Archive for the 'Northern Ireland' Category


ALMOST THREE YEARS! We Have Simply Had Enough! Get Back To Work!

Thursday, November 21st, 2019

A1 guest slot by The Green Machine
It’s been all three years (since January 2017) that the Northern Ireland government has been in their work place, why?

Well, first of all things haven’t been the same since the days of the Irish Chuckle Brothers (Martin McGuinness & Ian Paisley). It’s hard to believe that these two bitter rivals for around 30 years were very close friends in the end. They done more together than the public think. In 2014, Ian Paisley passed away the chuckle brother were sadly no longer.

Peter Robinson took over as leader of the D.U.P and he just didn’t have leadership skills require to do the job required. Peter wasn’t getting things easy in his personal (outside of politics) life as his wife Mary was caught having an affair with a younger guy. Peter Robinson didn’t last long and was eventually replaced by the Incumbent First Minister – Arlene Foster.

Arlene Foster, hate her or love her, is one of the top politicians in the country and is enriched with good leadership. Arlene & Martin were trying their best to get along but there was always a few obstacles, One being The I.R.A affected Arlene’s family during “The Troubles”. They got through it and the country seemed to be going in the right direction.

Martin McGuinness then passed away in January 2017 and that was the end of Stormont. There hasn’t been a Northern Irish government since that month. Again, I just don’t think Michelle O’Neill had the leadership skills required to do the job properly and I still don’t think she does. This could be down to inexperience as she hasn’t been working or been in her current role for a very long time.

Arlene & Michelle simply don’t see eye to eye. Arlene wanted to ban gay marriage / gay rights and Michelle wanted to approve it. Arlene wanted to abolish an Irish language act and again, Michelle wanted to approve that. There has been talks within the last couple of weeks to try and get Stormont back up and running but it probably won’t be the better side of the Election / Christmas!

The country is now in a worse position and that’s why S.F & D.U.P will probably lose seats at the December Election. Paramilitaries are basically allowed to do anything they wish and please and the is one many reasons why we need you guys back. The welfare system is practically finished and disabled / unable people are being harassed every couple of years. The suicide rate and homeless rates have increased dramatically.

Our message to every M.L.A and Politician in Northern Ireland is that you must and need to get back to work, not just the D.U.P and S.F, but all the parties and individuals matter (S.D.L.P, U.U.P, Alliance, Green Party, etc). my message to Julian Smith is that you should set a deadline and if they’re not back to work within the deadline, remove their healthy pay checks which THEY DON’T DESERVE!




Seduced and abandoned. The DUP’s chances in the general election

Wednesday, November 20th, 2019

Even as a famous swordsman, Boris Johnson must be proud of the way that he has so comprehensively screwed the DUP. His Prime Ministership has not so much been a refutation of their strategy as a confutation of the DUP themselves.  

The DUP have for many years campaigned as unflinching unionists.  Though they choose to forget the fact now, they campaigned against the Good Friday Agreement as a sell-out. They are not ideologically Conservatives: they are free-spending cultural conservatives of the type of party that UKIP once aspired to be or, on their better days, as the Blue Labour movement once described.

It was perhaps not too much of a surprise that they should have campaigned for Brexit. Indeed, they acted as a conduit for funds for the Leave campaign that were used across mainland Britain, including a cover wraparound for the Metro. Who knows whether that aggressive pro-Brexit stance helped get Leave over the line?

With the benefit of hindsight, that looks to have been a terrible decision. The DUP did not take Northern Ireland with them – it voted decisively to Remain.  The resultant upheaval has done more to put Northern Ireland’s place in the union in question than any other development since the Troubles ended.

Worse, Theresa May came back with a deal that the DUP vehemently and successfully opposed on the basis that its backstop placed unacceptable constraints on Northern Ireland, only for Boris Johnson to come back with a deal that drives a wedge in the union down the Irish Sea. If implemented, Northern Ireland’s glidepath towards a united Ireland looks inexorable.

Meanwhile, the Northern Irish Assembly remains suspended. It resat for a day as the DUP sought to stop Westminster imposing gay marriage and abortion rights on the province, to no avail. The DUP now look those most dangerous of things for any political party: impotent and ineffectual. They are finding out the hard way that it is a short step from the “never never never never” of Ian Paisley to the “never never never never never” of King Lear.

