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Okay, it’s a trend… Labour on 22%, Fianna Fáil on 23% and… Sinn Féin on 11% in the latest RedC poll. February 28, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
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Who would be Brian Cowen this evening? Who indeed? For as he put the final touches on his latest – or is it his first, in the sense of actually talking more or less directly to us – address to the nation at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis the news for him and his party approached the apocalyptic.

For that Sunday Business Post poll is out now and here are the results.

FG 30 -3
FF 23 -5
LAB 22 +8
GRN 6 -2
SF 11 +2
Ind 8

So, is this Armageddon for Fianna Fáil… well, probably not. That party is a resilient entity well able to claw back some percentage points. How many will provide a fascinating study in political tactics and strategy between now and the local and European elections. But that is not to dismiss the idea that psychologically this sort of body blow to its psyche, its sense of itself as the ‘national movement’, the ‘Republican party’ can be ignored. This is a profoundly serious process which is occurring here, one that is bleeding it of credibility and authority.

And growing is the sense that at the next election Fianna Fáil does not have a whisper of returning as a party with the sort of raw power that we saw last time out and the strength in the political context to determine the parameters within which governments would be formed. Now, counterintuitively, this may mean, if FF is seriously weakened that their place in government is actually strengthened, since a resurgent Labour would be more likely to plump for a government in which it had a greater number of Cabinet seats (and let’s remember that unless some smoking gun turns up as regards the banking crisis Fianna Fáil under Cowen, or perhaps a certain Mr. Martin, will remain a rather more palatable proposition than his illustrious predecessors).

What is most interesting is that Fine Gael are only a little ahead of their 2007 Election vote whereas Labour has essentially doubled. Glum news for Fine Gael. By any measure they should be doing better. Consider that in February 1982 under Garret FitzGerald they won 37.3% of votes. The November election of that year saw them win 39.2% of votes. The figure today is a long long way off that number. And why should we be surprised. Unlike the 1980s Fine Gael now has a host of competitors. But also, and again I’ve mentioned this, it is difficult to see how FG can offer a serious alternative to Fianna Fáil. The article by Enda Kenny in Friday’s Irish Times essentially offered much the same centre right prescription as that already being implemented by Fianna Fáil. Not quite the heady stuff a nation desperately keen for an alternative to the failed nostrums of the past decade and a half is looking for.

Finally we see some evidence that the Green Party is beginning to suffer with a dip of 2% from 8% to 6%. It’s not a huge dip, but it indicates at least some degree of upset at the current situation.

And most importantly the three most recent polls broadly agree that the political parties sit within bands of support. Granted the Irish Times had Labour ahead of Fianna Fáil, but in general terms the parties remain there or thereabouts.

Incidentally, whatever about putative political alliances the broad left vote (I include the GP) is now at 39%, while FG and FF are at 53%. Still some way to go then. But, a clearly articulated left position, even a mildly social democratic one would be crucial to government formation. It would be nice to think that precisely such a position might be seen to develop in the future. And part of that process might be some sort of conversation developing on the left, even between those who have been exceedingly antagonistic in the past. Because when push comes to shove we will be fortunate if our larger left parties do attempt to implement mildly social democratic policies in power and the more of them on board, or at least talking to one another perhaps allows for such a development.

I’ve noted it before, but it is clear that Fianna Fáil has seen a significant portion of its vote decamp to Labour. In a country like this where the media, economists and politicians have cleaved to a right of centre approach it must come as quite a shock to realise that a left of centre or at least public sector friendly vote exists and is strong enough to cause significant damage (or give assistance) to our leading political parties.

Good.

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Comments»

1. Pidge - February 28, 2009

I think you’re projecting a bit onto the Green Party results. As always, they matter little, since Green support is transfer-dependent and extremely localised in a few key areas. 8% was higher than national polls in the past, as is 6%, but it’s all largely irrelevant to the Greens.

The same goes for SF and Independents (more so in terms of localisation, though).

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2. WorldbyStorm - February 28, 2009

You may be right, but I find it interesting that their poll rating does drop at this point. Remember this poll is the most recent, unless I’m mistaken, and although it merely pins them in again to the other polls I think any movement has more than just background noise significance.

I also agree with you as regards transfer dependence, something that I think some GP members seem to have forgotten. I would be genuinely concerned on the GPs behalf that come the locals – and God forbid a General – they’re in significant trouble, and I know for a fact that others much closer to the party than I think the same way.

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3. Leveller on the Liffey - March 1, 2009

WBS has something there re the Greens and transfers.

I vote a left slate (even including liberal FFers!) but the Greens will almost certainly (barring a dramatic left realignment) be getting sweet FA from me in 2009.

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4. Jer - March 1, 2009

Leveller, but do the greens need you.?

By that I mean can the greens now command the gombeen FF block to transfer to the greens as a govt. party. Can that FF gombeen block whi i believe would never vota green be able to soften the blow of loosing the progressive vote by electing green tds on a conservative vote?

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5. Leveller on the Liffey - March 1, 2009

Fair point, Jer, but will the FF faithful be faithful enough to get enough Green TDs past the winning post for a FF/GP return?

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6. yourcousin - March 1, 2009

I think Leveller raises an interesting question. Will breakfastroll man give GP candidates transfers now that they’ve decamped back to Labor? Not trying to pigeon hole the constituencies that FF are bleeding off right now but that one makes the most sense IMO. And if they don’t and the soft left vote abandons them over their time in government then they really are fucked.

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7. Montevideo - March 1, 2009

Yourcousin, I suspect the very last party ‘breakfastroll man’ would think of is the Greens! I’m more inclined to your view that they’re finished. The real question that’ll be posed is the make-up of a coalition, one which may have Gilmore at the top of the cabinet table. Will it be Lab and FF/SF-will it be FF/FG, burying years of pointless rivalry to unite to try to keep the right in power and positions of influence? Will the FF ‘leftists’ swallow that?

One things for sure, ‘breakfastrollman’ hasn’t been filling the coffers of Statoil/Topaz recently, ask the counter assistants. That demograph, the general op construction worker, is sitting at home or on the street corner, munching Kellogs now. As the evenings lengthen, it’ll be interesting to see what happens when idle young men with no money are wandering through the city and suburbs of our urban centres. That’s going to a challenge for all sides to deal with. ICTU have suggested in the ten point plan that a retraining scheme giving 80% wages to workers engaging in structured upskilling funded in part from the public capital programme is the way to go. What else is going to take young men off the streets? No ones recruiting, and there’s no where to fly to. Interesting times…

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8. smiffy - March 1, 2009

Pidge’s point is a fair one, and important when interpreting the Greens’ likely future in the light of opinion poll results. However, whatever about their prospects in the Euro/local elections, I think it’s a little pointless to try and predict how they will do, include how capable they’ll be of attracting transfers, at a General Election, without knowing the context in which that election will come about (i.e. collapse of government and their crossing the floor, or full term).

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9. WorldbyStorm - March 1, 2009

That won’t stop us though… ;)

Still, I think it is fair to say that the situation for the GP, and this they’d admit themselves, is far far less rosy than it was six months ago. Or even three months ago. Is that fair and is it good? As regards inheriting a crisis, absolutely not. As regards shaping the response, well limited and all as their ability to do that I think it is reasonable to critique them. As regards the necessity of an environmentally aware voice in government at this point in time (perhaps particularly at this point in time), it could be very destructive to them and to that voice. But I’ve always acknowledged that the balance they have between specific and global issues (in all senses) is a difficult one for them to strike.

