The parties can ‘sqweam’ as much as they like about special circumstances, republican terrorism or the Tories lack of mandate. The new government draws its mandate from the whole of the UK and its remit covers Northern Ireland just as it covers Wales and Scotland. If you don’t like it, by all means argue for our departure from the United Kingdom.
Owen Paterson’s appointment as Northern Ireland secretary has drawn the predictable chorus of ’not fairs’. The Belfast Telegraph has dutifully compiled them to splash on its front page. Head of the queue is Margaret Ritchie, demanding Paterson ’build bridges’ for having the audacity to run an election campaign in this part of the United Kingdom and subsequently hold office here too.
In his article (not yet online), David Gordon raises doubts about the new Secretary of State’s ability to act as an ’honest broker’ and cites his party leader making jibes at the ’Swish family Robinson’. It’s wearily depressing, given the professional way Lib Dems and Conservatives have buried their differences, in the national interest, at Westminster.
The Belfast Telegraph conspicuously campaigned during the general election campaign for ‘normal politics‘. Well here are some normal politics. The regional secretaries of states, throughout the UK, represent the government in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In a democracy the government will generally be a political party which has competed for votes against other parties.
A national government certainly doesn’t require a separate mandate in each separate region, but it will have fought its corner there, with rival parties, and all the political rough and tumble that entails. Owen Paterson shouldn’t have to build bridges any more than any other representative of the government and he certainly shouldn’t have to apologise for his party seeking votes in this part of the United Kingdom.