Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Crunching the numbers

Eamonn Mallie is getting het under the collar about numbers and economics. However, he appears to be relying on comments by John Simpson who calculated down the £200m cuts figure to £60-100m and thus potential job losess down to as little as 300. However, in his radio remarks Simpson was mistaken.

Simpson's argument is that if you apply the Barnett formula to the total of £6bn you do get £200m. However, because of the possible ringfencing of the health budget, which accounts for about half of Northern Ireland's Departmental Expenditure Limits, it potentially falls to £100m with other Barnett consequentialls reducing that further to as low as £60m. However, two problems with those sums.

First the real level of additional cuts in public expenditure the Tories propose is £12 billion. The £6 billion figure is the net reduction on the economy as half of the £12bn savings are to stop Labour's proposed National Insurance increase. Therefore, the potential starting figure under Barnett is £400m. Therefore a £200m isn't an exaggeration but a reasonable one.

Second, the ring-fencing of a budget in England and Wales does not automatically mean the same for the comparable DEL in the devolved areas. So the protection he perceives is by no means guaranteed as Barnett consequentials are at the Treasury's discretion, doesn't take account of the different proportion the health budgets as part of total government expenditure and to protect one budget you have to have deeper cuts elsewhere.

Also a recent example further undermines Simpson's figures. Labour announced £5bn in cuts and the Barnett consequential for Northern Ireland was a £122m cut well above Simpson's estimate of £60-100m for £6bn cuts. It may also be worth mentioning that according to the independent think tank the Institute of Fiscal Studies, the Tory proposals for the lifetime of this parliament are for £59.4 billion cuts in Departmental Expenditure Limits.

Tories eye deal with DUP

The Financial Times (registration required) is reporting that a deal with the Liberal Democrats is the Conservative Party's second preference. They would rather pusue a deal with the DUP, SNP and Plaid Cmyru. On the central issue of public spending:

"...any support would be to protect their parts of the UK from the worse effects of any spending cuts - a tough demand on a government looking to reduce the £163bn deficit. But Mr Cameron's team believe it may be preferable to doing a deal with Nick Clegg's Lib Dems, who say that electoral reform would be the price of any post-election pact."

This implicitly undermines the Ulster Unionist and Conservative relationship even further. It also leaves a key local negative message against the DUP. It is hard to scaremonger about a hung parliament never mind the SNP if CCHQ seems to prefer such an outcome. The article also highlights that:

"The Tories also work closely with the SNP in the Scottish Parliament".

It predicts that:

"...the Democratic Unionists, the largest party in Northern Ireland with nine MPs, could use its muscle during debate over the Budget to extract concessions."

Monday, 26 April 2010

Are the markets frit?

In his UTV interview at the Ulster Unionist and Conservatives manifesto launch, Sir Reg Empey claimed that the markets would react negatively to a hung parliament. This parrots Tory claims at a national level. However, as Guido Fawkes points out, the markets seem to be taking a different view to Tory predictions. Since a hung parliament developed as a real election outcome the markets have actually moved in a positive direction.

Vance accepts TUV law won't block Adams

On the Nolan show today it was the TUV's turn to be interviewed about their manifesto. One of the questions was about the TUV proposal to have 'No terrorists in government' by passing legislation to bar those with terrorist convictions. Vance accepted that this legal bar would not block Gerry Adams from ministerial office.

What he meant to say...

In Alan Clarke's diaries he talks about how on Question Time he dropped a clanger on the issue of defence. He described how Sir Bernard Ingram dealt with the resulting media controversy, he issued what Clarke described as a "what he meant to say" statement.

This morning Ulster Unionists and Conservatives appear to have adopted this approach to deal with the fall-out from Cameron's News Night interview. There is an opinion piece in today's Belfast Telegraph by Cameron and two more in the News Letter (by William Hague and David Shiels). The Ulster Unionist are touring the news studios this morning to reinforce this. There are no special plans for extra cuts in Northern Ireland, the expansion of the private sector is a 20-25 year goal etc. However they are having difficulty in dealing with what "unsustainable" means and the manifesto commitment to a £6 billion cut in expenditure this year.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Threats to the Union

The Ulster Unionists and Conservatives have been going big on a hung parliament being a threat to the Union. This is on the basis that the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cmyru could wield an influence. However, a poll in Scotland highlights how a Tory win will have implications for the Union.

