Fresh criticism for Bradley over ’embarrassing’ meeting with local parties
Karen Bradley has had another bad week, with the Northern Irish press excoriating her over an ’embarrassing’ meeting with local parties which some present branded a “waste of time”.
The Belfast Telegraph reports that relations between the Secretary of State and local politicians are now worse than ever, something which can only hinder her ongoing bid to get the devolved assembly back on its feet. Last week she challenged them to stop grandstanding and return to government in an op-ed for the paper. There was one small sign of progress when Sinn Fein indicated that they would accept Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, returning as First Minister.
Unfortunately, this is not the only time that Bradley has been accused of not spending enough time at important events, having also been criticised for giving an underwhelming speech at an important UK-Irish event before leaving abruptly. In an editorial the Belfast Telegraph drew withering comparisons between her and some of her predecessors, and another writer reports that “in this deepening crisis, the Secretary of State is being seen more and more as the problem.”
But the pain was at least spread around a little this week. Dominic Raab, the Brexit Secretary, has been strongly criticised by Northern Irish business groups for failing to engage with their concerns over our departure from the EU. He has been pressed on why he didn’t meet representatives of affected sectors, including manufacturing, freight, retail, and food and drink, on a recent visit.
He did however reiterate his commitment that he wouldn’t support any deal which undermined the constitutional integrity of the UK – although Ben Lowry, writing in the News Letter, is deeply sceptical of that.
Scottish Conservatives attack SNP over tax
Nicola Sturgeon has refused to pass on the tax cuts announced in the Budget to Scottish taxpayers – and the Tories have seized the opportunity to go on the offensive.
The Scotsman reports that Jackson Carlaw, who is standing in for Ruth Davidson whilst she is on maternity leave, pressed the First Minister on the fact that Scots now face paying £1,000 extra in income tax every year compared to counterparts in England. He also called Sturgeon ‘out of touch’, and credited that with the Conservatives’ newly-regained strength in what was once the Nationalist heartland of north-eastern Scotland.
One of those new MPs, Andrew Bowie, who represents West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, also criticised the devolved administration’s high tax approach – and was counter-attacked by the SNP for being ‘anti-devolution’, according to the Press & Journal.
In other Scottish Tory news, the Prime Minister has promised them that the UK will be out of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy by 2020, before the crucial Holyrood elections of 2021.
Nationalists call for even war to require devolved consent
The devocrat push to reduce the UK to a dysfunctional confederation continued this week when Plaid Cymru called for the Welsh Assembly to be given a veto on the deployment of British troops overseas.
Fortunately both the Conservatives and Labour figures pushed back against these proposals, according to the BBC, the latter emphasising how it would complicate some of the defence treaties and alliances the UK is party to.
This is one of the first policy stories out of the Welsh nationalists since they elected their new leader, Adam Price, who met with Theresa May in Downing Street last week. Such harder-edged nationalist positions will complicate the hope, nurtured by some Welsh Conservatives, that his leadership might make a Con-Nat pact to oust Labour viable in Cardiff Bay.
ITV have also reported on a new Welsh political poll indicating that, in the words of Professor Roger Awan-Scully, “the installation of their new leader has not generated any momentum for them at all.” It also shows that the Conservatives have sufficiently improved their position relative to 2017 to regain Vale of Clwyd and capture Wrexham from Labour.
DUP donation given clean bill of legal health
In the aftermath of the EU referendum, the Democratic Unionists came under scrutiny from Remain-leaning outlets (primarily openDemocracy) about a substantial donation they received from a group called the Constitutional Research Council.
As well as trying to drum up concern by implying it might have had something to do with the Saudi intelligence services, there was also a slightly absurd effort to persuade people that the DUP even getting involved in mainland campaigning was somehow suspicious.
I dealt with the latter argument at the time – in a UK-wide referendum there is absolutely no reason for the DUP to confine its efforts to Northern Ireland – and this week the Electoral Commission have also ruled that, for all its being ‘dark’, the CRC’s donation was entirely legal.
This comes in the same week that the Information Commissioner dismissed Carole Cadwalladr’s long-running conspiracy theory about illegal collusion betweein Vote Leave and Leave.eu via Cambridge Analytica.