The Flegs Issue Gets Farcical

I almost choked on my Corn Flakes (yes I like a late night snack) watching the UTV News tonight. Did you see that strange woman with the massive Union Jack bow in her hair? Thankfully UTV singled her out to interview. That in itself should set the cause of Unionism back forty years.

Although the lady’s photograph is all over Twitter and Facebook………and I confess I am guilty of adding some comments…..I have decided not to post her photograph here. She might be a bit…and Im putting this delicately……odd.

That’s the thing about the Flegs issue. We now have two feminist icons. The “No Surrenderrrrrrrrrrrr” woman at the City Hall doors. She is a You Tube sensation. Now she has been joined by a woman who might be May McFetridge’s body double.

Notwithstanding the protests and violence and my Daughter-in-Law and wife have had travel difficulties……..it is hard to see any real thought behind these protests. It lacks substance………which is of course cold comfort to those who have been intimidated by loyalists.

There has been no inter-community rioting. Despite loyalist provocation the VIOLENCE  remains confined to being loyalists attacking PSNI…….and PSNI being overly-restrained. Indeed the protests seemed to have failed to provoke the wider violence that appears to be the reason behind it all.

Take the “no surrenderrrrrrrrrrrrrrr” woman. That was the most dramatic appearance of a loyalist protester at the door of a public building since Michael Stone was grappled to the ground at Stormont. “May McFetridge” seemed to me to be more interested in getting her fifteen minutes of fame on the telly.

Perhaps………I am now leading a sheltered life. I am not travelling in and out of Belfast so I am inclined to think of these protests as a demonstration of loyalist stupidity and impotence…….albeit with the capacity to injure and kill.

Which brings me to a post on Slugger O’Toole about the Peace Rallies at the weekend. The question is are they worth it?

And there is no clear answer. Certainly I recall my mother and her friends marching on the Shankill Road in Belfast…..and I have been at the odd mass rally at City Hall myself. But ………..Im not sure we need a Peace Rally for the “Flegs” issue. It is a simple matter of thuggery and an ineffective PSNI response (for political reasons). The faceless organisers can turn the protests……and the violence……..off and on.

Nationalists have not been lured into violence………so why have a  Peace Rally? In fact the call for a Rally ……in itself…….suggests an agenda that might involve re-visiting democratic decisions.

Is the Peace Rally merely a tactic to get people off a hook on which they impaled themselves?

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29 Responses to The Flegs Issue Gets Farcical

  1. It’s certainly a good question to ask. And it brings me back to a favorite topic of mine: where the feck is the political middle? Mike is leading his people into the middle of the Unionist Sinai, and Big Al is convinced now’s a good time to whatever he says, say nothing.

    I suspect too, we’ll be waiting an age for the APNI to make up it’s mind what it wants to do with such a big opportunity, and the media will eventually go back to ignoring them just as soon as they stop getting hit.

    • FJH says:

      Just to be clear Mick…..Im assuming that the “good question” is about a tactic to get people off the hook????
      In the accepted sense there is no need to have a Peace rally. A democratic decision was made. And the consequence is a law and order issue. Rioting and under-reaction.
      “Peace” suggests two sides are involved. But the only tribe involved is the loyalists. I dont actually feel nationalists feel the trouble has anything to do with them. Except of course the inconvenience anda general distaste for loyalist thuggery.
      I shed no tears at Nesbitt and the UUP. In fact I am enjoying….not least because the aim of those (like yourself???) in building the “middle” is to chip away at UUP and SDLP. But for that tactic to work, the decline of both parties has to be in tandem. You may or may not choose to believe that the SDLP is showing signs of recovery…..but most people would probably say that it has at least halted its decline. Most people would say that UUP is imploding.
      That will certainly result in a redistribution of UUP support …to DUP, Conservative, a UUP rump and of course Alliance. But any personnel, votes and policy Alliance pick up will mean a recalibration of them to “liberal unionist” agenda and will be difficult to maintain any inroads into “nationalism” (SDLP) even if it was geographically possible.
      So where the “feck” is the political middle? Well to answer your own question, people like Ford went for “power” (two Executive seats) rather than public support. The “middle” is the puppet of the extremes. And it would take a heart of stone not to enjoy that (except of course for the violence).
      Frankly the Alliance Party would rather have eight MLAs than try for twelve. They dont need them. They dont have to make an effort. They havea total lack of ambition and are cruelly exposed this last two weeks. In Belfast City Hall, having a two seat balance of power was probably better than being a political force.
      So where will the middle go? Recalibrated as “liberal” unionist, it will get into a designation debate, probably with a third “status quo” or “ask me later” label.
      But whats the point of a Peace Rally? The Loyalist Think Tank excludes Alliance. And hard to see how the Think Tank can come up with anything Alliance likes…..so I understand that they need to be bailed out by Peaceniks. But the fact remains……they screwed up…..