A YouGov poll (who are one of the Tory party's pollsters) showed that:

" anti-Tory backlash in Scotland would push support for separatism from 31% now to 40%. Opposition to independence would fall from 54% to 43%"

The poll also shows the Tories on 15% in Scotland (their lowest for 3 years) so the small gains (2-4 more seats) they had hoped for now seem unlikely. Also such is the mistrust of the Tories by Scottish voters that they are minded to punish the SNP if it does a deal with the Conservatives.
With no advance in Scotland, the tacit abandonment of the Ulster Unionist pact and the attack on the North-East of England it looks like the poll squeeze has made the Tories pursue a more obvious southern england strategy.


Now for a critical eye on the TUV PEB (still can't find the original Alliance PEB on the internet for some odd reason I can only find a remix version). There are no surprises in terms of the TUV's messages - scandal, terrorists in government, Stormont's crap etc.

In terms of message they actually do the DUP three small favours - they acknowledge the DUP shift on multiple mandates, they reiterate the hung parliament narrative and attack the Ulster Unionist and Conservative link-up. They do repeat the fallacy that they have the answers to 'terrorist inclusive government' but they are hardly going to admit that in a PEB or anywhere else for that matter.

Visually it's a mixed bag - they use the newspaper headline approach (useful for reinforcement of message by 'neutral' sources). In terms of backdrops they veer to having them to not - Allister and Ross do others have blank walls. Falls down a bit on their candidates failure to learn their scripts and the Harbinson, Kilpatrick, Ross sections needed re-shot - the off camera eye movement isn't good.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Slogan Subversion and Mainstreaming

Some political communication from the other side of the big sheuch. This is from the Republican Governors Association. They have gone for a mix of subversion and mainstreaming. First it attempts to subvert the successful 'Yes We Can' slogan of the Obama campaign by tying it to a series of negative outcomes. However, its sub theme is an adaption of remember remember the 5th november simply remember november. The 5th November theme was used successfully by the Ron Paul presidential campaign in an online fundraising drivewhich itself was influenced by left-wing emphasis of the Fawkian myth as an anti-Bush metaphor.

We Will Remember from Republican Governors Association on Vimeo.

Cameron pulls out?

It is being reported on Slugger that Cameron will not be coming for the UCUNF regional manifesto launch instead sending William Hague.

If this is true why? Is Cameron wishing to avoid the local backlash from last night's Newsnight interview? Or is it a tacit admittance that he has given up on UCUNF delivering anything?

Cameron trips on Paxman

Comments from David Cameron on last night's Newsnight with Jeremy Paxman seem to have caused something of an Ulster (and North-Eastern England) stir.

The Guardian has gone with "David Cameron targets north east and Northern Ireland for spending cuts". The SDLP's McDevitt has pounced on the cuts message while even 3000 versts is emphasising the need for clarification. Iain Dale is denying there is a problem and alledging leftist bias.

This highlights a key weakness in the UCUNF economic message because while one feature of Tory plans are clear - cuts - its policy on the corporation tax aren't. As David Gordon points out in
his review of the corporation tax issue all that is offered in the Tory manifesto is:

"...David Cameron's Conservatives committed themselves to a review."

So the first queston mark is will it happen at all? At the moment this isn't a bird in the hand for two in the bush offer rather a bird in the hand for the possibilty, that at some stage. maybe, subject to EU approval, that there could be two in the bush.

It also shows the weakness of the UCUNF relationship. It claims to have been working on the idea for a couple of years so why is it still effectively on the drawing board and not a clear commitment?