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10. Conor McCabe - March 2, 2009

It’s funny. The Greens went into government in order to tackle global crises, and spent the first few months of their term in office shielding any questions on local, national issues with the cry that they were here to wear their underpants on the outside for the world.

but when an international global crisis actually showed up at their door, in the form of the global bank collapse, they simply disappeared again. So. Local crisis, not their gig – international crisis, not their gig.

Of the six seats the Greens won,

Carlow-Kilkenny – last seat, ninth count.
Dun Laoghaire – last seat, tenth count.
Dublin Mid-West – second seat, sixth (and final) count
Dublin South East – last seat, fifth count
Dublin Ryan – fourth seat, eight count
Dublin North – second seat, eight count

That’s half the elected TDs on last seat, final counts. and every one of them heavily dependent on transfers. Given the fact that FF runs multiple candidates in each constituency, and in the next election the party will be fighting for every single transfer, the chances of transfers from that section to the Greens are somewhat weak. and as for Gormley, well, given his complete lack of backbone regarding local issues, he’s sure to be wiped out.

I don’t think any of this genuinely bothers the Greens, though, as they are quite messianic . They are also painfully conservative and middle-class. I reckon even their sandals are called Óisin and go skiing twice a year.

Mind you, having said all that, they have shown that they are the perfect spineless coalition partners, as they tend to shut the f**k up and do as they’re told. More masochistic, it seems, than messianic, but hey, whatever rocks your (fair trade) boat.

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11. Garibaldy - March 2, 2009

Harsh Conor. But seems right on the money to me.

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12. NollaigO - March 2, 2009

their sandals are called Óisin

Oisín, i ndiadh na Fianna ?!

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13. Conor McCabe - March 2, 2009

Wow! Proofreaders for comments. Cedarlounge has come a long way.

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14. Garibaldy - March 2, 2009

Hasn’t ejh always fulfilled that role? ;)

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15. ejh - March 2, 2009

Only in English. But the apostrophe situation has improved, I have to say.

Local crisis, not their gig – international crisis, not their gig.

Could they not claim that they don’t do economics?

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16. WorldbyStorm - March 2, 2009

I don’t know. It always seems to me to fall to providing at least some defence of the GP…

I’m not sure that we can attack Green Party members or supporters for supposed innate qualities of conservatism and “Oisinism” with or without fada’s and still then hope that those who might be sympathetic to our viewpoint will listen to it. If they’re that beyond the pale in terms of viewpoint and lifestyle then what’s the point in reaching out to them? Would people think that similar charges against “Jack and Nora the Labour supporting public sector employees who are very very very worried about being able to pay off the decking in the back garden so that they can keep up the wine and cheese parties…” would be useful in pushing the Labour Party in the right direction (given what I know about its propensities)?

And knowing a lot of GP members and activists I think that they’re markedly different to that stereotype (in exactly the same way as LP members and supporters are different from the well off public sector employee jibe). Nor do I dismiss for a second the necessity for focus on the range of issues that they do.

Secondly, that said though, I think they decided to try to concentrate on a very limited set of priorities. There I’m a lot closer to your analysis (and considerably more closer to your viewpoint than I was when we last communicated online on such matters ;) ). I don’t think its worked for them and has made them look increasingly detached from reality and sometimes indifferent to that reality.

Thirdly I think the analysis of the seats and transfers is spot on. They’re in deep trouble next time around unless the situation changes in some so far unexpected fashion.

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17. Conor McCabe - March 2, 2009

“Jack and Nora the Labour supporting public sector employees who are very very very worried about being able to pay off the decking in the back garden so that they can keep up the wine and cheese parties…”

What you’re saying there is that the Labour party is painfully working class, almost embarrassingly working class. I can live with that. Certainly, the wine and cheese and decking cliche* would fit all of my brothers and sisters who bought the decking and now keep red wine chilled in the fridge for the weekend parties. That’s what you think is sophisticated I suppose when there’s nine of you bought up in a council house on the outskirts of the city. Mind you, only a couple of them vote labour. The rest vote Fianna Fail*. But, I don’t think they’ll be voting Fianna Fail* next time around.

The point about Oisin sandal McSki* is that the Greens are such a middle class cliche* that, true to type, they’ve proved the old chestnut that you can’t trust the middle class. The Workers Party was right. such a pity they imploded.

The other thing about the Greens is that they have shown without doubt that there’s not need to reach out to them. They’ll be your bi**h anyway. I can still see a coalition involving the Greens and Labour if the numbers fall that way because the Greens will do anything to get into power. They are irrelevant as far as strategy goes. The Greens didn’t just sell themselves cheap to Fianna Fail* last time around. They sent a very clear message out that they want to be in power at any cost. And since they’ve been in power they’ve shown that they’ll shut up and do as they’re told. Rick James would love them.

So. In terms of reaching out to the Greens, what’s the point? They’re bought so easily. There’s no need. The Greens are the cheapest political date you’ll ever have.

Oh. finally, the only thing keeping FF in power these days is the Greens. €58 billion added to the national debt to bail out FF’s friends, and the Greens stay in power. 120,000 people marching in protest against the pension levy (3% of the population. The equivalent in Britain would be 1.8 million people of the streets of London), and the Greens stay in power. And given all that, we’re supposed to reach out to them? Baby, they so hungry for power, they’ll be dropping their knickers at the first viable coalition that knocks on their door next time around. There’s no need to reach out to them.

* (copy and paste “´” as appropriate)

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18. Joe - March 2, 2009

Oisín, i ndiaidh na Fianna ?! surely. In fairness, Conor, that was more than a simple (slightly incorrect!) correction from NollaigO. Quite a clever reference to the old Irish folktale. The Green Party as Oisín i ndiaidh na Fianna Fáil. I smiled anyway. (Look it up Ejh).

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19. NollaigO - March 2, 2009

Tá an ceart agutsa, Joe. Rinne mé botún cló le ” ndiaid”.

I did not write the sentence to correct the spelling of “Oisín” – but to indicate that the reference to Óisin sandals was lost on me. [I've been in London too long.]

EjH: Oisín i ndiaidh na Fianna ?! , is a lovely metaphor from Irish fokelore for ” a person out of his/her time” which, as Joe observed, also linked up with the Greens’ political dilemma.

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20. NollaigO - March 2, 2009

Mo Náire

folklore not fokelore.

I’ll get back to work!!

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21. Mark P - March 2, 2009

What you’re saying there is that the Labour party is painfully working class

Which would of course be a serious error. The Irish Times’ recent opinion poll made it quite clear that Labour support correlates strongly with class: The richer you are, the more likely you are to support them.#

The other thing about the Greens is that they have shown without doubt that there’s not need to reach out to them. They’ll be your bi**h anyway. I can still see a coalition involving the Greens and Labour if the numbers fall that way because the Greens will do anything to get into power.

It seems that the Greens share the attitude towards coalition that the Labour Party have spent many years honing as well as a similar class composition. Perhaps a merger would be a good idea?

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22. ejh - March 2, 2009

The Irish Times’ recent opinion poll made it quite clear that Labour support correlates strongly with class: The richer you are, the more likely you are to support them.

You wouldn’t be able to source what seems at least a mildly counter-intuitive claim?

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23. Garibaldy - March 2, 2009

I don’t know where the poll was from ejh, but I read about it at the time as well. It basically said that Labour support was strongest among the ABs I think it was.

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24. ejh - March 2, 2009

That’s going to have to be a pretty strong trend to suit the term “correlates strongly with class”.

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25. Mark P - March 2, 2009

ejh:

A small amount of Googling will no doubt find you the edition of the Irish Times with last week’s opinion poll. It broke down its results by class, although unsurprisingly it used the advertisers version of class (ABC1C2DE) rather than a Marxist definition.

