politicalOD
Time and tides.

Time and tides.

September 22, 2022

This episode takes in a range of issues. Perhaps unconsciously it looks at how patience and focus on straightforward goals can reduce the greatest challenges to achievable goals. 

We look at the Queen's role from Empire changed to Commonwealth. How will Liz Truss fare in reversing the technocratic aversion to change and salami slicing the economy towards growth and a dynamic economy that frees people and business to be their best. How might that be reflected in relationships with the EU and approach to the added cost of the NI Protocol to everyday prices, approach to Northern Ireland political Party whining, or more widely in the world. 

On the world stage, perhaps an example of how not to focus without the ability to see through with delivery we have Russia and how China might have played a canny game of removing a rival - though with unforeseen downsides of placing a focus on how China is not so different in its nationalistic view of its neighbourhood. 

A time of challenges; navigating through seas of change.   

 

Not the silly season.

Not the silly season.

July 29, 2022

It is a not so silly summer season, with the Conservatives looking for a new leader and the background of high energy costs, strikes, and war. No it is not the 1970s. In particular we don't seem to have the political figures that exude confidence and big ideas on the world stage, nationally nor, noting the death of David Trimble, locally. 

Stormont in mothballs

Stormont in mothballs

May 12, 2022

Seems like we are heading into a period with Stormont being put in storage, mothballed for now, putting on hold all those amazing ideas MLAs have been imagining to solve all the problems of the world. Waiting, of course, for the greatest fanfare of all will be Robin Swann's plan to do what has not been done in twenty years of devolution; to end waiting lists and create the best working NHS anywhere in the UK. Sadly we will have to wait. 

First on the agenda is the Northern Ireland Protocol, that constitutional and economic thorn in the side of unionism, that (not before time) the DUP has decided takes priority over all else.

In this podcast we discuss how the election was a bit dull, what might happen next, and the barriers that currently exist which might derail the Government from doing much as has been its way for months and months past. Until the EU is faced down on its absolutist legalistic hubris, and common sense prevails, Brexit will not be complete, and the Good Friday Agreement will be dead.  

Reading the Stormont Election Runes

Reading the Stormont Election Runes

April 1, 2022

We don’t have much to go on when it comes to predicting the forthcoming election. The polling is volatile and there’s no reliable data on how many people don’t know who they will vote for or remain undecided.

We look at the three relevant battles; in unionism, in nationalism, and the fight for the so called middle ground. There’s a lot of talk about new, fresh politics, but some of the rhetoric, particularly from Sinn Fein, seems depressingly familiar.

We got here via a few weeks of phoney electoral war, during which the parties gave the impression that they were frenziedly busy. Did they achieve anything and why did they leave it so late to get their homework ready?

Plus, the obligatory update on the Protocol. All the latest action on dealing with the Irish Sea border… or lack of it.

Crisis redux

Crisis redux

February 8, 2022

For all the talk of crisis things seem much the same up the hill at Stormont. Sinn Fein wants to see legislation through, but also an early election. What they couldn't do with 28 pieces of legislation they'll need twice as much time to do with fewer, apparently because the DUP pulled Paul Givan out of the Executive and despite that not reducing one day of Assembly time before they close for the always planned election. No journalist has asked a single political leader why that might be.

Meanwhile, Doug Beattie's clean shaven look doesn't seem to have done anything to make his political antenna look more shiny. The UUP needs to focus on consistency if nothing else, because at the moment Mr Beattie looks like a man with no particular plan on any given day - though in fairness few other Parties have a better approach and all think blaming the DUP means no-one will ask them what their alternative approach might be.

Meanwhile the hubris over Health continues apace. 8 weeks to save the NHS!!! No budget we are told despite hundreds of millions £ heading into the budget - rightly questioned by the DUP for being cash planned to be spent without a plan for spending. In future he won't have Covid to bring Armed Services in to cover staff shortages that have been created by the very restrictions his department has championed while everywhere else has abandoned the pretence they have any further value.

New Year, same old…

New Year, same old…

January 14, 2022

The New Year brought little cheer for Downing Street with a forever list of crises, much of its own making. Perhaps surprisingly, Downing Street is cut some slack on the podcast while the empty demands for the Prime Minister's resignation by Northern Ireland politicians is called out for what it is - hubris.

Meanwhile, since the last podcast, Liz Truss has taken over the role of chief Brexit negotiator. This means that the NI Protocol is now one of many issues in the in-tray, whereas Lord Frost had only one job...

