Showing posts from April, 2010

Conservative lead should solidify as poll approaches and reality dawns.

With less than one week to go, David Cameron has given his party much needed momentum by winning the last leaders’ election debate. Most of the major pollsters agree that the Conservative leader was the clear victor, while one, Populous, put Cameron level pegging with Nick Clegg. Gordon Brown, fresh from his travails in Rochdale, trailed the two younger men in every poll.
Seymour Major is sceptical, but Conservative supporters will be closely scrutinising tonight’s newscasts, and the Sunday papers, to discern whether Cameron will get a similar bounce when the polling companies survey voting intention.
Although their accuracy is questionable, it would settle Tory nerves considerably if the party’s poll figures began to edge out of the mid thirties, towards forty per cent. And I believe that, as election day draws closer, support for the Liberal Democrats will soften, to the Conservatives’ advantage.
In Northern Ireland we are accustomed to the distortion of opinion polls by a so-call…

Mike Nesbitt outlines reasons to vote for Conservatives and Unionists

Just to follow up on the manifesto launch on Monday, UCUNF have now released Mike Nesbitt's speech as a short video.

Put your election predictions to the test.

Let's face it, we're all very good at making sweeping predictions about how the general election might pan out. And sometimes the heart plays more of a role than the head.
Stratagem, the Northern Ireland public affairs and lobbying company, is asking politicos to put their powers of prophesy to the test, by taking part in its prediction competition.
The concept is simple. Just choose your winner in each of the eighteen constituencies here. The most accurate punter will receive a signed copy of the above artwork, by Northern Ireland's best known political cartoonist, Ian Knox.
The entry from is located here. I've has a punt already and, after next week's count, I'll post up how I got on.

DUP romps home in made up election.

No wonder the DUP did so well in the 2009 Assembly elections. No-one else knew they were on! West Tyrone general election candidate Tom Buchanan makes another unsubstantiated Dupe claim on his campaign literature.

Allister could finish third in North Antrim.

From the moment Ian Junior announced his intention to stand for Westminster in North Antrim the die was cast. The media would inevitably portray the battle for the seat as a two horse race between the man set to inherit the Paisley family’s electoral silver and Jim Allister, former hardline Paisleyite, turned thorn in the DUP’s flesh.

There are clear and consistent signs emerging from the constituency, however, that conventional wisdom is about to be turned on its head. Allister’s Traditional Unionist Voice has failed to capture the public imagination in this unionist heartland. And, confounding expectations, the Conservatives and Ulster Unionists electoral pact is performing better than expected.
In candid moments TUV canvassers have admitted that their estimates are being substantially revised, downwards. And the Conservatives and Unionists are increasingly confident that they can mount the main challenge to Paisley in North Antrim.
Irwin Armstrong, the Conservative party member and lo…

Brown whinges about 'bigoted' granny after Rochdale walkabout

What are you if you don't agree with Gordon Brown? A bigot, apparently.
On the campaign trail in Rochdale, the Prime Minister encountered a former Labour voter who asked him some awkward questions.
He answered, as best he could, bid her a cheery farewell and then got into his plush limo before describing her as 'a bigot'. 'That was a disaster' Gordo complained.
Unfortunately the PM still had a microphone on and Sky News recorded the whole thing.
Brown has since issued a grovelling apology.
And if 'bigotry' is implied by contempt for his Labour party, then the vast majority of people in Britain are raving bigots!

Jerome Quinn launches record attempt - for MOPEry!

The acronym ‘MOPE’ is well known in Northern Ireland. For the uninitiated, it stands for ’Most Oppressed People Ever’ and both ’communities’ here regularly vie for the title. Though, even by our tortured standards, this story just about takes the jammy dodger!

Ex BBC Northern Ireland sports presenter, Jerome Quinn, has taken his former bosses to a fair employment tribunal, alleging ’religious and racial harassment’ because he is Irish (yep only in Ireland eh?). In addition he claims that the Corporation favours ’Protestant supported sports’, like …. the North West 200!

