last night’s edition bucked this trend. Rather than populist bombast, Sunday Times’ Moscow correspondent, Mark Franchetti, presented a thoughtful and balanced documentary, in which he allowed Russians a voice to describe how exactly they view themselves and their relations with ‘the west’.

Given the programme’s tagline, ‘Should we be scared of Russia?’, I’m sure many prospective viewers (myself included), expected a diatribe describing an evil and autocratic regime masterminded by Putin and Medvedev. This could so easily have become an opportunity to focus on belligerent, drunk, racist Russians in order to portray the country according to those clichés. Instead Franchetii allowed intelligent, articulat…

Why Boris is right to endorse Obama

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The US election is politics’ Premier League. Throughout the world there are people who aren’t going to the match, indeed they're not entitled to attend a match, but nevertheless, almost everyone has a favourite team.

This morning Boris Johnson declared himself an Obama fan in the Daily Telegraph, which represents a significant addition to the list of British Conservatives who will be celebrating, should the Democratic candidate win, in the wee small hours of the fifth of November.

Traditionally, of course, Conservatives feel much more inclined toward Republican candidates in American elections. However, there is something of a sea change in this particular election. Iain Dale previously examined the phenomenon in an article which suggested that David Cameron himself might quietly favour Obama.

Meanwhile Burke’s Corner turned its erudite gaze toward the underlying reasons which are making Conservatives in the UK comfortable with the Democrat ticket and uncomfortable backing M…

Crime and nourishment

No value added whatsoever, but in case anyone missed it, you must read this post from Dave (or d@\/e as he prefers) at Another Bloody Blawg. Whilst the whys and wherefores of the film ‘Hunger’ have been discussed elsewhere, Dave reminds us of the criminal (and murderous) acts, for which the Hunger Strikers were incarcerated. It is a beautifully simple exercise which speaks for itself.

Donaldson demands devolved justice

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Campaigners, unionists amongst them, gathered at Stormont on Saturday in order to protest Diane Abbot’s proposed amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, which would extend the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland. That’s correct, unionists (self-described) were protesting against clear legislation on termination of pregnancies, which would afford women in Northern Ireland the same access to an NHS service, which they enjoy throughout the rest of the United Kingdom.

To add a further layer of irony, Jeffrey Donaldson and other unionists, argue that it is wrong for Westminster to legislate on this issue, which should be devolved to the Stormont Assembly. Indeed Donaldson warned that imposing the British position on Northern Ireland could precipitate a constitutional crisis and the collapse of power sharing institutions. Abortion is a justice matter, which means, well …to argue that policy should only be decided in Northern Ireland, is to insist that policing and jus…

He might have signed for Spurs, but Pavlyuchenko's a United (Russia) man

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This is an odd story. It transpires that Tottenham striker Roman Pavlyuchenko has been elected, on a United Russia ticket, to Stavropol Krai Duma. This is double-jobbing on an epic scale. Perhaps he should have joined the DUP? Commuting from London to South Wset Russia, Pavlyuchenko's voting record might be comparable to the Dupes at Westminster!

Holding Brown to account is not playing 'political games', it is Cameron's democratic duty

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Did Labour really expect that Conservative support for the government’s plan to save Britain’s banks, would prevent the opposition holding Gordon Brown to account for his mismanagement of the economy indefinitely? Yvette Cooper, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, accused David Cameron of playing ‘juvenile political games’ at a time when the ‘British people want calm leadership and serious policies to get through tough times’.

Actually the opposition leader not only has the right to assert Gordon Brown’s responsibility for failed economic policies, it is his democratic duty to do so. Bi partisan support for one policy cannot be allowed to occlude government culpability, even if it is tackling a situation of its own making by agreed means. David Cameron was right to critique Labour’s economic policies in a speech to the city this morning and, although it is easy to be wise in hindsight, neither did he do a bad job.

It doesn’t take an economic genius to deduce that Gordon Brown’s debt…

Sinn Fein can't be allowed to disrupt Royal Irish parade

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If reminder were needed of the tawdry sectarianism which characterises Sinn Féin, it is provided by the party’s intention to disrupt a homecoming parade for the Royal Irish Regiment, to be held in Belfast in two weeks time. Here we have a group of young Irish men and women, representing both of our main communities, drawn from either side of the border, whose bravery and safe return Sinn Féin would deny us the right to celebrate and acknowledge, simply because they have chosen to pursue careers in the British armed forces.

Ironically, in Shropshire, where the regiment has been based, but a long way from most of the soldiers’ homes and families, Rangers will enjoy a ‘homecoming’ parade without contention. Shadow Secretary for Northern Ireland, Owen Patterson, pays tribute to the young men and women, who will be recognised in his constituency. The Royal Irish has been deployed in Helmand Province on Operation Herrick 8. Their task has been to, “mentor and assist the Afghan National…

Should football take its share of regulatory medicine?

