Belfast Telegraph

Beautiful south could turn ugly over Stormont bailout

By Liam Clarke

Things are getting serious. The Home Counties revolt against subsidies to regions like Northern Ireland and Scotland has so far been confined to the Tory shires, but it has just broadened to encompass Diane Abbott, the Labour firebrand who holds the Hackney and Stoke Newington seat at Westminster.

Ms Abbott has now sprung to the defence of the prosperous south east against Jim Murphy, the Scottish Labour leader. He became a national figure when he was barracked by independence supporters as he travelled around Scotland making pro-Union speeches from atop an Irn Bru crate.

That played well for the East Renfrewshire MP, who is now advocating using the mansion tax proposed by Labour to pay for nurses in Scotland.

"I am very surprised that John (sic) Murphy is making these boasts... Jim Murphy can't mean he is going to expropriate money from London to Scotland... he is jumping the gun in an unscrupulous way" Ms Abbott said.

Murphy pulled no punches. "It is hard to take the argument seriously when she can't even remember my name. I am leader of the Scottish Labour Party, not Diane. I don't have to clear things with Ed Miliband."

That was on Guido Fawkes, the Conservative-leaning political blog, but Ms Abbott also stood up for the south in an article for The Guardian.

"I am a unionist, and I understand that the Labour Party has a big electoral challenge in Scotland. But I cannot believe that Scottish voters will be taken in by a crude attempt to buy their votes with money expropriated from London. If Murphy is really interested in redistributing wealth, why isn't he talking about council tax revaluation or levels of income tax in Scotland? Instead, he seeks cheap applause by telling the Scots how he will extract money from England," she wrote.

Northern Ireland hasn't been mentioned yet, but we could be next. Nigel Mills, the Tory who represents Amber Valley in Derbyshire, already has us in his sights, demanding that the Government bailout of £1 billion should not be increased. A few days later it was doubled.

Mind you, Mr Mills was the MP caught playing Candy Crush on his iPad during a parliamentary committee. "I wasn't focusing and I probably had a game or two," he admitted. Let's hope he and Ms Abbott were both busy on their iPads when that announcement was made.

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