Henry Hill is a British Conservative and Unionist activist and writer.
SDLP urge Sinn Fein to allow National Crime Agency into Northern Ireland
After Theresa Villiers, the Northern Ireland Secretary, assured them that it would have no counter-terrorism role, the SDLP has urged Sinn Fein to agree to the National Crime Agency (NCA) extending its remit to Northern Ireland.
The NCA was established in 2013 to combat organised crime across the UK, but at present its role in Northern Ireland is confined to customs, tax and immigration. However the Government intends to expand it to span: “fighting cross border crime, child exploitation, people trafficking, money laundering and internet abuse”.
But Sinn Fein has opposed an increased role for the NCA over fears that it would not be accountable to the devolved authorities, and would be perceived as a “shadowy organisation” that could not command cross-community support.
Outspoken MLA Gerry Kelly has even expressed fears – sincere or not – that it might become an “arresting arm” of the security services.
To assuage such concerns the NCA will now need to sign up to the PSNI’s Code of Ethics and cooperate with the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman.
Jones facing grilling for double-standard in local government reform
Carwyn Jones, the First Minister of Wales, has come under fire for proposing the imposition of term limits on Welsh local authorities – without introducing any similar measures for the Welsh Assembly.
As the First Minister evaded the question, Liberal Democrats accused Labour’s public service minister of holding local government colleagues in very low esteem.
Meanwhile the Conservatives pressed him on whether or not he was head of “a cult-like mafia that is frightened of free speech”, quoting a Labour councillor and former employee of Jones who resigned noisily this week.
However Jones saw off this attack by citing a Twitter row between three Tory AMs, arguing that the Welsh Conservatives were split.
Clegg accused of ‘desperate’ £300m bid to save Alexander’s seat
The Liberal Democrat leader has come under fire after promising Inverness a “city deal” potentially worth hundreds of millions of pounds – months before Danny Alexander attempts to hold it in the general election.
Alexander also announced a further £2m for Loch Ness, also in his constituency.
The Lib Dems are right to be worried – their poll ratings suggest they might see a near-wipeout in mainland Scotland, where they presently hold ten seats. Polling commissioned by Lord Oakeshott as part of his abortive coup against Nick Clegg in May suggests that Alexander might come third, behind the SNP and Labour.
Meanwhile Clegg aims to provide Aberdeen another city deal on the same time scale. The Liberal Democrats hold several seats in Aberdeenshire including Gordon, where they are trying to fend off Alex Salmond’s re-entry to Parliament.
Plaid Cymru urge English supporters to vote Green
The “anti-austerity coalition” has taken a fresh step forward this week as the Welsh nationalists suggested that supporters in England back Natalie Bennett’s Greens.
This is not the first instance of cooperation between the two parties, either: former Plaid MP Cynog David was reportedly elected to Parliament on a joint Plaid-Green ticket in 1992.
However Plaid have made no demand for formal reciprocation: the Green Party contests elections in both England and Wales and the nationalists are at pains to stress that there is not a joint campaign.
Plaid are already holding weekly meetings with the SNP, and the three parties hope to cooperate as a bloc in the event of a hung parliament to maximise the clout of the hard left.
For their part Leanne Wood’s party are hoping to double their Parliamentary representation from three seats to six, although unlike the rampant SNP the Welsh nationalists have seen a long-term decline in their vote and such a breakthrough is unlikely.
Partisan ‘Yesbar’ plans chain of pop-ups for general election
One of the interesting anachronisms thrown up by the Scottish referendum’s revival of mass politics was the explicitly political drinking venue: Glasgow’s ‘Yesbar’.
After providing a hub for activists during the referendum, the owner is now hoping to open a string of permanent venues across Scotland.
In the meantime however he is calling for other separatist-operated venues to temporarily adopt the Yesbar branding, in order to help maximise the number of nationalist MPs returned to Westminster.
Those establishments which take up the offer will receive support from the original and, if successful, have the option of fully adopting the partisan franchise.
Needless to say, if successful the permanent establishment of politically-divided social venues could add fresh depth to divisions between pro-Union Scotland and the “45 per cent”.