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Thursday, June 08, 2006


Political Breakdown

The head gasket on my car decided to fail yesterday. With a plume of blue smoke and, alarmingly, no power steering it came to rest on the hard shoulder. I called the AA and settled back to await the inevitable bad news. I formed the opinion that the car was knackered.

By coincidence Prime Ministers' Questions was being discussed on Five Live. It soon became apparent that my Freelander wasn't the only thing to be past its' sell by date.

Not only was Blair tired and evasive but the entire half hour showcased a government totally bereft of any ideas. After almost a decade in power the New Labour project looks to have run out of steam. No one should be surprised. The last Tory government hit the buffers in 1992 after thirteen years (what a pity for his party that Major won that years' general election). The voting public are heartily sick of the incumbent while "Dave" waits in the wings.

As we enjoy the last days of the Blair administration those of us in Northern Ireland are also, perhaps, watching the death rattle of the 1998 devolution settlement. The incomprehensible failures of the "Preparation for Government Committee" (sic) mirror the structural failures that have bedevilled Strand One of the Good Friday Agreement.

Should anyone care?

Under the 1998 structures the DUP, Sinn Fein, the UUP and the SDLP are embedded in government in perpetuity. The number of executive ministers they may have may change, the joint office of First and Deputy First Minister may even rotate but beyond that elections to the Assembly will have no affect on regional governance. So what happens after ten years when we have a local administration as knackered and as useless as the national one we currently enjoy? Nothing. The voters will have to put up with it and settle down to another ten years and another ten years after that. Perhaps that is why few tears will be shed by the cognisi when the existing machinery of government suffers terminal head gasket failure.

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