    • Hi Mick,

      You do beat that drum for the ‘political middle’ in the North a bit, which I do find interesting. It leads me to ask, what exactly would the ‘middle’ or ‘centre ground’ be in the North? What does it look like? Without wishing to have a go at you and asking a genuine question, could your own political beliefs be coloured as to what you feel is the middle? Finally, is the North actually capable of having a middle ground in the traditional sense owing to history and the governance structures in place?

      I remember Paddy Reilly over on SOT noting how politics is local (I know, a cliche) and that the middle ground is very different in different parts of the North which is stating the obvious but is seemingly not really noted by many outside of South Belfast or in the MSM. What is the middle in Fermanagh and how does this differ from say the Antrim Road?

      Mike is really not in control at the moment, unless he is planning on destroying the UUP, something I will not shed a tear for.

      As for Al and the SDLP, I think the latter has definitely arrested its decline, however, I think the former should get out in front of cameras more often, press home points, shake things up a bit. Being in Carrick after the burning of the office was the civil thing to do, however, he needs to be more proactive IMHO.

  2. ardmajell55 says:

    FJH A PSNI spokesman clearly felt it necessary to speak on Talkback earlier about the riots and must have been embarassed into it because he stated that the police were going to take a more harsh line with the protestersa than they have. I can only conclude the PSNI switchboards must have been jammed with nationalist callers complaining rightly about the ‘stand by and watch’ policy they’ve been operating so far. I can just hear a chorus of ‘If they were confronted by nationalist protesters, their catholic feet wouldn’t have touched the ground before they were baton charged in true ‘Derry1968’ fashion by the RUC oops PSNI stormtroopers.

    • FJH says:

      I suspect that political nationalism is not particuarly annoyed….unionism is destroying itself and I will shed no tears. The PSNI have been exposed as incompetent and I think that angers unionist voters a lot. They see the debacle for what it is. I think the unionists are jamming switchboards as much as nationalists.

  3. ardmajell55 says:

    The more moderate of unionists will be furious at the PSNI cowardice in front of the mob that Robinson and Nesbitt have unleashed mainly on Belfast and just as furious as nationalists at DUP/UUP cowardice in their conspicious silence.

  4. hoboroad says:

    The Pan-Unionist forum has been announced by Peter Robinson and Mike Nesbitt.Spokesman for Protestant Unionist Voice says the protests will go on as Unionist leaders have lost support of their Community.

    • Back to not-so-secret meetings at Hatfield House? 😉

      British nationalism in Ireland is simply marching in increasingly diminishing circles. Even members of their own community realise that. From Stakeholder:

      “…Mike Nesbitt is like a kamikaze pilot on the Ulster Unionist plane. He clearly does not understand his party and they appear at a loss to understand him.

      He is not just faltering as leader of the Ulster Unionists he is in meltdown. Liberal Unionist voters are either staying at home or flocking to the Alliance party. Nesbitt is very much the fly to the canny First Minister’s spider and he’s a proven flycatcher!”

  5. hoboroad says:

    Unionist Forum a sneak preview of its first meeting.

    Peter Robinson: Lets have a new Unionist party.

    Mike Nesbitt: Great idea Peter any ideas for a new name?

    Peter Robinson: How about taking one name from each of the two main Unionist parties.
    Say Democratic from the DUP and Unionist from the UUP.

