Nolan & Maskey

  • You were told – in 2011 – you were told in a briefing that the £450 million estimated figure was over a number of years ... three years. You turned that into per year – why did you do that, Alex Maskey? Why did you tell the public it was per year when it was over three years? ... You were out by a billion pounds over three years - Stephen Nolan challenging Alex Maskey.

Because I don’t generally listen to or watch the Stephen Nolan show on the grounds that I find him more into incitement than enlightenment, I missed the much talked about thrashing he is said to have dished out to the chair of Stormont’s Social Development Committee, Sinn Fein’s Alex Maskey. The much discussed clash occurred yesterday morning during the course of a “rigorous examination” about the economics of the Welfare Reform Bill which has seen the North’s micro ministers huff, puff and posture as if they stand ready to blow the house of Stormont down.
Alerted to the exchange by a journalist almost as soon as it happened, I felt it could not be as bad as it was being made out: almost on a par seemingly with the humiliation Michael McDowell subjected Gerry Adams to in a televised 2007 debate, also about economic costings. However, being a Manchester United fan he has seen some bad performances in the past year so I had to assume he knew what he was talking about.
Taking a short cut I caught something of the exchange in the Newsletter which reported that:
the senior Sinn Fein MLA responsible for the party’s welfare reform policy has been exposed for wildly exaggerating the cost of changes to the benefits system.

Maskey had been claiming that the Welfare Reform Bill if implemented would take £450 million off the benefit bill each year. In fact it seems that the cost was to be extended over three years rather than one. When confronted with the figures and the accusation from Nolan that he had misled the public, Maskey opted to stay on the ropes and lead with his chin, insisting that “I’ll not be withdrawing anything.” 
Experience from the boxing ring in this case did not prove a good teacher.  
Maskey is said to have lost his temper and threatened to walk out of the interview, accusing Nolan of working to an agenda. Maybe he too is now an enemy of the peace process. Although other than provocation aimed at exciting and inciting listeners it is hard to see what that Nolan’s agenda actually was. Maskey can hardly claim to have been caught off guard. It is what Nolan does.  
If the Newsletter report is accurate – it provides what amounts to a fairly substantial transcript to back its story - then Maskey’s performance was disastrous and definitely on a par with the Adams debacle at the hands of McDowell.
It is not that Sinn Fein is wrong to oppose the welfare cuts, no matter how little or large they may be. No one claiming even a smidgen of radicalism would agree to slash the income of the poorest as part of a neo-liberal strategy which is nothing other than a redistribution of society’s wealth in the direction of those who own most of it already, the rich. That his party colleague Phil Flanagan has also been making similar claims suggests it is an agreed line rather than Maskey doing a crazed solo run. This lends itself to a conclusion that Sinn Fein is engaging in a sleight of hand: overhyping the figures so that when the moment comes, as it will, to do the dirty on the poorest the party will claim that it reduced the burden when it fact it will merely have agreed to make the cuts already on the butchers table. 
Ruling by fooling ...


  1. Alex Maskey on Nolan. There is a slight sound problem at the start for a min.....

    From last week....

    has Sinn Fein got its facts wrong? Part 1

    has Sinn Fein got its facts wrong? Part 2

    From Nolan's site..
    "Last week on this show, Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey spoke about the impact of the planned Welfare Reform Bill at Stormont, the one his party is blocking. And he used figures that have now been totally contradicted by Government. That's what we're talking about today. Has Sinn Fein got its facts totally wrong? Here's the background - and bear with us here through the figures. Trust me, this is important stuff. Some Sinn Fein politicians have been talking about £750m a year in benefit cuts coming in. The £750m estimate came from a university study. But it actually included over £500m of changes that have already happened, that have nothing to do with the current welfare bill stuck at Stormont. So it was totally inaccurate for Sinn Fein to use the £750m figure when talking about "Saying No to Tory Cuts" and fighting welfare reform. It's too late to say no to a lot of it - it's already here. So we had Alex Maskey on the show last week, to challenge him on the party's use of this £750m figure. Here's the problem Alex Maskey - the Department is saying something very different. We've received a statement from the Department for Social Development. It says a figure of £450m was given to MLAs in 2011. But it says this early estimate referred to a combination of welfare changes, not just those in the current welfare reform bill at Stormont. It was also over a number of years, not one. So it wasn't £450m a year from the current welfare reform bill. The Department also says more recent official estimates on the current welfare reform bill have involved reductions of between £200m-£250m over a three year period. A THREE YEAR PERIOD. That's about what £70m-£80m a year? It's a long long way from your £450m a year, Alex Maskey? It means you're a billion pounds out over a three year period. So where does that leave Sinn Fein and its stance on the current Stormont bill? The £750m cuts total. Wrong. Alex Maskey's £450m cuts total. Wrong again. And the claim the £450m total for the bill was given by Government. Wrong again."

    (problem is they're throw figures about that people on street can't equate in their heads)

  2. So, Sinn Féin have agreed already to £500 million cuts, cuts that are already in effect through ESA, and income support. Sinn Féin have agreed to Universal Credit and the ending of the severe disabled premium.
    The expert who came on the Nolan show after Maskey and Sammy Wilson made it clear that there are many sources to pull figures from, and it's not the figures that should be the priority.
    Sinn Féin agreed to the cuts, and then they suddenly had a change of heart and opposed "Tory Cuts"
    She said the only thing left that can possibly be saved is DLA, because the rest has been agreed.
    It should be said that members of the DUP and the SDLP have also used these Nevca figures of £750 million, and they are not entirely wrong. The cuts were made for a London economy and the North of Ireland should be allowed its own pilot schemes and risk registers to be able to assess how much it will cost.
    She implored all parties to resist the DLA changes, not to beg Cameron, but to demand that our society should not implement these changes.
    We have the highest rates of PTSD and mental health issues and the new benefit PIP will throw the most vulnerable to the wolves.
    It was the Nolan Show, on October 7th. I'm not sure how to pull it off the computer, but the expert on welfare was much less ambiguous than all the politicians and Nolan put together.
    Personally for me, the fact that Sinn Féin have agreed to the majority of cuts, then decided to oppose them is sickening. I thought that was more important than this £750 million figure, that could still be true, or even worse. We just do not know. IDS has spent £4 billion so far getting only 500 ppl onto Universal Credit. If ?Sinn Féin are going to make political arguments on welfare, there are many sources that can help. They should also use the hundreds of disabled charities, who have much expertise on the matter.
    Sinn Féin's utter incompetence, especially against an idiot like Nolan puts their electorate into much danger. Their stupidity has already sold reform, because people believe it's a much lesser sum. It was always obvious they would eventually do the deal, but it was chilling to know they did the bulk of the deal three years ago.