New loyalist terror group threatens police after Belfast riots

After violence flared in North Belfast on Monday in the aftermath of the weekend’s Twelfth of July celebrations, a new and as-yet-unnamed loyalist terror group has issued public threats to the police.

Photographs released to the press show three men behind a table, which is covered with an Ulster Banner and an assortment of handguns and semi-automatic weapons.

This is the latest sign that dissident elements are willing or even seeking to return to violence, after years of increased activity from hard-line republican groups.

The group has also targeted the Parades Commission, which oversees Northern Ireland’s innumerable marches.

The latest trouble, in which baton rounds and water cannon were deployed and 25 police officers injured, was sparked by the Commission’s continuing refusal to allow an Orange Order march to follow a route through an inter-communal flash point.

It marred what the News Letter described as an “overwhelmingly peaceful” Twelfth.

Reckless predicts UKIP success in Wales

Mark Reckless, the former UKIP MP for Rochester and Strood, has claimed that his party could win up to ten seats in the Welsh Assembly at next year’s elections.

Wales Online reports that Reckless has attacked Welsh Labour for emphasising a ‘soft nationalist’ outlook – a problem also highlighted by this column – which isn’t relevant to the interests and experiences of its working class base.

His devo-sceptic tone, which queried why Welsh politicians are so fixated on getting variable tax powers their voters have shown no hunger for, will please elements of Welsh UKIP which have previously objected to Nigel Farage’s latter-day conversion to the “more powers” brigade.

The Welsh Assembly elects members both from single-member geographical constituencies and five larger seats which provide a proportional ‘top up’.

A strong UKIP performance could see it pick up a member from each list seat, although it is harder to see where the additional five seats are coming from unless the party has penetrated Labour’s base in the Valleys farther than is commonly realised.

Reckless is probably right to state that a tranche of UKIP AMs would shake up the Cardiff consensus – at least for a while. Once it’s a matter of making themselves more powerful and important, he might find they become more amenable to the siren song of ‘more powers’.

Burnham burnishes his unionist credentials with Ulster pledge

Andy Burnham, current front runner in the contest for the Labour leadership, has repeated his 2010 pledge to the Labour Party in Northern Ireland about ending restrictions on it fighting elections.

In a YouTube video, the MP for Leigh state that: “I remain committed, in principle, to the party in Northern Ireland contesting elections, and that hasn’t changed.”

He did mention the need to bring Labour’s sister parties, the SDLP and Irish Labour (ILP), on board with the deal. Each has been a roadblock to Labour’s organising in the province: the SDLP takes the Labour whip, and running against them would jeopardise that support, whilst some fear that the ILP would also feel forced to step in if UK Labour did.

However, Burnham’s message is bullish, and he married to both to anti-separatist sentiment and to the need to provide a post-conflict, cross-community party of the left in Ulster.

The SDLP is an explicitly nationalist party which caters overwhelmingly to Catholic voters, leaving left-wing unionists with few options bar the Progressive Unionist Party, which is affiliated with loyalist paramilitary groups.

Having received the LPNI’s first ever leadership nomination last time round, it seems inevitable that Burnham will receive their second unless another candidate matches his bold pledge.

Dugdale receives overwhelming backing in race for Scottish Labour leadership

Kezia Dugdal, former deputy of Jim Murphy during his short stint as leader of Scottish Labour, has received the overwhelming majority of endorsements during the nomination process to succeed him.

The Lothians MSP commands the support of 90 per cent of those constituencies that nominated, 80 per cent of nominating councillors, and ten trades unions and affiliate organisations, as well as 30 of her fellow MSPs.

Her only opponent, Ken Macintosh, picks up the remaining constituencies and councillors as well as backing from seven MSPs and the Scottish Co-operative group, according to the BBC.

Both candidates are now put to a ballot of the membership. Whilst it isn’t certain that Dugdale’s commanding lead in institutional support will translate into popular backing, the above figures make grim reading for Macintosh.

Democratic Unionists fend off suggestions that Robinson is planning to retire

The Democratic Unionist Party has been forced to deny speculation that Peter Robinson, party leader and First Minister of Northern Ireland, will resign by Christmas.

The Belfast Telegraph reports that Nigel Dodds, the party’s Westminster leader, would take over the leadership whilst Arlene Foster, Stormont’s Finance Minister, would step up as the province’s first female First Minister.

This Westminster-led arrangement was suggested by Robinson as a more logical set up should the Northern Ireland Assembly end up being suspended over the on-going welfare standoff. The First Minister lost his own Westminster seat in 2010, when Naomi Long of the liberal Alliance Party captured Belfast East.

Earlier this week, he also had to deny that he or his family had personally profited from the enormous, £1.2 billion NAMA property deal, the largest in Irish history, which was last week accused by a member of the Irish parliament of having entailed a £7 million bribe.

The Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) has come under scrutiny after claiming never to have seen a critical document.

The DUP has warned the media that those who repeat allegations made on the internet will be subject to legal action.

Wood still under pressure as critic of her leadership faces party discipline

Leanne Wood, the embattled leader of Plaid Cymru, has spoken out about a rift between her and Lord Elis-Thomas, who is facing discipline by the party for criticising its ineffectual general election campaign.

According to Wales Online Wood has denied any personal involvement in the process, claiming that she isn’t an ‘executioner’.

The Welsh Nationalist-in-Chief has come under fire since her party failed to make any headway in May’s general election, despite the unprecedented coverage garnered from the expansive challengers’ debate and the national collapse of the Liberal Democrats.

Last week she barely managed to be placed first in the Plaid regional list for next year’s Assembly elections, despite party officials being confident she would walk the contest.

Senior sources from the Welsh Conservatives suggest that a similarly disappointing performance in 2016 will be the end of her leadership.