The DUP now find themselves under attack from all sides. Unionists of all stripes decry them as having failed to stand up sufficiently for the union.  Leavers have fallen silent. Nationalists sense that the tide of history is flowing in their direction.

Opinion polling in Northern Ireland is sparse, largely carried out by the excellent Lucid Talk.  Its most recent poll, taken earlier this month, made grim reading for the DUP (with recorded changes from the last UK general election):

DUP 28% (-8%)

Sinn Fein 24% (-5%)

Alliance 16% (+8%)

SDLP 14% (+2%)

UUP 9% (-1%)

Lucid Talk are looking to produce an MRP-based poll in the final week. It should make for gripping reading.

At the last election, the DUP took 10 seats and Sinn Fein took 7, with the remaining seat taken by the remarkable independent unionist Lady Sylvia Hermon, who is standing down this time. She will be much missed by many, though not by the Conservative and Labour leaders, both of whom felt the lash of her tongue at different times.

What might happen this time? Here are the 18 seats presented from a DUP betting perspective. Note that once you get down to the green part of the table, the DUP may not be in contention or even standing. 

Despite the DUP’s recent history of complete failure and despite the most recent polling, bettors are actually expecting the DUP to get through this election in reasonable shape. They are 5/6 (the bookies’ evens) or better to take 10 seats again, albeit a different 10 from those that they currently hold. Lady Sylvia’s surprise decision not to stand again has opened up a seat for them that they would not have been expecting and they are helped in Belfast North – which promises to be a battle royal – by the fact that their main opponents there, Sinn Fein, are also struggling to match their performance last time round.

The party on the rise, the Alliance party, suffer from exactly the same problem as the Lib Dems, their sister party in Great Britain: they are undoubtedly doing much better but it’s hard to tell exactly where. Like the Lib Dems, many of their prices are hard to square with electoral reality.  

They are short-priced in North Down and South Antrim, but they did not reach 10% of the vote in either constituency last time round. It’s more likely in both seats that the Alliance will siphon off enough votes from the UUP this time to let the DUP hold the seats. The Alliance in practice may be hoping to establish themselves with some good second places this time round.

Like their sister party, the Alliance party appeal particularly to younger urban voters, particularly those keen to put the province’s sectarian history behind them.  So you would particularly expect to find them in the nicer areas in and around Belfast. Those familiar with the TV series The Fall will have seen that middle class Belfast in the streets of south Belfast around the Malone Road is very comfortable indeed and the Ormeau Road has more than its fair share of hipsters. The SDLP will be hoping to retake Belfast South from the DUP, particularly since Sinn Fein have stood aside (they took 16% of the vote last time) but since Northern Ireland’s urban professionals are much more clustered than in England, the 5/1 on the Alliance in that constituency might represent value. It’s a wild seat where the winner has got more than a third of the vote in only one election since 2001.

Belfast East is the Alliance’s other big chance.  On paper, the 10% swing required is more than the 8% swing that polling suggests has taken place between the DUP and the Alliance, but again the concentration of younger urban professionals may mean that we can expect outperformance by the Alliance in such constituencies. I’d rather be betting on the Alliance at 15/8 than on the DUP at 2/5.

Elsewhere the SDLP can hope to take Foyle and perhaps South Down just by standing still. In such seats quite a few unionists already vote SDLP to try to keep out Sinn Fein.

At present, it looks as if the seats will show broad stasis at this election between unionists and nationalists, with a slow rise of the unaligned.  Like the fortune of Mike in Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises, the DUP’s power looks set to decline gradually then suddenly.  This, however, is the gradual stage.

Alastair Meeks


Can anyone challenge the green and orange waves?

Sunday, November 10th, 2019

A guest slot by GreenMachine

A lot has happened since the 2017 election and the Northern Ireland Executive has been out of office for 3 years now, What will we see this in the election!?

First of all we’re going to start with the more obvious results.