Finally, there is no great joy in looking forward to the Assembly Elections in May. No doubt the Parties will all be saying that as part of the Executive how important they have all been, with all but the DUP saying how bad the DUP is, how awful it would be without the Assembly and Executive. If ever pointed out that absolutely nothing has been achieved by this particular Executive no doubt we will be told 'Covid" and it will all be marvellously better next time. Because, 'it is for the children'.

It’s the data stupid

It’s the data stupid

November 18, 2021

Despite claiming to be 'guided by the science' the NI Executive's reluctance to publish 'the evidence', the science and reason on which a decision is being made, seems churlish. It also seems that the politicians in the NI Executive don't quite trust, certainly lack confidence in the data. Added to which any review of the published NISRA data, a daily update on statistics around Covid and health services, even a casual review, raises questions that seem to be unanswered or simply contradictory to what the politicians and health 'experts' are saying. That undermines public confidence in decisions and policy being made.

20th Century Marxist historians didn't produce communist polemics. Rather it was a framework for critical thinking, that agree or disagree - plenty on both sides - the work was thought-provoking and based on considerable research. There was no such thing as an 'inconvenient' fact, just a fact which needed to be assessed with greater rigour and attention to endeavour to explain, to enlighten. The greats of the Enlightenment might not have recognised Marxist thinking, but there is no doubt they might appreciate the reason and rational thought applied.

What do we have today. Universities seems to have been captured by 'activist' academics that selectively advance opinion which is factually and intellectually light, pitched all to often in a character-constrained tweet that lacks substance. Journalism seems more focused on clickbait headlines to gain attention for the journalist rather than focus attention on the facts within and around a story. And politicians with zero ideological frame, making up policy on the hoof with priority on how it will look in a 280 character summary. 

Devil in the Detail

Devil in the Detail

October 14, 2021

Labour, Conservatives, and most recently the UUP presented fine optics at their respective conferences. Leaders who said a lot about nothing we didn't know already, at best. Boris was Boris, delivering what everyone in the Conference Centre expected of Boris. Sir Keir and Doug Beattie presented speeches that didn't alarm the horses. At least Sir Keir started to articulate a Labour Party of his own design. All the backdrops, bright lights, dancers and comedians (for once, not the politicians) still left a sense of something absent from the UUP.

More structured and very well crafted was the speech given by Lord Frost in Portugal, which outlined what the UK expects from a future relationship with the EU and, yes, the NI Protocol. This builds on previous actions and papers, so there is pathway in place from the UK - a plan. We had to record the Podcast before the EU announced what it wanted everyone to focus on when it published the bureaucrats' response to difficulties only a few months ago the EU claimed didn't exist. The EU also claimed it would not re-negotiate the NI Protocol. Yet here we are, with the EU about to enter intense negotiations on the NI Protocol. Never say never.

Short on reasons

Short on reasons

October 1, 2021

We have heard a lot in Northern Ireland about Executive disagreement on the matter of 'Vaccine Passports'. Less clear, and barely discussed, is either the science that underscores a requirement for restricting 'the unvaccinated' access to hospitality venues. Arguments on encouraging vaccinations or 'saving' the NHS don't add up: the age categories with least vaccination uptake - say 18-30 - are not those showing most positive test results ("cases") or taking up hospital beds.

The approach to policy around 'vaccine passports' seems to be around the same level as Brexit and the Protocol: wildly differing groups, none listening to any other, with facts or reason out the window. Meanwhile, world trade and international relations have been upended by Covid (not Brexit) in ways we couldn't have imagined and generating shortages and logjams that will take some considerable time to unwind and recalibrate to a 'normality'. 

Finally, it is Party Conference season. Starmer has had his day, Boris next week. Other than the very contrasting styles and personalities, are either really able to address issues that are far out of their control. Events dear boys, events.

Protocol, Policing and Polls

Protocol, Policing and Polls

September 3, 2021

Cherryvalley will be eating M&S baked beans on toast this Christmas as this one retailer lays bare their shelves in an honest announcement of the reduced Christmas lines for NI shoppers this year. Every indication is that the 'grace periods', currently preventing already challenging restraints on goods from GB to NI becoming brutal, will be extended beyond the 2022 Assembly election to spare the blushes of those calling for 'rigorous implementation'.

Policing is in the news because a Report on policing, meant to be on the subject of South Armagh, seems to have raised more questions than it answers - though many are no longer certain what the question was in the first instance. 

Part of that policing review was about local surveying, and elsewhere this past week that topic was discussed following a Belfast Telegraph story reporting results of local pollster Lucid Talk, where the pollster soon became a bigger story than the poll's results. Also discussed is a 'Let's Talk Loyalism' survey, endeavouring to articulate the frustration within a particular community in Northern Ireland. 

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