Fans of the Northern Ireland football team will remember that Quinn has a history of taking offence. In 2001 he decided to wear a Tyrone Gaelic football jersey to a home match against Iceland at Windsor Park. Unfortunately the resultant article is no longer online, but some feedback still survives thanks to the BBC website’s archive. (It has been found - thanks Buckie).

Quinn obviously thought that he would provoke a…

Manifesto launched.

An entertaining, and occasionally boisterous launch. Here's the manifesto.

Conservatives and Unionists manifesto launch - live.

The Conservatives and Unionists launch their manifesto today (12.30pm). The shadow foreign secretary, William Hague, who this morning set about clarifying Tory economic policy on Northern Ireland in the News Letter, provides the national 'big name', in advance of David Cameron's own visit. I've set up a feed, below, which will capture tweets about the event, using #cumanifesto and my own Twitter feed. It's proving a little erratic in testing! Hopefully, though, if there's a wireless connection, and I can use my Ipod, things will be better. Conservatives and Unionists Manifesto Launch

'Five Day Shelter' - everything bad about arthouse cinema.

It’s been a while since ‘Three Thousand Versts’ attempted a movie review, but it isn’t every weekend I attend the 'World Premiere' of an Irish flick.
Belfast Film Festival’s ’Gala Screening’ of ’Five Day Shelter’ got off to an inauspicious start, when the star, John Lynch, introduced it with a cheery reference to Manchester United. With reluctance I decided to set my prejudice aside.
I needn’t have bothered. ‘Five Day Shelter’ is an epically dreary and boring film. Imagine a fifteen minute short by film students at the local tech, extended to feature length.
It starts wilfully slowly and remains stubbornly one-paced for eighty odd minutes. The characters may as well be cut out of card. There’s no trace of humanity or anything to empathise with here. Yes, it’s grim and urban, but to what end?
The film introduces a couple of themes which could be interesting, but they aren’t developed at all.
The main characters all have dogs and cats in their lives. They show some fon…

Jealousy and loathing in the world of Russian history.

It is worth pointing out that when Three Thousand Versts reviewed ‘Whisperers’ in enthusiastic fashion, and called ’Natasha’s Dance’ ‘magisterial’, Orlando Figes had not contributed guest posts. And when I described ’A People’s Tragedy’ as ’the most complete account of the Russian Revolution and Civil War’ I had read, ’Historian’ had not given me a nudge.
It’s hard to understand why such a gifted writer would feel compelled to rubbish rivals’ books anonymously on Amazon, but that, apparently, was Figes’ habit. The academic, who is professor of history at Birbeck, University of London, also submitted gushing reviews of his own books, which were certainly good enough to attract unsolicited and heartfelt praise, had he left the job to genuine readers.
He used the crafty sobriquet ’Historian’ and, even more cunning, ‘Orlando - Birbeck’ as pseudonyms on Amazon. Then, to cap it all, he attempted to blame the wife when it became apparent that the reviews had issued from the Figes’ househo…

It's right, but it's not good. Cameron needs to clarify message on Ulster's economy.

Taking on Paxman in a no-holds barred, 30 minute interview was always a risk, but has David Cameron made a gaffe by singling out Northern Ireland and the North East of England as regions which are unsustainably reliant on the public sector?

No. But he might have made the Conservative task here a little bit harder with his remarks. Because, however incontrovertible their content, he has given his opponents a stick to beat him with.

The Belfast Telegraph, increasingly open about its left-statist bias, gleefully splashed this morning with ‘Cameron: I’ll target Ulster for cutbacks’.

Of course, there isn't even the tiniest doubt that what the Tory leader said was 100% accurate. Anyone with a shred of interest in Northern Ireland’s economy agrees that it is a basket case and the imbalance between the public and private sectors needs to be addressed, urgently.

But during an election campaign it is not enough simply to be accurate.

