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Our politicians at Stormont couldn't bake a Victoria sponge never mind balance the books


Food for thought: would you send Peter Robinson and his colleagues to the shops?

Food for thought: would you send Peter Robinson and his colleagues to the shops?

Food for thought: would you send Peter Robinson and his colleagues to the shops?

Like some airhead with a serious Jimmy Choo problem clacking along in a new pair of heels even though she's already maxed out the credit cards, Stormont solves its cash crisis by borrowing another hundred million quid. In our name.

The Assembly has gone from budget shortfall to Yolo as seamlessly as a Wonga granny moving the slider to show how easily accessible a "spend today, pay whenever" loan is.

So much there, then, for graduated response.

On top of that, this massive, eye-watering wodge of money that we've now acquired from the Treasury – along with George's warning that "we only lend once" – is repayable in only a few months.

How? God alone knows.

Handling the budget is the central, most basic, role of government. If our politicians can't manage that without recourse to seeking a payday loan from the Bank of Osborne, then they may as well pack up and go home.

For if we can't trust our representatives to keep control of the purse strings, just what exactly can we trust them to do?

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Trust might seem like a trivial matter. But, as a poll in one of the weekend papers shows, it's key – and always has been – to the relationship between voters and those who seek their vote.

The poll focused on that questionable quartet of Cameron, Miliband, Cleggy and Farage, aiming to gauge the usual predictable stuff. Who do you think would be best leader? Best on immigration? Best on Europe? And so on.

Much more fascinating, though, were the findings when the poll segued off the beaten track with a series of more basic questions about trust.

Never mind who you want in the Foreign Office, who would you trust in the home office? Who would you put faith in when it comes to the much more interesting – and some would say onerous – departments such as childcare, animal husbandry, cooking, DIY and that all-important one (well, outside of Stormont, anyway) money management?

The study discovered that respondents would trust – in this order – Cameron, then Miliband, then Clegg, then Farage, to babysit, to feed their pet, or to bake a cake.

In almost the same order (Cameron, then Miliband, then Farage and then Clegg) they rated trust in the party leaders to pay back a loan.

Tellingly, in only one category did Nigel Farage and his ear-to-ear grin come out on top. The voters would trust him more than any other party leader to put up a shelf.

Given the recent surge of support for Ukip among both Conservative and Labour voters, Nige might counter that, actually, it may not be that long before they're asking him to put together a cabinet. But who up on the Hill would you trust with a power tool? If DUP/Sinn Fein made you a shelf, would you have any confidence that it would hold together?

As for paying back loans, would you be prepared to lend any of them a fiver? In the area of childcare, there may be a few who would excel at bedtime stories – judging by the way they put the rest of us to sleep. But who would you depend on to look after your budgie if you were away? And can you imagine Peter or Martin rustling up a Victoria sponge?

As I say, the questions might come across as somewhat light-hearted and trivial. But the answers tell us something important about how voters rate the competence, the compassion and the efficiency of politicians.

Above all, they also say something about how in touch with the real world we perceive them to be.

Bickering Stormont, which seems able only to agree on last-minute, short-term fixes to enable it to stagger through to the next crisis, appears to have lost all contact with reality.

It's not just the coffers that are empty. The political process here is bankrupt, too. As our First Minister himself might put it, you wouldn't trust any of them to go to the shops for you.

Ebola reaction is all up in the air

The Western world's response to the threat from both those twin horrors of Isis and Ebola seems to be remarkably similar. Too little, too late.

Airports are now reported to be on the lookout for both returning jihadis and disease-infected travellers. Already, you've got to remove your shoes and hand over excess lip gloss before you even board your flight at the other end.

Now when you land you'll be screened by MI5 for suspected terrorist involvement and also have your temperature taken. Heaven help airport staff who must wonder what's coming their way next. And will any of this work anyway? Too much, too little, too late.

Yet another wrong turn by Clarkson

It was, of course, total coincidence that the number plate on the car Jeremy Clarkson was due to drive in Argentina for a Top Gear special, H982 FKL, could be interpreted as a snide reference to the Falklands conflict of 1982. Clarkson assures us not one of the team noticed, so it must just have been coincidence then, mustn't it?

Top Gear obviously takes viewers for fools. And this contempt towards the viewing public is equalled by the disrespect for the country in which the show was to be filmed.

Worse than any of this, though, is the attempt to make mileage out of a conflict that cost so many lives. Pathetic.

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