It found that Labour support was highest amongst people in the AB categories, average amongst the C1C2 categories and at its lowest amongst the DE categories. Hence, it correlates with class. The wealthier you are, the more likely you are to support the Labour Party.

This is only counterintuitive if you are unfamiliar with the modern day Irish Labour Party. The thing to remember is that it doesn’t have even the residual, cultural, working class link that the Labour Party in Britain might be thought of as having. There is a reason why Ciaran Cannon, the last leader of the PDs was in long running negotiations to join Labour – he’s a perfect fit. Both are parties for socially liberal people with a bit of money. The difference is that the PDs marketed themselves as hardnosed while Labour market themselves as having a slight social conscience.

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26. ejh - March 2, 2009

Hence, it correlates with class.

Has “strongly” been dropped then?

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27. Conor McCabe - March 2, 2009

the ABC1C2D3 is no indicator of class – at least, not in terms of economic class relations. It’s a marketing tool that’s been adapted by journalists and editors as a social class analysis.

If you believe that class is a lifestyle choice, then yeah, knock yourself out with the ABC1C2D3. It’s all the trend these days.

for those who see class in more relational terms, however, what paper you buy aint going to cut it.

Mark P, that is a hugely simplistic view of the Labour party; not only that, it’s a Dublin-based view of the party as well, as it ignores the party’s support in rural areas and small towns – support that goes back generations – the very type of links that you say don’t exist. Hve a walk around the Labour strongholds in Wexford town, for example, and tell me it’s all middle class and ABC1s (ugh!). The same goes for Carlow as well.

But, as always, a comment on the Greens has led to an attack on the Labour party. How very Pavlovian. I take it then that as nobody has countered my points about the Greens with anything more than “well, the labour party, I mean, huh!” (on, and my inexcusable fada faux pax) that the points stand? Or will we just forget all of that and just move on to getting all EMO on Labour.

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28. Garibaldy - March 2, 2009

I for one have agreed with what you said about the Greens Conor. As for Labour. I think there is a trend among the type of people Mark describes to support Labour, and that this is in line with moves in the UK and further afield. Partly I suspect because many of these are people who grew up in the 1970s and after being left, and haven’t abandoned that self-identification, even if the policies they would support have shifted rightwards. But I agree, that in many smaller towns Labour has had and continues to have a much more working class support base.

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29. Garibaldy - March 2, 2009

On the ABC etc, is there not a basic wealth thing that means it is about more than lifestyle choice?

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30. Conor McCabe - March 2, 2009

I know Garibaldy. Cheers. I’m not here to defend the Labour party, but I’ll do it if called upon, no problem. I just think it moves the point away from what I’m trying to say, that’s all.

The ABC1 almost borders on useless as regards class analysis. The worst thing is that it’s been adopted by the census as well – at least, a variation of it. Its categories have changed little in the 50 years since it was invented – even though the world of world has moved on. (One small but crucial area of course is the role of women in the workforce, and how that plays out with the assumptions behind ABC1 and its categories of class relations. As is the area of deskilling and white-collar proletarization.) However, the idea behind ABC1 – that is, the idea of social class relations as opposed to economic class relations – has a lot of validity, and there’s a lot to be said for the work undertaken by Wright and Goldthorpe on this one. For myself, I’m most in line with Rosemary Crompton who sees social class and economic class analysis as working in tandem with each other in order to arrive at a working understanding of the class relations within a society. That is, the study of economic class relations provides the overview, so to speak, while the social class analysis fleshes out how those economic relations play out in the everyday world. The one thing Crompton makes absolutely clear, (as does E.P.Thompson, of course) however, is that class is a relationship, not a category. and what’s ABC1 but a series of boxes to slot people into.

The other thing, of course, is the idea of using the Irish Times as some kind of authority on Irish class relations. Its view of working class is almost Dickensian. For the Irish Times, the working class is people who DON’T work or who work in cleaning jobs or in TESCOS – whereas the majority of civil servants hold working class positions with working class pay scales. Just because they sit in work doing the Times crossword, it don’t make them middle-class, but God knows there’s more than one out there who would think that.

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31. Garibaldy - March 2, 2009

I’d never thought that much about the ABC thing as I never have any call to use it, but that makes a lot of sense. I see Weber at the back of a lot of this stuff.

One more quick thing on Labour. I think that, given Gilmore’s track record (and here there might be dissent from certain other people here), I wouldn’t think it is mistaken to suggest Labour is pursuing the ABs.

I know quite a few people who do the Times crossword after work who are under no illusion that it makes them middle class.

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32. Burke and Hare - March 2, 2009

If you read the Irish Times magazine on Saturdays and actually ENJOY it, then you are middle class. That’s the scientific Marxist analysis.
I remember at least 20 years ago being told that the IT was the paper of choice of the Waterford Glass shop stewards cttee. Make of that what you will.
Mark P has a point but I think over stresses it. The Irish Labour Party does attract the Ruairi Quinns and Alex Whites and has done so for some time (Thornley and the Crusier anyone?) but it is a broader party than that. If I remember correctly Militant used to argue that you HAD to be in the Labour Party because workers would ALWAYS identify with it and turn to it in times of strife (even when they voted Fianna Fail). That was over the top and if Mark is arguing that Labour is now the party of the upper middle class then that’s over the top too.

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33. Mark P - March 2, 2009

You will note that I pointed out in my earlier post that the ABC1C2DE model is far from satisfactory. While I could produce an endless number of arguments pointing out the flaws in the model, it does give us some useful information as long as you are familiar with these flaws. It is quite likely, by the way, that we share roughly similar views of what these flaws are.

In these circumstances the data is a little more useful than usual because, for reason known only to itself, the Irish Times has divided these categories three ways rather than the more traditional 2. That is, it looked at AB, C1C2, DE as distinct groupings and not at ABC1 and then C2DE as the distinct groupings.

The AB groupings, according to the NRS (the advertisers responsible for the categorisations), includes higher managerial, higher professional, intermediate managerial and intermediate professional as well as employers. That is, in Marxist terms, it includes the bourgeoisie, much of the petty bourgeoisie (managers, lawyers, doctors etc) and some layers of better off workers. It specifically excludes most of the white collar workers who are often dragged into the “middle class” when the ABC1 categories are grouped together.

The fact that Labour gets its highest support from these social groups does in fact tell us something useful about the social base of the party. Similarly the fact that Labour gets its lowest support from semi and unskilled manual workers (D) and casual labourers and people on state benefits (E) also tells us something useful.

These categories are never ones that I would use in trying to analyse a society, however, the only data we have available to us at the moment comes in that form. And I think that only the most one-eyed of Labour partisans would fail to acknowledge that it is revealing that the category which consists mostly of employers, upper and mid level management and higher professionals is the category where most Labour support is found. While within the categories in which this system groups the vast bulk of workers, their support level is intermediate amongst white collar and skilled blue collar workers and lowest amongst the semi-skilled, unskilled and casual workers and those on state assistance.

On Conor’s first reply to me:

1) I didn’t defend the Greens because I broadly speaking agree with you about them. I just find it hilarious to have a supporter of the Labour Party of all organisations going on about middle class Greens, little Oisin and his skiing holidays. It became even funnier when you threw in the bit about the Greens whoring themselves out to coalition partners! I mean really, while I’ve no time at all for the Provos, they can at least get away with that sort of stuff with a somewhat straight face, but Labour?

