Not hard to see the motivation of those politicians Brian documented lamming into the DUP for (using their influence with London) to change the rules on double jobbing. The DUP’s embarrassment is everyone else’s opportunity, it seems.
It is an odd arrangement, the temporary nature of which seems to be doing a favour for the DUP leader…
The details of the move are outlined in a letter from Northern Ireland Office junior minister Lord Caine to members of the House of Lords.
It would see dual mandates returning only until the next UK general election in 2024. The current law banning politicians from double-jobbing as MLAs and MPs came into effect in 2016.
But might it be a good idea? After all, the
Tory Scottish Secretary (H/t to several commenters) Douglas Ross is both an MP and an MSP is both an MP and an MSP. Like other legislation under David Cameron, it looks like an odd piece of whimsy to deny NI what other parts of the UK can do without question?
What’s the substantial reason it would be a good to allow local MPs to sit in both places at once? Well for one thing, where’s the glut of political talent in Northern Ireland that says we can do without with a Claire Hanna or Colum Eastwood in Stormont?
Why would we be better off without Naomi Long in Stormont if the votes had tipped more towards to her than the DUP’s Gavin Robinson in East Belfast? It may create opportunities for co-opted MLAs but, with exceptions, few optees get cut through.
That said, co-options are popular with all parties. Believe it or not, co-options (by which political parties can ‘disappear’ unpopular politicians before they have to face a potentially angry electorate) now constitute 25% of all sitting MLAs.
Some say results would favour larger parties in multi member constituencies, an argument rarely heard in the south which has the same PR system. SF’s great roll forward there started with a by-election win for Pearse Doherty in 2010 in Donegal SW.
No such option exists for the electorate to punish political lethargy in Northern Ireland, where Sinn Féin would have been stuck with the replacement of an unpopular incumbent by by-election in Foyle.
Volatility is a key element in democracy, but in Northern Ireland it has all but been banished from a system that unshamefacedly puts power in the hands of party handlers as a way of managing their MLAs and the electorate.
NOTE: This rule also applies to council wards in NI which can be far more competitive. Sure, co-option exists elsewhere in local government elsewhere in the UK, but only where it’s accepted by the council in plenary. It’s NOT compulsory like it is NI.
Going back to the original point, I also have concerns that the behaviour of some DUP MPs who having spent so much time in Westminster appear to have become detached from the reality the rest of Northern Ireland has had to face on its own.
Sammy “The Chip Shop” Wilson may be the epitome of that detachment, but under the confidence and supply accommodation with Theresa May the DUP MPs began to pursue an agenda that’s had serious consequences for their own party at home.
As Enda McClafferty reports, it was a result of a Prime Ministerial decree. So maybe Jeffrey has a point? The return of the dual mandate might even benefit some of those who’ve been leading the charge against it?
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty