Labour has called on the government to immediately withdraw a proposed law that would allow the Democratic Unionist party leader to “double job” at Westminster and Stormont.
The shadow Northern Ireland secretary, Peter Kyle, said Labour would vote against the government and had tabled the amendment to the Northern Ireland (ministers, elections and petitions of concern) bill, having “clearly failed the sufficient consensus” among Northern Ireland parties to support the move.
The plan for Sir Jeffrey Donaldson prompted a row over the weekend with four of the five political parties in Stormont opposing it and another party leader branding it a “corrupt” pact between the DUP and the government.
Donaldson has categorically denied there is any secret deal with the government and said the first to propose the double mandate was the Labour party last summer.
However, Kyle said the plan was never tabled by the frontbench after Labour spoke to leaders in Northern Ireland who were opposed to it.
“Controversial changes such as reintroducing dual mandates requires broad agreement across parties. The Conservative government has clearly failed to achieve the sufficient consensus to proceed,” he said.
“The Westminster government had plenty of time to explore this but chose not to do so. To force this through now risks further destabilising an already fragile political landscape in the approach to elections.
“The government should withdraw their amendment as it is opposed by four of the five Stormont executive parties. If not, Labour will oppose this measure in parliament.”
It’s a bad idea and I wouldn’t support it if/when it comes back to the Commons. I hope the Lords see sense on this https://t.co/Gr1gdxUpuG
— Simon Hoare MP (@Simon4NDorset) January 17, 2022
The chair of the Northern Ireland affairs committee, Simon Hoare, described the move as a bad idea and urged the House of Lords to reject the relevant amendment to proposed legislation.
So far, Donaldson is the only MP to confirm he will run in the local assembly elections in May.
The proposals would temporarily restore a practice that was banned in 2016.
The double-jobbing proposal has been roundly condemned by all the other parties, with the SDLP MP Claire Hanna telling Good Morning Ulster that it was impossible to bilocate jobs and any attempt to do so would lead to “worse government” in Northern Ireland.
The Ulster Unionist party member of the legislative assembly Mike Nesbitt said the plan “reeks of corruption”, claiming Boris Johnson’s government was “going out of its way to prop up and support one party”.
Donaldson categorically denied there was any pact with the UK government, telling BBC’s Good Morning Ulster on Monday: “There is no agreement on this between the DUP and the government.”
The DUP hit out at the “fake outrage” by political opponents, saying the proposal would bring stability to Northern Ireland “at a time when devolution is deeply unstable because of a one-sided and undemocratic [Brexit] protocol”.
The Alliance party deputy leader and North Down MP, Stephen Farry, described the move as a “backwards step” and said there had been a lack of consultation on the issue.
“Doing this so close to an election campaign is interfering in the democratic process,” he said.
Michelle O’Neill, Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister and vice-president of Sinn Féin, which does not take its seats in Westminster, described it as “disgraceful interference in the upcoming assembly election”.