2) I am aware that Labour still has some working class support, no matter what way you look at class. So do all of the main political parties. What’s interesting is the differences between them. And from the admittedly limited data available, Labour tends to have more affluent and less working class support than any other major political party.

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34. WorldbyStorm - March 2, 2009

Conor, just to clarify, first up I wasn’t attacking Labour, I was making the point that dealing in cliche’s and stereotypes is unhelpful.

Secondly, it was you who introduced the issue of class directly into this discussion by positing the GP as some sort essence of the middle class. I’m not sure what you’re basing that on but I thought it worth refuting as regards stereotypes… But let’s look at the background of the GPs leading lights. John Gormley, public rep most of his career, a (and I know you’ll like this) language teacher originally. Paul Gogarty, journalist. Ciarán Cuffe, lecturer. Trevor Sargent, teacher. No occupation for Mary White, and Eamon Ryan was a Tour Operator (which sort of sounds old-fashioned). Deirdre De Burca, Primary School Teacher. Dan Boyle…community youth worker.

Now, I’m the first to admit these are middle classish, culturally, knowing some of them as I do, but by your own standards as expressed above they seem far from the worst of the worst (well, apart from Ryan… tour operator – eh?)/

Thirdly I think it’s essential to reach out. Indeed I was under the impression that the Irish Left Review which we both were involved in starting up was all about making connections on the left including both Republican Socialists and Green members as well as the larger formation. Part of that is about discussion and engagement, not about slagging people or formations off.

Fourthly the reason to reach out is precisely the reason most of us blog on the left. The left in this country is so small that at some point at least some elements of the GP, if not it in its entirety, will be necessary to support a progressive alliance of one form or another. There simply isn’t enough of a left here for it to be otherwise, the current rating of the LP notwithstanding (and while we’re on that, I’m not suggesting you for a moment would countenance the LP in govt. with FF, but I know for a fact having heard it from horses mouths that the LP was willing to do the deal in May 2007 had the situation been even very slightly different. How hungry for power are they? Would they stop at anything to go into power given the opportunity? Or what of SF? I’m not exactly brimming with confidence). In other words why gratuitously antagonise people who may be making errors but who are in broad terms still on our side of the fence (at least as much as anyone in this society).

I see no problem in critiquing and criticising the current actions of the GP, something I’ve been more than happy to do over the past year and a half and increasingly so in recent times. But I don’t see the need for attacks which latch onto dubious and unprovable concepts such as the GP being anyones b***h, or dropping their knickers, which simply don’t seem to me to lock into an appreciation of the internal culture of the GP at this point in time (which is absolutely convinced that by concentrating on very very specific issues that its doing the right thing)…

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35. Conor McCabe - March 2, 2009

Worldbystorm, I’ll bow to your knowledge of the inner workings of the Greens. As far as the Greens being FF’s bi**h, I think that’s quite provable. and my coarse language and rude imagery pales when compared to the type of policies the Greens have voted for in the past six months. As far as building a united left, I’m curious as to what type of policies the left in Ireland would have to adopt to keep the Greens on board? I mean, what concessions would they ask for? Seems to me they’ll take anything to hang onto power, as they are are doing right now. Mary White is a businesswoman, by the way, not that it makes that much difference.

I’ve lived in Carlow, I’ve in Wexford and I’ve lived in north Dublin, and in all those places the Labour party I came across was a working class party with a strong trade union membership. That’s my experience of the Labour party. I know it aint the whole story, not by a long shot, but it’s my one. Certainly, I found the Labour party to have more of a working class membership than more than a couple of the left-wing/Marxist groups I’ve come across over the years.

Mark P, as far as using the Irish Times’ bastardized version of a flawed analytical tool to tell us that the rich in Ireland reacted to the government public sector pension levy by switching to Labour, well, yeah, go for it. I think it’s a worthless exercise, but there you go.

It seems to me looking at the figures that the support Labour have picked up contains a sizable chunk of the drop in support FF suffered. Maybe the AB1s make up 12-15% of the population, despite what wage figures tell us, and that they mainly voted FF up to now. Or maybe, FF’s core public sector vote (mainly working class as well) reacted to the levy and switched to Labour, the only one of the three parties to oppose it in public.

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36. WorldbyStorm - March 2, 2009

Conor, as easily we could ask what sort of policies would any other party under any other circumstances have to modify in order to go into a coalition? And you know the answer, what had to be done would be done. Whether it was an alliance of the left or a deal with FF or FG. The point is that there is nothing uniquely awful about what the GP has done which makes me wonder why do you seem to expect so much better of them (or did) and why do you still harbour such optimistic hopes about others? As regards the make up of the Labour Party, I have no problem acknowledging the excellence of their membership. There are good comrades in it. Their leadership are good and effective (for a change). But that’s not the problem. The problem is that they too will have to make unpalatable choices sooner or later, choices made by other LPs over the years in this state, choices which aligned them firmly with conservativism.

And you’re right. MW being a business women (I believe she might even own something out our way) is no more or less important than LP TDs coming from business backgrounds. Because it’s not what they are or were but what they believe. Indeed as far as I could understand by your analysis the traditional working class is now subsumed rightly in a broader entity that we can term the working class which seems to me to make your point about the GP being uniquely middle class difficult to sustain.

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37. Mark P - March 2, 2009

Conor:

As far as I can recall, the IT poll didn’t indicate how much the Labour support in each category had changed since the last poll. It merely gave us a snapshot of Labour’s support – and it showed that it was disproportionately concentrated amongst management and higher professionals and disproportionately low amongst semi skilled, unskilled and casual workers and the unemployed.

Those of us with less blinded by loyalty than you and nearer to the ground than ejh will not have found this particularly surprising based on our experiences of the Labour Party. I’m sure you have indeed met a whole bunch of working class Labour Party members. I have myself too, but mingled in with another whole bunch of concerned professionals and socially liberal managers. Not to mention the mixture of liberal ethical shopping types and outright careerists who make up the ranks of the allegedly more left inclined Labour Youth.

Politically, your comments about the Greens broadly apply to the Labour Party too. Selling themselves as coalition partners for the a handful of magic beans is a fine old Labour Party tradition, even back in the dim and distant days when they also had a few principles to sell as well as votes in the Dail. The Greens are merely borrowing it.

I am just as derisive about WorldbyStorms fantasies of a “united left” featuring the Greens, Labour and the Provos as you are but for very different reasons.

His mistake is in thinking that there is some substantial difference between any of these parties and the other mainstream capitalist parties. There is not, as Rabbitte’s failure to find one difference of principle between the PDs and Labour in his infamous interview with Vincent Browne displayed before the last election and as Ciaran Cannon’s proposed hop from PD leadership to the Labour parliamentary party displayed more recently. All of them are parties of business as usual.

Your mistake is in thinking that there is some difference in principle between the Greens and Labour. This is an even more bewildering attitude, which can only be predicated on the delusion that forming a right wing government with Fine Gael after the last election would somehow have been preferable to forming a right wing government with Fianna Fail.

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38. Burke and Hare - March 2, 2009

Just wondering though Mark, when did the Labour Party go from being the place where socialists had to be? I certainly remember Militant supporters pouring scorn on those who argued for organising outside it in the early 90s.

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39. WorldbyStorm - March 2, 2009

Well, I guess MarkP that I would tend to view even an LP/GP/SF led government, reformist or not as its constituent elements might be, as something of an improvement on the present crowd or its putative alternative. And I also tend to think that there is more space on the left (and between even the LP and the centre right) than the rather telescoped view you subscribe to. Finally on that matter, when the other alternatives on the left, and for example I think your own formation is hugely admirable in many respects, simply don’t command any sort of broad, let alone medium based support, its probably sensible if one wishes to make improvements to work with the base material we’ve got. And that’s not to suggest that what the SP does is pointless. The exemplary effect of those further left can often be understated. Anyhow, that’s a whole different discussion to the one we’re having (although by the by I agree that a left unity of the sort I champion isn’t very likely to happen).

