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PC16: Cross-Party Agreement Breakdown
The Home Secretary brashly demanding that the Leader of the Opposotion sign an agreement on a very serious matter while wholly dismissing his perfectly reasonable viewpoint - that if the British Government is to have credibility in mediating peace talks it must acknowledge the terror groups representing the extremes on both sides that have inflicted great pain on communities, and that this credibility can be established by not being afraid to condemn both the UDA and the IRA in a document outlining principles toward peace  - doesn't impart any confidence in his ability to empathise with nationalist and unionist communities and bring them together for peace. If this Government treats legitimate, reasonable viewpoints from nationalist or unionist voices during hypothetical peace talks like they have Labour's reasonable perspective by taking a my way or the highway approach and uncompromisingly demanding they sign a document after eschewing valid input the results could be disastrous. 

Again, Labour are serious about a cross-party agreement on the peace process and again we want to ensure that the British Government has the credibility to be an effective actor for peace, hopefully the Tories will return from their domineering position and understand where we are coming from.
Tommy Dawson
MP for Sheffield Brightside (1979-Present)
Deputy Leader of Labour (1990-Present), Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer (1990-Present)
Socialist Campaign Group. 8 XP. Media Darling, Campaign Guru
The Conservative Home Secretary has praised the Liberal Democrat approach on Northern Ireland, and the Labour Shadow Home Secretary has said he agrees with our position on the complexity of the situation and need for nuance. It is a rare day that our political adversaries lay on such praise, and I hope a testament to the genuine good faith and co-operative approach that I went into talks with. Our focus, on the peace process, and on building a lasting cross-party consensus, has been to act as a moderating influence, and to push for grown-up politics and compromise - without which, peace won't be achieved. I think that though our politics can often be needlessly combative, and often like a public school debating society, an issue as existential as the very nature of the union, and war within our own borders, is a clear example of where the two-party system needs, well, a third party. We are working hard to ensure that peace talks return, and I want to re-iterate my invitation to Labour and the Conservatives to have my party, the party of the centre, host talks after the next election, whoever wins.
I have said this before, and I will say it again: this Government has done more than simply condemn the UDA, we have made membership to their organization a criminal act, a crime that will soon carry a possible sentence of life in prison. We have done the talking, we have negotiations, now is the time to act. We are simply asking Mr. McCrimmon and his Labour Party to do what they seemed nearly ready to do before Ruth Murphy brought down the talks by leaking to the press: sign the joint declaration and work with us and the rest of Parliament to work towards lasting peace in Northern Ireland. 

There is absolutely zero confusion when it comes to the where this Government stands on the UDA, and Labour knows it. It's time to stop with the excuses and get on board with the joint declaration, for the safety and security of Northern Ireland.
Here's the bottom line, the Conservative Party support the cross-party agreement, the Liberal Democrats support the cross-party agreement, the Labour backbenches support the cross-party agreement, the only people who don't support the cross-party agreement are the Labour Frontbench who sniffed an opportunity to leak to the press for party political gain. Now I urge Labour to sign up to the deal, it's a good strategy that will enable Northern Ireland to come together and heal after decades of strife. I hope that Labour can come to the realisation now before it is too late.

The Government have condemned both the IRA and the UDA, we condemned the IRA with words but we condemned the UDA with actions. It is now a criminal offence to be a member of the UDA where it wasn't before, that is incredibly strong condemnation, indeed the only way it could be stronger is if we made it treason and therefore punishable by death. I urge Labour to recognise that actions often speak as loudly as words, if not more so, and that through our actions the cross-party deal is every bit as tough on the UDA as it is on the IRA.
The Government promised to deliver on the commitments we signed onto in the Joint Declaration, even though we couldn't convince Labour to do the same. With the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1992 in Parliament, we've proven that we are a Government that prioritizes action over empty rhetoric. When our legislation passes, supporting or joining a terrorist organization will for the first time in history be punishable by life in prison. We're not sitting on our hands waiting for the Labour Party to come back to the table, we're setting out to actually do what we promised the British people we would. 