Cameron must have known how a special mention for just two …

McNarry could spell the death of unionism in Northern Ireland.

It doesn’t seem to have made it unto the paper’s website, but the print version of this morning’s News Letter contains an article by Alex Kane, who says ’there will be a vacancy at the top of the UUP’, following the general election. His reasoning is fairly straightforward.
If Sir Reg Empey wins a Westminster seat then the Ulster Unionists’ Assembly group will require new leadership. If he fails to take South Antrim, then he is unlikely to retain the party leader’s post.
Both Basil McCrea and David McNarry have already begun to jostle for position in anticipation of the post-election shake-up, according to Kane. McCrea’s ’big idea’ is to withdraw the UUP from the Northern Ireland Executive and form an unofficial opposition.
Superficially, the notion has its attractions, but the permutations have not been properly evaluated, and there is a lot of work to be done before such a measure becomes a realistic possibility.
McNarry has spent the past few months fulminating about ’unionist …

TV debates

Thanks to blanket coverage, and half-time, I managed to watch a little of the national leaders' debate last night. The general reaction has been that Clegg shaded it again. I can't help but feel that Cameron simply has to relax. Has he perhaps been over-prepared? Contrary to David Gordon's assessment in the Belfast Telegraph, from the bits that I saw, Gordon Brown wasn't at the races.
Of course the local contest also took place last night and a less vociferous analysis has taken place across the newspapers and blogs. I intend to watch it online later, but in the meantime, Ivor Whitten has produced an entertaining account.

Unionists should always be suspicious of more devolution

The SDLP released its election manifesto in Belfast yesterday. Despite the party’s stated commitment to a shared future, the document has a decidedly green tinge. Not only does Margaret Ritchie envisage northern representatives gradual integration into the Republic’s political institutions, she also champions a form of ‘Devolution Max’ which, she hopes, will prefigure a united Ireland.
The irony is that the SDLP’s vision of a Northern Ireland Assembly acquiring fiscal levers currently held by Westminster, will probably appeal to some people who describe themselves as unionists. The DUP, in particular, is wont to describe every intervention by Westminster parties in this region, as unwarranted interference.
The DUP presented devolution of policing and justice powers to Stormont as a boon for Northern Ireland, at the same time as Sinn Féin celebrated another prerogative wrested from London and ’repatriated’ to the island of Ireland. Although the UUP was steadfast enough to oppose th…

Conservatives and Unionists should show some generosity to the Irish language.

Over at Forth (subs required) I argue that the New Force should take a fresh look at Irish and re-evaluate received unionist wisdom.Traditionally unionism has a fractious relationship with Irish, and understandably so: it has historically been used to advance nationalism’s political ends. Today Sinn Féin is frequently accused of exploiting language issues, and not just by its political opponents. The Irish language lobby itself has become more vocal, voicing its disquiet with a party whose rhetorical support is not always matched by practical assistance. Unionist anxiety has allowed the language to become an important emotional symbol for nationalism. The truth is that Irish only remains a useful tool for republicans whilst unionists continue to treat its very existence as an affront to British identity. It is a situation exacerbated by the current system at Stormont. In the Northern Ireland Assembly the DUP and Sinn Féin act as champions of their respective communities. They co…

Lost? Willie McCrea searches for votes in North Antrim.

When Sir Reg Empey announced his intention to stand in South Antrim, Willie McCrea offered him a guided tour. Perhaps he could do with a bit of a refresher himself. After all, he was once a famous parachutist too.
Now he appears to be seeking votes in North Antrim. Desperation or time to get a map Willie?

South Belfast - the only unionist candidate confirms her nomination.

I'm delighted to hear that the Conservatives and Unionists have not yielded to the ceaseless Ulster nationalist campaign to have one little Ulsterman stand in South Belfast. This news has taken a while to come but Paula Bradshaw has confirmed on Facebook that she will offer voters, including me, a chance to participate in proper UK politics. She has issued a plea for other candidates to focus on issues. I doubt she'll get her wish.
In a startling development, it also appears that Jimmy Spratt offered Bradshaw his Assembly seat in order to bribe her to step down from the Westminster race! What utter contempt for democracy.
Paula's statement below.

