Showing posts from November, 2009

Stop the consultation, get rid of the Chief Commissioner and bury the Bill.

After the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (or part of it) delivered its advice on a Bill of Rights for the province, the government has published a consultation paper on the subject.

At Slugger O’Toole, Belfast Gonzo observes that the NIO document has dispensed with most of the NIHRC’s work. The Secretary of State previously noted that the body had strayed far beyond its remit.

Gonzo asks whether Monica McWilliams, the chief commissioner, should resign her post.

She has failed in her brief, she has taken a nakedly political approach to a public position - helping to turn the commission into something resembling a pressure group - and she has been paid £70,000 per annum by the tax payer. This blog has long previously contributed its voice to the campaign for resignation.

The Consultation Paper notes that the British government has already discharged all the duties which were required of it, under the Belfast Agreement, in order to safeguard rights in Northern Ireland. De…

Blogtalk (Episode 6)

Blogtalk (episode 6) from Northern Visions/NvTv on Vimeo.Mick Fealty, Gary McKeown and Máirtín Ó Muilleoir discuss this week's topics.

Bow Group's 'More for Less' document

A quick line this morning (there will be lengthier posts appearing later this week I can assure you). John Redwood and Carl Thomson have produced a pamphlet entitled 'More For Less' on behalf of the Bow Group. It aims to set out practical methods which could deliver public savings cuts whilst protecting front line services.

Eighteen candidates - no discussion!

Tom Elliott MLA has appeared on Hearts and Minds attempting to fudge the issue of agreed candidates. He also claims to be 'relatively' supportive of the Conservative and Unionist pact. O'Neill has previously pointed out that the Fermanagh man appears to have a shaky understanding of what UCUNF actually involves. We know that it entails eighteen candidates and yet UUP representatives still remain coy about declaring unequivocally that eighteen candidates will stand.

Liverpool sign striker Placenta?

Benitez' new player gets a medical?

I am, it should be said, rather cynical about experimental medicine of any type. However the basting of Liverpool Football Club's players with horse placenta I fully support. Better yet, play the placenta at centre forward instead of Andriy Voronin.

The civic space: Towards a civic unionism

At Forth magazine, I write about unionism's capacity to deliver civic politics to Northern Ireland. Jason Walsh will reply from the nationalist perspective.

Jason and I share the conviction that Northern Ireland’s politics ought to focus on civic discourse, if they are to assume a less confrontational, less sectarian shape. My contention is that a province, remaining solidly within the United Kingdom, is best placed to draw upon civic and institutional influences, rather than the cultural preoccupations which currently predominate, precisely because the state is a multi-national construct which makes its appeal primarily on the basis of political allegiance, rather than a perceived monolithic identity. It is incumbent upon unionists to celebrate the diversity of their state and frame their arguments in civic terms, rather than continue to call forth Conor Cruise O’Brien’s ‘ancestral voices’.

Read more:…

Sorry Liverpool depart Champions League.

Liverpool’s Champions’ League victory recedes ever further into the rear-view mirror of history. It is now the fifth season since that campaign, which climaxed in Istanbul, and to celebrate the club has tumbled out of this year’s competition at the group stages.

Rafa Benitez’ side was not eliminated on the strength of its performances against Debrecen. Although last night the team delivered another unconvincing one goal victory against the minnows. Liverpool, under Benitez, have a habit of doing ’just enough’ to beat substandard opposition in Europe and have often advanced on that basis. This time two fortunate victories against the Hungarians could not offset a defeat at Fiorentina and, crushingly, one point from six against Olympique Lyonnais.

The brutal truth is that Benitez’ team deserves to be eliminated from the Champions’ League, just as it deserved to be beaten by Arsenal’s second string in the Carling Cup and just as it deserves to languish seventh in the Premier League.…

If they act like thugs, and join an organisation devoted to thuggery, safe to say, they're thugs.

‘When Tory politician William Hague referred to loyalists as ‘thugs’, my heart sank’, claims Roy Garland, in his weekly diatribe against ‘English’ Conservatives. ‘No group of people’ should, he contends, be dismissed in such a way. Not even, apparently, groups whose activities conform to the very definition of thuggery.

First, I don’t believe that Garland’s ‘heart sank’ when the Foreign Secretary attacked loyalist paramilitaries. On the contrary, his communal instincts kicked in, ‘he’s having a go at ussuns as well as themmuns, what an opportunity’ (or words to that effect).

Second, his latest article contains a heart rending tale of a nice young man who joined a paramilitary organisation and then began to change it. Indeed it is positively glowing on the topic of loyalist groups and their stout community work in general.

What a load of twaddle! This is the same narrative, told from a different perspective, which we get from Republicans. Fine young men, compelled by extraordinary…

Scots' support for the Union solidifies

When unionist parties vote down Alex Salmond’s proposed independence referendum he hopes to encourage the idea that democracy is being denied. A new poll demonstrates that Scots might not be so receptive to this argument after all. According to You Gov, backing for independence has fallen to 29%, whilst support for the Union is up four points, to 57%.

Anthony King set the question, in line with the SNP’s proposed ‘softly softly’ approach. Rather than seeking honestly the Scottish people’s assent to break up the United Kingdom, the party will propose a mealy mouthed formulation about ‘negotiating a settlement with Westminster‘. King observes that in rejecting this proposition,

“most Scots regard the idea of a referendum on Scottish independence as an irrelevant bore and that, if any such referendum were held in the near future, it would be overwhelmingly defeated".

Indeed only one in eight Scots named a referendum as one of the top two priorities on which Holyrood should concentr…

Conservatives should be able to avoid asking for Clegg's help

In the wake of the Observer’s Ipsos-Mori poll, which suggested that the general election could result in a hung parliament, Nick Clegg has indicated that, in that eventuality, his party might be prepared to enter into an arrangement with the Conservatives. On ‘The Andrew Marr Show’ the Liberal Democrat leader set out a position which it is difficult not to interpret as encouragement to the Tories.

"Whichever party has the strongest mandate from the British people, it seems to me obvious in a democracy they have the first right to seek to try and govern, either on their own or with others.”

On Conservative Home Jonathan Isaby suggests that Clegg would find it impossible to sell coalition with the Tories to grass roots Liberal Democrat supporters.

However the modern Conservative party, with its emphasis on social justice, is relatively in tune with liberal sensibilities. Although, as Isaby observes, it is unlikely to accede to demands for proportional representation.


Young Unionist Chairman addresses Conservative Future Scotland

Congratulations to Michael Shilliday, whom many of you will know. He had the distinction of addressing the Conservative Future Conference this afternoon. The final draft of his speech is reproduced below.

Mr Chairman it is a tremendous privilege to be addressing this conference, Alasdair and I were delighted to be invited, and are delighted to be here. Your hospitality and generosity have been greatly appreciated, and we have been greatly impressed at the scale and organisation of this conference.

In years gone past, similar gatherings of Young Conservatives in Scotland would I am certain have counted amongst them unionists from Northern Ireland, either as members of the Conservative Party locally, or as guests from my party, here as friends in support of a party and a cause with which they would have had considerable sympathy.

I feel however Mr Chairman, a particular honour in addressing this particular conference at this particular time, because I feel that I am here not only as a …

Alliance prefer Hermon to Parsley?

Jeff Peel doesn't reveal any sources, but on his (Public) Diary blog he suggests that the Alliance Party is set to 'support' Sylvia Hermon 'rather than' Ian Parsley in the North Down race for Westminster.

How this support would manifest itself is not made clear. Conservatives and Unionists have not selected a candidate for North Down, but the former Alliance man, Parsley, has been nominated and it is thought that the Conservative party is unlikely to countenance an endorsement of the current Ulster Unionist MP.