    Mike Nesbitt: That sounds great Peter and who should be the new party leader?

    Peter Robinson: Well I think as with any job experience matters. As someone with over 40 years in local politics it should be me.

    Mike Nesbitt: What about Deputy leader?

    Peter Robinson: Well I was thinking of doing something radical there how about a woman?

    Mike Nesbitt: Arlene Foster?

    Peter Robinson: You must be joking no I was thinking about that woman who shouted No Surrender at City Hall or Ruth Patterson.

    Mike Nesbitt: Well your the boss Peter. What would I know about politics I am only a humble autocue reader.

    Peter Robinson: Yes indeed you are Mike.

  6. FC, thanks for your question. It directly prompted this (probably too long) essay on Slugger: http://goo.gl/zheUn

    • Thanks for the reply Mick.

      If you don’t mind, I have a few points I’d like to raise (it may be somewhat lengthy):

      i) ‘Sinn Fein in particular have little to show for their five year tenure’

      TBH, does anyone have anything to show for the past 5 years in tenure? Honestly, I cannot think of anything really achieved above merely just keeping the place ticking over, yet you have singled SF out. What criteria have you used to compare SF with others and their objectives? I am curious.

      ii) ‘Much was made in the press of the narrowing of those who lump themselves together as Protestant or Catholic. Much less was made of the increase in the self definition of ‘other’, or the seeming popularity of British passports.’

      I agree somewhat with the above, however, do we know where most ‘others’ are located in the North, their age etc as this may give us an idea of how big a force they will be.

      Also, regarding your point on passports, tbf I find this somewhat flimsy. As I noted over on Jude’s site (http://judecollinsjournalist.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/are-you-northern-irish.html), I have a British passport out of sheer convenience due to events and would be counted in these stats, however, I am not British in any shape, way or form. I know a few people in my position too, so I think you are reading far too much into that stat, thus undermining your argument.

      iii) ‘Perhaps there’s a hint of a way forward in his reference to Scotland.’

      I have noted that you do try and compare devolution in Scotland and here in the North and I find it interesting yet pretty useless to be fair. Scotland was not created due to some massive gerrymandering ethno religious carve up and their is no controversy over its existence. Further, they seemingly do not have as much of a correlation between religious or ethnic background and politics as we do in the North, thus I find these comparisons tbf useless and impractical as much as I would prefer them to be true as it would make the lives of Nats a whole lot easier.

      iv) ‘Alliance have thrived (relatively speaking) where the other parties of the middle have all suffered significant losses of support.’

      This is rather interesting. I am working on the assumption that you believe that the UUP and SDLP are parties of the middle? Now, yes APNI have done well in the Greater Belfast Metropolitan (GBM) area but largely at the expense of the UUP. If your insight above where true APNI would be doing well in Newry and Mourne and anywhere else where SF has over taken SDLP yet APNI is anonymous outside of GBM. Is it coincidental that they seem to be taking over from the UUP in GBM yet can’t make inroads outside of GBM? Hence when people like myself or many others say they are small ‘u’ unionists or a home for ‘liberal’ unionists.

      v) ‘The UUP contains many good and profoundly moderate individuals. I know because I’ve spoken with them as individuals and in groups. So too the SDLP.’

      Define ‘moderate’, as this would help us understand what you are getting at. I think there are a number of liberal folks in the UUP, however, I have noticed that on occasion when I also speak to so called liberals or moderates a mask slips. Now, because of your background and politics, perceived or real, you may be happy with what they have to say, but if you do not give us an insight into what you think is moderate then we’re simply bandying around words with values attached and nothing to judge them by.

      vi) ‘And without an opposition, there’s no one in the Assembly chamber who would ever really embarrass you on the subject since they have similar embarrassments of their own to keep hidden from the public’s increasingly incurious gaze.’

