By Justin Madders

MP for Ellesmere Port

IN MY column last week I commented that many of my constituents believe there has been a reduction in standards of services in the past few years.

That, to my mind, is beyond doubt but remember in this part of the United Kingdom we do have a functioning government – of sorts anyway!

Bad though some things may be on the mainland, imagine the scenario in Northern Ireland where, until last Saturday, there has been no functioning political system for two years.

Finally there has been enough progress made between political factions to enable power to be restored at Stormont – the base of the Northern Ireland Assembly – where the headline news has been the election of nationalist politician Michelle O’Neill as a Sinn Fein First Minister for the first time.

Going back to last elections in Northern Ireland, Sein Fein narrowly overtook the Democratic Unionist Party in terms of seats gained. Now Stormont is back up and running, Michelle O’Neill is heading the government with DUP member Emma Little-Pengelly serving as Deputy First Minister.

Politics in Northern Ireland are complicated. For a start there are entirely different political parties from the mainland and, for the most part, differing counting methods for those seeking election. In Northern Ireland the single transferable vote system of proportional representation is used except for House of Commons elections where the ‘first past the post’ system is adopted.

The contrast between the main political parties in Northern Ireland cannot be starker. The ultimate aim of Sinn Fein political leaders is for there to be a united Ireland. Indeed, Michelle O’Neill has already stirred the political pot by suggesting she expects a vote to take place within a decade on whether residents would like to leave the United Kingdom.

Unionists, on the other hand, are determined to remain in the UK and fiercely dispute any perceived intent to separate Northern Ireland from her sister nations England, Scotland and Wales.

One thing that unites politicians however it that now Northern Irish political arrangements have finally been restored, it is to be hoped the economic fortunes of the people of Northern Ireland are raised to their maximum potential – which in turn will be to the greater good of the UK in the post-Brexit era. As for the future of Northern Ireland, there is provision in the Good Friday Agreement for when the people of Northern Ireland should be able to hold a referendum on their future and that is as it should be.

Much closer to home, Labour politicians across the county have united in condemnation of John Dwyer, the Cheshire police and crime commissioner, for inappropriate comments he made about clothing worn by females.

Mr Dwyer, a former leading police officer, has said sorry for a statement he made at a parish council meeting to the effect of: “I notice schoolgirls in my area are all wearing very short skirts and this did not happen in the 1960s.”

The victim-blaming insinuation made by Mr Dwyer was that the length of a skirt is the reason for sexual violence, placing the blame on the victims of abuse as opposed to the perpetrators of such offences.

In these circumstances I have no hesitation, alongside fellow Cheshire MPs and Cheshire council leaders, in calling on Mr Dwyer to step down.