Monday, 10 January 2011

All party adminstrations and the problem of accountability.......

Sefton has had an all party administration since the '80's . Other have tried to follow our example and most have ignominiously collapsed. There are many pluses in the option but it would be folly to suggest that there are no downsides. I am always interested to see how others cope. In Belfast there sits a devolved administration that by its constitution has to command cross party support. We only have unbinding conventions. I was therefore interested in how they cope with one of the downsides-the issue of accountability

I have been watching the debacle over Northern Ireland water. The hapless Minister is a Sinn Fiener Conor Murphy. It should be noted that many  people do not regard this as his first act of incompetence. The question is how do you make him accountable for his failure without collapsing the entire administration. Large chunks of the SF vote are 'tribal' in so much as they would vote SF whatever their record. Being 'one of us' is sufficient. So if it was thought that removing Murphy lead to SF walking out of the administration that would stay the hands of those who would act in normal circumstances.

There have been many calls for Murphy's head. The Belfast Telegraph has covered the story in full

Northern Ireland Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy faced new demands to quit today following a Christmas and New Year water crisis..........

Nationalists and unionists have called for Sinn Fein minister Mr Murphy's resignation.
SDLP Assembly member Conall McDevitt said: "Many will question now how long Minister Murphy's position that he is the only one who is blameless in the long line of disasters to hit his department and its agencies is really sustainable.".....
Sinn Fein has accused opponents of scoring political points over the crisis.............
In a one party administration or even a two party coalition incompetant cabinet members are axed. the Scottish Transport minister resigned recently. The difficulty comes with all party administrations and particularly with a party whose electors vote for them whatever their record.

The maturity and political 'grown upness' required to make a joint administration work often illudes those parties who instinctively reject pluralism and who believe that the monopoly exercise of power-no matter how small their electoral support is (remember Thatcher only got the support of 28% of the voters) is preferable.

One would hope that SF leaders would require Murphy's resignation and prevent a threat to the administration. There is an altogether different set of circumstances if the party leadership is the epicentre of incompetence-but that is another story.

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