"The voters I have spoken to across the constituency have become more and more weary of the DUP trying to engineer a divide based along sectarian lines rather than on the issues at stake in this election. This election is far too important for DUP stunts.

"The fact is Jimmy Spratt has already admitted he cannot win t…

Local leaders' debate battles with national competition, and football, for viewers.

I hope that UTV has the good sense to show its local leaders' debate again, or at least to put it up on its website. It is scheduled to go head to head with the last half hour of Sky News' national leaders' debate.
That I could live with. After all, the previous programme on ITV did begin to drag around the hour mark.
However, the Europa Cup semi-final also takes place on the same night. Liverpool take on Athletico Madrid at 8.05pm and the match will be screened on Channel 5.
I know which of the three clashing programmes I'll be watching. But it seems a strange decision to hold a regional debate at the same time as the three possible Prime Ministers are being showcased. A concession to parochial politics?
Scotland and Wales have their regional debates tonight, therefore avoiding a clash.

Shameless! DUP's expenses infringements "of an entirely different nature" to other MPs!

The DUP really doesn't 'get' public anger about expenses and sleaze, does it?
It has the hungriest MPs in Britain, it is up to its neck in mutually beneficial arrangements with property developers, the member for Strangford stood down after it was revealed that she had procured funds for her toy boy lover and the leader still intends to double job, after the election, flying in the face of the Kelly Report. Its candidate for North Antrim has already been forced out of his minister's role after questions about his relationship with property guru Seymour Sweeney.
Yet, what is this in the party's manifesto? Expenses of DUP MPs "were of an entirely different nature" to other MPs. Not a note of contrition, not an acknowledgement of excess. Nothing!
This greedy, sleazy party still thinks it's done nothing wrong!

Surely a brass neck and tribalism are not all that is required in modern Northern Ireland politics? The DUP's slow sinking Ulster nationalis…

Second Dr Who reference in NI election.

After Lesley Macaulay compared East Londonderry TUV candidate, Willie Ross, to William Hartnell, who used to play Doctor Who, the timelord has received his second mention of the campaign by a Conservative and Unionist candidate.
Steven McCaffery in the News Letter quotes West Tyrone hopeful, and Family Guy lookalike, Ross Hussey.
"Brilliant to see on Dr Who that in 1,000 years Northern Ireland will still be part of the UK".

Paisleys' campaign letter - questions persist.

On Monday last I posed some questions about a letter, issued on behalf of Ian Paisley Senior, which marked his retirement as MP. The document was distributed with a very prominent picture of Ian Paisley Junior, the DUP candidate for North Antrim, posing with his father.
I observed that there is a strong argument that the photograph constitutes campaigning, particularly because, by the time it hit doormats in the constituency, the election had been called.
Over at the North Antrim Local Interest List, Nevin develops the theme. The letter, which is dated mid March, was not distributed until the 6-8 April. Why the delay? Nevin notes the striking coincidence that Paisley's correspondence is dated from the very day the election was called.
It appears that the letter was not printed on official Commons notepaper, but undoubtedly the portcullis livery which it carries is intended to give the impression that it is distributed by Ian Paisley in his capacity as MP, rather than in his ca…

The 2010 election campaign echoes 1987 contest.

As election time approaches a ‘new force’ has emerged in unionist politics. It appeals across communities for support and it wants to offer Northern Irish voters a chance to choose their national government. ’Unionist unity’ is the watchword for the group’s opponents and the concept creates serious fissures within the Ulster Unionist party.
The UUP and the DUP step back in order to support an independent ’unionist’ candidate. In North Down, the DUP throws its weight behind a prospective MP who is determined to hinder the emergence of genuine participation in British politics. It is an alliance of self-interest, animated by the party’s stake-holding in sectarian politics.
The candidate prepared to shout loudest about ‘Unionist Unity’ is, in actual fact, a very blatant Ulster nationalist.
Sounds familiar? Perhaps. But it is a description of the campaign preceding the 1987 general election. And it was certainly not the Ulster Unionist party’s final hour.
In the aftermath of the Angl…

The most hated man in Britain endorses the second most hated man in Britain.