Belfast West: S.F have held this seat since the 1980’s bar the 1992 election where the S.D.L.P won by several hundred votes. S.F regained control of Belfast West in 1997 (shortly after the Peace Process and have held it for 22 years and they will hold for at least another decade.

 PREDICTION = S.F will win with 60% + of the vote but their vote count might decrease specially if Gerry Carroll (People Before Profit) nominates himself to run.

West Tyrone: Here, we have another seat in which S.F have held for a long time, DUP should get to 10,000 + but it’ll be pretty straight forward to S.F and this will be their second easy win of the election!

PREDICTION = S.F will win very convincingly.

Newry & Armagh: Mickey Brady (S.F) is hugely popular and very well liked in this part of the country and there’s not too much to say other than he’ll be getting a very nice wage for at least another few years.

PREDICTION = Basically, It will be pointless for any other party to run / turn up. This is a foregone conclusion, S.F will steamroll this.

Mid Ulster: Francie Molloy has been around forever and is one of the most well liked politicians in the country and he seems to get better with every election.

PREDICTION = S.F with another easy win, No Contest.

East Antrim: Sammy Wilson has been an M.P for a very long time, he’s a senior and key member of the D.U.P and will storm home here once again.

PREDICTION = D.U.P to win very easily.

East Londonderry / East Derry: This is a D.U.P stronghold and I can’t see this going any other way.

PREDICTION = D.U.P will win this seat without doubt. S.F will finish second comfortably.

Lagan Valley: D.U.P have grown from strength to strength in Lagan Valley but I expect the growing is over, Alliance should do well this time around.

PREDICTION = D.U.P will hold this seat but will drop their vote count, Alliance should climb to second place and are worth £2-£3 at 20/1 with Paddy Power.

North Antrim: Ian Paisley Junior is a very controversial person. I’m not sure who the D.U.P will field this time but they will win.

PREDICTION = D.U.P with an easy hold.

Strangford: D.U.P seem to be getting stronger and stronger as the years go on in this beautiful part of the country, Alliance & U.U.P should increase their vote count.

PREDICTION = D.U.P will hold this seat, U.U.P & Alliance will fight for second place.

Upper Bann: D.U.P are the clear favourites but I don’t think they’re a 1-25 chance. Hate him or love him, John O’Dowd is one of the most prolific M.P’s in the country. I believe this will be closer than the betting suggest. The D.U.P, S.F & the U.U.P all have a genuine chance of gaining or winning.

PREDICTION = The D.U.P vote could swing to both Alliance & the U.U.P. This could give S.F a massive boost and they should close the gap dramatically. D.U.P will probably hold but I would play U.U.P & S.F at the very nice odds.

Hope your enjoying the article so far, now onto the much closer and interesting constituencies.

South Antrim: Alliance, the D.U.P and the U.U.P are all close in the betting but I don’t think Alliance are a true 3-1 shot, D.U.P should get over the line again

PREDICTION = The D.U.P @ 4-7 is a fair price.

North Down: Sylvia Hermon announced that she is stepping down, Happy retirement. The D.U.P & the U.U.P will probably fight it out. Powers betting is the D.U.P (1-3), Alliance (3-1) – not sure that’s right and the U.U.P (8-1). The majority of Sylvia Hermon’s votes will probably go to the U.U.P as she was a former member of that party. With Naomi Long winning the third and final European seat, the bookies are very tight with their odds and it probably won’t come to much or mean anything, Alliance will suffer more heavy defeats and green party should vastly improve their vote count here.

PREDICTION = There is betting on North Down with Powers and the D.U.P should achieve a gain here.

South Down: S.F & S.D.L.P will fight this out, The other parties have no chance. Chris Hazzard is a very good M.P and has done a fair amount for his constituencies.

PREDICTION = This will be close enough but Chris Hazzard should hold this with a 1000+ majority.

Belfast South: Claire Hanna (S.D.L.P), Paula Bradshaw (Alliance) & Emma Pengally (D.U.P) are among the top and most prestigious M.P’s in the country. Belfast South has always been a swings and roundabouts area in elections, The people change their vote and mind more than the weather and you just don’t know what’s going to happen this time around. In saying that, I don’t think Alliance are a true 7-2 shot and this will be between S.D.L.P and the D.U.P.

