What are we to make of the DUP’s ministerial reshuffle?
Well, in the first place, this was occasioned by Robbo’s decree against double jobbing, the theory being that Stormont MLAs who are also Westminster MPs would have to decide which parliament they want to sit in. What with Nigel, Gregory, Jeffrey and Iris opting for the fleshpots of London – and who could blame them? – that meant some rearrangement at Stormont was called for.
So it’s a bit rich that the top job of finance minister goes to – you’ve guessed it – Sammy Wilson. Sammy the Streaker is, of course, the most unrepentant double jobber of the lot, having got a special dispensation to remain a representative at both Westminster and Stormont for as long as he likes, and showing no sign of giving up his seat on Belfast City Council either, though he doesn’t go to City Hall very often. Sammy has said that, if he wants to work 24 hours a day, that’s between him and the electorate. He really is spoiling us.
Sammy taking finance has me scratching my head, to be honest. The word from the DUP is that he’s well qualified because he used to be an economics teacher. So too was Wacky Jacqui Smith, which makes me think Gordon Brown missed a trick in not appointing her Chancellor. Or could it be that Gordon is smarter than Peter? Anyway, I fully expect Sammy to turn the DFP into yet another platform for his stand-up comedy routine.
Taking over from Sammy at environment is Edwin Poots. Now, Pootsie was relatively sensible when he was culture minister, so it remains to be seen how he’ll cope at environment. In any case, the DOE has now swapped a minister who didn’t believe in global warming for a minister who doesn’t believe in evolution. Somebody alert Professor Dawkins!
And oh yes, we can’t miss out on the star appointment of them all – Nelson McCausland is taking over at culture. Nelson, mind you, knows one or two things about culture – he used to be Heid-Yin of the Ulster-Scotch Heirskip Cooncil, and not only can he speak fluent Ulster Scots, he can also play the accordion! Who could have a problem with that? Perhaps the Gaeilgeoir community, faced with the most stridently anti-Gaelic man in Stormont taking over their funding, but I suspect winding up nationalists is the reason he’s got the job in the first place.
And this just proves that good things come to those who spend many years manoeuvring for them. Here’s Nelson, who started his political career in the United Ulster Unionist Party, a formation you may not even remember. He then ran as an independent a couple of times, getting elected to Belfast City Council. Then he joined the Official Unionists, just in time to be elected High Sheriff. Then, disillusioned at David Trimble’s unwillingness to shunt aside elderly North Belfast MP Cecil Walker to make way for Nelson, he jumped ship again to the DUP. And now he’s a minister. Hats off to that man.
Overall, though (and let’s not forget long-time East Belfast rep Robin Newton being appointed junior minister), this isn’t a terribly good advert for the bright young talent that we were given to understand Robbo would be bringing forward. If Edwin Poots, Nelson McCausland and Robin Newton count as fresh faces, this is obviously some esoteric usage of “fresh” that I haven’t previously come across. Not that any of the other parties are really brimming over with young Turks either.
Still, as long as Sammy doesn’t decide to deliver his budget in the nude…