Showing posts from March, 2010

Tank commander McFarland defers to his superior officer.

The Belfast Telegraph might express its shock at Alan McFarland’s resignation from the Ulster Unionist party, but let’s be honest, it would have been more surprising had he remained a member. The former tank major has long been a patsy for General Sylvia in North Down.

Indeed, in 2005, he stood for the party leadership as Hermon’s cipher. The writing was on the wall as soon as McFarland’s commander in chief deserted the UUP to ally herself with the DUP.

The North Down MLA, who, like his boss, now styles himself an ‘Independent Unionist’, was elected on an Ulster Unionist ticket. The honourable course of action would be for McFarland to resign in order to allow the UUP to co-opt a representative for its seat.

Instead he has decided to retain a seat which he won under the false pretences that he would remain an Ulster Unionist throughout the lifetime of the Assembly. It is an unprincipled action, but a lack of principle is not surprising from an acolyte of Sylvia Herman.

Here we ha…

The 'Del Boy' Robinsons - sleazy, greedy and discredited.

Greed, money, sex and sleaze. The Iris Robinson affair stank of each.

First Minister, Peter Robinson was clearly implicated, but there was no smoking gun. The absence of any specific proof of wrong-doing seems to be enough for the DUP. It has limped along with its discredited leader and even managed something of a revival as the Labour government sought to bolster its position.

Now, however, the BBC has produced further seedy revelations.

Remember the Robinson's property developer friend, Fred Fraser? He was one of the men from whom Iris procured £50,000 for her teenage paramour, Kirk McCambley. It transpires that he also sold the Robinsons a valuable piece of land, worth at least £75,000, for the grand total of £5. A generous chap, I'm sure you'll agree!

During the height of the property boom its value sky-rocketed, before the pair sold it, again for the princely sum of £5, despite its market value now topping £220,000. The lucky recipient was another property dev…

Can the Tories get their mojo back before the general election?

Last night’s ‘chancellors’ debate’ witnessed some uncomfortable moments for George Osborne. The Conservatives will be relieved to get his tussle with Alistair Darling and Vince Cable over, so early in the election campaign. Channel 4’s programme acted as a starting pistol for the parties’ television battle, but the Tories hope deft performances from David Cameron will give them the edge in three set-piece leaders debates, which form the centre-piece to TV poll coverage.

Although Osborne made a brave attempt at ’triangulating’ his pitch to both traditional Conservative voters and the centre ground, the shadow chancellor struggled to defend his party’s latest pledge on National Insurance. Whereas, just a year ago, the Tory message was confident and it was conservative politics which fizzed with intellectual energy, the imminent election, and narrowing poll leads, have caused the party and its leader to look less sure-footed.

Despite the ’gravitational pull’ of the Thatcherite right…

Print the PMS investors' money.

Last week, Shadow Sectretary of State, Owen Paterson, conducted an exchange with Paul Goggins, the NIO’s Minister of State, about the fate of PMS savers. The transcript can be read here.

To digress briefly, apart from Paterson’s questions, you can also sample the horrendous, obsequious attitude of Sylvia Hermon to Goggins and his superior, Shaun Woodward.

“Excellent ministers for Northern Ireland”! On what planet does this woman live? Thoroughly inaccurate and cringe-making, at the same time!

One of the controversies these ‘excellent ministers’ have presided over is the failure to reimburse Presbyterian Mutual investors, rendering them, thus far, the only British savers who have lost out, because of the banking crisis.

Paterson promises a Conservative secretary of state will “stand up for the people of Northern Ireland” as regards this issue. I hope he is right. One group which has suggested a possible solution to the PMS situation is the Cobden Centre.

In today’s Belfast Telegr…

Moscow metro tragedy: Russia and the west faces common foe.

Tragic news from Moscow of a type which the city hasn‘t experienced for six years. This morning two suicide bombers killed at least 37 rush hour commuters at the Lubyanka and Park Kultury metro stations.

A strike at the Lubyanka station, which stands close to the former KGB headquarters, and still houses the current Russian security apparatus, the FSB, is likely to be symbolic. The square is just a brief walk from the Kremlin.

Park Kultury is better known as Gorky Park. It lies a little up the Moscow River, but it is also at the heart of the city. The metro is notoriously busy and, no doubt, at 8am local time, was crammed with people attempting to get to work.

It is believed that two female suicide bombers carried out the attacks. Whether they were Chechen, as reports suggest, or part of the wider Islamist insurgency in the Caucasus, time will tell.

Certainly it is a reminder that Russia is struggling with a fanatical and lethal foe operating within its borders. In November twen…

In no way a quote of the day.

A year or so ago the DUP was presenting itself as a party of free marketeers and advocating a cut in Corporation Tax. The Conservative and Unionist candidate for North Antrim, Irwin Armstrong, has picked up on a lurch to the left by the Finance Minister, who recently came out against a lower rate for Northern Ireland. Has 'Red Sammy' returned?

Previously the Finance Minister sought to present himself as a champion of enterprise and his party claimed to be a business friendly party. Now he is setting himself against a measure which the business community says it needs to drive forward the private sector and create jobs during a difficult economic spell for Northern Ireland.

Perhaps he resents the fact that it is Conservatives and Unionists who are actively working towards a tax reduction and, after the general election, could have the tools to deliver it, as part of the government of the United Kingdom. Whereas the DUP will remain impotent at Westminster, without any influenc…

The problem with Russia's liberals.

Recent anti-Kremlin protests in Kaliningrad Oblast, the Russian exclave which sits between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea, have attracted attention, because of their size. Thousands of demonstrators have been involved in opposition rallies, aimed at the region’s governor Georgy Boos.

There has been some speculation, in the British media, that a coherent ’liberal’ alternative to Vladimir Putin’s United Russia is emerging. The excitement is misplaced. Genuine liberal democratic parties in Russia are tiny and the opposition most frequently championed in western newspapers is a motley crew.

The chess player, Garry Kasparov, is feted in the United States as a Russian ‘dissident’. He plays a prominent role in the ‘Another Russia’ coalition, which styles itself the country’s main anti-Putin opposition.

‘Another Russia’ is made up of an assortment of groups including Eduard Limonov’s outlawed National Bolsheviks. This charming party melds far left Bolshevism, extreme nationalism …

Do we want full-time parliamentary representatives or glorified social workers?

In this morning's News Letter I examine the curious attitude that exists in Northern Ireland towards Westminster MP's.

WHAT makes a good MP? You might think that attendance at the House of Commons would be a useful start.

Too often, in Northern Ireland, however, attentive constituency work is mistaken for an assiduous approach to Westminster politics at large.

Although constituency work is an important aspect of an MP's duties, often it is prioritised, to the exclusion of attendance at the House of Commons, by local parties. I argue:

Regular surgeries are a must, and any diligent member will take time to listen to his or her constituents' concerns, but an MP should serve the constituency as a whole, as well as the individuals which make it up.

That means attempting to drum up investment for the area, exerting influence at parliament on its behalf and attending debates and divisions in the House of Commons.

If an MP spends precious few hours in parliament, and a great many f…

The Russians aren't coming to the Belfast Telegraph.

As anticipated, the Russian oligarch, Alexander Lebedev has bought the Independent and the Independent on Sunday. So far as I can tell, despite attempts to suggest otherwise by Roy Greenslade and Brian Walker, the Belfast Telegraph was never intended to be part of the deal. So Northern Ireland’s largest daily paper stays in the possession of the Irish company INM.

Ulster Museum - vote early, vote often!

The Art Fund Prize dispenses £100,000 to a gallery or museum which has shown originality and excellence. The Ulster Museum has of course undergone a stunning refit recently. Your votes won't decide who gets the prize, but they might influence the judges, particularly if you give reasons. And, in any case, we don't like getting beaten in a poll!

Hermon - not so independent, or liberal, as she wants to appear.

An interesting piece on Ken Reid’s blog, highlighted by Pete Baker, on Slugger O’Toole. Sylvia Hermon, who, for her persistent attacks on her own party, has acquiring something of a reputation for independence, seems to be establishing an alliance with the DUP.

The deselected North Down MP has yet to announce her intention to stand in the forthcoming election, but she has clearly begun electioneering anyway. Reid highlights ‘cordiality’ between Hermon and DUP MPs, at the Westminster debate about policing and justice.

In fact Reid understands that no Democratic Unionist candidate will stand against Hermon in North Down and practical help ‘on the ground’ is likely to be forthcoming.

Of course it is not the first time that a Hermon - DUP axis has appeared. The same protagonists banded together to force Labour’s draconian 40 day pre-trial detention legislation through the Commons. Indeed, O’Neill ably demonstrates, that Hermon, despite her liberal reputation, is even more authoritari…

Replacement for Kane brought in at UUP

Hand of History reports that the Ulster Unionists have appointed a new Director of Communications. Davy Sims has an impressive CV in media and public relations, which you can delve into, in detail, on Ivor's blog.

This appointment could inject much needed professionalism into the party's press operation and offer a pre-election boost for the Conservatives and Unionists.

Of course the previous incumbent, Alex Kane, alleged that a lack of communication hampered his duties as director of same. Ultimately, Sims' influence will depend on how successfully he is integrated with the business end of the party.

Note to commenters

In order to keep the commenting process as simple as possible, and in order to avoid requiring commenters to sign up with some type of I.D., anonymous commenting is enabled on this blog. THAT IS NOT TO SAY THAT ANONYMOUS COMMENTS ARE ENCOURAGED. Anonymous comments are not moderated with any great care and will appear or not appear at my whim. Particularly because, often, they come from exactly the same IP addresses used by a registered user, or an unregistered user who otherwise comments using a handle.

The courteous thing, and what I want to encourage, is to use a handle, or a name, and stick to it. You don't have to have a Google or a Yahoo account. Simply use the box provided when you're commenting, or add a signature at the bottom of your post. Of course this system is also open to abuse, but at least it encourages people to make their comments vaguely attributable.

The surest way to guarantee your view is put across on Three Thousand Versts is to use a registered a…

Salmond and Robinson - birds of a feather?

O’Neill has already highlighted the possibility of a ‘Celtic Bloc’ designed to extract nationalist concessions at Westminster, should the general election result in a hung parliament. Several newspapers have reported discussions between the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the SDLP and, yes, the DUP.

At the SNP’s Spring Conference the party set out its strategy, which is heavily weighted towards the possibility that a hung parliament might occur. Peter Robinson has also set out his stall, in similar fashion, highlighting the opportunity to realise ‘key strategic gains’ in the event of an inconclusive election.

With polls steadying for Conservatives over the weekend a decisive victory is still very much achievable. However, almost all commentators agree, a hung parliament would be the worst possible general election result for the United Kingdom. Three parties committed to the dismantlement of the UK might be expected to aspire to that outcome, but the DUP is purportedly a unionist party!

The se…

Rodney out of the blogs in East Antrim.

Rodney McCune, who has the task of winning back East Antrim from Sammy Wilson and the DUP, is the latest Conservative and Unionist candidate to launch a campaign blog. Mike Nesbitt's site has already become a lively record of the Strangford hopeful's clashes with the DUP and Daphne Trimble's blog is a little more sedate, but thoughtful.

Rodney kicks off with the broad outline of his pitch to voters in East Antrim.

"The growing momentum for change in East Antrim is born of a desire to see full-time committed local MPs making a difference at Westminster. The momentum for change is growing because people here want a direct say on our future national Government."

"After twelve years in power this Labour Government is stale. It sadly comprises of the third and fourth tier of Labour MPs elected in 1997. Only a change of governing party will bring about the fresh intake of talent we need to move beyond the expenses scandal and tackle the serious immediate challenges …

The runners and riders - UCUNF

Eight more candidates selected this morning.

Rodney McCune in East Antrim.
Lesley McAuley in East Londonderry.
Paula Bradshaw South belfast
Foyle is David Harding
Irwin Armstrong takes North Antrim.
Ian Parsley North Down.
Tom Elliott Fermanagh South Tyrone

So only the tricky South Antrim decision remains elusive. It could well produce a bit of a surprise.

Conservatives and Unionists set to announce final nine candidates.

The Conservatives and Unionists look set to announce their final nine candidates, filling out the full slate of eighteen, tomorrow morning. I'm led to believe that both the Conservative Area Executive and the Ulster Unionist Executive are scheduled to meet in order to rubber stamp the line-up.

The apparent defection of Deirdre Nelson from the Northern Ireland Conservatives provides further corroborating evidence, and tells us one possible certainly didn't make the cut!

Presaging an announcement, the nine candidates already selected have biographies, added to the Conservatives and Unionists Facebook page. Sir Reg Empey and Owen Paterson appear in this morning's News Letter promoting the benefits of the New Force.

Let's be clear what that means. If the Conservatives win the election, Conservative and Unionist MPs from Northern Ireland will be able to play a full role in a Conservative Government. That includes being eligible to serve as ministers.

No other party standi…

Adams' world tour continues but he's not listening to voices closer to home.

In today's Belfast Telegraph I use Gerry Adams' latest US Tour as a jumping off point to examine Sinn Féin's lack of focus on the people who will actually decide the constitutional future of Northern Ireland.

The annual St Patrick's Day exodus to the United States is not what it used to be.

During the 1990s, Northern Ireland would gratefully empty its entire cohort of politicians, clutching suitcases full of green clover and emerald ties, unto a fleet of Boeing 747s bound for Washington.

Stormont's most ardent pedlar of Irish kitsch then is still, all these years later, its greatest enthusiast for a transatlantic jolly. Gerry Adams arrived in Boston on Saturday, scheduled for a full week of paddywhackery, focussed on promoting the goal of ‘Irish unity' among the island's diaspora.

He really needn't bother. The Sinn Fein president is already treated like a superstar by the section of Irish America he prefers to court.

Adams’s breakfast date on Sunday morning …

A mess - on the field and off it. Liverpool faces European exit.

Liverpool's prospects of claiming some silverware this season could end at Anfield tonight. If Rafa Benitez' side cannot overturn a one goal deficit against Lille the Europa Cup will have gone the same way as the League Cup, the F.A. Cup and the Premier League.

Fernando Torres has indicated that he might have to look elsewhere to pursue trophies, Albert Riera has highlighted the manager's lack of communication with players and Steven Gerrard's recent conduct suggests that he is feeling the strain.

On the pitch, a comfortable win against Portsmouth not withstanding, Liverpool's form has gone from bad to worse. Lille are a plodding, mediocre team and the 1-0 victory they were handed in France came courtesy of a deplorably negative display by the Anfield men.

Liverpool couldn't muster a goal either at Wigan Athletic. Even a team as gutless as Tottenham Hotspur was able to run in nine goals against the Latics.

Torres is conservative when he suggests that five or…

More on Georgia TV hoax via Newsy

The President of Georgia or television prankster?

If Georgians were under any misapprehension about their President before the weekend's bizarre developments in Tbilisi, surely now they must concede that he's mad, bad and dangerous to know! Saakashvili's government controlled TV station, Imedi, broadcast the news that Russia had invaded, as part of its main 8pm news bulletin.

For the eagle eyed, a disclaimer had preceded the story, and a commercial break, describing it as a consequence which could unfold, should the Georgian opposition replace Saakashvili.

None of which prevented widespread panic in Georgia and journalists based in the region mobilising to cover a new war which had apparently flared in the Caucasus. The President had been killed, reports claimed, to be replaced by opposition leader, Nino Burdzhanadze.

The elaborate hoax was clearly aimed at Burdzhanadze, who has recently visited Moscow, for talks with the Kremlin, in an attempt to normalise relations between the two countries.

To put this episode int…

Clarke is right to stress the importance of 'liberal' votes

I'm currently reading 'The Conservative Party: From Thatcher to Cameron' by Tim Bale. The book examines the Tories' years in the wilderness and examines failures of strategy which yielded three heavy general election defeats on the trot.

Bale produces some compelling evidence to sustain his contention that Conservatives were slow to recognise their 1997 defeat as a genuine repudiation of Thatcherism. The three leaders who succeeded John Major, to a greater or lesser extent, concentrated on a 'core vote' strategy, playing to the Tory gallery, rather than developing policies to appeal to a broad section of the British public.

It is only under David Cameron, Bale insists, that the Conservative party has begun to re-engage with the centre ground voters who generally determine the outcome of general elections. It is a convincing theory, with sits easily with the latest thinking in political science departments.

Indeed, on the basis of opinion poll evidence, the…

One flag that won't end up on a lamp-post.

Now I don't know whether much of the Northern Bank millions remains unspent by Sinn Féin and the IRA, but if there is a spare $500,000 still lying around republican coffers it could serve as an opening bid for this rather flimsy looking item.

The Bloomsbury auction house in New York is charged with selling "the only full-sized tricolour of the 1916 rising extant". Apparently it was retrieved by British forces from the GPO in Dublin.