But can I say a word in defence of Conor’s overall thesis. I think there is a class problem with the Green Party, that being that they have no inkling of class politics in the way that we understand them. They seem to me to have a very reductionist view that somehow we’re beyond such things, if indeed they think about them at all, and that somehow all will be well. A good example of this is their introduction of solar energy grants for homes (and Michael Taft has done a similar analysis of insulation). Look at the costs of them and you can see immediately that they are waaaay beyond the scope of any lower to medium income home dwellers. You get a grant, but it’s fairly derisory and requires the sort of investment of cash which would make even someone on a fairly comfortable salary blanch. And that sort of thing is simply (pardon the pun) unsustainable if one purports to be engaging with ordinary people to change their energy saving habits. In that respect I entirely agree with Conor about them having a sort of middle class ethos.

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40. Mark P - March 2, 2009

Burke and Hare:

The Militant thought that there was no point in remaining in the Labour Party in the early 1990s, perhaps 1993 IIRC. In retrospect they probably should have been considering moving a bit earlier than that. They did not however think when they were leaving that the Labour Party had yet been denuded of its progressive character entirely, although they did think that it was moving in that direction. Instead they left on a tactical basis, with the expectation that the Labour Party might again shift to the left. Nearly 20 years later and the move to the right has been long completed and there is no prospect of that being undone.

Remember that in the 1980s, Labour contained a left wing involving thousands of activists, with its own organisations, nationally recognised leaders (Stagg, Michael D Higgins etc), publications, campaigns and attempts to develop an alternative programme. The Militant was only the left most edge of that much wider body of thought. There is nothing of that kind left at all now and it is quite unimaginable that one might develop. They don’t even have the kind of left over detritus that the British Labour left still has, the occasional Campaign Group MP or whatever.

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41. Conor McCabe - March 2, 2009

In 1994 Labour walked over Fr. Brendan Smyth. with regard to everything this government has done, from cutting school sizes, special needs teachers, cancer prevention treatment for women, dumping a 58 billion builder’s mortgage on our shoulders, etc, etc, etc, the Greens have stayed, and continue to stay and prop up this government

Mark P, Militant LEFT the Irish Labour party in the 1990s? Funny, I remember being at a meeting of Militant in the early 1990s that was held in Dublin minutes after joe Higgins had been expelled. It was in the hotel next to the National Gallery, can’t think of its name. Funny way of leaving, no? Getting expelled. and as far as taking a class analysis from the Irish Times, and one based on an ABC1 poll. wouldn’t last 15 seconds under any peer review. But hey, whatever rocks your boat.

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42. Garibaldy - March 2, 2009

I think Conor has a point that what ought to have been the Greens’ bottom line(s), e.g. Tara, public transport, have been violated by FF without consequence. Rather than cutting buses, Dublin needs to think about limiting the number of cars, and boosting the amount of buses.

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43. WorldbyStorm - March 2, 2009

I entirely agree with that Garibaldy. I too think – for example – public transport is one policy bridge too far. The cervical cancer is another one. But that’s a very different argument than one which characterises the GP as essentially ‘middle-class’ tossers… when the very definition of middle class appears at best nebulous in this context and at worst unhelpful towards any future developments in terms of organising on the left.

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44. Mark P - March 2, 2009

Conor:

Militant supporters were of course being expelled during that period in some numbers, however the bulk of them were not expelled and left following a debate and a collective decision to do so. Perhaps you should have paid more attention at those meetings you attended.

As for “taking a class analysis from the Irish Times”, I’ve done no such thing. I’ve used (flawed but useful) data from the Irish Times to bolster a wider point about the cretinous state of the Labour Party. And I did so initially in response to your rather hypocritical mouthing off about the class nature of the Greens and their support. The sum total of your evidence presented to the contrary has amounted to a brief anecdote about knowing some working class Labour members in Carlow, Wicklow and Dublin, a point which was neither particularly interesting nor particularly surprising.

The Labour Party these days differs from the other main right wing parties only in the way it markets itself.

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45. Garibaldy - March 2, 2009

WBS,

I think, as you do, that the absence of any class content to the Greens makes it much easier for them to fail to appreciate the impact of things like cutting bus services on working people. My experience of Dublin buses is that they are used most heavily by what for want of a better phrase we might call the more marginal element of society, e.g. immigrants working low paid jobs, as well as people on the huge housing estates that the left needs to reconnect with.

So I think in that context that the difference between the lifestyles of the average Green and that of the working class is worth thinking about. Though obviously, the left elements of the Greens do need to be brought into the left proper, which will require the left taking the environment more seriously than it has. I remember seeing a copy of Making Sense that had a cartoon on the front with an environmentally-friendly Marx on the front (although it was quite possibly pinched from elsewhere). That was before the 1992 split. We’ve been slow off the mark.

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46. Conor McCabe - March 3, 2009

The Irish Times hacks apart the NRS social grades – a 50 yr old social class analysis based on the point of consumption, not the point of production – of which you are convinced provides a rigorous snapshot of labour support. The Irish Times didn’t print the questionaire, nor the breakdown of occupations, just the general headings of their version of the NPR – a consumer research tool from the 1950s. But that’s eureka for you, so yeah, go for it. And funny how, along with the Irish Times, you focus in on semi-skilled to unemployed. You telling me that’s the working class? Cos I know that it’s what the Irish Times sees as the Irish working class. Then again, the Irish Times would crap itself if it was ever faced with a class analysis based on the point of production. That’s why it always drags out the NPR.

And there’s a wealth of information on the history and make-up of the Labour party readily available in books, pamphlets, articles, covering the Labour party from the 1910s up to the 1990s, reflecting its background in Irish rural and urban working class life. That isn’t gone, but, as is always brought home to me, the Irish left doesn’t read its own history. It knows the minutiae of the Russian, German, English movements, but sweet FA about its own backyard. Not surprising that you would dismiss the rural labour vote as akin to a figment of my imagination. sure I’ve heard people say that Labour was a Dublin party! Jesus wept!!! and as for a history of the Irish working class, well, it still has to be written so at least people have an exvcuse there, but as far as the labour movement goes, and the Labour party, you keep getting your evidence from the Irish Times, sure don’t bother with the wealth of information contained within Irish labour studies. so yeah, go for it, cretinous Labour party. wouldn’t expect anything less from a non-cretinous political analysis of the labour party based on, (hollowed tones) “The Irish Times, m´lawd”. NPR social grades. how very Marxist.

And it’s Wexford where I lived, mate, not Wicklow. Next time you’re there call into Maudlintown and tell them they’ve gone all middle class and cretinous.

worldbystorm, I think over the years I’ve outlined my views on working and middle class, no? I’d hardly think I’ve made it nebulous. I mean, do you want me to cut and paste each article every time I mention the terms?

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47. Garibaldy - March 3, 2009

Conor,

Interesting point on the labour history stuff. I guess the history of republicanism has obscured the history of the labour movement, even where the two are interlinked.