Is Alliance set to intervene in another party's selection process or is it prepared not to stand in North Down, should Sylvia Hermon decide to contest the seat as an independent? Perhaps, within the party, there is simply a preference for a figure considered to be left liberal, rather than a recent defector?

After all, whether or not, as Jeff contends, Alliance voters are intrinsically sympathetic to the Conservatives, its leadership are a rather differ…

Blogtalk NI (Episode 5)

Blogtalk (episode 5) from Northern Visions/NvTv on Vimeo.Brian Crowe from Burke's Corner, Alan Meban from Alan in Belfast ans Slugger's oppression correspondent, Chris Donnelly, discuss several topics.

Armstrong aims to remind electorate that Conservatives and Unionists offer best option in North Antrim

The media has already established its angle on the North Antrim general election contest. It’s all about Jim Allister and whichever Paisley is nominated to rebuff his challenge. To a degree the preoccupation with the DUP / TUV contest is understandable. After all, in 2005 Senior romped home with more than 25,000 votes and Ulster Unionist candidate, Rodney McCune, was beaten to second spot by Sinn Féin.

However, four years have elapsed and Northern Ireland’s electoral landscape looks rather different. Conservatives and Unionists will hope to improve their vote share considerably in the constituency. The TUV’s irrelevance to Westminster politics is manifestly obvious, and the Paisleys‘ reputation has been tarnished, even within their traditional heartlands. If voters in North Antrim need any reminder of the venality which caused the family’s downfall, they need only glance at a whopping £500,000 advice centre in Ballymena.

Of course, if UCUNF is to benefit from a fragmented DUP vo…

DUP refuses to have a grown up budget debate.

Once again the DUP has attacked Ulster Unionists on the basis that their Conservative partners intend to tackle the budget deficit. Simon Hamilton, during a finance debate, alleged that 10% cuts in the block grant would be sought, under a Tory government.

First of all, the Tories have not specified a 10% cut for Northern Ireland. Second, all parties agree that the UK's budget deficit must be reduced. Does the DUP seriously reject this analysis? Or does it believe that Northern Ireland alone should not play its part in delivering efficiencies?

If it doesn't recognise the need to cut spending, then it should outline its alternative economic plan for the UK, if it takes its position as a unionist party seriously. Although my suspicion is that grown up politics is a leap too far for Robinson's party. It is more suited to operating as a local pressure group, constantly demanding more money.

Margaret Ritchie's balls and a lack of sectarianism in Northern Irish politics. The weird world of John Coulter.

Margaret Ritchie may have won twice as many nominations to become SDLP leader as her rival, Alasdair McDonnell, but the South Belfast MP has managed a coup of his own. The party’s deputy leader can now count ‘radical unionist’, John Coulter, amongst his backers. I’d imagine he feels humbled, perhaps even ashamed.

Coulter, in his weekly contribution to that venerable political digest, the Irish Daily Star, sets out the case for McDonnell, in characteristically linear fashion. If you dare read his piece, first fasten your mental feet around the stout shaft of a logical pogo stick, because you’re about to hop all over the place! Basic anatomy, religious fundamentalism, southern politics, northern politics and wild baseless conjecture are the inchoate selection of ingredients scattered unevenly atop John’s latest opinion pizza.

A warning for Glentoran fans. Read Coulter’s opening gambit carefully. That 6-0 defeat might still smart, but he’s not proposing a particularly devious sche…

Rapping Gordon Brown

From the Impressions Show.

Adams' tours of 'bandit country'

Gerry Adams, or 'this blog' as he now prefers to call himself, would no doubt be keen to assure voters that they are not witnessing the fag end of his political career. After all, he recently assured the media that he will remain Sinn Féin's president as long as he damn well pleases (or words to that effect). Democracy, eh?

Still, there's no harm in having more than one string to your bow. Gerry is already a confirmed man of letters (albeit one who attracts widespread academic derision) and 'a blog'. Now he's turning his attention to the tourist industry, offering guided tours of South Armagh. I'm sure 'Cú Chulainn Tours', staffed by ex republican terrorists, offers a highly impartial account of the area's history!

