BY this time next week we should know something. What that ‘something’ actually is will be the subject of frenetic fumbling around negotiating tables, late night discussions and media speculation.
The deadline for forming an Executive is next Thursday, when the vote on the Queen’s Speech takes place.
The DUP have been deep in talks with the Conservative Party. News reports surrounding the talks process have been so surreal, we’d be surprised if Armando Iannucci (creator of the Thick of It) wasn’t already using them as the basis of a darkly satirical sitcom.
Figures have been thrown around like Monopoly money; calls have (allegedly) been ignored; and the DUP has dropped hints that it forced the Conservatives to drop their manifesto pledges on pensions and winter fuel payments. Given that just a few short weeks ago they were riding high in the polls, the Tories must be wondering how in the name of everything sacred in England they ended up in these discussions.
As we approach the weekend, we have learned that Ulster University’s training fund for specialist nurses has been slashed. GPs are cutting some services to manage workloads.
School principals are threatening to let budgets go into the red to maintain staff and services, while the Department for Education has said cuts must take place.
Who is making these cuts? What is the source of the demands to slash budgets? Well, it isn’t elected politicians. It’s the mysterious body of men and women who go under the title ‘The Civil Service’. With no Executive, no ministers and no agreement, civil servants are charged with keeping services running with a reduced overall budget…
Come Thursday, a deadline will come. Our politicians, like the late Douglas Adams, are very fond of deadlines – they like the ‘whooshing’ noise deadlines make as they go past! Whether it is a midnight or a midday deadline matters not a whit to those quaffing coffee and eating rich tea biscuits (other biscuits are available…).
With public confidence similar to a Northern Ireland bobsleigh team’s medal hopes, there is one way that all the players can pleasantly surprise us…
Instead of waiting until the last minute, the dream scenario is that the parties can please agree to a deal – let’s say around half two on Tuesday, in time for the evening news. Surely we all want this? To paraphrase Donald Tusk (and some bloke called Lennon) “You may say we’re dreamers, but we’re not the only ones….”