TINA – Irish politics style August 16, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left, Uncategorized.
I know I’m often parsing Pat Leahy’s analyses in the SBP and sometimes critically. But in a recent piece he had some thoughts that I think were absolutely spot on as regards the now oft-voiced assertion that ‘there’s no other way’ as most recently stated by Pat Rabbitte in respect of an alternative to Fine Gael/Labour in Leinster House.
But Leahy notes that this line may be important to LP TDs in particular, stuck in what they might like to think of as a ‘national government’ implementing policies they don’t particularly like but which they feel are inevitable. If there is no alternative then, so the thinking goes, better them than a.n.others of whatever stripe.
And Leahy makes an excellent point here. The LP had something of a rude awakening during the last referendum when they discovered ‘it wasn’t just the salaries of government special advisers that the doorsteps were complaining about as some later claimed’. No indeed. It was the entirety of the LP’s participation in government. So again, the ’national interest’ line is no harm at all in stiffening sinews.
But he further adds that there’s no particular love lost between many backbenchers and FG and some would have a closer kinship (albeit unstated and sometimes unconscious) with FF. It’s often easy to reduce politics simply down to policy and on that axis LP, FF and FG are appallingly close to each other. But such an approach while useful is methodologically blunt at explaining a broad range of political events and behaviours.
And in terms of approaching collisions the abortion issue is of greater significance than might have been expected in terms of the relationship between FG and the LP. That is if collision there is and it’s not kicked into touch for another generation. My money is on the latter but there more than likely will be some collateral damage either way.
Anyhow, Leahy continues that some issues if not quite resolving themselves are removing themselves from the table. He points, for example, at the troika programme and the payment of bondholders where near enough 80 per cent of the monies have now been paid over. He also rather optimistically argues that the pogramme won’t be there forever. Well, we’ll see. But his broader point makes sense. The environment today won’t be the same in every aspect as the one in three years.
But far from this being good for the LP in particular it might be anything but. He suggests that…
The belief at the top of Labour – and the grounding analyse of its entire political strategy – is that when the economy improves in the second half of this government the political dividend will ensure the re-election of this government.
That raises so many questions I could probably write an individual post on each one. But let’s note the most obvious issues. Firstly that ‘when’ as regards the economy should be changed to ‘if’. Secondly there’s the question as to whether there will be a political dividend? And thirdly if any such dividend exists will it be sufficient to power the LP to re-election?
Each seems highly questionable. Even the most recent instance of a government with LP participation, that of the Rainbow Coalition from the mid-1990s, doesn’t auger well for the party. There despite a range of solid if somewhat uninspiring political achievements (the very sort of thing that the LP yet again seems to be trying to get albeit and tellingly not in the economic sphere) the party lost support (and from their perspective more importantly seats).
To which Leahy would say, ‘well, they know that’ and what they want is ‘definition’. And he notes the noises made about same-sex marriage as being part of that. Without decrying the individual issue I’m not sure that that is sufficient, any more than the introduction of ‘free’ third level education was in the mid 1990s. And it’s hard to think of big ticket items that would sufficiently distinguish the LP from FG (though I’d be interested to hear of any that people think would be game changers).
But Leahy makes an excellent point close to the end of his piece.
It’s not so much that there’s no alternative, it’s that Labour has made it’s choice and must stick with it. In democratic politics there’s always an alternative. In fact there’s always a queue of them.
And that’s true, and were an election held tomorrow one can easily imagine some potential alternatives to the current administration that might arise out of them. And one suspects that Rabbitte, for all the baiting of SF and the Technical Group is well aware of that fact.