Conservative appointment signals a party eager to get started, but they're still waiting for Sir Reg.

At the general election, whether it is held in March, April or May, Conservatives and Unionists will field a strong slate of candidates across eighteen constituencies in Northern Ireland. Today the Conservative party announced that Jonathan Caine will rejoin its team, becoming Chief of Staff to shadow secretary of state, Owen Paterson, in the run up to the poll.

The appointment is a statement of intent from Tory leader, David Cameron. He is treating the campaign in Northern Ireland with the utmost seriousness and the Conservatives are prepared to invest in the best people in order to make it a success.

Caine spent more than eight years as Assistant Director of the Conservative Research Department, where he specialised in Northern Ireland. Between 1991 and 1995 he operated as special adviser to two secretaries of state here. Latterly, he is a director at lobbying firm Bell Pottinger Public Affairs. Owen Paterson describes him as ‘one of the foremost experts on Northern Ireland …

Wells, that's a lot of money.

The Belfast Telegraph reports that the IFA could face a bill approaching £500,000 after settling an unfair dismissal case, brought by former Chief Executive Howard Wells, out of court. Wells was fired months after he began internal grievance procedures, citing anti-English racism within the Association. David Bowen, who held the post before Wells, was also awarded an enormous pay off when he was replaced at the helm of Northern Ireland’s football governing body back in 2005.

During Wells’ tenure at Windsor Avenue, he became incredibly unpopular with supporters, and his dismissal was widely welcomed. Admittedly the former Chief Executive proved a consistent advocate of a multi-sports stadium at the site of the former Maze prison, which enthused few fans, but otherwise the animosity which he attracted was puzzling.

It was commonly perceived that Wells’ stewardship coincided with a spell of excessive commercialism at the IFA. However, for years football people had bemoaned a lack of…

March General Election looks unlikely.

Nick Robinson explains his workings on the Newslog blog, but for reprobates slouching at the back of the politics' classroom, the answer to all this tiresome pre-Budget calculus is that a March general election is now extremely unlikely.

The BBC's politics editor believes that Conservatives nationally will be relieved that Gordon Brown cannot capitalise on an 'element of surprise'.

I'd imagine that the Conservatives and Unionists in Northern Ireland will also welcome an additional month or two to prepare for a poll. The selection process is proving more laborious than expected, with several constituencies lagging behind. Which will frustrate the areas where candidates have been selected and are raring to get started campaigning.

The Fall of the House of Paisley - by David Gordon

David Gordon played his own part in ‘The Fall of the House of Paisley’ by providing the print media’s most comprehensive coverage of the political dynasty’s links to property magnate Seymour Sweeney, and reporting other scandals which rocked the DUP during 2007 and 2008. Indeed the journalist brought to popular attention a number of the important scoops which underpin his new book’s narrative.

It should be acknowledged, however, that a local blog, with its relative lack of resources, doggedly matched the Belfast Telegraph for detail as the extent of cronyism in the Paisleys’ North Antrim constituency became apparent.

The book’s blurb describes its contents as ‘the slow demise of a powerful political dynasty’, but the actual succession of events which precipitated the departure of Ian Paisley Junior from government, and subsequently resulted in the resignation of his father from the First Minister’s office, unfolded relatively quickly. Gordon’s book moves the story along with suita…

Blogtalk NI (Episode 4)

Conall McDevitt, Gerard McKeown and I discuss remembrance, the Kelly Report and Nelson McCausland's blog. Anyone who wishes to get involved, please email (episode 4) from Northern Visions/NvTv on Vimeo.

'Sound republicans' - exempt from justice?

I don’t suppose that I was the only one reminded of Stuart Neville’s novel ‘The Twelve’, when I read newspaper reports detailing SOCA’s seizure of a South Armagh republican’s assets, which took place yesterday. Newsline featured pictures of Sean Gerard Hughes’ farm, and I almost expected to hear the whine of an injured bull terrier.

