Friday, 5 June 2009

What shall be shall be

THE hazards of trying to write anything in a time of turmoil is that what is written can be out-of-date by the time pen is put to paper, or increasingly shaky fingertips strike keyboards.

For example, after casting the vote in the Euro poll one could reasonably expect to settle down to await the outworking of the English council elections throughout Friday and the European election counts much later.

Then came the news that another cabinet minister had packed up his dispatch box and handed in his resignation. Work and Pensions secretary James Purnell had resigned, calling on the PM to quit. This was followed by Defence Secretary John Hutton’s announcement that he was leaving the government.

At the time of writing the smoke signals were showing the first faces in the re-shuffle with Alan Johnson taking over as Home Secretary.

Ah the perils of trying to guess what comes next in a time of turmoil! Who knows – by the time you are reading this there could be a new PM.

New secretary of state

MUCH speculation (again will be out-of-date) that NI Secretary of State Shaun Woodward is to be promoted through the cabinet ranks.

Which of course means we get a new SoS. Who will grasp at the post? It is of course a post that comes with a seat at cabinet and nice digs in Hillsborough and plush offices in the Stormont estate.

And now that most of the powers are devolved and more to come there really isn’t that much work to do. Plenty of time try and save that Westminster seat.

Who wouldn’t want it?

The ghosts of elections past

MANY Euro polling stations in Northern Ireland were noteworthy for the tumbleweed rolling past the ballot boxes.

For years and years politicians on all sides of the divide have been calling for all sorts of parity with mainland UK: parity of expenditure, parity of service provision and so on. Now we have European parity of apathy with the rest of the UK.

What has been the cause of the malaise? Why have so many decided that marking the numbers in the boxes is no longer an option?

This time there were no football matches clashing with polling; the weather was good; and politics haven’t been off the headlines locally for the past 12 weeks both locally and nationally.

Perhaps that was the cause. Only true political anoraks can seriously enjoy watching politicians making excuses day in and day out.

The ‘yer havin’ a laugh section’

NAOMI Long took top spot at Belfast when she was elected Lord Mayor of Monday, the first woman to hold the post in 30 years.

In an astonishing show of taking the proverbial p*** the DUP and UUP rounded on her saying that as she was also an MLA she shouldn’t be double jobbing and that she couldn’t do both jobs and should focus on one or the other.

Which, by any stretch of the imagination must mean that any MLA who was also an MP (and some cases a councillor too) can’t do both (or all three) jobs.

That logic also means that for years every MLA who was a councillor, MLA and/or MP wasn’t focused on their job…no wonder they had such a difficult time getting any decisions made at Stormont!

Bye-bye to the DUP

DON’T panic! It’s not the end of the party: merely the fact that three councillors have jumped ship to either the UUP or the Conservative Party.

With earlier small council losses to the TUV is there grass roots dissatisfaction with the ‘party of government’?

There’s gold in them thar hills!

THE Sperrins have long been thought to hold deposits of gold. With various licences out for one area, the Assembly debated the possible environmental implications of the gold mining.

Environment Minister Sammy Wilson (MP, MLA & Belfast councillor) good humouredly agreed to travel to County Tyrone to see for himself the situation.

Or is he thinking of staking a claim…after all an Executive sponsored gold strike could help come to its rescue in the next Comprehensive Spending Review.

New rules!

ALSO at the Assembly this week there was a motion (not that type of motion!) to amend standing orders on asking questions of ministers.

For those of you who regularly don the political anorak, the lengthy amendments cover just about every eventuality.

One rule worth noting is that ministers are supposed to answer written questions within 10 working days. Given that the Consolidated List of Questions (i.e. unanswered questions) goes back to October last year and contains almost 200 unanswered questions. Now, will the ministers and their officials be asked why they have a waiting list?