      I would have to disagree with you on this instance. As I have noted previously, we do have an opposition (http://wp.me/p1eiVW-99) up on the Hill; it’s absolutely everyone. We all know that everyone is out to undermine each other and their decisions made. Now, if you are calling for further oversight of decisions made then I would row in right behind you but saying there is no opposition is patented nonsense, it’s just not an orthodox one.

      vii) ‘The idea that you can vanquish your enemies (be they Sinn Fein, or generic Unionism) and they will meekly leave the field in a population where neither community is likely ever again to reach majority is a still appetising folly that feeds the raw animus of many in the ‘former extremes’.’

      Are you able to back up the assertion that neither community is likely to reach a majority or is this wishful thinking on your part?

      viii) ‘What’s required is the emergence substantive political actors who are committed not to being in the middle, but who are capable of acting decisively through the middle.’

      I couldn’t agree more, however, you haven’t really noted what the middle is. I know that is a rather large, vague question, however, do you not feel that you and the MSM are also feeding this opinion that parties such as SF and the DUP et al are unwilling to act through the middle? Someone on your site noted the large number of small gestures SF had made such as agreeing to step down early as mayor so that a unionist may be in charge for the jubilee celebrations, assisting loyal order bands with applications for funding, MMcG meeting the Queen etc. yet there seems to be a lack of a spirit of compromise from political unionism in general (there are notable exceptions of course) and I do not believe this is coincidental, especially after the census results and everyone is well aware of anecdotal evidence available whether it is the surnames of people taking up homes in estates in Glengormley, Banbridge or elsewhere or even school numbers.

      Whilst my point above may not tally with your beliefs, is it not obvious that political unionism should be dragged over hot coals much more effectively for their unwillingness to compromise than at present? Whether it is the flags issue, parading or the Irish language, Nats want dialogue and compromise (respectively designated days as opposed to nothing at all, discussions with your neighbours, effective funding and legislation) yet are stonewalled at nearly every opportunity. When faced with this kind of reaction, is it not obvious that action will be taken unilaterally?

      I noted Gerry Lynch and others are trying to pull the line of ‘both sides (read SF and DUP) are as bad as each other’ and tbf, this is a rather lazy argument with little or no evidence to back this up. It seems to have escaped many that SF may even be tacking even closer to the centre ground than say 10 years ago. It has a legacy problem, no doubt, but I noted your point that parties cannot be considered ‘liberal’ if they essentially killed their opponents. Without wishing to be somewhat pernickity, that would leave us with only 2 parties (SDLP and APNI) out of 5 (SF, DUP with Ulster Resistance for one and UUP with forces of the state until late 60s and being pretty much joined to the hip with the RUC et al afterwards, same for DUP, not forgetting the alphabet soup of loyalist paras they were connected to). This kind of puts to the sword your notion of what the middle is, no? If SF have a legacy problem or its supporters wanting the death of its opponents then what about the DUP and UUP?

      ix, and finally) ‘In short we need inveterate deal makers who can do deals that stick and who are obsessed with more than covering up for the failures and misadventures of the past, but are instead committed to enlarging the shadow of the future.’

      I couldn’t agree more. However, who are these parties or people? You note that SDLP and UUP were deal makers, yet you specifically excluded SF from this too, or even the DUP. Let’s be honest here, the main deal for the GFA was between unionism and SF. It was about stopping IRA violence and creating a settlement SF could live with and they brought along the vast majority of Reps with them without a major split as had been the norm years ago. Even the DUP made deals when they realised what way the wind was blowing.

      There is plenty of talk about a middle ground in the North and how the parties are not catering to it, yet what evidence do we have to confirm this? Lower turnouts at elections? If this were the case then this would be the same across all of the western world. It may even be argued that these parties DO in fact represent the middle ground in the North. If you create something based on an ethno-religious outlook whereby its very existence is up for grabs at any moment and is front row centre in politics in general then all talk of normal politics is, IMHO, pretty worthless in the main. Whilst I do not like the sectarian nature of politics in the North, that IS the nature of politics in the North, changing it is akin to changing the wheel of a car without stopping it.

      Apologies for the length of the reply btw, but I did find your piece quite interesting and deserving of some serious scrutiny.

  7. Thanks again. To clarify, for me the middle is a broad spread of moderate opinion. On passports, it’s lightly held view and it seems to be just one indicator. I don’t think Catholics will make a majority any time soon.