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48. WorldbyStorm - March 3, 2009

Not at all. It’s funny, going back and reading your breakdown of class, I can’t help feeling that the key sentence you wrote was about classes bleeding into each other. I guess what I’m saying is that while I entirely agree with you that the working class remains larger again than the supposed ‘professional’ middle class I think there’s a strong argument for arguing that the definitions of working class expands outwards to encompass some of those areas. Particularly when one sees how supposedly autonomous workers such as teachers, gardai, etc are entirely dominated by their employer the state (I’m not ignoring the specific issue of how much autonomy an individual has in their day to day job. That is another axis entirely and a hugely important one in distinguishing between classes). But again, that perhaps is a whole different discussion.

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49. Conor McCabe - March 3, 2009

Oh I agree. On a wider point, I’d say the history of republicanism has obscured a lot of Irish social history as well. Not just republicanism as such, but more the effect that republicanism has had on Irish historiography, namely through revisionism and anti-revisionism, which for me is just a bunch of nationalists talking to other nationalists about nationalism. Irish social history is really coming on these days, but mainly in eighteenth and nineteenth century studies. The twentieth century remains somewhat focused on social history as seen from the official records, rather than through personal experience. Having said that, a lot of the time Irish historiography is just trying to reinvent the nationalist wheel.

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50. Garibaldy - March 3, 2009

I think that moments of crisis reveal the fundamental reality of class society. There clearly has been a great deal of bleeding of classes, and more especially of class identity. But we are seeing the reality of the state as the “executive committee” for the affairs of the bourgeoisie as the Manifesto puts it. Lenin argued that there was no crisis so deep that the working class could not be made to pay for it. And many of those who believed they were no longer working class are finding out otherwise.

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51. Garibaldy - March 3, 2009

Agree on the obscuring effects on social history, and the attempts to reinvent the nationalist wheel. The Notre Dame school springs to mind there, though they mostly aren’t historians as such. I also hold literary history somewhat accountable.

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52. Conor McCabe - March 3, 2009

Well worldbystom, it depends on whether we want to talk about class as social status, or class as an economic relation. If we’re getting macro, then all we can talk about is the way these social relations play out, not as individuals, but as social relations. My point about the Greens is that the policies they are pursuing are designed to benefit a specific section of Irish society, and it aint people who find themselves within working class occupations .- that is, people who find themselves with the type of societal power expressed by working class occupations. As the Greens are in power at the moment, I’m concerned with the way the party is acting with regard to the power relations within Irish society, rather than the more micro power-play, and what I see is a party dedicated to staying in power to benefit the section of our society that is reflectie of those with middle class jobs and who live, for the most part, in middle class areas. It’s one of the things about housing, it can be reflective of wider class relations. That’s not a case of classes bleeding over, that’s about a party in power making sure that in the cut and thrust of class relations, it’s using its time in power to fight the corner of its class interests. It’s patently obvious that is what the Greens are doing. I don’t buy for one second that the Green party, a political party that at the moment forms part of the government, is in any way drifting among the bleedover in class relations. Health cuts, public transport cuts, €58 billion (and counting) bail-out to broken, corrupt banks, allowing the less-well-off to carry the financial can for all of this. It’s taken a side, no? Hardly a bleedover position.

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53. Conor McCabe - March 3, 2009

Have to agree with you on the Notre Dame school. I’ve changed my position on them in the last year. The deeper I go into the analysis, the more wary of it I am.

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54. Worldbystorm - March 3, 2009

Conor at what point did I refer to the Green Party and classes bleeding together in the same sentence. That was if you look at the text of the comment an aside about the broader issue of class, but by all means have disagreements with what I didn’t say… It’s your time.

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55. Garibaldy - March 3, 2009

Interesting that your attitude to them is changing. I don’t have much time for the whole postcolonial argument myself, and some of the stuff is just plain nonsense, based on nothing other than the imaginative interpretation of some novels by those involved. The Field Day Review has some good stuff though.

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56. Garibaldy - March 3, 2009

And I’d be inclined to agree with what you have to say about in whose interests the coalition has been functioning.

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57. Worldbystorm - March 3, 2009

As regards nationalists talking with other nationalists about nationalism etc well yes, but in this state where labour has politically taken a somewhat reserved form and role politically that’s hardly a surprise. Simply put class aware nationalists of the right were always more successful at organising to promote their ends than the left in either labour or republican forms. And nationalism in a society that had been under the political, social and economic domination of a neighbouring country would always have a primary significance initially.

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58. Conor McCabe - March 3, 2009

In comment 43 you mentioned my use of middle class in relation to the Greens as nebulous. I referred you back to stuff I have written on class. You leave a comment saying that you can’t help feeling that the key point was that classes bleed over each other. I assumed that because you called my use of middle class nebulous, and then went on to say that you can’t help but feel that my key point was that classes bleed over each other, that that’s where you see the Greens: not as a middle class party, but as a party that bleeds over the definitions of class.

I thought, going by comment 43 and 48 that’s what you were talking about.

so. Now I’m confused. Is my use of middle class in relation to the Geeens still nebulous for you? And what exactly are you highlighting with my point that classes as seen through a list of occupations bleed over each other? I’m not bulls**ting, I’m genuinely confused.

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59. Garibaldy - March 3, 2009

Not always WBS, I mean there are enough examples of liberation struggles being driven by socialism (although clearly the desire for national freedom was important too).

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60. Mark P - March 3, 2009

Conor at #46:

An entertaining, if rather rambling post. What a pity it didn’t engage at all with the arguments it was allegedly addressing other than to misrepresent them.

I’ve repeatedly pointed out in the thread (right from the very point I mentioned it in fact) that the NRS categories are advertising based and do not represent anything close to a Marxist analysis. I’ve also pointed out repeatedly that the NRS categories typically includes large swathes of the working class, chiefly the white collar working class, under the broader category “middle class”.

Claiming or insinuating that I think that the NRS categories adequately describe class or that I think that only the semi and unskilled blue collar workers are working class, when my original posts are still there just above your own takes a certain amount of neck. As does making arguments which assume that I think that there are no working class people in Labour, when I’ve repeatedly said that there are people of all classes in all of the mainstream parties in Ireland.

Once you get past your bluster, the fact remain however that the only data we have available on Labour’s current support base comes from the flawed, inadequate, but revealing IT poll. And that poll says that employers, managers and higher professionals are the most likely people to support Labour and that within the working class, the poorer you are the less likely you are to do so.

As for Irish Labour history generally, and the history of the Labour Party more generally, as it happens I’d agree with you that much of the left could learn much from it. It’s utility for this discussion is rather limited however, as a central feature of the Labour Party today is that it is not same as the Labour Party of even 25 years ago. The Labour left, once a thriving movement, is now entirely gone leaving no trace behind. The parliamentary party contains not one backbencher, let alone a leading figure, who could reasonably be described as a socialist in even the sense that the Campaign Group in Britain would recognise. The rank and file is ageing and contains no radical trends or currents whatsoever. And this is obvious to anyone with eyes to see.

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61. sonofstan - March 3, 2009

Just on the class profile of the Greens: this isn’t by any means scientific, but I think that actually they do get a fair amount of support from working class people – I know, for example, that John Gormley is fairly highly regarded as a good constituency TD by people in the flats in Charlemont St. and I think transfer patterns bear out a fair crossover of support between them and SF, in Dublin at any rate. They are, or were, seen as ‘outside’ the system and as such attract (ed) the protest voter, the guy who thinks ‘they’re all the same- apart from …..)’, a vote that never goes to Labour anymore.

That said, I would fully agree with WBS (§39) that their two ministers, and Cuffe, are completely blind to class politics.

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62. Conor McCabe - March 3, 2009

Mark, you dismiss the report, and then go ahead and use it! where’s the logic in that? Just because you admit it’s a shit report, that doesn’t mean that you can then go ahead and use it as if it has some value. you are using that report as evidence, and because of that your claims about knowing how shit it is, is baseless. If it’s shit don’t use it.

