Thursday 1 October 2009

DUP backtrack on P+J

It seems that the split within the DUP on the devolution of policing and justice is getting more visible. While Peter Robinson recently said that he would promote to unionists the devolution of justice powers if the financial aspects can be perfected, Gregory Campbell warned 'there was no hope of policing and justice powers being devolved in the immediate future'.

Of course, Robinson himself appears to be slowing down his own commitment to the devolution of policing and justice – he claims that his failure to meet Gordon Brown recently to push the issue forward was due to 'uncertainty over the future budget for devolving the powers', and that 'there was no point in meeting Mr Brown amid remaining differences between budget estimates of the Treasury and local criminal justice agencies'.

Whether Robinson really meant what he said about promoting devolution of P+J, or whether he was cynically pretending to support it while hiding behind obstacles that he can raise or lower at will, we will not know for a while.

But as the succession of elections comes closer and closer, and as the menace to the DUP's 'top-dog' position from the TUV stubbornly refuses to go away, the last thing Robinson needs is a split within his ranks – and Robinson does not have the leadership qualities or the sheer dominance of his party to keep hard-liners like Campbell in line. So expect to see some obvious back-peddling by Robinson, in order to bring the DUP's position on the devolution of P+J back to one closer to the Campbell/Dodds/TUV-Allister line – i.e. no devolution at all.

Robinson can afford to go against the expressed wishes of Gordon Brown, because at this stage he is a 'dead man walking', and the position of the Conservatives is uncertain, at best. If nothing is agreed on the devolution of P+J by the end of the year, it will not happen under the current Labour government, and thus maybe never. What the consequences of this might be are hard to gauge, but certainly it could not contribute to a positive attitude within the Executive, or to the creation of a 'shared future'. This may be part of the DUP's game plan, of course – to ensure that the current institutional arrangements cannot work well, so that their proposal to change the architecture – essentially to exclude Sinn Féin – seem reasonable.

1 comment:

Dazzler said...

Unionists once again show they cannot share power and their sole purpose is to block everything that nationalist want.