PREDICTION = With S.F and the Green Party absent, that’s almost 10,000 votes to go elsewhere, the majority of the green voters will vote for Claire and the S.F vote will be split. The green vote will probably take Claire Hanna over the line but I wouldn’t play at 2-9.

Belfast East: Naomi Long is returning from his short stay in Europe as an M.E.P and is running in her beloved colours of the Alliance Party. She has a huge fan base and following and is without doubt, one of the best M.P’s in the U.K (Not A Personal Opinion). She is a very passionate person and would try her best to help, Gavin Robinson won this seat in 2017 with a 8,500 majority meaning if Naomi was to win she’d need almost a 4,500 vote swing which to be honest I find it extremely difficult for this to happen.

PREDICTION = I think Gavin Robinson (D.U.P) will hold pretty handily in the end, 8-13 With Paddy Powers is very tempting indeed.

Belfast North: The moment of truth, the media can’t wait, I can’t wait and most importantly the voters and runners can’t wait, Nigel Dodds (D.U.P) couldn’t be anymore Pro – British and John Finucane (Sinn Fein) couldn’t be anymore Pro – Irish. This is not just a Nationalist vs Unionist election, this is a true battle, a true war and simply magnificent.

I expect Alliance to take some of the S.F vote and I’m hoping and expecting that Mal O’Hara (Green Party) will get to 1000+ votes – keep up the good work!

PREDICTION = This will probably be the closest battle in terms of vote count. I think Nigel Dodds will just get enough to get over the line, The prices (odds) with Powers are probably about right. This should be within 1000 votes either way. I wouldn’t lump on Dodds but I think he’s worth £15-£20.

Fermanagh & South Tyrone: The return and another series of Elliott vs Gildernew. You simply could not get much closer than this, excitement all around! Alliance will perhaps take some of the U.U.P vote but I think S.D.L.P voters will swing to S.F as S.D.L.P have no chance and would be a waste of a vote.

PREDICTION = I expect Gildernew to increase her vote and win by 1000+. I genuinely believe that 8-15 with Paddy Power is very generous.

Foyle: Wow, just WOW! You just can’t get any closer, Elisha won by around 150 votes last time out but in my opinion that was just a one off, this is a predominately S.D.L.P constituency / stronghold and I expect Colum Eastwood (S.D.L.P) to win this pretty handily with the help of the D.U.P voters who detest S.F.

PREDICTION = Colum Eastwood (S.D.L.P) will probably win with a 1000+ vote count. I think 4-6 with Powers is big value (NAP!)



The mood changes on Brexit but the devil will be in the detail

Friday, October 11th, 2019

A UK Brexit by the end of the year now 38% betting favourite

Judging by today’s front pages the prospect for a deal on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU look better than ever. Certainly Johnson’s meeting with his Irish counterpart on the Wirral yesterday looks very promising but at the moment we do not know exactly what concessions have been made and whether that will be acceptable to the DUP.

A political problem of course is that there are two communities in Northern Ireland, but that only one of them the protestants, sends MPs to Westminster. Sinn Fein competes in elections and wins a clutch of seats which it never fills.

There’s also been the issue that Stormont has been suspended for nearly two years because of the failure of the DUP and Sinn Fein to agree. One positive thing of the current situation over Brexit is that it might get the Parliament in Belfast functioning again.

A key part of the the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 was that both communities should share power and that has not always been easy to achieve.

The DUP, which got just 36% of the Northern Irish vote at the last general election has always made its red line that this part of the UK should not be treated differently from other parts. How they will react to what was discussed yesterday day is is a big question though so it is going to be hard for them to oppose something that that has wide agreement elsewhere.

One thing we do know know is that the overall agreement has to be sanctioned by the House of Commons something that Theresa May struggled to achieve and failed three times.

I think we could now see see opponents of Brexit at Westminster seeking to ensure that the deal is agreed by a confirmatory referendum. It becomes harder to argue against that once we know exactly what is involved. 

The mood on the Brexit betting markets has changed but it is still only a 38% chance on the Betfair Exchange that the UK will leave the EU by the end of the year. Before yesterday it was about 30%.