However, because it suits your agenda in slagging off the Labour party, you go ahead and use it. And it’s not the only piece of data out there to analyze the Labour party’s support. Far from it. when in any type of research study is there only “only”? Apart from the statistical data one can glean from elections there’s newspaper reports (national and local), local bulletins, campaigns, local issue campaigning, websites, leaflets, etc, etc. But, all that takes hard work, and involves doing a bit of research outside of reading an NPR report in the Irish Times – hell, it’s not even an NPR report, it’s the Irish Times’ version of one – one that you admit is pretty worthless, but not worthless enough for you to ignore it as on this occasion the agenda of the Irish Times matches your own, which is to slag off the Labour party. go for it.

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63. Conor McCabe - March 3, 2009

My comments are not on whether the Greens get working class votes or not, but that they are out for the interests of the Irish middle class. FF gets a huge working class vote, but it’s not a working class party. Any doubts over that have been shredded in the past six months.

The transfers to Greens from SF stand up with regard to Gormley and Dublin Mid-west.

In Carlow-Kilkenny, White got in after receiving 2,907 transfers from Labour.
In Dun Laoghaire, Cuffe got in after receiving a total of 3,834 votes from FG, with 239 from SF.
In Dublin Mid-West, Grogarty got 1,143 from SF.
In Dublin South East, Gromley got 611 transfers from SF, and 679 from FF.
In Dublin South, Ryan got 3,273 from Labour.
and in Dublin North, Sargent got 2,270 from others, and 331 from SF.

All in all, with regard to transfers, the Greens’ road to the Dáil is paved with Labour and Sinn Fein voters. Yet, its party leadership seems convinced that those particular sectional interests don’t concern them.

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64. Wednesday - March 3, 2009

I don’t have time this morning to read all the comments so excuse me if I’m covering old ground or a topic already moved on from, but on the subject of Labour’s support, I recently heard from their DOE in one of the more deprived LEAs that they have pretty much written off the lowest-income areas of that constituency and are concentrating on the posh parts. And it’s not because they don’t expect the lower-income folks to vote at all.

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65. WorldbyStorm - March 3, 2009

Conor, I should have added in to ‘your breakdown of class’ on your website… but I thought that was implicit in the statement since nowhere in this discussion on this thread did you do a breakdown of class.

As regards the rest having spent some time thinking about it it’s reasonable to parse this out as follows. Culturally the GP may well, as I’ve already stated (and perhaps you could note that from the off I’ve pointed out that I agree with more of what you say than disagree with it) may well be aspirant middle class (however we pitch that definition, although I still go with the old WP working class def being workers with hand or brain which I think is both inclusive and descriptive and arguably much broader than Zweig’s definition). But taking that WP definition you’ll find, perhaps to your pleasure that many more of them are working class than middle class as is their support base. I agree entirely that their actions as you say regarding its party leadership is one which ignores working class interests or seems detached from them. But I’ve been saying that for donkey’s round here to no particular controversy. But if you’re saying that the GP are somehow horribly and uniquely middle class, well, then look at the Labour Party Dáil representation and tell me how they differ in any significant way? Arguably, the most working class party as per its Dáil/Seanad rep is SF. So what?

Because, and this is where your argument raises the eyes of those of us beyond the LP, so far there is some doubt given its track record (representing for decades about 1 in 10 of the population, with the centre right FF soaking up the balance) that that is as a political vehicle is entirely fit for purpose as regards representing the working class – however defined. And again, that’s not to slag off its members or leadership, but again and I can’t stress this enough, to suggest that it is almost inevitably going to make the same sort of compromises that you rightly criticise the GP for, because that’s pretty much what political parties do in this sort of ‘liberal’ democratic context. And incidentally, I’d be equally dubious about the Republican lefts fitness for purpose which historically has to my mind failed equally badly…

None of that is about an agenda, it’s simply a reading of past actions and positions. And again, I mean what is the ILR about if it’s not also about keeping the LP honest, attempting to push it away from coalitions, etc, etc? This would hardly be necessary if all was well on that front.

Thinking about labour history and nationalism, I seem to recall something about a Citizens Army way back when. The two traditions are far from entirely divorced.

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66. WorldbyStorm - March 3, 2009

I guess I should add that the GP doesn’t see itself out for any class – a delusion of considerable proportions in my mind – but sees its historic purpose as being about climate change and the environment. In that context its understandable, if lamentable, that they wouldn’t cleave to a class analysis. Although in this society we’ve seen far too many examples of profoundly ideological projects concealed beneath supposedly ‘apolitical’ facades.

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67. Conor McCabe - March 3, 2009

Zweig’s conceptual framework for understanding class sees class as a power relationship, one constantly in motion. The way we get that snapshot is by looking at occupations, but that’s all it is, a snapshot of something in motion. I don’t know whether it’s narrower than the hand and brain of the old WP, but then again, for Zweig, class is a relationship, not a category. It sounds the same as the what the WP was putting forward, but if you see the old WP analysis as broader, well ok. I can’t see the difference really, as both focus on the power relationship within the workplace. Once you do that, the “categories” are going to be in flux anyway.

I disagree profoundly with the idea that the Greens do not cleave to a class analysis, when their actions in government all point to a concern for a particular class within our society. I’d agree more with your statement about ideological projects concealed under “apolitical” facades. Even when they’re out saving the environment the terms and conditions all vouch for a particular class (solar energy grants for homes). As I said, the Labour party walked over Brendan Smyth, but what’s the breaking point for the Greens? The complete and unconditional attack on working people who are being used to pay for the current crisis in Ireland’s capitalist economy? Not in the least. I have to speculate whether the Greens would be so strong if we saw a move to close myriad tax breaks for middle and upper incomes. Then again, there’s no fear of that, as FF have no desire to take such an action.

And my point about the Greens being middle class is linked to the above. It’s from their actions in government that I draw that conclusion. The Greens are a middle class party because in government it’s the interests of that particular party that the Greens are looking after. The Greens haven’t walked yet because Fianna Fail hasn’t done anything profoundly antagonistic to the type of societal interests the Greens are protecting. Crisis of the sort that Irish society going through at the moment strip bare the class relations which underlie that society.

I’m one of those Labour voters who always gave the Greens a transfer. Always. And looking at the breakdown of transfers it’s a trend among Labour voters that got at least two of the Green’s elected. Since last year I’ve just been shocked at the way the Greens have conducted themselves in power. Absolutely shocked. And now as they’re the only thing keeping FF in power, if I had known then there’s no way I’d have given then a transfer, and you have to wonder if the other labour voters in Carlow-Kilkenny and Dublin South feel the same. And the Greens, the leadership, simply have no conception that they are there on the back of transfer votes from the very people this government is screwing.

As far as DOE and LEA goes, I don’t know what they mean. I guess though that it’s a labour official who told you that s/he’s given up on lower income areas. I know officials in Wexford who know that lower-income areas are their bread and butter. So where does that leave us? you have your example, I have mine.

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68. Mark P - March 3, 2009

Conor:

For the last time, recognising that a piece of data has flaws and limits is not the same as saying that it is worthless, particularly if you use the data carefully. The Irish Times poll quite clearly revealed that the Labour Party gets proportionately more support from higher managers and professionals than it does from the broadly defined working class and that within the working class it gets more support from the more prosperous sectors than from the unskilled or unemployed.