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On the Today Programme this morning, there was an interesting encounter between the BBC’s sports’ correspondent, Mihir Bose, and former Labour Minister for Sport, Richard Caborn. Bose abandoned any serious pretext of neutrality in order to launch a fairly explicit call for the government to pre-empt financial crisis in football and appoint an industry regulator.

Bose has been charting football’s malaise closely on his BBC blog for some considerable time and offers strident argument that all is not well. Previously, Premier League football clubs had become high status vassals to be traded among a coterie of foreign businessmen. Now the credit crunch has put into question the sustainability of debt which clubs have obtained and the financial structures which have allowed their owners to acquire them.

Football Association chairman, Lord Triesman, last week revealed that English clubs were £3 billion in debt and argued that measures must be taken to bring the situation back under con…

Ignoring Russia's language in order to deny its interests

Peter Rutland writes in the Moscow Times, highlighting the disparity between intentions which have been ascribed to Dmitri Medvedev and Vladimir Putin and the language which the men themselves have used. Often their pronouncements have been misreported, or at least reinterpreted in more sinister language, in order to imply more bellicose intent than careful examination of their statements actually yields.

Neither Medvedev nor Putin have ever actually used the term ‘sphere of influence’, despite widespread reporting which suggests that both men have explicitly laid out a doctrine asserting such a sphere exists within the former Soviet Union. Even ‘near abroad’ which was common parlance to describe adjacent states throughout the 1990s, has fallen into disuse to be replaced be the more diplomatic ‘near neighbours’.

Russia has not used the language which the foreign press has ascribed to it. Rather, the Kremlin’s foreign policy has been outlined in terms of interests. Russia has leg…

Job done but real challenges lie ahead

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Having demanded that Nigel Worthington’s Northern Ireland team deliver a convincing win against San Marino, I suppose I should acknowledge that the players fulfilled their remit. Admittedly the team from a ‘hill in northern Italy’ were probably the worst outfit to grace Windsor Park in quite some time (and that includes Irish league sides). Still, you can only beat what’s put in front of you.

For half an hour it looked like Europe’s worst team could precipitate a new low in Worthington’s troubled reign. From kick off, Northern Ireland dominated possession, but took a while to break down a side that defended in numbers and rarely offered even a token foray in counter-attack. Eventually Grant McCann squared a cross from rampaging full back George McCartney and David Healy scrambled home his 35th international goal, to his obvious relief.

After San Marino fell behind, it quickly became evident just how bad the team actually was. For a start, they could not tackle. Northern Ireland …

Tory deal offers no insurmountable problems

Fair Deal, Slugger O’Toole’s DUP blogger, is ever vigilant for anything which can be construed as dissent within the UUP, so it was inevitable, that whilst I pondered the knotty problems of Nigel Worthington’s managerial reign, FD would blog Liam Clarke’s article about Lady Sylvia Hermon and the UUP / Tory deal. I’ve briefly outlined my thoughts on that Slugger thread, but it is useful to flesh out here, the arguments with which I would counter some of the points Clarke raises.

By way of disclaimer I would stress that Clarke’s interpretation may or may not fairly represent where Lady Hermon stands on the proposed realignment. My comments are intended neither to pre-empt her response to any concrete suggestions which the working group (which she has taken part in) might suggest, nor to condemn her for taking a less than constructive attitude to the UUP / Tory proposals. I merely wish to tease out the conundrum which would be posed by an MP declaring loyalty to New Labour and refusing…

Lack of ambition typical of Worthington

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Tonight Northern Ireland play San Marino, and although Nigel Worthington insists that a scrappy goal accompanied by three points would satisfy him, anything less than a handsome win will do little to persuade supporters that the manager is up to the job.

Worthington was quick to assure fans and media that his charges had performed adequately, despite being defeated 2-0 by a woeful Slovenian outfit on Saturday. He is fooling no-one. Thus far his team have secured one point where seven were eminently winnable. Had Northern Ireland achieved a successful start to the World Cup qualifying campaign, then certainly, three points by any means would be the priority. Instead, Worthington is presiding over a team which is low in confidence, low on goals, low on points and badly needs to get its season kick-started.

Coming off the back of a remarkable European Championship group, there was always a danger that Northern Ireland’s next matches could be anti-climactic. Although there were stron…

More care needed from UUP

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I’d imagine that someone in the UUP press office received quite a bollocking yesterday after a press release was issued which appeared to announce an electoral pact between the party and Jim Allister’s Traditional Unionist Voice. Danny Kennedy had the initial task of disclaiming such an arrangement on Radio Ulster and Sir Reg Empey has issued denials in this morning’s newspapers.

