WHAT’S worse? An Irish Sea border or a Smoky Bacon border? Or, indeed, what’s better?

TUV leader Jim Allister doesn’t like either but he’s currently much more angry about the customs crisps because he’s only found out about it and so the reading on his home blood pressure kit has gone from his standard Protocol ‘Calm Down FFS’ to ‘Paddles! Clear!’

The Brussels Brexit Boffins in the woke white lab coats have decided that the synthetic flavouring that makes pig flavoured potato taste smoky is a cancer risk (are you getting as hungry reading this as I am writing it?). And so, because the EU thinks cancer crisps are not a good idea, the smoky flavouring has been banned. That’s something that Jim thinks everyone who enjoys Tayto crisps should “sit up and take notice” of. Although as the Belfast Telegraph’s Health and Crisps Correspondent pointed out in the last paragraph of a breathless report on the implications of the news for our largest local manufacturer, we have no idea if the banned flavouring is actually used at Tayto Castle. Just right too. Why spoil a rollicking good story by putting that in too early?

It’s a package, isn’t it, this Precious Union© of ours. We’ve got the seventh largest economy in the world; Vera Lynn; the NHS; Spitfires; Shakespeare; the Dambusters; fish ‘n’ chips; Jim Davidson. And if our compatriots in Manchester and Birmingham are still going to have access to laboratory-made cancer smoke then by God we want access to it as well. And if we can't contract life-limiting disease as part of the United Kingdom, we’ll do what we’ve always done: we’ll make ourselves sick.

We’re entering the summer marching season and there’s going to be enough real smoke generated on the Eleventh Night to ensure we don’t need test-tube smoke. Think about it, not only can we have access to Bonfire Smoky Bacon, there’s a whole subset of flavours that could well see crisp profits go up quicker than a Sinn Féin poster on the Beast of Ballyduff: Smoky Tyre Bacon; Smoky Pallet Bacon; Smoky Sofa Bacon; Smoky Mattress Bacon. And if you’re willing to pay a few pence extra for a special deli offering, how about Smoky Pishy Mattress Bacon?

If the EU won’t let us get cancer from lab-made fake flavouring, then we'll send up boney smoke signals until our masked hero arrives to save the day: the Lone Ranger, better known to his trusty Native American sidekick as Chemo Sabe.

Alliance's chance of the West Belfast seat is quite literally remote

THE Alliance Party’s conscious uncoupling from West Belfast has been going on for quite some time now, but the decree nisi has finally been served with the news that its candidate for the upcoming Westminster election will be spending the entire campaign in the United States.

Alliance confirmed that Eóin Millar will be seeking to unseat Sinn Féin’s Paul Maskey while taking part in a young leaders’ programme in Washington DC, but the party doesn’t see that as a problem. His team will be working hard in his absence, we’re told, and Eóin will be staying in touch with the campaign remotely.

What does it say to the people of West Belfast that Alliance considers them worthy only of an E.T. candidate – some bloke they’ve never heard of who’s going to phone home occasionally? And how’s it going to work? Is he going to organise putting up posters by FaceTime? “Yeah, up a bit. Over a bit. See if you can get it above the Maskey one, will ye?”


The next Stormont elections are in three years time and I haven’t decided whether Alliance are more likely to run an Artificial Intelligence candidate in West Belfast or get on to McPeake’s and see if they can rent a real one.

It’s not as if the tired old tropes are relevant any more as we attempt to find an explanation for why you’re more likely to get Jim Allister knocking your door in Riverdale than Naomi Long. There are no pony clubs in North Belfast, yet Nuala McAllister maintains an active and effective Alliance presence there. They haven’t put a golf club in Sandy Row, yet Paula Bradshaw and Kate Nicholl have made South Belfast a veritable Alliance bastion. And as far as I know Alliance have never held a fundraiser in the Con Club, yet Naomi has a good chance of taking the East Belfast seat in July.

I’m as likely to see Alliance friends of mine at a protest march as I am at a gymkhana or a coffee morning, which is probably 50 per cent because the make-up of the party has changed significantly over the past 20 years and 50 per cent because I’ve never been to a gymkhana or a coffee morning. The old image of Alliance as the political wing of the North Down Rotary Club has long gone and yet a party which has prospered by welcoming the young and the working class continues to turn its back on the youngest and most working class part of the city. 

Or at least, it used to merely turn its back. By running a candidate who’ll be 3,500 miles away for the next month Alliance is now hurling insults.

Remotely, of course.