Mike Smithson


A general election could unlock a restoration at Stormont

Saturday, August 31st, 2019

Brexit isn’t the only issue stoking the tensions in Ulster

Northern Ireland rarely gets much coverage from the mainland British press. Riots generate a fraction of the coverage that a similar one in England or Scotland (never mind London) would get; the recent Harland and Wolff closure was only of interest because of a ship that sank 107 years ago; its sporting competitions are, like its politics, a different world. Here be dragons.

For once, however, Northern Ireland can’t be entirely ignored by the GB political press, due to both the chance result of the 2017 general election that propelled the DUP into such a position of power, and to the intractable Brexit Backstop issue that might well have caused a great deal of trouble even if it didn’t threaten an existential point of identity for the Conservatives’ allies in government.

For all that, both the Con-DUP alliance and the Backstop are still seen through Westminster lenses. Northern Ireland is (or its representatives are) only important to the media because of their ability to make or break ministries.

Except of course there’s far more to it than that. Two stories that should have received far more attention from our Brexit-obsessed media are the rise in violence from dissident republican terrorists in recent months, and the open near-threat of more to come; and the continuing shut-down of Stormont.

It’s perhaps telling that while the British media and political class has gone into meltdown over a proposed 5-week shutdown of Westminster, Stormont has been shut down since January 2017 – so long ago that the breakdown came before the government triggered Article 50 and when the Tories still had a majority.

However, these two stories are not unrelated. Much time and energy has gone into arguing over whether the Brexit deal undermines the Good Friday Agreement (GFA), or whether a No Deal Brexit would do so. Curiously little attention has been paid to the fact that the Agreement isn’t actually working very well at the moment.

When the centrepiece of that Agreement – the Assembly – hasn’t sat for a quarter of a decade, it’s unsurprising that some feel that the Peace Process itself has failed and are resorting to the methods that the Process was designed to get away from. That absence is made all the more acute by the happenstance of the 2017 election, which magnified the Unionist voice at precisely the moment when the nationalists were muted.

Taking a logical approach, it’s easy to say that the nationalists muted themselves: they chose to vote for an abstentionist party at a time when Stormont was already not sitting, Sinn Fein chooses not to take their seats (what a difference it would make if they did – or if the SDLP sent 7 MPs rather than Sinn Fein), and so on. But this is of little practical benefit.

In truth, any permanent resolution at Stormont must involve an end to the current rules which effectively give both Sinn Fein and the DUP a veto on devolved government. That veto can’t be particularly troublesome for the DUP who were originally opposed to the N Ireland Assembly and who it’s hard to believe don’t still harbour some ambivalence, especially when the alternative is direct rule from Westminster which gives them both the close union that they prefer (other than on social issues, where N Irish legislation is still stuck somewhere in the middle of the last century), and also rule by a government they have a disproportionate but indirect hand in. Whether they’d rediscover the joys of devolution were Jeremy Corbyn to become prime minister is another matter.

Or maybe not another matter. Both Brexit and the absence of devolution put the union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland under strain. That strain would be lessened were not the DUP occupying such a key role at Westminster, one which makes any attempt to revise the devolution settlement impossible (even if there were time and space for the government to devote to it) and which has placed the Backstop in such prominence – and if there is a general election within months then it’s likely that whatever the result, the DUP’s brief moment in the sunshine will indeed pass.

David Herdson


Why they just don’t put up a hard border in Ireland

Thursday, August 22nd, 2019

From Topping, who served there with the British Army during the Troubles

It was sobering listening to Simon Byrne, a bluff Northerner and current chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), this morning on the radio opining on the practicalities of policing a hard border should it be required. He feared a return to a paramilitary style of policing and how, with his 7,000 policemen, it would be impossible to fulfil such a remit.

At the height of Op Banner, the British military operation in Northern Ireland that ran from 1969 to 2007, there were around 40,000 forces throughout the Province consisting of 20,000 soldiers from the British army (plus personnel from other arms), 13,500 policemen from the Royal Ulster Constabulary (now the PSNI), and 7,500 soldiers from the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR). Tasks included supporting the police as they performed their duties as well as more specialist operations. This was at a time when the British army was 150,000 strong and, with the notable exception of the campaign to reclaim the Falkland Islands in 1982, and until Gulf War I in 1991, there were no other ongoing military engagements.