This review will apparently look at the option of devolving the corporation tax to Northern Ireland. However, if devolved, to meet present EU law any cut would have to be matched by a reduction in the block grant. Aside from reinforcing the Tory cut narrative, if the block grant is being reduced year on year how feasible is it for Stormont to find the tens if not hundreds of millions to pay for using such powers?

The recent report by the Economic Reform Group argued that:

"In any event, the difficulties in making a one-off reduction in the baseline should not be overstated."

They highlighted past under-spends as a solution. However they did concede that under devolution the level of under-spends has dropped significantly but they did not include the future environment of public spending levels, how possible is it in an environment of other cuts?

So the second question mark is would it be financial possible for a constrained Stormont to act on its devolved powers?

Friday, 23 April 2010

Minority and coalition governments can work

Peter Riddell of the Times offers an examination of a hung parliament looking at other European examples:

"If you look away from Westminster, single-party governments are the exception. Apart from Britain, there are only three in the EU: France, Malta and that paragon of good governance, Greece. Many countries most highly rated for good government, such as Germany, New Zealand and the Scandinavian nations have multi-party rule...Moreover, multi-party administrations have been as effective in maintaining fiscal discipline as single-party ones...The classic example is Sweden in the mid-1990s which had a budget deficit of around 12 per cent of national income, similar to Britain now. The Social Democrats elected in 1994 were in a minority but pushed through a tough deficit-reduction programme that slashed the stock of public debt by a half in a decade. Göran Persson, initially the finance minister, justified the cuts in a country dedicated to generous welfare provision by the slogan “those who are in debt are not free”. He became Prime Minister in 1996 and survived as head of a minority administration until 2006."

No terrorists in government

The TUV manifesto is out. No surprise is that a central theme is 'No terrorists in government' essentially code for Sinn Fein. However, how do they intend to fulfil this promise? They offer three ideas but none of them keep their pledge.

Their key proposal is a law barring anyone with terrorist convictions:

"...we propose that it should be provided in primary legislation that no one with a terrorist conviction can ever hold ministerial office."

There is one fundamental and obvious flaw with this - not all terrorists were convicted. So a more honest slogan would be "No convicted terrorists in government". Neither Martin McGuinness nor Gerry Adams has a terrorist conviction in a British court. McGuinness could be excluded if the TUV legislation recognised his conviction in the Republic of Ireland but Gerry Adams has none in any country. So if enacted the TUV law would potentially result in Adams taking over from McGuinness as Deputy First Minister which I doubt is what those with moral objections would like to see.

The second idea that will allegedly achieve this is voluntary coalition. However, this cannot guarantee no terrorists aka Sinn Fein either. Jim Allister has already publicly admitted that Sinn Fein can still remain in government under voluntary coalition:

"If Sinn Fein can persuade others to join them in government then, distasteful as it would be to me, I'd have to accept them getting there."

The third idea is "enhanced local government". However, this doesn't remove Shinners from government either it just changes the form of government they are in.

Football, Debates and Polls

A 14 month year old put pay to football and debates this evening. Missing the football turned out to be fortunate (mumbles complaints about general uselessness of Benitez) but got five minutes of the national debate - Cameron seemed to be mimicing Clegg's style from the first debate, Clegg was playing it safe while Brown had even managed to raise his game too.

The pollsters have the second debate much closer than the first with Clegg and Cameron sharing the honours but Labour will take solace in Brown's performance being 'better than expected' (although that was probably from a pretty low expectation base).

Ken Reid has called it for Gerry Adams and Mark Devenport bemoans the lack of polls and worms to help assess impact. The choice of Two Tribes as music was trite. Will the focus on the national debates have engendered more interest in a format which has been more common here for some time?

Keith in Belfast has the post-debate spin from the leaders themselves - Peter Robinson, Reg Empey, Gerry Adams, Margaret Ritchie - although the very close camera angle is a little too close for comfort.

While others debated, dissidents launched a gun and bomb attack on Newtownhamilton police station.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

The eye of the beholder

On the last minute offer to attain Unionist Unity, Sir Reg Empey described it as:

"It is all very grubby."

The News Letter editorial disagrees, it describing it all as:

"The DUP made a very generous offer to Miss Bradshaw...The offer was regrettably spurned."

The News Letter also picks up that despite the close of nominations it is still not too late for an agreement:

"...which is still possible even if both names appear on the ballot paper."

Scrutiny or Panic?

Quote of the day

Accordingly to Ken Clarke it would be a 'tragedy' if Ulstermen were to have an influence on the UK government:

"A hung parliament, a minority government, held together by backroom deals with the Scottish and Welsh nationalists, the Lib Dems and Ulstermen would be a tragedy."

Last time I looked there wasn't an identity test before you were permitted to have an influence on Government.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Car Crash Part II

After climbing out of the wreckage of the car crash of their PEB it seemed someone at SDLP HQ thought having a second was just what they needed. "Let's use the arse corner of a warehouse with bare breeze block walls, dodgy seats and next to no room for the media to launch a positive vision for the future. The building was opened by John Hume you know."

The Green Party PEB

Just when you thought it was safe to return to this blog, here is another review of a PEB. Political communication nerds of the world unite is what I say. This time it is the turn of the Green party. Visually it is the best so far copying the Hearts and Minds comment section format. The candidates get a good airing but possibly began to drag near to the end and the Brian Wilson speech could have easily been cut without losing anything, especially as it was unclear what issue he was actually talking about.

UCUNF's second PEB

This second effort is in the same mould as the first - visually dull but a range of candidates stating the key messages. One rather surreal moment when shots of daffodils were used as the visual representation for the Bill of Rights section.

Canada, Crisis and a Hung parliament

UCUNFers are getting hot under the collar about the issue of a hung parliament. Events can be troublesome things for the central narrative of a campaign so at present it is not easy to sell being 'at the heart of government' when polls show being 'at the heart of the opposition' equally if not more likely.

David Cameron returned again to the theme of a hung parliament warning that it could lead to
economic and political stagnation. It certainly could lead to political stagnation for the Conservatives. If a Labour Lib Dem coalition is the result of this election and they reform the electoral system it would be highly likely the Tories would be out of government for two parliamentary terms (based on past voting trends). Although those who think it would lead to a 'permanent' shift are probably over-stating the case as voting patterns will adapt to the new system. Labour expected they'd be the 'permanent' government of Scotland and Wales under devolution and that was quickly disproved.

As regards economic stagnation is it worth noting that Canada has managed to find a course through the economic difficulties while being governed by a minority Conservative administration?

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

A 1918 lesson for South Belfast?

The deadlines for nominations and to withdraw for the 2010 Westminster election have passed. At their close in Fermanagh and South Tyrone there was an independent, Rodney Connor, running in Fermanagh and South Tyrone with the support of the DUP and UUP facing the Sinn Fein incumbent, Michelle Gildernew, and SDLP candidate Ferghal McKinney. In South Belfast, we have a pan-nationalist candidate, Alasdair McDonnell, with his main challenger Jimmy Spratt of the DUP and then the UUP's Paula Bradshaw. So the chance to make a deal has come and gone - or has it?

There is a precedent for an electoral pact agreed after nominations were closed. In 1918 the Irish Parliamentary Party and Sinn Fein agreed a pact in 8 constituencies were a Nationalist split would have resulted in a Unionist being elected. So in all 8 constituencies both parties remained on the ballot papers but voters asked to ignore one and vote for the other. For example, in East Donegal, it was agreed the IPP incumbent was to be the preferred candidate and nationalist voters abided by it with only 46 voting for the Sinn Fein candidate.