It might be, as the blurb points out, a flag "of enormous historic importance", but I would suggest, whoever buys this piece of Irish linen has too much money. It's estimated to raise between $500,000 - $700,000 USD!

Notable, quotable.

Michael Gove, responding to Peter Mandelson's comment, that whilst David Cameron had not chosen to go to Eton, he had decided to join the 'Bullingdon Club'.

"When Peter Mandelson was at university he joined the Young Communists and travelled to Cuba to listen to Fidel Castro."

An entirely pertinent reply which just about summed up the unconvincing nature of Andrew Rawnsley's 'Dispatches' documentary about David Cameron, screened on Channel 4 last Monday.

At the time I was watching a proper car-crash, as Liverpool lost to Wigan Athletic, however the show is available on 4OD.

Discipline Hermon to stop her electioneering

Is the UUP prepared to allow Sylvia Hermon, unhindered, to engage in electioneering at its expense? The North Down MP hit out at Ulster Unionists over policing and justice. taking particular umbrage at remarks levelled at the secretary of state, Shaun Woodward, which she claimed were 'bewildering'.

Clearly she believes that the UUP's dalliance with Conservatives entitles her fellow champagne socialist, and Tory turncoat, to exact any punishment he sees fit.

The party responded with the following statement:

“The Ulster Unionist Assembly Group took its decision to oppose the devolution of policing and justice at this time with the full support of the Ulster Unionist Party Officer team and with the full support of the Party Executive Committee. This is how the UUP make democratic decisions. It is regrettable that Lady Sylvia’s position does not reflect the view of the party and it is disappointing that she failed to voice her concern at the Party Executive meeting rather …

Gorbachev, twenty five years on.

The Yorkshire Post carries an interesting piece by Lord Howell, marking a quarter of a century since Mikhail Gorbachev took power in the Soviet Union.

It was during the evening of March 10th 1985 that Communist Party General Secretary, Konstanin Chernenko, who had been slipping into decrepitude for at least a year, died. The Central Committee wasted little time appointing Gorbachev as successor.

Much revisionist ink has been spilt diminishing Gorbachev's reformist credentials. By some assessments he was simply engaged in a belated rearguard action, attempting to salvage a crumbling empire. However, at the time of the General Secretary's appointment, neither the shape of 'perestroika', nor the dismantling of oppressive structures which accompanied it, were inevitable.

Certainly Gorbachev aspired to breathe new life into a moribund Union. His aim of withdrawing Soviet forces from Afghanistan was not realised until 1989, but it was an ambition from the outset. The US…

Another Brown wobbly as he slams top soldiers.

Sometimes Gordon Brown's brass neck literally makes the jaw drop.

His latest spat with former soldiers comes smartly on the heals of the prime minister's appearance at the Chilcot Inquiry, during which he claimed that military commanders were always provided with the equipment they requested in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The chronology is instructive, and tells us all we need to know about the veracity of Brown's statements.

First the prime minister makes his claim. Lord Guthrie and Admiral Lord Boyce accuse Brown of disingenuous answers. At PM's questions Gordon reacts with the equanimity we have come to expect and rants about Tory officers.

Soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq have persistently complained about the inadequacy of their equipment. Should we suppose that they too are motivated by party political spite?

Accentuate the positive - Alex Kane, unionism and the principle of consent

The News Letter carried a lengthy interview last week, in which former communications director Alex Kane explained his departure from the Ulster Unionist party. Branching out, to speak about unionism more broadly, he declared its “vision, strategy and promotion … a mess”.

One comment from Kane, which does not appear online, struck me as a very self-evident, but entirely pertinent piece of analysis. Contemplating the post Belfast Agreement landscape, Kane implies that the core of political instability in Northern Ireland, the reason that a ‘centre-ground’ is prevented from emerging, lies with nationalist parties.

Both Sinn Féin and, more importantly, the SDLP, each view the Good Friday accord as ‘a staging post’ on the road to eventual dismantlement of the border.

Well of course they do! Nationalism’s goal is a thirty two county Irish republic.

A justifiable retort might point out that nationalist aspirations need not prevent unionism being confident and outward looking. Unionis…

'Decent people' should back the Ulster Unionists

I recently took part in a debate, part of the Exchange Mechanism project at Belfast Exposed, which asked whether the current system of power-sharing in Northern Ireland offers a democratic future or peace at any price. Although the panellists had different opinions about the best way forward, there was consensus that the current dispensation, as it is operated by the DUP and Sinn Féin, is not working.

A week later the Platform for Change initiative launched. The faces, at that event, were different, but the sense of frustration with politics here was precisely the same. In Northern Ireland an ever swelling chorus of voices is singing from the same hymn sheet – our politics are a mess and the Assembly needs to work more effectively.

When Sir Reg Empey described the Executive as a “huckster’s shop” he struck a popular chord which the UUP leader had not managed to strike since he urged the DUP and Sinn Féin to stop ‘arsing about’. It is generally acknowledged that the two larger pa…

Cobden's PMS solution not inflationary 'in any way'

A quick further mention of the Cobden Centre's scheme to reimburse Presybterian Mutual investors. The discussion has continued apace over at the organisation's blog. Toby Baxendale, who outlined the plan initially, explains in detail the reasons why the measure would not create inflation.

the loans will recover £200m to £250m according to the Administrators.
At the moment the demand deposits of £300m still exist in the UK money supply M4 definition which is not only money, but money and other near money substitutes. With our definition of Actual Money Supply, this is still the same.
Once the PMS has been wound down and all loans collected, there will be a shrink of the money supply to the exact tune of this loss. So anywhere between £50m and £100m. This is deflationary and will happen in some years time. We could let this happen and the creditors will take a hair cut in the normal way we have become accustomed to.
Or we could print £300m of cash now and give to the demand deposi…

Telfer embarrassed by Flower of Scotland

Nobody would deny that ‘Flower of Scotland’ is a rousing anthem. Both football and rugby teams in Scotland now employ a song which is fairly explicit in its separatist sentiment.

“But we can still rise now
And be the nation again.”

However, at least one figure, influential in Scots’ rugby, feels embarrassed by the nationalist and anti-English content of the lyrics. Jim Telfer, formerly Scotland’s coach and a renowned player, at international level and with the Lions, wants a more ‘mature’ anthem, according to the Scotsman.

“Telfer said the song encouraged anti-English "chippiness" and should be replaced.
Telfer – whose 1990 Grand Slam winning side was the first national team to adopt Flower of Scotland – said: "We need to stop defining ourselves through England, and it would be a sign of maturity if we got ourselves a decent national anthem.””

If national parties can't intervene in Northern Ireland, then we have been consigned to second class citizenship.

In this morning's Belfast Telegraph I make a rather belated intervention in the debate about Conservative involvement in Northern Ireland. This is a response to the hoopla which graced comment pages in the Times and the Guardian a few weeks ago. The gist, however, certainly remains relevant.

Shadow Secretary of State Owen Paterson has reacted with annoyance to Labour attacks on the Tories' involvement in Northern Ireland politics.

His exasperation is understandable. The current Government took Britain to war in order to impose its favoured system of government on distant parts of the globe.

Yet Labour implies that the Conservatives have overstepped their mark by expressing an opinion on the system of devolution employed in a region of the United Kingdom.

I continue:

Admittedly, the Hatfield House talks, hosted by Conservatives and purportedly touching upon the controversial topic of 'unionist unity', contributed to the current wave of anxiety. Particularly as they foresha…

Stormont and the blame game

Over at Forth I lament the circling commentators preparing to blame the UUP for any collapse at Stormont.

if power-sharing is working so badly, why does prevailing wisdom insist that it must be preserved at all costs? Sinn Féin and the DUP will be the chief beneficiaries of maintaining the sectarian carve-up, and whilst they can, between them, carry more than enough votes to impose the Hillsborough settlement, it is they who should be expected to promote its merits.

The current situation is that the Democratic Unionists, on one hand, champion their bright new deal, yet on the other, insist that the UUP must support it too, or else the bigger party will bring Stormont crashing down!

It is a perfect reflection of the state of democracy in Northern Ireland. ‘The peace process’ has become an untouchable shibboleth, an end in itself and woe betide us all if any politics threaten to break out. It doesn’t matter a jot if consensus is real or imposed. What is important is that consensus is …

The DUP is, most certainly not, Spartacus.

They’re a complicated little lot, the DUP, are they not?

Mervyn Storey MLA is decidedly unexcited by the prospect of full frontal nudity, extreme violence and orgies, promised by the forthcoming television series ‘Spartacus’. In fact he’s called for it to be banned.