The British army is now 80,000 strong, the PSNI numbers 7,000, and the UDR is no more. Something like 70% of the army has never been on operations (in a combat situation as opposed to practising for one).

Supposing there were the political will (a huge if: my suspicion is there wouldn’t be), Her Majesty’s Forces would be unable to replicate Op Banner as the numbers are simply not there. At roughly half the strength and with many other commitments, the same and necessary level of manning would not be possible.

If, as Simon Byrne fears, we are about to return to paramilitary style policing in Northern Ireland then there would also need to be some tactical re-education. The British army went into the Middle East loudly proclaiming the superiority of its fighting forces and tactics based upon its Northern Ireland experiences. This supposed superiority was quickly shown to be illusory as the mode of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan little resembled the intelligence-led operations and peculiarities of patrolling a divided domestic community, where a typical outing comprised two police constables walking down the street, seemingly without a care in the world save for checking on tax discs, with typically 12 soldiers on satellite patrol in support plus air cover plus other units available.

Following two decades of essentially war fighting in hot climes there would need to be a return to a bygone and one had hoped obsolete era for the British army with a further tactical change to be able to undertake a domestic counter insurgency campaign of the type that might emerge once more in the six counties. A campaign that would also of course be conducted under the glare and scrutiny of thousands of mobile phones and perhaps in an even more antagonistic environment than last time.

Put up a border, some people cry; that will bring the Republic back to the negotiating table, they say. But aside from the many administrative, legal, and political considerations of such a strategy, its advocates ignore, perhaps deliberately perhaps through ignorance, its many and severe practical challenges.



Brexit is Ulsterising British politics

Saturday, April 20th, 2019

One issue has become so important as to define the entire system

Most people would regard the Good Friday Agreement as a Very Good Thing. Certainly, it was so at the time and 21 years later, that broadly remains so. Despite the continuing background presence of dissident political violence – sadly this week coming into the foreground – the Agreement brought peace and an agreed political structure to the province.

As with much else in Irish politics, the GFA has generated a good deal of myth-making, to the extent that the Agreement is now more conceptual than written; more founded on belief than law. We know that because, for example, the debates over the UK-RoI land border never reference the actual clauses a hard border is claimed to break. The breach is not so much in the text as in what the text represents.

In truth, the Northern Ireland structures and processes that came out of the GFA have never worked particularly well, needed to be re-written and are currently in abeyance: inconvenient facts ignored by those who want to believe in its abiding Goodness, for want of anything better. Turning a blind eye is an essential skill in N Irish politics, and sometimes one that brings a public benefit too.

However, at the heart of those processes is an insuperable barrier to long-term normalisation: the Assembly is built on the concepts of unionist and nationalist communities. Given that the political parties are themselves built on unionist and nationalist programmes, that might seem sensible but the effect is to ensure that that division acquires a reinforcing dynamic and makes any long-term normalisation even more difficult. The GFA does not seek to create one nation; it seeks to manage the relations between two.

As such, a voter more concerned about school standards, economic growth, provision of libraries and parks, or public freedoms has to filter what would usually be social and economic left/right debates through the unnatural prism of unionism/nationalism. If you want to vote Conservative, you might be able to but it won’t get you anywhere; if you want to vote Labour or Lib Dem, you can’t do that at all: you have to vote for ‘sister parties’, which in essence means having to sign up to, respectively, a nationalist or overtly non-aligned agenda. Note that the Alliance Party, while nominally eschewing Northern Ireland’s divisions, still ends up being bound and defined by them.

One unfortunate aspect of Brexit (of many) is an Ulsterising of Britain’s politics at large, in two ways.

The first, and more immediately obvious, is the prominence of the RoI-NI border within the arguments over the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and the UK’s future relationship with the EU, which has brought the issues in and around Northern Ireland back to the top of the agenda for both government and parliament. This is, of course, compounded by the Con-DUP Confidence and Supply deal and the mathematics within the Commons. British politics is dominated by Brexit (albeit that both are on a necessary, if hardly well-earned, holiday at the moment), and Ireland is central to Brexit.