    That was my view 10 years ago, and it is still my view. Changing the constiturional position of NI will take a much broader and popular support. My reference to Salmond was with regard to ability to change the question.

    Innate mistrust of PUL communities will, not be enough.

    Why did I single out SF? Because I see no other party with minister who takes her salary and then only turns up at the office for eleven days.

    What I know of the NIW story, CM was largely innocent of any direct wrongdoing mostly because he had no clue what his senior civil servants were up to. And he asked them no tough questions when offered the chance to sack the board.

    • Thanks for the reply Mick, to be fair, you haven’t really gotten into any kind of real detail or engaged the points raised in any kind of decent manner, merely skimmed a few things, perhaps not to tie yourself down.

      ‘I don’t think Catholics will make a majority any time soon.
      That was my view 10 years ago, and it is still my view. Changing the constiturional position of NI will take a much broader and popular support. My reference to Salmond was with regard to ability to change the question.’

      Interesting point. Look, not wishing to get morbid here but Protestants are an elderly demographic which is closer to death than younger Catholics. I am not gloating here, I’m stating a well known fact. Whilst I would love to change the ‘question’ (whatever that means in all reality) the North is a sectarian carve up and unionism keeps occupying a smaller geographical area with an older demographic as each year passes.

      I do think Robbo was trying to ‘change the question’ as you said, however, with the make up of the North it is seen as hollow and a waste of time tbf. Though supposedly 10% of Protestants are now voting for Nat parties.

      ‘Innate mistrust of PUL communities will, not be enough.’

      For what precisely? Further, you will note that my post had some subtlety and nuance to it, your reply does lack this.

      ‘Why did I single out SF? Because I see no other party with minister who takes her salary and then only turns up at the office for eleven days.
      What I know of the NIW story, CM was largely innocent of any direct wrongdoing mostly because he had no clue what his senior civil servants were up to. And he asked them no tough questions when offered the chance to sack the board.’

      Have you evidence of this, I would be interested to see this as tbh, this is the first I have heard this allegation. Also, which minister are you referring to?

      As for CM, that’s a fair point.

      TBH Mick, like I said above, you haven’t really ‘answered’ anything, you have provided some fairly vague assessment and when placed under some scrutiny you haven’t really engaged.

      Now, you may say ‘it’s Christmas and I am busy running a site’, however, if you are going to send me a link to what are is a fairly large essay and I take my time to provide an answer going over the points raised, I think it is reasonable of me and others to expect you to provide an answer as opposed to the apparent off the cuff, vague text message like reply above.

  8. It is because I don’t have time. Here’s my very first thoughts on Slugger ten years ago, and before the last results came out. http://sluggerotoole.com/2002/07/17/census-2001/

    You can discount point three, and point one is probably over optimistic by the revised figures. But I think point two is as rock solid today as it ever was. A good ten per cent of any subsection in any poll will dissent.

    Mortality rate or no, People are diversifying their opinions under the protracted conditions of peace. But the nationalist leadership is still running
    A war by other means. And that will only serve to alienate the Protestant voters needed to win a constitutional debate.

    This has been Irish Republicanism’s fatal flaw in every ‘show’ after Emmetts.

    That’s why I genuinely think SF is putting its ladder up against the wrong wall. What they may end up doing is accommodating us all to the neverendingness of partition.

    I’m used to taking stick for not thinking like others in the herd. But n this case I’m not the one with te dodgy calcs.

    • That’s an interesting read MF and I wouldn’t disagree with much, nor would I propose otherwise regarding point 2.

      In all honesty, I will make an assumption that you are making an assumption that I am marking all Catholics as Nats and wanting a UI in the morning, right? I would have hoped otherwise, but alas, c’est la vie!

      Again, as has been noted on this site and others, Nats have a lot of work to do, however, your analysis seems to imply (if we take it to some kind of logical conclusion) that even if elderly Protestants were to pass away that a large number of young Catholics would self-identify as unionists all of a sudden, as if there is some kind of glass ceiling regarding Nat support when it seems to slowly increase its representation in certain areas and has a younger electorate who would be more predisposed to not voting in their youth.

