Friday, 9 September 2011

To university we go!

HOLD the front pages – the Norn Iron Executive has managed to make a decision. Yes, a real live, honest to goodness decision!

Student fees for our two ‘prestigious’ universities have been steadied at around £3,500, give or take a few quid.

The cost of this will be borne by to nabbing £40 million plus from somewhere else to hand out to the universities, with the exact details to be unveiled next week.

It also means that some of the political parties will be able to keep their election ‘promises’.

What we wonder – as do many others – is what sort of creative accounting are the Norn Iron Executive undertaking to bail out the universities, and at the same time put in place higher fees for non-Norn Iron students.

What superb accountants they must be to find funds for such extravagance, and can they come and look at our household budgets when they have a spare moment or so.

Of course, there are conspiracy theorists out there (we prefer to call them cynics when we are numbered among their ranks). They might suggest that there will be some sort of cull of other budgets, with accident and emergency departments and further education college campuses closing their doors.

On the other hand there might be a clear out of the more esoteric degrees from universities, such as the Slavic Music in the 13th century masters, or of the even less practical qualifications, such as degrees in journalism.

In the meantime we are predicting (not too confidently) a property boom in Norn Iron. If plans go ahead for higher fees for non-Norn Iron students then English students’ parents may think it better value to buy a cheap terraced house for Charles and Edwina to claim residency and avail of the reduced uni rates. We can recommend some discounted properties on the up-coming bijous markets on the Falls and Shankill Roads which they may wish to invest in…

An open letter to SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie

Dear Ms Ritchie,

We applaud your courageous decision to stand down as leader of the SDLP and as MLA for South Down. Thank you for your service to the party over the past two years. You will now have the time to remove the knives in your back.

You will no doubt also take the time to reflect on your tenure as leader as you enjoy the calmer waters of Westminster, particularly on the fact that under your stewardship, the party lost fewer Assembly seats than under previous incumbents.

We also hope that you pay particular attention to any representatives of the United States of America. Perhaps you may wish to give them a stout length of County Down oak in commemoration of the leaked comments about your allegedly ‘wooden’ media performances.

Yours etc

Monday, 5 September 2011

Spend, spend, spend...and lose

THE classic story of a football pools winner in the 20th century was someone who won millions and squandered the lot to end up back where they started. How much worse would it be to spend all that and end up in a poorer state?

Well the Ulster Unionist Party shelled out £96,000 in advance of May’s Assembly election and managed to lose seats. They were the biggest spenders; and one must question the tactics that cost them so much to achieve so little.

In contrast, the Alliance Party’s £29,000 spend produced eight seats – at an average cost of £3,625 a seat.

Even better value was the DUP’s £52,000 resulting in 38 seats, averaging out at about £2,120 a seat.

And even better value, Sinn Féin’s 29 seats cost an average around £1,750 a seat in the Assembly.

And when it comes to expenses, a tight rein may be exerted on all MLAs, but who will hold the reins come the next time the UUP plan an election campaign. One thinks that spending close on £100,000 may not be top of the party’s agenda.

Fianna Fails

FIANNA Fáil has failed, well not so much failed but rather decided not to fail in the Irish presidential election.

Leader Michael Martin announced on Wednesday last week that Fianna Fáil will not be nominating a candidate for the forthcoming presidential poll in the Republic. In a wonderfully worded statement, Mr Martin said that the party had undertaken research that indicated there “wouldn’t be any significant shift or change in terms of public opinion."

Translation: “We’d get a kicking in the ballot boxes!”

Perhaps some would say there is a lesson for certain parties in Northern Ireland, but even more pertinent could be FF dangling the carrot of a potential link-up with the SDLP.

Both parties are struggling to re-build after electoral slumps. With Sinn Féin in electoral ascendancy in the North, a formal link would demonstrate the SDLP's nationalist credentials and provide a distraction from FF’s woes.

And with the social media tweeting about a possible late Sinn Féin presidential candidate from North of Ireland, the pressure on both Fianna Fáil and the SDLP to show a commitment to a united island becomes all the more relevant.

The question is whether any of the potential SDLP leadership candidates float this idea ahead of the party conference...just to see if there is any mood for desperate measures.