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1 June 2015

Spoilt MPs want more from bank of mum and dad

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness

Do you remember the three-woman group hug that followed the five-person general election debate in mid-April? As the Green's Natalie Bennett, the SNP's Nicola Sturgeon and Plaid Cymru's Leanne Wood embraced, on the right, both literally and metaphorically, Nigel Farage pretended to check his notes and, from the left, Ed Miliband gazed on awkwardly.

"The Three Graces", cried some admirers, referring to Antonio Canova's famous statue of the three daughters of Zeus, who were required to delight their dad's guests by representing beauty, charm and joy.

I thought they seemed just as rude as a little huddle of back-slapping, men-ignoring women would have been.

But the image does represent a new departure in British politics, for even though none of these women is an MP, they lead the three parties who form the new Left in the House of Commons.

And they have announced they will be working together as what they call "a progressive alliance" dedicated to opposing "austerity".

Or, to put it another way, a Left-wing group dedicated to opposing the Government's attempts to balance the books. And united in a hatred of Tories.

As Alex Salmond - Sturgeon's predecessor, who is now back in Westminster to make mischief as only he can - made it clear, the SNP would prefer to work with the DUP, or Sinn Fein, than with the Tories.

Douglas Carswell, the Conservative MP now in Ukip, was lucky to escape being beaten up last week in broad daylight on his way from the Commons to a bus stop.

"Get the scum," one masked man shouted at him. "See if you can outrun us, Tory filth," screamed another.

Fortunately, so far, there are few prepared to resort to violence, but these days many on the Left are so self-righteous about their ideological purity that they feel morally entitled to despise and insult anyone who voted Conservative.

As far as they're concerned, money is something you magic out of the aether and anyone who says otherwise is a fascist.

This kind of fiscal irresponsibility is infantile, which is why the English electorate voted against it.

But, as Sinn Fein and the SDLP showed again last week, it unites all the nationalist parties of the Celtic Fringe, who have decided that the British Government is the bank of mum and dad, who are being horridly mean about pocket money.

The SNP has 56 MPs, Plaid Cymru three and the Greens one: how Sinn Fein must be wishing they could take their four seats in parliament and join in harassing the parents.

Of course, they'll be hanging around in London on the sidelines, but they'll have their noses pressed to the mullioned windows, gazing jealously at the antics of fellow Celts.

At present, the Scots MPs are behaving in parliament like a kindergarten on its lunch break.

With the Commons still closed off, Martin McGuinness has been talking and writing about the need to develop some kind of common Celtic front, for he, unlike the wicked Tories, cares about "those in need and those most vulnerable".

Which makes it odd that, in blocking welfare reform, he's helping to impoverish the province.

Anyway, I'm sure the Celtic kiddies will have no difficult in agreeing to demand more cake, but they are unlikely to get it and so will be reduced to squabbling over the size of their slices: under the Barnett Formula, in 2013, public spending was £9,709 per head of population in Wales, £10,152 in Scotland and £10,876 in Northern Ireland.

So far, it's quite clear that neither Scotland nor Northern Ireland is likely to offer Wales any crumbs from their plates.

McGuinness now wants all members of the Executive to unite with the Scottish and Welsh assemblies to force concessions out of a government with no money and thus enrage the English, who pay the bills, have the smallest slice of cake (£8,529) and are fed up with the SNP, Plaid Cymru, Sinn Fein and the other ingrates.

Mum and dad are looking askance at children who claim they want to leave home, but only if they can first empty the family bank account.

Unionist politicians should avoid letting nationalists set the agenda.

It's the Union, stupid.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards