PoliticalOD 22: A roadmap that lacks direction

  In PoliticalOD 22, The Dissenter and I discussed Rishi Sunak's budget. It seems to be a holding budget, as the chancellor waits for the end of lockdown to really take action that will restore the economy and the public finances.  Speaking of lockdown, we talked about the Executive's laughable 'roadmap' out of  the current Covid restrictions. A document that ducked decisions and dodged discussing data. This week, there were a few tentative commitments to ease people's house imprisonment and get children back to school. After Easter, non-essential retailers may even be able to provide click and collect services. It's all very underwhelming , as Covid cases fall and the vaccine reaches ever younger age groups. The Dissenter has discussed the repercussions for SMEs , which are facing the effects of a double-whammy of lockdown and the Northern Ireland Protocol.   You can stream the podcast in the window above, or find it at your favourite podcast service. We're

PoliticalOD 21: Risky Business

  It's a fact that life entails risk. However, different cultures and institutions sometimes take a very different approach to risk. At The Dissenter, David discusses the 'absolutist legal hold' that leads the EU to consider an M & S ready meal a risk to its single market. At the same time, coronavirus cases are falling, while the people most vulnerable to the disease receive vaccines. The data suggests that they are working. So, why isn't there a clear route out of lockdown? Stream above, or find at the usual sites. 

PoliticalOD 20: Tiocfaidh ar latte!

  By Julius Schorzman - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.0, Last week, British and Irish tweeters' fixation on American politics reached something of a frenzy, as Joe Biden was elected president of the United States. I've already written about the downsides of this obsession . On the podcast, we discuss whether the new US leader is likely to heal deep divisions that have affected politics in Britain and across the West. One thing's for sure, the government will have to be alive to Irish American lies about the Belfast Agreement, on an ongoing basis. We look again at the coronavirus debacle. What is the plan to get out of a cycle of lockdowns? It seems that now, even the vaccine doesn't offer a definite way out of the lockdown ideology . Speaking of ideology, we examine claims that Northern Ireland will be wrenched from the UK by the unstoppable force of Irish nationalism. The latest evidence seems to have something to do with

PoliticalOD 19: 2021 may not be so different (or New Decade, Same Old Crap)

  In the latest PoliticalOD podcast, The Dissenter and I look back on a year that was completely different and yet, in some ways, not so much. Over at his blog , David breaks down some of the themes in detail  The year, started out with a deal to restore Stormont, but we pointed out at the time that it offered little hope that much needed reforms would be implemented. We were right, and, though the parties will point out that 2020 was dominated by the coronavirus crisis, there isn't much sign that we can expect better governance in 2021. We've spent a lot of time over the last year unpicking the Brexit negotiations. These are now at an end and, while the media has as yet to uncover any 'fatal flaw' in the new trade deal, as regards the whole country, in Northern Ireland, we have been edged away from the UK internal market, on which our economy is so dependent. As ever, the podcast is available at Podbean , and on most of the popular podcast and streaming sites. ITunes,

PoliticalOD 18: Borderline Clusterf#£$!

  As we hurtle toward the end of the year, and the implementation of an Irish Sea border, The Dissenter and I examine how preparations for this internal barrier are progressing. Spoiler alert: they've barely progressed at all. The government hopes that a trade agreement could soften the edges of the Northern Ireland protocol, but as David notes here , whatever happens, the lack of preparedness is alarming. Recently, I wrote a piece at CapX that spelled out the dizzying array of acronyms and jargon that businesses and hauliers face. This expanded on some of Sam McBride's reporting in the News Letter, which explained that the Traders' Support Service, set up by the government to manage trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, will exist for only two years after Brexit day . It's all a great distance away from no costs and seamless trade. You can download or stream the article directly from our host, Podbean . We're on Spotify . iTunes. TuneIn Radio. Pocket Ca

'Bank of evidence' revealed government's threadbare lockdown reasoning

  On Saturday, Boris Johnson announced that England will endure a four week lockdown, joining Northern Ireland and Wales, where so-called ‘circuit breaker’ restrictions are already in place.  The evidence for these measures is opaque, though the scientific advisory group for emergencies, SAGE, says that hospitals will be overwhelmed by Covid-19 patients by December if no action is taken. When it comes to specific interventions - what should close and why - there is a dearth of material that explains the government’s reasoning.    In Northern Ireland, though, the province’s department of health recently published an ‘evidence bank’ of documents used to develop its strategy. The devolved executive imposed four weeks of restrictions on the strength of these arguments, shutting down hospitality businesses, closing ‘close contact’ services like hairdressers and beauty salons and preventing separate households from meeting indoors. For schools, the half-term break was extended from one week

PoliticalOD 17: Groundhog Days

  Stormont's maladministration of the Northern Ireland Renewables Obligation, or NIRO, shares many features with the RHI scandal. Intended to encourage green energy production, the scheme created a perverse incentive for companies to game the system, which undermined its original purpose. There is one key difference, though, which has prevented NIRO from dominating column inches. While officials were mistaken in their belief that London would foot the bill for RHI, and the Northern Ireland budget took the hit, for NIRO, it was electricity customers in Great Britain who picked up most of the cost. The audit office has issued another damning report, but media interest has been low. Partly, this can be explained by coronavirus and Brexit dominating the political agenda. More worryingly, it reflects an attitude that we should view streams of income from the mainland as 'free money.' Then, unionists here wonder why many of our fellow Britons view Northern Ireland's place in