Sinn Féin’s response has, thus far, only exacerbated the sense of déjà vu. Neville’s book was a work of fiction, but the Republican movement which provided its backdrop hardly required a painstaking imaginative effort.

For the uninitiated, or those outside Northern Ireland, the Serious Organised Crime Agency was granted a court order to seize assets belonging to Hughes, on the grounds that they are suspected to come from laundering the proceeds of mortgage fraud, evading tax and fiddling the benefit system. He has previously been convicted of fraudulently claiming income support.

Sinn Féin’s MP for the area, Conor Murphy, who is also Regional Developme…

Remembrance and perceiving hostile intent where none exists.

Tomorrow is Armistice Day. Although commemorations are more commonly held on Remembrance Sunday, in the UK, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month is marked by two minutes silence, in memory, in particular, of those who died in the First World War. Hostilities ceased, on the Western Front, at that time in 1918, after four years of mechanised warfare had wrought devastation on a generation of young men.

Yesterday, whilst recording an episode of Blogtalk NI, I was asked to consider the issue of remembrance and in particular controversy which often becomes attached to the simple act of remembering, in Northern Ireland. In retrospect, I am dissatisfied with the answer I gave and pre-emptively, I would like to add a few thoughts here.

Slugger O’Toole provides a useful snapshot of febrile debate which can attend simple, reverential acts, such as wearing a poppy, or laying a wreath. If you have the time, and the patience, there are pages and pages of it. In addition…

Towards civic politics. Two different interpretations.

Mr Ulster contemplates an absence of ‘civic nationalism’ in Northern Ireland on his blog, prompted by the promotion of its ethnic cousin in Scotland, by the SNP First Minister. He believes that politics in the Republic of Ireland have embraced a more civic interpretation of nationalism, whilst there is no equivalent movement to the north of the border. In contrast, Jason Walsh, writing in Humanism Ireland, argues that secularisation and diversity in southern Ireland would be boosted incomparably if the state were to absorb Northern Ireland’s populace.

As a unionist, I accept neither argument, although I see the merits of each. Dublin, I admit, is liberal and cosmopolitan to an extent which cannot be claimed of Belfast. Disfigured by a recent legacy of violence and sectarianism, Northern Ireland’s politics are currently dominated, on one hand, by the Ulster nationalism of the DUP and, on the other, by the Irish nationalism of Sinn Féin. Neither party is interested in promoting a ph…

Allister worried by New Force

A very brief post this evening. I'm still shivering after a chilly afternoon in Lurgan. It is worth observing, however, that Jim Allister, in his speech at the TUV conference, devoted his opening remarks to the Conservatives and Unionists, rather than the DUP. There is a New Force in unionism, it is seeking to involve Northern Ireland in national politics rather than move further down the road of Ulster exceptionalism.

Glasgow North East by-election candidates

The by-election to replace Michael Martin will finally take place on November 12. The winner will barely have become accustomed to their new environment before they are back on the campaign trail. The BBC has a profile of each of the candidates - a rum lot to be perfectly honest - other than Ruth Davidson. She will do well to increase the Conservatives' vote. This is a rather grim part of Glasgow.

Incidentally, Down and Out in Lenzie and Lossiemouth, whose penthouse flat is decidedly not in Martin's old constituency, highlights another 'betrayal' by the SNP.

Facing down the Eurosceptics and neocons

I’m sure this post will foreshadow a more erudite article, around a similar theme, at Burke’s Corner. I’d imagine that BC is adamantly buffing his polished philosophical prose as we speak. Nevertheless, I like Geoffrey Wheatcroft’s latest Comment is Free piece enough to offer my own, doubtless rather more superficial, interpretation. Hopefully it’ll do until the real thing becomes available.

Wheatcroft is convinced that the Conservative party must cast off the excesses of hardline Euroscepticism and neoconservatism, as it formulates its foreign policy, in order to embrace an older tradition which is cautious, realistic and diplomatic. He detects that David Cameron has been at his least sure footed reacting to issues beyond the scope of domestic politics.

