DUP row deepends as Robinson stands by comments

As I reported last week, a ferocious row has erupted inside the Democratic Unionist Party after Peter Robinson, the former leader and First Minister, called on unionists to prepare for the possibility of a referendum on leaving the UK.

But despite strong criticism from members of his own party Robinson, who left front-line politics when he lost Belfast East to the Alliance Party, has stood by his remarks and insisted that the “battle for the Union” has started, whether unionists are ready to admit it or not.

More interestingly, the News Letter reports that Arlene Foster, his successor as party leader and First Minister, saw Robinson’s controversial remarks before they were published – and that she doesn’t consider them to be an attack on her leadership.

Whilst Robinson may be right that unionism needs to start making preparations to fight a border poll, it is a pity that under his leadership his Party did so little to strengthen Northern Ireland’s place in the UK either by winning over Catholics or by better integrating Ulster politics with the mainland. Those tasks now fall to Foster.

Welsh Labour MP facing calls to stand down from Shadow Cabinet

Carolyn Harris, the deputy leader of Welsh Labour, is facing calls to resign her shadow equalities post over her alleged use of the word ‘dyke’, according to Wales Online.

Despite complaints from numerous Assembly Members, Jeremy Corbyn and the national leadership, as well as several MPs are standing by the Swansea East MP. Harris has apparently apologised for ‘clumsy language’ after a former aide claimed in court that she is a ‘homophobic bully’.

However, a member of the executive of her Constituency Labour Party reportedly posted on Facebook that “other MPs have been suspended for less”.

Meanwhile Carwyn Jones, the First Minister, has been urged to investigate allegations that a Labour AM broke the ministerial code.

The charge is that Julie James, the Leader of the House, should have recused herself from deciding on the level of state funding assigned to women-in-work organisation Chwarae Teg – which totalled £351,000 last year – because it was a client of a lobbying firm which employed her son.

Electoral Commission drops investigation into DUP

The Democratic Unionists will not face an investigation over claims that they coordinated spending with other Leave campaigners during the EU referendum, the Guardian reports.

Critics have complained that the party received a major donation from anonymous donors via the Constitutional Research Council, a pro-Union group.

Less creditably, some have also tried to present as suspicious the fact that the DUP spent much of their referendum spending allowance on the mainland – such as a £280,000 in the Metro – despite only standing in Northern Ireland. Of course, in a UK-wide referendum without constituencies there is no reason for them not to do this.

Now the Belfast Telegraph reports that the DUP are claiming that the BBC, whose investigation on the Spotlight programme prompted the Commission’s probe, have ‘questions to answer’ over their coverage and alleged bias.

Earlier this week the Herald revealed that David Mundell, the Scottish Secretary, had also benefited from so-called ‘dark money’ donated by the Scottish Unionist Association Trust, a ‘secretive’ outfit whose status as a donor is currently under investigation by the Commission.

SNP under fire over educational under-performance

The Scottish Nationalists have come under fresh criticism after the latest data showed a continued fall in exam pass rates, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Measured from the introduction of the Nationalists’ new exam system five years ago there have been some astonishing falls in pass rates – up to three quarters, in the case of ‘National 3 exams’, intended for the least-able pupils – and experts suggest that only around half the fall can be explained by external factors such as declining rolls.

One also warned that the collapse in results in the National exams could now be feeding through into the results for Highers too.

Long-time readers of this column will find devolved authorities failure on education a depressingly familiar theme: I was writing about the legendary post-devolution collapse in Welsh standards back in 2013, and whilst not quite as precipitous the SNP’s own record on the subject has long belied any claim that its priority is anything but independence.

Paisley’s opponents complain of difficulties in removing him

According to the Times, politicians attempting to oust Ian Paisley Jr from his North Antrim fastness have complained that the authorities are making their task too difficult.

Both Sinn Fein and the Ulster Unionists have reportedly complained that there are too few places where people can fill out the paper saying they want to oust him. The recall petition is in six locations across the large, mostly rural seat.