We’ve had X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent and Master Chef. Tonight television audiences will be treated (subjected?) to the Leaders’ Debates.
In an unfortunate piece of scheduling the first election showpiece, screened on ITV, will appear at the same time as the satirical news show, Have I Got News For You, which is broadcast on BBC 1 at 9pm. I’d imagine a few politics junkies might be tempted to reach for the remote if the leaders’ contest is too sterile or facile.
Certainly the profile programmes which have preceded the debate have been unforgivably fatuous. Mark Austin’s fawning interviews were straight out of the Alan Titchmarsh school of broadcasting. These were little more than thirty minute party election broadcasts.
Not that the parties‘ publicity drives were all well advised, Gordon Brown was not even the most obnoxious character in his ‘spotlight’ programme. Wheeling out Satan himself may have alienated fewer people than an endorsement from Alex Ferguson.
Then again, who wou…

Kyrgyzstan's 'bright new dawn' could prove illusory.

The popular uprising in Kyrgyzstan, which came to world attention when seventeen demonstrators were shot dead, eventually resulted in the removal of President Bakiyev and the installation of an interim government. It was a bloody and chaotic revolt which caused upwards of 75 deaths and widespread looting.
Bakiyev has fled Bishkek, taking refuge in the south of the country and sparking fears that a counter-revolution could plunge Kyrgyzstan into civil war. The President has, however, laid down a series of conditions which, if they are met, might secure his resignation. There are indications that he could be prepared to go into exile.
Bakiyev was swept to power in 2005 by the so-called ’Tulip Revolution’, one of a triumverate of ’colour revolutions’ which the media grouped together, in former Soviet republics.
The latest coup is being portrayed by its supporters as a reaffirmation of democratic values, betrayed by Bakiyev. Its opponents imply more machinations from those devious Rus…

Can strategy prevail over tactics?

The Conservative manifesto, entitled ‘Invitation to Join the Government of Britain’ (PDF), was launched yesterday, to the mandatory blaze of publicity. In Northern Ireland, the DUP immediately attacked the document, alleging that it has only marginally more content, related directly to the province, than its equivalent in 2005. The criticism was immediately swatted away by Conservatives and Unionists, who point out that a separate, regional manifesto will be issued next week.

This type of regional sniping has become the staple diet of nationalist parties across the United Kingdom. The DUP’s attacks, accusing ‘English’ Tories of neglecting Northern Ireland, are indistinguishable from tactics adopted by the SNP and Plaid Cymru. Scottish and Welsh nationalists are keen to portray themselves as the true guarantors of their region’s interests, opposing the devious schemes of interloping ’London’ parties. The pattern in Northern Ireland is precisely the same.

The truth is that the nation…

Poster wars and Party Election Broadcasts

Over at Bobballs you can read about the lightning fast response from Conservatives and Unionists to a rather effective DUP billboard. It is a nice piece about the cut and thrust of electioneering.
The SDLP were quickest out of the blocks with their PEB. Although some of the reviews are rather less than overwhelming.
Now, the Conservatives and Unionists have released their effort. The production values are comparatively high and it provides a decent showcase for some of the new candidates fielded at this election. Filming former Lions' winger Trevor Ringland, in the famous red shirt, taking rugby training is a nice touch.
The DUP has been rather short of international rugby players in its ranks since Davy Tweed jumped ship. And the least said about him the better!

Questions over Paisley campaign letter.