      I’ve looked at the numbers and that just doesn’t seem to be happening and all anecdotal evidence would confirm this too.

      Further, amongst Nats, whilst I personally would love ALL links with Britain cut (in the political/governance sense) I would be naive to think that this will happen. It will be most likely in stages. As has been noted at length, big issues will arise whether it is the NHS, Welfare or Public Sector work. I’ve said before and I shall again, many I know who would be Nats and love a UI eventually have misgivings about the Southern economy (obviously) and health care issues so they would vote to stay in the union at the moment. They of course would love a UI, however, not at the moment. This seems to be missing from the research or articles of many in the MSM which does make you wonder, why?

  9. Btw, I did send you a link, it was a substantive response to your original question. It’s lengthy, detailed and cogent because I took it seriously enough to take the time to do it properly.

    CM is Conor Murphy. And yes, I have a surfeit of evidence in that regard.

    • Hi Mick, thanks again for the reply.

      I appreciate you are busy and it is that time of year after all so we all have quite a bit to be doing. Allow me to clarify a few things regarding my posts and then go over your points.

      i) Regarding your response and where I was asking for something more comprehensive it was with regard to your response @ 11.03am and the points I raised regarding your rather lengthy piece (@3.09am), whether it was your contention that APNI does well where the ‘middle’ has fallen apart. I used the example of SDLP losing seats and votes in many areas and yet APNI is nowhere to be seen outside of GBM area. I was merely noting that I had given you what I feel is a considered reply to your essay on SOT, asking further questions, pointing out flaws in your thinking or with some facts on the ground and inviting a response and you have merely given me a response that really answers so little.

      ii) I gathered that CM was Conor Murphy, what I was asking was how ‘she’ is in your sentence ‘ I see no other party with minister who takes her salary and then only turns up at the office for eleven days.’ Again, who is ‘she’ as I am not aware of who you are speaking of.

      iii) ‘Mortality rate or no, People are diversifying their opinions under the protracted conditions of peace. But the nationalist leadership is still running
      A war by other means. And that will only serve to alienate the Protestant voters needed to win a constitutional debate.’

      Have you evidence for this because at the polls it would appear that we appear to be pretty static regarding representation. Again, is this anecdotal evidence on your part or are you going to pull NILT from some wizard’s pocket?

      iv) ‘I’m used to taking stick for not thinking like others in the herd. But n this case I’m not the one with te dodgy calcs.’

      Shame that doesn’t happen over on your page, ay?

  10. kensei says:

    There is a class of pundits in the States who seem to exist solely to proclaim the need for bipartisanship, lament the current set of politicians and proclaim their agenda is what the US people want. The last two are independent of what the pols have proposed or the current agenda. I see Slugger had morphed into a home grown version.

    “The middle” as some sort of norm does not exist. It is entirely in the minds of pundits and is almost always defined after the fact. There are strong and weak preferences, and there are the realities of power and that is it. The Republican Party in the US has spent the last 4 years dishing out this lesson. Obama starts from a moderate position – nearly always what centrists are proposing. The Republicans rail against it and drag the whole thing right. Viola, new centre. Most people have limited interest (and/or information), have weak preferences and look to signals from the political parties as to what a centrist deal is. Within fairly broad reason – the “centre” is much closer to what an particular group of parties will agree to do rather than any idea of an average of the general populace.

    Here, Nationalism has been playing the Obama role. The Belfast deal was a perfect example of “working through the centre”. SF ended up voting for the Union Flag to fly above Belfast for 23 days! Think about that. The problem, and Alliances problem wasn’t they didn’t cut across central opinion – what matters is they didn’t force Unionists to vote for it. They allowed them to rail against it at no political cost.

    The only way to force your enemies to vote for something they don’t like is by negotiating from a position of strength. SF and the SDLP could plaster the councils they control in Tricolours, the Irish Language and much else. Equality legislation would take the edge off but no more. The DUP could retaliate in their councils but if you make clear that you are open to compromise deals, the pain will eventually force change. The same principle will apply to the Assembly or the Alliance or whoever. The Alliance would have been better going for the no flags policy and indicating that if Unionists wanted something different they needed to propose something they could vote for. There are a number of pretexts they could have used. If the political calculus was still off, they shouldn’t have done it.

