Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Can UKIP save the Northern Ireland economy?

The news that UKIP intends to contest Assembly elections in Northern Ireland emerged toward the end of last week.

Yesterday the BBC carried a brief snippet about the story, including reaction from deputy leader, Paul Nuttall, who reckons that ’a fragmentation of unionism’ makes it a great time for the party to become involved in politics here.

That’s an odd reading of the political mood, by any stretch of the imagination.  UKIP struggles to attract attention in the rest of the UK, other than at European elections and the field already looks rather crowded for the Stormont poll, next May.

It’s just about possible that, in a proportional election, UKIP candidates might claim a few transfers.  The party does have a Northern Ireland councillor to its name, Henry Reilly, in Newry and Mourne, although he won his seat as an Ulster Unionist, before defecting in 2007.

Perhaps UKIP hopes the Republic’s financial crisis, and its disastrous experience with the Euro might send a wave of Euroscepticism crashing over the border.  

If the party is looking for a novel policy to push in Northern Ireland, it could adopt Daniel Hannan’s suggestion that the Republic ‘rejoin the Sterling area’.

It’s certainly a stout Eurosceptic idea.  It just needs a bailout with punitive conditions attached, in order to force southern VAT sky high and send shoppers in their thousands scurrying northwards towards Enniskillen Asda.

If we all go and live in Enniskillen and find work in Asda, UKIP might then be considered saviour of the Northern Ireland economy.

Otherwise, as much as I applaud any national party prepared to contest elections in Northern Ireland, they will need some pretty eye-catching ideas to become anything more than an eccentric footnote to the Assembly poll.

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