Regrettably we are not informed whether he canvassed the opinions of other film enthusiasts within the party before he issued his statement.

I was interested, however, in the juxtaposition between Storey’s take on ‘Spartacus’ and the fashion in which Culture Minister, Nelson McCausland blithely swatted away concerns that the HBO series ‘Game of Thrones’, due to be filmed in Northern Ireland, might be, well, extremely violent as well.

The grin was practically cracking Nelson’s face as he expressed his comfort with middle-ages themed, on screen violence.

Now either the DUP is quite relaxed about violence, and it’s the sex which makes it go all squirmy, or it doesn’t give a monkeys, as long as the filth is filling the coffers o…

Northern Ireland stuck in the mud

Anyone who has followed Northern Ireland over the years will have witnessed some dire performances. A couple of games against Canada spring to mind, not to mention a 1-0 home defeat to Armenia.

I remember few occasions, however, when the display has been as flat, as inept, as spiritless as it was in Tirana last night. Simply, the players weren’t interested. Wherever they wanted to be on a wet night at the start of March, it wasn’t in a crumbling stadium, on a boglike pitch, chasing Albanians.

Make no mistake - Albania is not a good side. However, for spells last night, Northern Ireland made them look like world-beaters. Or to be more accurate, we looked like San Marino.

No-one on our side emerged from a 1-0 reverse with credit. From one end of the pitch to the other tackles were limp, passes went to red shirts or to no-one at all. It was a terrible spectacle and a shameful performance.

Even Jackie Fullerton, the commentator, had a night to forget. He seemed unable even to id…

With a new coalition in the Rada Ukraine can move on.

Despite a unanimous verdict from international observers that Ukraine’s presidential election was free and fair, Yulia Tymoshenko has continued to accuse Victor Yanukovych of stealing upwards of 1,000,000 votes on his way to victory.

Now, the Orange coalition built around Tymoshenko in the Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, has dissolved, after it failed to prove that it can any longer command a majority.

Yanukovych’s Party of the Regions will attempt to construct its own coalition, in order to implement the programme which Ukrainian voters endorsed at the polls. Tymoshenko has responded by questioning the legitimacy of any arrangement which might emerge.

The new President’s victory has not proved universally popular, but he emerged with a mandate to clear up the mess created by his predecessor Yushchenko and the Rada government led by Tymoshenko.

Ukraine’s politics have long been factional and fragmented, and it is hardly surprising that the prime minister has lost control of the Rada in…

Political games - but the buck stops with the DUP.

What an extraordinary predicament for the UUP!

I’ve just listened to Basil McCrea setting out the party’s position on policing and justice on Stephen Nolan’s radio programme. It was difficult to disagree with a word he uttered. Even Nolan seemed to be bereft of an attack route. At one stage he seemed to be arguing McCrea’s case for him.

The party insists that it has not had input into the deal on policing and justice, it is not privy to what is on the table and therefore it will not endorse it, without clear evidence of progress, when it is put to a vote.

The DUP, which alongside Sinn Féin has excluded smaller parties from the nitty gritty of the decision making process, has indicated that it will not proceed without Ulster Unionist backing!

No doubt, should the UUP vote against devolution, or abstain, the Dupes will blame Ulster Unionists for wrecking the deal. It is a thoroughly preposterous situation and it is 100% indicative of the DUP’s selfishness and cynicism. It takes a speci…

Tories ahead in tech wars with iPhone app

On Sunday David Cameron made a speech trailed as the Conservatives’ pre-election ‘relaunch’ at the party’s Spring Conference. It reaffirmed the communitarian platform on which the Tories’ manifesto will be built.

Good schools, support for the NHS, a redistribution of power away from the centre, family friendly policies – they are the ‘progressive ends by conservative means’ which Cameron has long championed.

Against a background of tightening poll margins, this is the type of centrist message which can steady the ship for the Tories. The party also hopes to spread the word by a more imaginative use of new media than its opponents.

To this end the Conservative iPhone App has been launched. Now I only have an iPod, but I downloaded it anyway, for wifi use, and it is rather slick. As well as the latest news, and synopses around various policy areas, there’s a ‘swingometer’ which demonstrates graphically the type of swing which the Tories need to return to government.

Hardly an accu…