Sunday, March 11, 2007

Malcolm considers the 26th March deadline:
The elves have had to put up with Malcolm's spleen over a tedious debate on "who is a Unionist?" This wearisome parish-pump tit-for-tat, Box-and-Cox stuff is soooo misguided. And we're to blame. To adapt what P.G.Wodehouse didn't say about Scotsmen: it's not hard to distinguish a Unionist from a blithe ray of sunshine. We mainlanders, by paying heed to their nonsense, have inflated the self-importance of the Ulster politician on Graf von Zeppelin proportions.

(In)famously, Harold Wilson denounced the Ulster Workers’ Strikers of May 1974 as “spongers” who expected the rest of the UK to subsidise the Northern Irish way of life. That accusation remains valid for Unionists to answer.

The facts are these: the identifiable Government expenditure per head, per year (2002/3 figures) is £5,453 in England, £6,479 in Wales, £6,579 in Scotland and £7,267 in Northern Ireland. Nor can that be justified on grounds of relative poverty or affluence.

There are massive pockets of unemployment and deprivation across the UK, not excluding the “prosperous” South East, South West and the former pit districts. You think small-town Derry has it hard? Don’t believe Malcolm: read the Special Report in the Guardian: Neglected or deserted, seaside awaits the turn of the tide. And then consider this: for every UK Government £ spent on the unemployed kid in Eastbourne or Yarmouth, his/her opposite number in the Six Counties gets £1.55.

Then there is the preposterous waste that is Stormont. 108 AMs, each entitled to £31, 817 (2003-04 figures, naturally), with up to £48,000 “office expenses”. OK, OK: those also in the Westminster Parliament have a “salary abatement”, so don’t jump on Malcolm for that.

The people of the North of Ireland are grotesquely over-represented: 18 Westminster MPs; 3 MEPS in Brussels; 108 AMs in (or not in) Stormont; 11 Departments in the Executive, each with officials and tea-cosies; 26 local councils. And all, in sum, achieving precisely what?

Meanwhile, the worm is turning. The “English Democrats” claim an opinion poll shows 68% support for a specifically “English Parliament”. This would be trivial had the Tories not stated a position on the West Lothian Question . Under a Tory Government, Scottish MPs would be disqualified from participating on English Bills.

There goes the Union.

There was a time when Ulster Unionists were important in Westminster. They took the Tory Whip. In effect, they were Churchill’s majority in the 1951 Parliament. A Unionist was Harold Macmillan’s bag-carrier.


That orange sponge might usefully come back to haunt the DUP:
invented by Ian Paisley. Back in 1974, at the time of the UWC strike, Harold Wilson had gone on TV to accuse Unionists and Loyalists of being spongers on the British Taxpayer. The Supreme Sponge was, naturally enough, irate and duly appeared on TV the next day with a piece of sponge in his buttonhole. Many unionists followed his example and for weeks we had the unsightly spectacle of unionism parading about with its brains pinned to the lapels of its coat. It wasn't a great campaign: the design features didn't lend themselves well to the grey skies of the Six Counties. One good shower and the sponge-soaked lapel of Unionism was sagging to its waist.
How about UK officials and ministers, about to “negotiate”, now sporting their sponges across the table in protest at overweening demands from Paisley & Co.? Sphere: Related Content

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