In Europe he has isolated his party from the mainstream, by withdrawing from the EPP. The Conservatives are now estranged from natural European allies. Wheatcroft describes the furore over Lisbon and a referendum as a “self-destru…

Kelly Report puts DUP on the double jobbing hook

The report which Sir Christopher Kelly’s Committee on Standards in Public Life published on MPs’ expenses and allowances on Wednesday, as yet, only comprises recommendations. Nick Robinson, on his blog, has set out the likely process for its implementation, during which MPs might, he contends, attempt to ‘smooth off the sharpest edges’ of the proposed reforms.

The committee has advised that a mandatory end to double jobbing in Northern Ireland should be imposed in time for the 2011 Assembly election, although it is prepared to contemplate postponement until 2015. Sixteen of our eighteen MPs are also MLAs, whilst Alex Salmond retains the solitary dual mandate outside Northern Ireland. It is unlikely that strong opposition will emerge to this particular Kelly proposal.

Which makes the dilemma for Northern Irish parties, and in particular the DUP, all the more interesting. Its leader recently indicated that he was likely to abandon a hastily formulated commitment to end double jobb…

Kennedy blasts Martin for Bill of Rights interference

Danny Kennedy has taken the Republic’s Foreign Minister, Michéal Martin, to task for ‘megaphone diplomacy’ after he intervened in the Bill of Rights debate. In a statement to the Seanad Mr Martin claimed that the proposed bill comprises ‘unfinished work’ and he deemed its implementation a necessary and outstanding part of the Good Friday Agreement.

We have revisited the original text many times on this blog and there is little point reproducing it again. The Belfast Agreement established a Commission charged with investigating the possibility of a Human Rights Act, it did not lay down a requirement that any advice should be implemented. In any case, the remit which the Agreement set out was largely ignored in the recommendations which the NIHRC eventually produced.

Danny Kennedy argues that the Republic’s government cannot reasonably advocate socio economic rights in Northern Ireland which it would not be prepared to apply to its own jurisdiction. Neither is Martin entitled to app…

SDLP contest is important but Northern Ireland needs a revival of moderate politics on both sides of the divide.

In his News Letter column Alex Kane emphasises the importance of the SDLP leadership contest to prospects of a constructive, workable Northern Ireland Assembly. In stark terms, if the moderate nationalist party cannot recover and challenge Sinn Féin’s ascendancy, then devolved government will continue along current lines, perpetuating a community tug of war which results in stasis.

Although Kane is right to identify the Shinners as the principal obstacle to partnership, I do not accept his contention that it scarcely matters which party leads unionism. The DUP has contributed substantially to the current dysfunction at Stormont and it acts as a brake on progress. It might not share Sinn Féin’s paramilitary past, but it is also a party of carve-up, rather than partnership.

Fault does not exclusively lie with parties on one particular side of the constitutional question. If Northern Ireland is to enjoy effective, efficient regional government and some degree of community cohesion,…

A report to make Iris cry into her heart shaped pillow.

The Committee on Standards in Public Life has finally published its report on MPs’ expenses and allowances. The BBC has a PDF of the full ‘Kelly Report’ and a useful synopsis for the impatient or time restricted reader. Some of its recommendations will send a chill up the collective spines of Northern Ireland’s MPs, particularly those within the DUP. It is worth remembering that the conduct which the report recommends is best practice which MPs should have abided by in the first instance.

Recommendation 40:

The practice of permitting a Westminster MP simultaneously to sit in a devolved legislature should be brought to an end, ideally by the time of the elections to the three devolved legislatures scheduled for May 2011.

Which is augmented by the following observations in the introduction,

16 out of 18 Northern Ireland Westminster MPs are also members of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Five of them currently hold ministerial positions there. The only other example of dual mandates is t…

Eurosceptics the new Ulster Unionists? Hardly.