There is another way in which Britain’s politics is Ulsterising though: public political identity is more attuned to Brexit than to the traditional political parties, and those parties – and the voters backing them – are realigning to reflect that fact.

The Conservative Party is transforming into the Leave Party. That it’s failed to deliver any form of Leave (other than an unratified Agreement no-one much likes and many hate) is at the core of the Tories’ collapse in support over the last 4-6 weeks and what are likely to be May election results that come in somewhere between very poor and disastrous. FPTP will help protect the Tories to some degree in Westminster elections but not in the Euros. The probability is that Theresa May will step down or be forced out this summer and will be replaced by a hard Leaver. It’s possible that such a candidate won’t always have been a hard Leaver but if not, ERG MPs and party members will demand assurances in blood of their conversion to the cause.

As an aside, I’d think about backing the Brexit Party candidate to win any Peterborough by-election at anything over 3/1, given the likely timing of that election, the likely result of the EP elections, and that public realignment.

By contrast, Labour is transforming into a Remain party. Jeremy Corbyn might not be very happy about that but it’s happening all the same and Conference will be difficult for him on this point unless he’s either accepted the need to go along with members or unless he’s greatly enhanced his authority in the interim.

Corbyn, unlike May and her successor, does at least have the advantage that the challenger Remain-Revoke parties are not very good at politics. TIG, or Change, or whatever have completely missed the open goal in making the public case, while rebel Labour and Tory MPs led the parliamentary battle. The Lib Dems are even further out of the game – when did anyone last hear from any of them on or in the media? By contrast, Nigel Farage has once again captured the attention and support of his target audience.

However, Corbyn won’t be around for ever, even if he wins an election and becomes PM. He’s 70 next month and one of the last relics of first-generation Bennism and the Euroscepticism that came with it. His successor will be (and will have to be) far more openly pro-EU.

Sometimes slowly, sometimes much more rapidly, the party system has realigned from class and social/economic policy preferences to Brexit identity. For those primarily interested in domestic policy, this presents the same problems facing the public in Ulster: domestic policies come as part-and-parcel of the overall package but very much secondary. This is going to leave a lot of voters homeless and struggling to find someone to support, whether they be traditional floating voters or those who were previously aligned but have seen their former party unwelcomingly transformed.

For now though, politics is Brexit, and Brexit is Ireland, and politics is Ulsterised.

David Herdson


Six weeks tomorrow could mark the beginning of the end for the United Kingdom as we know it

Thursday, February 14th, 2019

Pressure for Irish unification could just be the beginning

One of the features of Brexit, particularly a no deal one, is the impact that it could have on the integrity of the United Kingdom.

There has been polling already in Northern Ireland about how people would feel there about the Union in the event of a no deal Brexit. The numbers don’t look good for those backing the union and under the Good Friday Agreement the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland would have to call a referendum if there were strong indications that the public wanted to become part of a united Ireland.

Such a referendum on the unification of Ireland would be a traumatic event and would capture the attention of many parts of the world. You could see American Irish communities being very keen to support the North and the South joining together as one. There’s a reasonable chance that Ireland would vote for unification.

At the same time you could see similar pressure in Scotland for another independence vote and it would be hard for the Westminster Parliament not to agree to it. The chances in such circumstances of a vote succeeding must be quite high.

No doubt the moves in both Scotland and Northern Ireland to leave the United Kingdom would lead to similar pressures within Wales and it’s not beyond the bounds of probability that the Welsh could also go in that direction. The outcome would be that we will be left with just England.

So the stakes are very high in the coming weeks as Parliament decides what to do as MPs ponder whether to back the deal.

An England only problem for LAB is that without Welsh and Scottish MPs it is hard to see it ever becoming top party on seats something that only the hated Tony Blair was able to achieve. Prior to the Scottish IndyRef in 2014 LAB was the overwhelming major force north of the border with 41 of the 59 MPs. It was the loss of many of those seats which undermines Corbyn’s party’s position.

Mike Smithson