Sinn Fein backs McDonnell in South Belfast

It's been reported that Sinn Fein have withdrawn Alex Maskey in South Belfast. How does McDonnell feel about this Shinner endorsement? With Sir Reg Empey not responding to yesterday's call to agree a Unionist Unity candidate, for South Belfast to return to Unionism we are looking at the second option outlined yesterday at the DUP manifesto launch:

"If no arrangements are made by the close of nominations tomorrow then it will be for the voters to decide...In South Belfast I call on those voters who believe in unionist unity to recognise the DUP’s substantial, sincere and repeated efforts to achieve an agreed candidate and to vote for Jimmy Spratt who is the only unionist who can win."

Today's announcement crystallises that situation.

The Conservative PEB No.2 - Immediate v Strategic?

I was more impressed with the second Conservative PEB than the first one. It seemed to flow much better and provide a better insight into the 'Big Society' idea. However, it was a frank admission that the mantle of being the change candidate has been lost to Clegg with the broadcast pitching to reclaim it. This will be no easy task and more likely to happen in the debates than by a PEB.

The difficulty the Conservatives may find themselves in with the Lib Dems is that part of their long-term strategy relied on cosying up to their regular voters. For Tories toachieve their target of a majority they need to take Lib Dem marginals and attract Lib Dem votes in Labour marginals. However, to undermine the new Lib Dem surge they have had to start attacking their more unpopular policies with the broader public. The Lib Dems more unpopular policies tends to be their more 'liberal' ones.

So while this may attract back some of the surge it may undermine the cause of attracting regular Lib Dem voters and undermine the narrative of a new Liberal Conservatism. Essentially the solution to the immediate problem (the surge) could undermine the work to deal with the strategic problem (attracting Lib dem voters in marginals).

Monday, 19 April 2010

The almost MP speaks on Unionist Unity

Christopher Montgomery offers his last minute encouragement for a united unionist approach in South Belfast in today's Belfast Telegraph. He was almost the Ulster Unionist nominee in 2005 and had the endorsement of the outgoing MP Martin Smyth at the selection meeting. It was thought highly likely that if he had been chosen there would have been no DUP challenge. This morning Peter Robinson renewed the offer to make a pact in South Belfast:

"My party and I stand ready to act in the interests of unionism and reach a similar agreement in South Belfast. I believe a comparable figure to Rodney Connor can be found for South Belfast, even at this late stage."

Shock endorsement of Jimmy Spratt in South Belfast

The Conservative Party PEB

Finally got round to watching the first Conservative Party Election Broadcast. Production values were good. IIRC the ordinary people from the "I've never voted Tory before" campaign were used so there was integration between mediums (which should be a plus provided the other resonated). However, Cameron's contribution needed to be about drawing the different strands together into the big idea but he didn't do it. At the start I started to assume this was fleshing out the Big Society theme but it didn't really go that way.

Devolution and British Political Culture

An interesting aspect of the election is the lack of fear among the public of a hung parliament with a minority or coalition government being the result. Has devolution played a role in this? While Northern Ireland's circumstances has its own pecularities, Scotland has been governed by two Labour/Lib Dem coalitions and now a minority government. While at the last election in Wales resulted in a Labour/Plaid Cmyru coalition. Whatever the policy positions the various governments have adopted, they have not been riven by the crisis that would have been the narrative traditionally painted of them.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Quote of the day

"Gordon Brown may be, as the joke has it, an analogue politician, way behind digital David Cameron. But, on Thursday, Clegg proved himself to be HD-ready."
Matthew D'Ancona

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Cameron admits a hung parliament is on

The immediate answer to whether the election debates would have an impact has been answered with the sustainability of the impact now the issue. There were two possible forewarnings that this was possible. First, in previous campaigns the Lib Dem poll rating usually grew during an election campaign as they got more exposure during a campaign, the debates raised the level of exposure to a whole new level. Second, the psephologist John Curtice had highlighted some time ago that shifts from Labour to Tories were soft switchers, while they said they would vote Tory they would not describe themselves as Tory identifiers. This lack of close identification meant they had the potential to switch again. This lack of 'conversion' has also been the core failure of Cameron's period as Tory leader. However while it was possible I doubt if anyone considered it probable.