The mistake really was rather serious. Meeting with any party to discuss the ramifications of particular elections, or the issues surrounding those elections, is part of normal constructive party work. Issuing a joint statement with one particular unionist party leader, emphasising the desirability of unionists transferring their votes appropriately, and agreeing to campaign accordingly, has all the appearances of a pact. On Evening Extra, Mark Carruthers insisted, surely with some justification, that if it looked like a pact and it barked like a pact then it was a pact.

To its credit, the UUP leadership …

Gordon the bank manager?

If, at the heart of the banking crisis we are currently witnessing, there lies a correctional mechanism whereby ‘sound money’ is reasserting its primacy as against the illusive nature of credit, then how far should the government intervene to prevent that mechanism? This dilemma lies at the heart of two posts, carried by the Telegraph politics blogs, which are gravely concerned how the government’s input in the running of banks which it has taken a stake in, might effect their function.

Christopher Hope quotes Derek Simpson, joint general secretary of the union Unite, a major provider of Labour Party funds,

“The measures announced today must be bound to undertakings by the banks of no job losses, no repossessions and an end to the bonus culture.”

Simpson’s demand for no repossessions is extraordinary. No-one supports callous treatment of those who find themselves unable to pay because of unforeseen circumstances, but to provide a carte blanche for mortgage holders to default without a…

Unionism can help depoliticise Irish, to its benefit and to ours.

I’ve argued previously on Three Thousand Versts that unionists must adopt a more subtle approach to the Irish Language. Although I recognise the difficulties that its politicisation has precipitated for unionism, I believe that a more constructive strategy can minimise the political capital extracted from the language by Sinn Féin and locate unionist argument on a more tenable footing as regards the diversity of cultures encompassed within the UK, and their protection.

Perhaps this position might be gaining a little currency in some quarters. Dawn Purvis suggested to the Progressive Unionist annual conference, held on Saturday, that it is counterproductive for unionists to continue to treat the Irish Language as a cultural battleground. She would like to see the DUP ‘wrest control of the debate’ from nationalism by bringing forward proposals for Irish Language legislation. Her view is endorsed by an unlikely source on Slugger O’Toole.

Whether it is necessary for unionists to sha…

Regression to the mean

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Doctors do not generally give great credence to mooted ‘miracle cures’ or non medical interventions. Often they explain supposed success for such methods by pointing out that people simply do not stay sick indefinitely, they get better, or regress to the mean. The reverse is also true. If someone is feeling unusually buoyant, healthy, full of beans, they will return to a more stable plane. Normal service will resume. Such appears to be the case with the Northern Ireland football team.

After three years of extraordinary results, optimism and confidence, the international side has regressed to its mean of mediocrity. What is more, the manager, Nigel Worthington, appears quite happy to allow this regression to continue unabated. He believes Northern Ireland played well on Saturday night, as the team slumped to an abject 2-0 defeat against indifferent opposition.

Admittedly Maribor was not an easy place to secure three points. The Slovenes kicked, hacked, shoved and elbowed Northe…

Ahtisaari's work in Kosovo deserves no prizes

I wouldn’t usually post twice on Kosovo in one day but I was surprised to learn (and yes it did involve me scanning one of Brian Walker’s posts on Slugger) that Martti Ahtisaari is to receive this year’s Nobel peace prize. I can only assume he is being recognised for work in Indonesia and Namibia, although I know nothing of his contribution in these places, because he certainly should not be receiving plaudits for his involvement in Kosovo.

As UN Special Envoy to Kosovo, Ahtisaari eschewed mediating between the Serbs and Albanians, instead choosing to underpin Nato’s early decision that the province would become a nominally independent protectorate. The Ahtisaari Plan put these ambitions into action, making largely symbolic allusions toward protecting minorities, which have not in the event been adhered to.

Serbia, supported by the Russians, would not support Ahtisaari’s plan for independence preferring the compromise of an autonomous Kosovo, within the sovereign state of Serbia. T…

The gloves come off: Chekov vs. Mouse (Part III)

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Readers with good memories may remember that I was locked in a battle of wits many months ago, with some manner of super-rodent possessed of abnormal cunning and intelligence. In common with locations on which the media descend to cover the story ‘du jour’, just because the reports have dried up, it does not necessarily follow that the situation has ended.

In fact the conflict has remained frozen over most of the summer. My foe’s last appearance was in mid July, just after I returned from Russia. I had lifted the traps at my girlfriend’s behest, lest we should return to the smell of decomposing mouse. When Chekov’s away …… We were enjoying an Indian takeaway (the cupboards were bare) when the intruder reappeared, displaying even more insouciance than normal.

It was clearly necessary to remilitarise the living room, re-priming traps and equipping myself with poison (a WMD deterrent if you will). This display of might appeared to do the trick. There hadn’t been sight or sound of…