The two parts of Northern Ireland's political pushmi-pullyuo - the DUP and Sinn Fein - have each dismissed the consultation launched by Secretary of State Owen Paterson on structural reforms to the region's dysfunctional democratic system.
With his cut-glass, Home Counties accent, Mr Paterson may not be exactly the best advocate of change. But the dominant Stormont duo would be better advised to ask themselves why Northern Ireland voters are turning away in droves - turnout fell at the 2011 Assembly election by fully eight percentage points - rather than focusing on a remote target in London.
This is particularly so, because, after protracted discussions in the obscure Assembly executive and review committee on how Stormont might work better, the DUP and Sinn Fein decided earlier this year to transfer the issue to private negotiations between their leaders - and nothing has happened.
Some of the issues raised by Mr Paterson are simple to answer. Should the Assembly have fewer than 108 MLAs? Yes, by population proportion we have far more than Scotland and Wales.
Should the next Assembly election, like those in Edinburgh and Cardiff, be in 2016, rather than 2015? Yes, because then it will avoid clashing with the Westminster election due - if the coalition survives that long - in the latter year.
Should double-jobbing at Stormont be outlawed? Yes: all MSPs in Scotland and AMs in Wales recognise that devolution is a full-time job.
None of these, however, touches the fundamentals. The other two items on the Paterson agenda are more challenging, but critical to address.
The first is making party finances transparent - and, sadly, on this one, the signals are that Mr Paterson will not force the issue.
But the current situation is untenable. Since devolution was restored in 2007, there have been recurrent episodes of unhealthy relationships between the DUP and property developers.
The public has a right to know if any developer contributes financially to that party, as its commitment to the public interest would then, self-evidently, be in question.
Sinn Fein, meanwhile, has been allowed to exploit the naive romanticism of some within the Irish-American diaspora to become the richest party in Ireland, because constraints on party funding introduced elsewhere in the UK in 2000 were not extended to Northern Ireland.
Its bizarrely authoritarian internal structure - still dominated informally by the IRA hierarchy, as the former SF MLA Billy Leonard discovered to his cost - also means that the salaries of all elected representatives are paid to party headquarters and a smaller stipend paid out.
The only defence of the system is that donors to political parties in Northern Ireland must be kept anonymous to protect them from intimidation, owing to the 'security situation'. Still?
But the most demanding topic on the Paterson list is an Opposition at Stormont. That, of course, is the very last thing the DUP-SF unholy alliance would want - anyone that would scrutiny their conservative inertia and deadlocked immobilism.
The DUP is quite happy for Sinn Fein to lead the way on this. Authoritarianism is deeply embedded in the particular strands of Protestant evangelism, especially with Free Presbyterianism, from which most of its leading figures stem, but for sheer Orwellian Newspeak, Sinn Fein is in a league of its own.
The party knows perfectly well that equality of opportunity in Northern Ireland is a product of civil-rights reforms, which are irreversible; it also knows that there will be no return to Protestant government, as in the Stormont ancient regime.
Yet that doesn't stop it defending the politically convenient status quo by conjuring up precisely those demons.
The negative reference point should not be the Westminster, winner-takes-all system of government, which unionists always sought to replicate. It should be the European norm of consensual coalitions, shifting according to electoral preferences.
Even in divided Belgium, for all its problems - it took 541 days to form a government after the 2010 election - no one is suggesting that the challenge of putting together a Walloon-Fleming administration (it has to be 50-50) would be better addressed by having all main parties in government, rather than a workable coalition.
All kinds of safeguards could be built into a Northern Ireland Bill of Rights - still awaited 14 years on from the Belfast Agreement - ranging from super-majority requirements to form a government to human and minority-rights protections from existing European conventions.
But voters must be allowed to 'turf the scoundrels out' and see a new, agreed coalition replace them. Otherwise, they will simply walk away from polling.
In fact, several other big issues should also be on the reform agenda. The electoral system, STV, which favours clientelism and appeals to sectarian core votes, should be changed to the additional member system, used in Scotland and Wales and advocated by reformers in the Republic.
Above all, the provision in the legislation renewing devolution in 2007 that the largest party will automatically appoint the first minister, guaranteeing as this has a sectarian 'arms race' for the position, must be repealed if Northern Ireland is ever to become a normal European region. That's surely not too much to ask.