These dramatic shifts have led to David Cameron admitting that a hung parliament is a real possibility, while of course warning against it. This won't be an necessarily easy sell as other polling shows a lack of public fear of a hung parliament.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Sinn Fein - NI will celebrate 100 years in the Union

During a briefing to the Finance and Personnel Committee on the arrangements for the Northern Ireland element of the UK census Mitchel McLaughlinn asked for a question to be included about people's contitutional preference for the future. However while he accepted that there would be little change by the next census in 2011 he believed such a question could show identifiable change by the next census. This would be in 2021 - the centenary year of Northern Ireland. His comments begin about 2 hrs 14 in.

Labour PEB

This is there new one. I don't think it works at all - think some of the themes had potential - but the attempt at 'humour' is too much miss and not enough hit.

Their previous one "The Road Ahead" worked much better in terms of communicating a narrative using 'trusted' voices to communicate the message.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

The First Leaders Debate

Family duties meant I only saw 45 minutes of the debate. I didn't think it was as boring as some predicted but punting it out as a DVD would be an easy way to lose money. They were all being a bit too nice to one another but I didn't spot any clangers.

A key staffer in John McCain's campaign argued tonight on Radio 4 that it is not the debate that impacts on the polls but rather the perceived wisdom about them which takes a few days to develop. On that score my perception is that Clegg used the opportunity the best of the three of them in terms of handling the debate and getting a message out there. Cameron and Brown I had about even, both seemed that little bit more rehearsed.

UPDATE according to the polls the wisdom of the crowd is 1.Clegg 2. Cameron 3.Brown.


It's the DUP's turn for the PEB today. It was launched this morning using a mobile media van that then visited a number of town centres. They have went for 'big' narrative with Nigel Dodds setting the background and then Peter Robinson with a focus on the future. As I had a peripheral role in its development I won't comment on it.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The PEB Test - Sinn Fein passes

Sinn Fein had their PEB tonight and it had the highest production values so far. A good chunk of it is seems to have been lifted from their recent conference video but it passes the alright test. I'm not its target market and from what I could understand (Gaelic isn't my forte) the message seemed to be we've done a good job and stick with us (even if how we go from here is all a bit vague).

Also at my first view I wonder if Gerry Kelly breached the rules about a candidate appearing in a PEB must not be filmed in an identifiable part of the constituency they are standing in. I thought I recognised it as part of North Belfast but I'll have to have another look to check. UPDATE On a second look there are possibly three breaches - Gildernew stands in front of a bus twice - with South-West Fermanagh written on it. Kelly is standing with the Belfast Hills behind him. It pops off for a few seconds and then is back at the same housing development now with the Rathcoole high rises in the backshot. Possibly Ruane as well but I'll need another look.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

The PEB Test - UCUNF passes

UCUNF's broadcast was on tonight. IMO it passed the 'alright' test - visually dull but repeated the main party messages and some exposure to the candidates in the seats they are targeting. Ringland spoke a bit too quickly and the obviously new rugby top took away from the 'authenticity' of the scene. Also having a "Way Out" sign behind Nesbitt wasn't the best backdrop either but they don't make it a bad PEB. I am a bit surprised that despite the web credentials of the new communications director that the video isn't available on the web yet (6.15pm) despite having been on TV. Update now available here.

Monday, 12 April 2010

What a car crash

I realise PEB's in Northern Ireland will never be leading the way in political communication so alright is as good as you can aim for and at least avoid a car crash. The SDLP PEB has managed a multiple pile-up blocking all lanes. Visually, Margaret Ritchie chose a Catholic Cathedral as her main backdrop while talking about a shared future (nice outreach when needing Unionist tactical voting in two constituencies) and then switched to multiple ever changing boxes that distracted from the voice-over. After that we had Dolores Kelly acting like a rabbit in the headlights but that was fine when comapred with the wooden re-enactments of the Reservoir dog scene of men (and some women) in suits walking down the street (with red ties popular). Also it got disastrously overtaken by events, the section where candidates spoke culminated with Declan O'Loan and others standing outside Palace Barracks angrily demanding security powers be returned to Irish hands - on the same day the Real IRA bomb it, ouch!