Sadiq Khan, a Labour transport minister, is to be subject to a Conservative complaint, after he used House of Commons stationery and prepaid envelopes to write to constituents lauding his record. The Tories consider his actions an infringement of parliamentary rules which prohibit the use of such resources for campaigning.

Last month, to mark the end of forty years representing North Antrim, part-time, at Westminster, Ian Paisley sent a letter, on stationery headed by House of Commons livery, to his constituents. It doesn’t feature the word DUP and although it is deeply self-valedictory, it is possible to argue that the text does not represent campaigning.

Included in an envelope with the document we have a photo of the ‘Reverend Doctor‘, or whatever his fawning acolytes like to style him, posing with ‘óg’, ‘Junior’, ‘Baby Doc’, a chip off the old block.

If the DUP used its communications allowance to fund this piece of electioneering it could constitute a breach of rules. It is m…

Connor a messy compromise, but a promising candidate.

O’Neill rehearses the arguments against Rodney Connor’s candidature over on ’A Pint of Unionist Lite’. I can’t say that I disagree with any of his points. It’s regrettable that the Fermanagh South Tyrone candidate will not officially stand under the Conservatives and Unionists banner.

The fact remains, however, that, should he win, the constituency will be represented by a Conservative and Unionist MP, with impressive cross-community credentials. For some time before Connor’s candidacy was mooted it was known that Tom Elliott would stand only with reluctance.

O’Neill has already intimated that the new candidate actually offers a better match for the type of politics which UCUNF is supposed to be about

The DUP will try to trumpet some pyrrhic victory on the basis of ‘unity’. Actually what we have is a Conservative candidate who, for appearance sake, and to take into account local circumstances, has agreed to label himself an independent.

It is telling that Irwin Armstrong, the only lo…

Doctor Who and East Londonderry.

Yesterday I attended a lunch with Shadow Secretaries of State, Theresa May and Owen Paterson, as well as the Conservative and Unionist women candidates, who will stand in May’s election.
May, whose role includes women’s issues, as well as the work and pensions brief, accompanied the candidates to meetings with the FSB and a group in Antrim, concerned with domestic violence.
The Conservatives and Unionists are putting up four female Westminster hopefuls on this occasion. At least three are standing in winnable constituencies. For Sandra Overend, in mid-Ulster, the task is, by her own admission, to grow the vote.
Daphne Trimble takes on the sitting MP, Jeffrey Donaldson, in Lagan Valley. With the TUV fielding one of its strongest candidates, Keith Harbinson, the constituency is a fascinating battleground. Daphne has received an enthusiastic welcome at doorsteps so far and she is justifiably optimistic.
Paula Bradshaw also has realisable ambitions in South Belfast. The DUP’s Jimmy …

Jackie on the prowl?

View Larger MapAn image from Google Street View. It's taken on Ballymena's scenic William Street with the inviting 'Sportsman's Bar' clearly visible. But, who's that in the foreground? Could it possibly be BBC Northern Ireland sports' commentator Jackie Fullerton?
H/T Coleman

Hung parliament strategy is an un-unionist strategy

The following piece appears in this morning's News Letter.
The starting gun has sounded and the UK’s political parties are out of the blocks. Conservatives and Labour, determined to secure mandates, are anxious that May’s election should not produce a hung parliament.
Yet the DUP, and various nationalists from the UK regions, are hoping for precisely that outcome.
Most commentators agree with the main parties, that an indecisive election result would be to the national detriment. Why is there an overwhelming consensus that a hung parliament would be bad for Britain?
Elections for the House of Commons are decided using First Past the Post. The merit of the system is that it most often produces a conclusive result and avoids the weak government which minority administrations or coalitions often produce.
If there is a hung parliament following the next election it will be only the fifth time that that has happened in one hundred years. They have all been short-lived affairs.

Digital dereliction?

