Another view from inside the bubble… September 25, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
Backroom in the SBP starts with a quote that is rapidly getting old…
‘Your worst day in government is better than your best day in opposition”. That was the text sent by Mary Harney to John Gormley on one of the darker days (and there were many) of the last government.
Mind you, hard to disagree with the following:
It was an astute but easy comment to make, from a politician who spent most of her political career as a minister. And it’s true – as long as you are a cabinet minister.
But one could also agree with the following sentiment:
In recent weeks, we have heard Fine Gael and Labour backbenchers utter banalities about understanding the need for cuts while expressing the wish that they be applied “fairly”. This talk of fairness is usually code for “we are opposed to this cut, see if you can find a different one which won’t attract as much opposition”.
Backroom is astonished how many politicians pretend that cuts in public spending or services can be made without hitting less well-off citizens. By definition, the beneficiaries of public services are inevitably those who don’t have means. As a rule, people earning €100,000 a year or more don’t get home help, don’t have medical cards and don’t rely on social welfare payments for their weekly shopping.
This in a sense is a central paradox in our politics. Granted there’s an hypocritical aspect to it. But not entirely so. As seen in Brian Hayes comments at the weekend there’s also a self-deluding element to it. This is why the discussion of expenditure cuts/tax increases is so irritating. It is held as if somehow the former is more virtuous, is somehow ‘easier’ albeit the rhetoric of ‘tough challenges’ enters the issue. Yet for those who have minimal incomes as we know all too well that perspective is almost entirely the opposite. It’s exponentially tougher to have much less than it is to have much more. I’ve been discussing autonomy elsewhere on this site over the past week or so – but it is breath taking how little thought is given to that and the lack of that in terms of the lives of those who must interact with and/or are dependent upon public services (or not as the case increasingly is as cuts bite yet deeper).
But even this edition of the Backroom column is unable to go any further with the thought. It is raised and then dismissed, in favour of a bit of a lash against Colm Keaveney.
And in a raft of questions towards the end of the column it is unable to quite get to grasp with the problematic aspect of the answers:
Some individual ministers are good at communicating their portfolio priorities to their own ranks, but there is not a strong coherent and usable message on the big picture being provided to their troops. Why is austerity not delivering jobs? How many more hard budgets are we facing? Why are we not seeing some light at the end of the tunnel?
Those who read this site, Dublin Opinion, the ILR, Michael Taft and others will know well the answers to this. That the very policy proscriptions underwritten by this government are deflationary, that the broader European Union context is almost incredibly antagonistic towards measures that might tide us across this particular crisis and so on. They, and the writer of the Backroom column one presumes, also know that the answers to those questions if articulated clearly, for example ‘how many more hard budgets are we facing?’ or ‘why are we not seeing light at the end of the tunnel?’ might be such that they would see potential voters walk away in droves. We’re facing multiple further ‘hard’ budgets. We are unlikely to see light at the end of the tunnel until well in to the second half of this decade, if even then. Austerity cannot, per definition, deliver jobs.
Imagine any government party actually saying it like it is to the electorate and expecting some reward. Ain’t going to happen. Which is what makes the final two paragraphs of the Backroom column almost fantastical.
Those facts, however, will not insulate the coalition backbenchers against a barrage of lobbying from groups representing the elderly. If the government is to move on some of these issues, it must furnish its people with the facts and figures which justify its decisions. It must also show how those facts and figures fit into a convincing narrative which leads towards better times.
In short, Government Buildings must arm its troops with the equipment to deal with incoming missiles and to robustly defend its policies.
Yet again the old ‘presentation’ and communication line as if facts, the actual facts that the writer notes above about ‘less well-off citizens’ can somehow be swept away and ignore. It’s quite mad really, so close – in terms of analysis, and yet so far in terms of integrating that analysis into conclusions. And note too that it talks about ‘furnish its people’ as distinct from the electorate. How very telling.