Sadly, Labour wasn't interested in working within the cross-party talks in good faith. But that's in the past. What matters now is that we all show our faith in the future of Northern Ireland, which every MP can do by passing the Government's counter-terrorism legislation.
When will we achieve peace in Northern Ireland? When we get Westminster onside. The cross-party talks, initiated by the Conservative Government, were very close to doing just that but were ultimately foiled at the last second by some party political silliness. I'm sorry to use such a base word for it, but that's really the best descriptor. What we have witnessed these past days, particularly from the former Home Foreign Secretary, has been nothing short of astonishing in its selfishness and its complete disregard for the severity of a situation. Thankfully, she has been replaced and it is my hope that her successor will recognize how important these talks are and will come back to join the Government and the Liberal Democrats at the table so that we can resume making progress in the peace process.
The debate that has been waged in the press over the failed cross party talks has featured a considerable amount of politicians doing what we do best: talking. I won't pretend I'm not guilty of it myself, as I said when I spoke to Jeremy Paxman, I'm a man that struggles with brevity. But when the dust of this debate settles, every British person will know this: they have a Conservative Government prepared to back up its word with actions, and do the work needed to keep the British people safe. Since the terrorist attack in Boyle, we have acted swiftly to protect our people and defend every individual in Northern Ireland's right to determine their own future. We have brought the fight to terrorism wherever it exists, and we have refused to let up. 

We stood resolutely behind our police officers in the RUC, while Labour allowed their Shadow Home Secretary to suggest they were "incompetent." We added the UDA to the list of proscribed terrorist organizations, while Labour complained we were only focused on the IRA. And we introduced the strongest counter-terrorism legislation in a generation, while Labour was busy leaking details of our cross-party talks to the press. 

We have proven our willingness to act where others only talk, and we will continue to do just that.
PC16: Cross-Party Agreement

This is a rather intriguing one, isn’t it? 

To be frank, the average person at home is rather confused by this controversy and it comes off to many of them as a Westminster bubble ‘he said, she said’ story. That said, the media do take a keen interest in the political intrigue and shenanigans regarding amended wording and the leaking of confidential documents.

The central figures with both a role in the talks and prominence in the cycle are Croft, Preston and Myerscough. Additionally, despite not being in the talks, Murphy is active given the leaking element of the story. 

Both sides have their own spin and versions of what took place within the Privy Council. The back and forth between Croft, Preston, Myerscough and Murphy see them dig into their sides of the story and it’s unsurprising that before long it becomes an argument about whether either side can be trusted on Ireland. The core lines of this essentially divide into Labour accusing the Tories of playing political games over the UDA and the Tories accusing Labour of not treating the negotiations seriously for political gain. 

The Foreign Secretary has an unusually large degree of involvement considering he was not involved in the talks and given the policy area in question was led by two other ministers. It is also noted how his contributions largely come round to having a pop at Labour, with some questionable statements challenged by the Opposition. 

Overall, it’s only really Cardigan and Morrison who come out of the whole business as moderating, neutral figures. Cardigan’s call to mediate future talks is picked up upon and contributes to his leadership credentials whilst Morrison, newly on the backbenches, already establishes himself as an authoritative parliamentary voice from his new position. 

With all things considered, this cycle is a no benefit draw for the main parties. Essentially, it was a story too blurry and bogged down in differing versions to resonate with voters. It also didn’t gain much traction with ordinary people who don’t live in NI or Ireland, and of those in the UK through NI, it contributed nothing more than rolled eyes and remarks that “the politicians are at it again.” 

However, as mentioned above, there is broader credit from those who did take an interest in the story towards the Liberal Democrats, who rose above it all.  

Live events on Ireland - McCrimmon’s press conference, Croft with Paxman and Cardigan with Lorraine

Three of the politicians intimately involved in the affair subjected themselves to live media performances in the day following the breakdown of talks. 

Up first was the Leader of the Opposition, who put forward a statement outlining his position on the events at a press conference. He then took questions from leading political editors and handled these deftly, particularly a surprise question about comments on the issue from Griff Rhys Morrison some moments prior. 

McCrimmon is a clear and effective speaker who was also obviously in command of his brief and talking points here. The press conference, along with his ministerial broadcast response from the other week, is another sign of the Labour Leader’s media skills ahead of the election. 

The Home Secretary opted to face Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight, which is certainly a brave choice considering how tenacious an interviewer Paxo can be. 

Croft spoke at length and in detail to many of Paxman’s questions and whilst he could have been more concise in places, as well as clearer in response to some of the questions, he got forward his points on issues such as leaking, Ruth Murphy’s future and the future of the talks. He didn’t get one over on Paxman but equally, Paxman didn’t reduce him to being Ben Swain fifteen years early. 

On the whole, and linking to the press cycle above, Croft had a prolific presence on this issue. 

Whilst this appearance wasn’t a Newsnight special versus Paxo, it is also obvious that Lorraine Kelly is no pushover and can create embarrassing moments for politicians of her own. 

Therefore, Cardigan adds to his perception as the moderating influence in the talks during this appearance. He is open, engaging and looks honest. He appeals to common causes and higher purposes as well as showing off intricate knowledge about the NI and Irish political processes.

  • Safe Pair of Hands: Cardigan, McCrimmon
  • Media Celebrity: Croft
  • Media Whore: Macmillan 
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