Theresa Villiers, the Northern Irish Secretary, has said that the future of the Northern Ireland Assembly “looks increasingly grim” as the latest round of talks over welfare reform broke up without agreement.
The BBC reports that it is becoming increasingly likely that London is going to have to step in to resolve the long-standing crisis, caused by Sinn Fein’s refusal to enact the previous Government’s welfare reforms in Northern Ireland.
After a two-year standoff Sinn Fein agreed to pass the measures in the Stormont House Agreement in December, but then u-turned and returned to opposition.
Their demand, that the UK subsidise an Ulster welfare system more generous than its mainland equivalent, is worrying local commentators who note how England and Wales reacted to perceived similar demands by Nicola Sturgeon.
The fact that Sinn Fein walked away from the previous, arduously negotiated pact suggests that the strategy of holding endless rounds of talks may be running out of road. Some, such as noted commentator Alex Kane, have called for the suspension of the Assembly, arguing that its procedures leave it incapable of properly governing the province.
At the very least it seems logical that, as the British Government intends to maintain a UK-wide welfare system, it should repatriate responsibility for welfare from Belfast to London.
The SNP spent £825k bailing out Yes Scotland
The Herald reveals that the SNP transferred hundreds of thousands of pounds to Yes Scotland, the official vehicle for the separatist ‘Yes’ campaign in last year’s referendum on Scottish independence.
Despite having previously insisted that the campaign was ‘self-financing’ – in line with its latter-day image as a popular crusade – insiders have apparently admitted that without the SNP cash the group, which also included the Scottish Greens and the tiny Scottish Socialist Party, could not have paid its bills.
More than a third of Yes Scotland’s overall income came from the SNP, with more still coming from Chris and Colin Weir, the national lottery winners who have pumped millions into the nationalist cause (and look set to continue doing so – theirs could well be the lottery win that kills Scottish Labour and even the Union).
This revelation will only reinforce the impression, seeded by earlier incidents such as the false flag ‘Labour Yes’ fiasco, that the movement was in truth simply the ‘YeSNP’: a nationalist front.
The Herald also reports that Yes Scotland received only £20,000 from the Scottish business community, against £711,000 for the unionist vehicle, Better Together.
Welsh Labour minister doesn’t care who wins ‘English Labour’ leadership
Labour did especially badly in Wales, suffering an unexpected net loss of seats to the Tories whilst failing to overturn a Conservative majority of fewer than 200 in Cardiff North. One reason for this is that the local Tories got to run against the increasingly embattled Labour administration in Cardiff Bay.
Of course, that is one lesson that said administration doesn’t want to learn. Thus in the immediate aftermath of defeat, before any meaningful post-mortem could be conducted Carwyn Jones, the First Minister, was calling for a federal Labour party and a stronger local brand.
This has angered others in the party, who point out that “Wales is not becoming more Welsh or more left wing politically”, and that Jones is riding the same nationalist tiger that just ate Scottish Labour whole.
After all, if you reduce politics to a Welshness competition then at some point in the future Plaid Cymru will win it.
Of course, the First Minister was simply deploying the devolved politician’s all-purpose political response: “The fault for this lies in London. The solution is an increase in my own power and importance.”
Nonetheless, with Plaid failing to break through Welsh Labour do now seem to be the principle outlet for sour nationalists looking for an outlet in public life. Step forward, Leighton Andrews.
Andrews, Public Services Minister in the Jones administration and described by Wales Online as “one of the most senior cabinet members in the Welsh Government” has dismissed the hunt for a new national leader as an English issue.
Or, in his own words: “I don’t really care who English Labour choose”.
Andrews has also suggested, in the Guardian, that those seeking the Labour leadership should be “beating a path” to Jones’ door to learn how to connect with the public. Presumably local Conservatives will be hoping they do.
But beyond that, one would have hoped that last month’s Scottish tsunami might have provided a wakeup call to those in the unionist parties that stoking up nationalism and cross-border resentment ends badly. The SNP were small once, and no law says Plaid will be small forever.
Salmond provokes anger as he attempts to draft the ghost of Kennedy
Alex Salmond, once First Minister of Scotland and now unofficial ringmaster of the nationalist circus at Westminster, has been accused of trying to wring partisan points from the tragic passing of Charles Kennedy by suggesting that he was, against all available evidence, a nationalist.
Specifically, he suggested that the former Liberal Democrat leader’s heart “was not in” the pro-Union Better Together campaign which, despite numerous shortcomings, delivered Salmond a ten-point defeat last autumn.
Writing in the Spectator, Alex Massie suggests that Salmond’s comments betray a mindset which maintains that all good people support the nationalist cause. As Kennedy was a good man – and there must be precious few who would contest that – then he must have, if not been a nationalist, then at least held a candle for the ‘cause of Scotland’.
In truth, you can learn everything you need to about Salmond’s sly suggestion by the fact that he never made it whilst Kennedy was in a position to dispute it.