Your arguments against this amount to claiming that it doesn’t map with your personal experience and pointing out that there are still working class Labour Party members. The first is essentially an anecdote, while the second is bleeding obvious and not particularly interesting in a society where all of the mainstream parties have working class members.

I still find your shock that the Greens have implemented right wing policies in a right wing coalition rather amusing. That’s what right wing coalitions do and its exactly what Labour, the party of the tax amnesty amongst other things, have themselves done in right wing government and what they would be doing at the moment as junior partners to Fine Gael if the Dail maths had worked out differently. Pretty much everything you said about the Greens is accurate: It’s just that while you are adept at pointing out the dust in their eyes, you seem less good at noticing the beam in Labour’s own.

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69. Conor McCabe - March 3, 2009

Where have you used the data carefully! Oh baby, all you did was google it! Not only that, you presented it without reference to anything else – no other studies, previous or contemporary, no other types of evidence, nada. Just the Irish Times and, well, that’s it! If that what you call carefully? Oh baby. Listen, I hear the Daily Mail has some good opinion polls as wel. Flawed, of course, but, you know, if used carefully….

As regards the Labour party, you thought they were a bunch of right-wingers 20 years ago, 10 years ago, 5 years, and today. It doesn’t matter what I say or write about the Labour party, you’re still going to think the same. The cretinous party as you call it. By the way, were you ever going to tell people that Militant was being expelled when it “decided” to walk away from Labour, or were you going to leave that fact alone until I brought it up? First of all, Militant “decided” to leave in the early 1990s, possibly 1993. I love your analysis that while Militant members were being expelled, the party had a meeting and took a collective decision to leave. The political equivalent of “well, we were going anyway. Humph!”

And I am shocked. Yeah. So be it. I think a lot of people are. Mind you, they’re probably Labour voters so it doesn’t matter really. Having said that, there’s a group of voters out there who’d be very happy with what the Greens are supporting, and that’s the (temporarily) disenfranchised PD voters. Methinks Gormley’s seat will be safe after all.

I could give you a wealth of information on the Labour party and its activities in rural Ireland up to today, but you see, this is what makes me laugh. This is a left-wing blog, with a bunch of Irish lefties leaving comments on it all the time. Stuff about Irish labour movements in rural Ireland, and the rural experience of Irish labour, the rural working class, such be Labour 101 for most of the commentators here. I know a little bit about Irish labour history, but then again, I support a cretinous little party, so what do I know? I mean, I can’t even tell the difference between an expulsion and a “collective decision”. Maybe I should brush up on Kronstadt again, or dust down Jim Larkin or Labour in Irish History. That is Irish Labour studies, right? Or maybe I should just hang around until the Irish Times prints one of its “Ireland is a classless society” articles, followed by one of its class analyses of Irish Labour party support. A couple of weeks ago John Waters had an article about how Brian Cowen is a father-fgiure to us all. Of course, it’s a flawed analysis, but if you use it carefully…

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70. WorldbyStorm - March 3, 2009

Okay, re 67… paragraphs one and two I entirely agree with, bar two slight points. Unless I’m misinterpreting Zweig he would argue that supposedly ‘professional’ professions aren’t working class. I tend to think they are (most self-ascribed professionals are deluding themselves as to the nature of the power relationships they enmeshed within) . But we can discuss that some other time. Secondly just to clarify, I also agree with you that the GP acts in many of its actions on a de facto class analysis, one which ignores or is in some aspects hostile to the working class. But I don’t believe that is intentional, but is a part of what they unfortunately think is almost a post-class analysis. And I think your point about tax breaks is also spot on.

Paragraph three. That’s not what you argued initially. Indeed you were quite specific that it was some innate quality of the GP that was middle class that was at the root of the trouble. I disagree. I don’t think that its because they’re middle class in culture or in fact, which some clearly are. I think its because they believe they’re beyond class.

But I’m not shocked at all at how they operate. They think there’s one big existential problem and all else is subsidiary and of lesser importance. I don’t think they’re right (even if climate change is of primary importance, although I note they aren’t talking too much about it at the moment) and you don’t either. Incidentally, I don’t and never have cared as to whether they kept FF in power, if by doing so they alter FF approaches.

In any case as regards your feisty defence just above in 69. This is the *Irish* Labour Party we’re talking about here, isn’t it? The party that when I became politically active I wouldn’t join because it supported one, two and then a third FG govt. before jumping in with FF and then subsequently with FG again? That sought coalition with that party not eighteen months ago? Events that pushed me rapidly towards the WP and ultimately rapidly away from DL which caught the same virus.

I mean let’s get a bit of reality in this. The Labour Party has a long history, although hardly one more illustrious or by some standards longer than the Republican left and that’s fine, and indeed it did have and still does have rural members although so what – I’d expect no less of it, but its also the party that split rightwards in the 40s to National Labour because even the milk and water programme it put forward then under Norton, was it Norton, was too radical for some. And then it accepted the NL crowd back in! It’s the party of Stephen Coughlan, of Brendan Corish saying that he was a christian first (early 1960s I think). The party that even today has a less radical platform on abortion rights than DL…etc, etc, etc.

You’re right, the IT data is flawed, but it does provide us with some ideas of straws in the wind. As it happens I see this somewhat differently to MarkP. If the LP is appealing to higher income earners then there is the possiblity not so much of a sell out as changes in the society whereby those who might have allegiances to labour (in the broad sense) haven’t entirely relinquished their ties. Either way it points to a much broader although thin support base for the LP. Without more solid data its hard to know motivations (and for Gods sake lets get away from sterile arguments about working class and middle class people and their political allegiance, at least so much as to acknowledge that however we define those terms we should hope that progressive programmes can attract people from both groups. There’s little more tiresome than an over emphasis on that at the expense of actual political action and activity. People are people if the policies they support are the correct ones).

Conor, time to take those rosy spectacles off. The Labour party can be proud of many things, but let’s not pretend its the beating heart of Irish socialism. Part of that heart, absolutely, but not the only part and at some times a part which seemed rather detached and even somewhat right wing.

And if that leads to some reservations about it, even today when in Gilmore it appears to have found a leader who can actually lead and might just be able to break free of the old constraints of aligning with FG on that party’s terms, well so be it. I’ll support fully any efforts it does to do so. As long as it does so.

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71. Mark P - March 3, 2009

I’ve no particular interest in continuing to go around in circles with Conor on the issue of the Labour Party. Our opinions are fairly clearly expressed above if anyone is still reading:

This however is an entertaining point:
By the way, were you ever going to tell people that Militant was being expelled when it “decided” to walk away from Labour, or were you going to leave that fact alone until I brought it up?

Actually Conor, I was simply taking too much for granted about the background knowledge of the far left on the part of the posters and commenters here.

It’s hardly a secret that Militant members were being purged from the Labour Party at the beginning of the early 1990s. It’s also hardly a secret that only a relatively small number of people were actually expelled and that far more of its members left voluntarily during the same period.

This was a tactical decision, based on Militant’s view of how much purpose there was to working in the Labour Party in a period when the Labour left had been completely defeated and when the party as a whole was moving rightwards. If Militant had thought that there was a significant potential audience for Marxist ideas within the LP at that point, it would have stayed until its very last member was expelled and even then continue to send new recruits into the LP. Much as some of our sister organisations did in social democratic parties which actually did succeed in expelling them en masse. So yes, it was a collective decision to leave.

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72. A feral society… coming to a street near you soon. « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - March 5, 2009

[...] – incident I saw but I couldn’t help thinking about something that montevideo had mentioned over the past week and I quote: One things for sure, ‘breakfastrollman’ hasn’t been filling the coffers of [...]

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