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Chinks of light on South Belfast

Two chinks of light have emerged on South Belfast regardless of what Owen Patterson says.

Tonight UCUNF candidate Paula Bradshaw has given a conditional offer to withdraw (facebook membership reqd) if asked to do so by Sir Reg Empey on the basis that a candidate with "the same record of cross-community credentials and record of service" as Rodney Connor has been found. This should not be beyond the capabilities of Unionism working together as Fermanagh and South Tyrone showed.

The local Loyal Orders have made their views known - not only seeking the FST model in South Belfast but promising to publicly blame any party that blocks such a move and encourage people not to vote for that party. Over to you Sir Reg.

When enthusiasm overcomes sense

Surely an unintended subliminal?

South Belfast: Compare and Contrast

In Saturday's Belfast Telegraph Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Patterson described the desire for a unity candidate in South Belfast as follows:

"Mr Patterson dismissed talks of another localised deal at the expense of a UCUNF candidate. "There is no desire to have any such arrangement elsewhere," he said."

Whereas Saturday's Belfast News Letter had a leaked email from the Chairman of South Belfast Ulster Unionist Constituency Association which said:

"Let me assure you that the South Belfast officers have been working tirelessly for over recent months - indeed months and years! - to ascertain if such an arrangement would be possible in South Belfast. Discussions have taken place with the UUP leader, and other senior party officials, on several occasions, plus direct and indirect communication has taken place with senior DUP representatives."

Friday, 9 April 2010

How soon they forget

The attempts by Sinn Fein and the SDLP to paint Rodney Connor as some sort of sectarian monster are amusing when you consider how nationalists councillors lined up to praise him when he announced his retirement in January:

"SDLP Councillor John O'Kane joked, "We won't bury until your dead" and said that not only was Mr. Connor involved in issues surrounding the Review of Public Administration (RPA) but he always put the citizen first and thanked him for all his co-operation.

Sinn Fein's Thomas O'Reilly said "I know his task has not been an easy one and he has done tremendous work over the years and as members we always had a hotline to his office on all sorts of issues."

An emotional Bernice Swift raised her glass to Mr Connor and hoping for a farewell party said, "In my opinion, I think it's a premature retirement and it will be very hard to say goodbye and smile at the same time and I wish you all the very best."

Independent Councillor Gerry McHugh agreed with Councillor O'Reilly and said, "You were a CEO who looked after the interests of local people and on a Monday morning if you needed him, Rodney would be always there to answer the phone and I wish you well in your retirement."

Rumour Mill: Some UCUNFers unhappy with FST deal

RUMOUR: It appears the good news from FST has gone down badly with some of the UCUNF candidates with claims of threats to withdraw before nomination day. Perhaps the Tories will be able to clarify when they gives their tuppence worth on last night's deal.

One down one to go

A deal has been agreed for a Unionist Unity candidate, Rodney Connor, in Fermanagh and South Tyrone against Sinn Fein's multi-jobber Michelle Gildernew. The square was circled on the Tory demand that all candidates take the Conservative whip by a division of the whip - the former Chief Executive of Fermanagh District Council will follow the Tory whip except on matters relating to Northern Ireland where he will have freedom of action. First things first, congratulations to those who persisted and kept the issue alive so that this agreement was reached.

Now that FST has been sorted this leaves the other constituency of Belfast South. On the face of it there seems little reason why a comparable agreement can't be reached for there if a suitable candidate be identified although it better be done quickly with only 11 days remaining. However, this would involve a strategic shift from the UUP who have been following the SDLP line on a number of issues despite Ritchie making it clear she isn;t interested in partnering with the UUP and Alliance in the Assembly. Or perhaps the new SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie could live with her leadership opponent being brought down a peg or two?

Although I would suggest that UCUNF should bring their candidate into the loop on the possibility of such things (see front page story on South Belfast news).