SO there they are: Ulster's mighty musketeers, one for all and all for fighting cuts to the block grant.
Our newly-elected MPs have been putting on a united front of opposing any reduction in public spending.
It is a charade of course, they, and even the dimmest dog in the street, know that budgets have to be cut, because all the money has been squandered and, as Liam Byrne, the former Labour Treasury minister wrote in a letter for his successor: "I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left."
Instead of behaving like responsible adults and taking a lead in finding ways to reform our economy, our MPs seem to be planning to just point fingers at Westminster and bawl "Tory cuts".
This is the traditional route of local politics: do nothing and blame someone else.
Maybe if so many of our MPs were not encumbered with second, or even third, jobs they might be able to serve the people that elected them in a more responsible manner. But like priests growing fat selling indulgences, rather than tending to their congregation, it seems that the MPs think hanging on to the multiple sources of wages, privileges and expenses, is more important that doing any job properly. Hopefully the national government will soon step in and put an end to this practice.
If you want a graphic example of the irresponsibility of the Northern Ireland political class you need look no further than the soon-to-be failed reform of local councils, part of the Reform of Public Administration (RPA) initiative.
With three MEPs, 18 MPs, 108 MLAs and also 582 councillors spread throughout 26 councils, Northern Ireland has an expensive democratic surplus. It is an overhead that we can no longer afford.
With so many little governments, it is clear that there are many people with nothing better to do than to collect pay cheques, meet with each other and notch up expenses before retiring on a gold-plated public sector pension.
RPA is supposed to address this, with the 26 councils contracting to 11, which is still about three too many, but a step in the right direction. Millions of pounds have been spent on plans for local council reform (the exact amount has not yet hit the public domain).
The target date for the unveiling of the new councils was May 2011. Properly implemented, the local government reformation should save local ratepayers tens of millions of pounds every year. Once up and running the new "super councils" should be capable of taking on roles currently managed from Stormont, thus clearing the way to cut back on the number of MLAs and pointless departments.
To facilitate reform, local democracy has been suspended. This year's council elections were postponed until the new councils were established and from April 1 this year (a very apt date), councillors can retire at will and simply nominate an individual of their choice to take over their seat without all that pesky business of asking the little people for their approval. Robert Mugabe must be taking notes with approval. Next they will simply be co-opting MLAs.
The urgency of the necessity to reform the local councils was thrown into the spotlight last week with the revelation that Craigavon Borough Council has paid an interim chief executive 110,000 for six months’ work. The council said it cannot appoint a full-time boss until it knows what its future is to be.
There are many more instances of such costly confusion throughout the local government sector here. And the existing local councils have recently rejected a proposal to centralise purchasing that would have saved local ratepayers hundreds of millions of pounds.
Now we learn that, despite having had more than five years to work on the project, our political masters have been unable to sort out the new council boundaries so the whole project is about to be kicked back into the long grass for five years. (I would take a bet now that come 2016, exactly the same thing will happen over again.)
Our MPs are protesting possible cuts in public sector expenditure in Northern Ireland, figures of around 100m to 200m have been bandied about. The reform of local government would go a very long way towards compensating for reductions in the block grant.
Here are some helpful questions and answers regarding the council reform debacle.
Q. If the reform of councils is suspended until 2016, will democracy be restored and will we have council elections immediately?
A. Probably not.
Q. Who benefits financially from this delay?
A. Politicians, civil servants and management consultants.
Q. Who suffers?
A. Everybody else.
Q. Is this a case of representation by the politicians for the politicians and to heck with the ratepayers?
A. It sure looks like it.