    People will say the Republicans have wrecked the brand. But that is because they are blinded by fantasticism and don’t know when to deal allowing them to be strategically outmaneuvered. They could have had the house at the debt ceiling fight, and walked away. A smart party does not have to make those mistakes. I will take 100% hardball politicking versus a vague hope of letsgetalongerism every single time.

    There is one other key point. All these magically middle people turn up to the polls in limited numbers. They don’t count. Not even a little bit. The Reps hammered that one home in 2010 too. By far themost interesting political story of the last 4 years.

    • Thats a very good point about bi-partisanship. And actually a much better one than the Blog I composed in my head on the bus today….strange that all my better blogs are composed on a bus.
      When Fux News….Hannity, O’Reilly, Cavuto, Beck.talk about bi-partisanship, it is within the context that the Democrats are “fanatics”.
      Our Middle of the Road has a default position that the status quo (unionism) is the norm.

    • Ken, nice to hear from you again… 😉

      Look, I don’t demur from the idea that Unionists walked away from what they should, from my distance bunker, have taken. Or even a fight they should not have had. Your analysis broadly works, if you start from Monday week (or was it a fortnight) ago…

      That said, I think that’s also a CNR/Alliance perspective, coloured no doubt by the way Robinson has dropped all his cuddly talk about one NI. But you know it’s ugly tribal work, and it would carry danger if the Alliance party had some politics of its own.

      I can understand why some people in the states are going ape. The fiscal cliff is a real thing and it’s terrifying. For that reason though, I think we can be sure something will happen. And the deal will happen somewhere in the middle.

      Don’t kid yourself there’s not shit happening in the Democrat party in order to make the stretch they need to do it: http://goo.gl/4Iq45. Wherever they do it, they will have to pay the political price of ‘going through the middle’…

      Whatever that ends up being…

  11. kensei says:

    The fiscal cliff is not really that scary. Another centrist bogey man. It effectively sorts medium term debt issues at the cost of a recession. That will involve real pain but it isn’t the end of the world. There are already hints that Obama has slipped into a familiar pattern of conceding too much too early, and Boehner can;’t keep his caucus in line. There probably will be a deal, and it probably will raise taxes at the top end and be to the left of the proposed Grand Bargain last year. But that will be down to the Republicans being strategically penned in by the triggers, and the fact they are finally starting to pay a political post. I don’t think there will be a deal with the Democrats carrying all the water, as there was in the last four years. The Reps will have to vote for it, and defend it. And again there is no “middle” there is just want both sides will wear for the political cost. The other risk of playing too hard and abusing norms is the formal rules change: see proposed changes to filibustering in the Senate.

    We live in an ugly polarised society. Anything else is wishing for a world you don’t have. There is a risk of further polarisation, but its limited if your ultimate strategic goal is to force an accommodation, rather than the seemingly endless and extreme jihad on government the American Right has. The initial actions are polarising, the deal conciliatory. People need to face up to what actually matters when it comes down to brass tacks, and there comes a point where only picking fights gets you there. Playing hard is also at least a tactical advantage in negotiation, if not strategic.

    I think you are missing my point. Alliance absolutely should be playing their own politics and they should be playing it as hard as everyone else. There periodic downswings are from being useful idiots. If they can’t play the game, and want to continue to be useful idiots then they should and will get kicked in by the other parties. Again, it doesn’t matter what the PNL perspective is or what Robinson thinks. What matter is: did the Alliance compromise actually force the Unionists to compromise and vote for it? If the answer is no, then second question is was the Alliance prepared for the consequences, and did they see advantage in it? It’s pretty clear that is also a no so they shouldn’t have done it.

    You can perhaps make a moral or idealistic case if you fail those tests. But that much also be subject to the question of whether it’ll backfire, and make me one for all the time vs sometime for a flag, please.

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