Jeff Peel, via Alan in Belfast, points out that no local MP felt it important enough to attend the second reading of the Digital Economy Bill.
Jeff argues, rightly, that this is legislation which will effect the whole of the UK, raising important questions about civil liberties and the internet.
Of course it is at the fag end of parliament, but the failure of a single Northern Irish MP to prioritise this issue is a damning indictment.
I can only hope that MPs, operating from the British government benches, will soon give Northern Ireland a full-time voice in the Commons.

Empey's candidacy confirmed.

Then there were eighteen. Or, accurately, seventeen, plus one trying desperately to wriggle out of it.
Yesterday morning Three Thousand Versts revealed that posters and literature for Sir Reg Empey's campaign in South Antrim has already been printed.
Thank goodness then, for the sake of the environment, that his candidacy has been confirmed. Ivor at Hand of History has the scoop.

Bakiyev's regime rocking in Kyrgyzstan

Reportedly, no fewer than seventeen demonstrators have been killed in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, where government troops have opened fire on an opposition protest.  A state of emergency has been declared by President Bakiyev, with riots engulfing the Central Asian country’s capital.

Protestors are intent upon overthrowing Bakiyev’s regime, which they claim is authoritarian and corrupt.  The Moscow Times reports that rioters attempted to seize the main government building, while Ria Novosti suggests that other critical sites are in opposition hands, including the state television channel’s headquarters.

These clashes are ongoing, so a clearer picture will no doubt emerge later.  However, like Georgia, Kyrgyzstan’s president was swept to power by one of the so-called ‘colour revolutions’.  Like Saakashvili, Bakiyev has failed to live up to promises of democracy.

'Fall of the House of Paisley' updated.

It might be premature to talk about 'the fall of the house of Robinson', but David Gordon has updated his excellent book on the Paisleys to account for recent events. As the Political Editor for the Belfast Telegraph it's impressive that he managed to find the time! The original review if here.
Details of the new chapter from the publisher:
The Iris Robinson sex-and-money scandal forms part of the crumbling of the Paisleyite movementin Northern Ireland politics’, a new version of an acclaimed book argues.
First published in autumn 2009,The Fall of the House of Paisley, by Belfast journalist David Gordon, charted how Ian Paisley's time as Northern Ireland's First Minister came to an abrupt end in 2008. The new version, published this week, has been updated to examine the impact of the scandal surrounding Iris Robinson which broke early in the new year.
Gordon's book received highly positive reviews and repeatedly made the non-fiction best-seller lists during the…

Reg against the Reverend?

Gordon Brown's election announcement signals a 29 day dash to the election finishing line. Which is all very well if you have your candidates, and their campaign team, ready to go.
In seventeen out of eighteen constituencies Conservatives and Unionists at least have a Westminster hopeful in place. The eighteenth, outstanding constituency, remains South Antrim, where Adrian Watson was rejected, due to his propensity for immoderate outbursts.
So who will fill the vacancy in a constituency which should offer the Conservatives and Unionists one of their best chances of a Commons seat?
The best bet is still Sir Reg Empey.
Three Thousand Versts is led to believe that literature and posters have been prepared, for a possible challenge to Reverend Willie McCrea by the UUP leader.
Realistically, Sir Reg's leadership is now linked, inextricably, to the Conservative and Unionist project. However you assess his performance in recent times, Empey is one of its most articulate advoca…

A chance to get rid of Brown, but will apathy be the local winner?

So the phoney war is over. Gordon Brown has proved incredibly reluctant to give voters a say on his role as prime minister, but thank goodness, in a democracy, even he has to go to the electorate sooner or later.

Conservative poll leads have been firmer in recent days. With the party's emphasis on marginal seats, Nick Cohen's view that the election might not be as tight as predicted, looks like sound analysis.

In Northern Ireland this election should offer an exciting departure. The Conservatives and Unionists are offering voters a chance to choose the next government. However the 'New Force' has been rocked by a series of internal wrangles.

Now that campaigning can begin in earnest, there is a chance to steady the ship. Otherwise the most popular response from the Northern Ireland electorate, to an election which sees the main parties in various degrees of disarray, may well be apathy.