Thursday, 6 July 2017

MK anger at Conservative / DUP deal

My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian looks at the deal between Theresa May’s Tories and the DUP. It is as follows:

The deal between the Conservative Party and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party has been done.

The cost to deliver a working majority for the Tories has been confirmed as one billion pounds, which will be paid to the Northern Ireland Executive for infrastructure improvements, funding for the NHS and schools, better broadband and to tackle social deprivation in the province.

This equates to £100,000,000 for each DUP MP, who has promised to support the Conservative Party on key votes.

There has rightly been a massive backlash against the deal, variously described as “grubby” or “shoddy,” and much of the criticism has, not surprisingly, been sarcastic.

In the recent General Election, the Conservatives argued, time and again, that their opponents had unrealistic policies and were dependent on a fictitious “magic money tree.”

It is therefore quite predictable how many people have blasted the Conservatives by pointing out how a “magic money tree” has been secretly cultivated in the back garden of 10 Downing Street in order to deliver a billion pounds to keep the Prime Minister and her colleagues in their jobs.

And it is quite right for columnists and voters to remind May, Johnson, Gove and the others, that during the election campaign they told voters, for example, that there was no “magic” money for 10,000 new police officers (£0.3 billion) or to nationalise Royal Mail (£0.8 billion). And it was the Prime Minister herself who told a nurse in the audience of Question Time that “there isn’t a magic money tree you can shake” to provide pay increases.

Let us be clear. The payment to Northern Irish politicians – using taxpayers’ money – is a calculated and deeply political move, which is grounded in the self-interest of the Conservative Party.

But unbelievably, many Government ministers and spokespeople have had the nerve to claim that the additional investment into Northern Ireland is not because of political expediency, but due to the “distinct needs” and “unique circumstances/problems” of the area.

This is, of course, all shameful nonsense.

There is a desperate need to rebalance the UK economy and to ensure that government investment is better shared across the whole of the UK. But this cynical move has nothing to do with a fairer regional policy, and it does not represent a shift from the Government’s principal and unbalanced focus on London and the wider South East of England.

It is unjust to increase funding in Northern Ireland, while denying a similar increase in investment for Cornwall – which also has “distinct needs” and its own “unique circumstances/problems.” This, of course, includes having an even lower economic performance and a local health service under great pressure.

Just take the Cornish NHS. The present STP reforms would leave it massively under-funded – and yet here we have a Conservative Government giving over £250 million towards healthcare in Northern Ireland.

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