Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Fit for nothing!

ON Thursday evening, as we prepared to down tools and set off for a nice refreshing cup of tea, we perchance took a glance at the BBC Northern Ireland ‘Politics’ web site - nearly choking with laughter.

The reason? Headline number one from Tuesday: “Views sought on fit for work tests”.

Headline number two from Wednesday: “People have say on Assembly shape.”

Well should the people ever have a say on whether the Assembly was fit for work there would a collective intake of breath from our MLAs and a sudden urge to do something, anything!

Of course the fit for work consultation is an examination of whether the Employment and Support Allowance scheme is actually protecting those who need support and encouraging those who can work get back into suitable employment.

The consultation on the Assembly is from Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, who wants to know whether we should have less MLAs, end double-jobbing (weren’t we meant to be doing that already?), extend the term of the Assembly and develop an opposition.

We suspect that there will be pretty much the same group of people interested in these consultations: people with too much time on their hands over the summer – MLAs.

While there remains question marks over the Employment and Allowance Scheme because of the amount of decisions overtaken on appeal, the last time the Social Development Minister asked the public what they thought he said there were not enough responses (you might think that this an attempt to keeping consulting until he gets the answer he wants, but we couldn’t possibly…).

On the other public consultations we immediately thought that this is a case of, you’ll excuse the cliché, turkeys voting for Christmas. What MLA in his right mind (okay few are, but leave that point to one side) would vote to put his seat at severe risk and what double jobber with expense accounts brimming will put aside the extra cash and ego-boosting benefits of being an MP and an MLA aside.

Of course some have done so, and some will say they intend to without compulsion, but we should really thank Mr Paterson for advancing this debate to yet further ends of political tedium.

Reform of the Assembly will require all sorts of jiggery pokery, which may, or may not be aided and abetted by boundary changes. And any further promised change will need primary legislation in Westminster: something not on the cards as the Tory and Lib Dems plunge headlong into their coalition electoral death pact.

The pity is that any review of the Assembly will attract little public interest outside the political classes and the rant-a-thon radio shows. There is a serious dearth of consideration of how the big decisions are made, what can be made and who should make them (in general, not party specific).

As another series of the vacuous and the vain Celebrity Big Brother kicks off with vapid deluded viewers glued to the antics of the few, as children are brought up to a diet of stupidity and 15-second cultural attention-span twittertainment, where will be the concerted effort to respond on the future of the Assembly before 23 October?
Pass on this link: and encourage as many people as possible to respond.

We doubt that you will find many takers as they are too busy…

This consultation will end about two weeks before the Presidential Election in the Good Ol’ US of A – where despite any reservations about American politics, it at least has an energy around political debate that we can only look at with envy.