I’m a little puzzled by a section of this blog, by Iain Martin, carried on the Wall Street Journal’s site. Martin (presumably the same one who writes for the Telegraph) hails the death of ‘British Euroskepticism’ (sic). It is this passage, however, which had me scratching my head,

“The defeat of British Euroskepticism reminds me quite a bit of what happened to Ulster Unionism around the turn of the century. One minute it seemed to be winning the arguments. It was strong, then the wind changed and it wasn’t - in any way that we had previously understood it - there any more. Its former adherents couldn’t quite see the point of carrying on as they had previously done and within months had “adjusted to reality”. Quickly, they were prepared to adopt positions they would have previously though unthinkable.”

Ulster Unionism ‘wasn’t there anymore’? Undoubtedly accommodations were reached which were disorientated many unionists, but unionism, devoted to retaining and strengthening the Union, …

Car Crash TV

Sweet revenge for all of the less enthusiastic readers of this blog. I am aware that I appear to be giving birth to some of the sentences which eventually lurch unsteadily into existence. To paraphrase Nabakov, “In my head I think like a genius, I write reasonably proficiently, but I talk like an idiot”.

Also contributing to this episode of blogtalk, Conall McDevitt and Gary McKeown, both of whom preside over rather good sites.

Blogtalk (episode 3) from Northern Visions on Vimeo.

If you're a blogger, and you would like to get involved in Blogtalk NI, please email

Rafa's responsibility - whatever the statistics imply

‘The Fink Tank’ is the Times’ attempt to unravel the mysteries of football by statistical analysis. It usefulness is circumscribed by the fact that the sport does not, in reality, bear much resemblance to a game of Championship Manager. Rather, it is determined by the attributes and performances of flawed human beings, forged into a team with the help of another flawed human being. And both players and manager are, in turn, subject to the vagaries of wind, rain, beachballs and several million other variables.

Nevertheless ‘The Fink Tank’ is useful for exploding various statistics based fallacies which are common currency for fans and football journalists alike. Take, for instance, the widespread assumption that Rafa Benitez’ Liverpool squad has been expensively assembled. In actuality the 2009-10 panel is ranked fifth in the Premier League by cost. Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United and Spurs’ squads each required a larger budget to build.

Hard statistics also show tha…

Cameron battens down the hatches for a Eurobuffeting.

For an illustration of the bind in which David Cameron finds himself as regards Europe, one need only read Barry Legg’s piece in today’s Guardian.

Legg had a short but cantankerous parliamentary career, on the Eurosceptic wing of the Conservative party. However, it would be wrong to dismiss him as an unrepresentative crank, based on a history of Westminster rebellion. The former MP is close to senior figures, including Iain Duncan Smith, and his views are representative, for better or for worse, of a substantial section of the Tory grass roots.

He is prepared to present any policy which does not include a referendum on Lisbon as a betrayal, whether the Treaty is ratified by all twenty seven countries, or not. The Bruges Group is limbering up to do similar.

Whilst more sanguine commentators agree that David Cameron took a risk withdrawing the Conservatives from the EPP, and disagree about the effectiveness and bravery of his decision, Legg contends that the formation of a new group…

Former Bel Tel ed unrepentant as White Elephant disappears into the distance.

“I wish I had listened to Malcolm's advice before pouring out so much undiluted advocacy for the Maze”, concedes Ed Curran. Seasoned local football journalist, Malcolm Brodie, had advised the former Belfast Telegraph editor that a multisports stadium on the former prison site was not viable.

So does Curran’s rueful admission represent the beginnings of an apology for submitting readers to a barrage of ill-advised, senseless propaganda? Unfortunately not. He remains implacably convinced that a flawless project was sunk by sectarian prejudice, rather than practical objections and pragmatism. Curran has got it so wrong, yet remains convinced that he is so right, that it is almost poignant.

None of the three sports governing bodies were half hearted in their commitments to a multisports stadium simply because it was to be shared, whatever the ex Tele supremo might insinuate. There was no significant undercurrent of sectarianism from supporters which caused the project to flound…