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More on the Labour Party September 28, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.
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The Phoenix has an interesting article on the Labour Party this week – good timing that, and first up some known to this site come out of it particularly well, including the Campaign for Labour Policies – which the Phoenix describes as ‘the party’s new left – less loony by far than those who delivered fairy stores about the economy in Carton House’. We’ll get to the latter in a moment, but also Colm Keaveney and Nessa Childers are given the nod by the Phoenix – and in regard to the latter the Phoenix notes ‘she is one of the few LP personalities that has retained popularity and is likely to hold her seat in 2014’. The CLP activities are interesting and at least hold out the hope of some potential for resistance within the LP, however attenuated – and this is not to forget those who have fought the good fight over the past year or two.

Again the resignation of Róisín Shortall puts an ironic spin on all that follows, and well worth considering how short a time between the Carton House meeting and her departure.

But what exactly is it about Carton House? The Phoenix asserts that:

‘It is remarkable how little attention has been paid to E. Gilmore’s quite fantastic speech to his Parliamentary LP think-in last week. Equally remarkable was that a demoralised and fearful party did not utter a cheep of protest or even attempt to query a political and economic prognosis that must have had the more economically literate ministers and TDs present struggling to keep the smile off their faces’.

Let me stop right there and point out that one would have thought that a Labour party would of necessity see ministers and TDs having a grasp of economics. It’s sort of fundamental to a social democrat project, let alone all points leftwards of their (and by the way, this isn’t just a problem for the LP, the lack of economic thinking on the left in this state is dismal and has been proven time and time again when representatives attempt to argue their case publicly. The exceptions very much prove the rule).

The Phoenix continues:

The anxious TDs trooped away from their Carton house think-in clutching at a central message the Gilmore delivered: the economy is growing again; there will be just one more tough budget; 75% of economic adjustments have already been made; the banking systems is recovering and IReland will exist from the IMF programme next year.

And:

The unspoken addendum in Gilmore’s speech … is that a grateful electorate will then return the LP to power on the back of this imminent recovery with a few seat losses in marginal constituencies.

The meeting was told that the dreaded SF were on the slide according to RedC polling and the LP was polling strongly in Dublin (21%), reasonably well in Leinster (19%), relatively well in the north-west (12%) and badly in Munster. Nationally, the parties figures were, FG 32%, FF, 19%, LP 17% and SF 15%.

As the Phoenix drily notes, the Sunday Times poll the weekend before last was entirely at odds with that panglossian presentation, and the latest Red C/SBP poll in the Business Post is even more at odds with it.

So, what to make of it? Of course this is a report in the Phoenix and all usual caveats apply. But I had to go back and check reports from the Carton meetings, and yes, staggeringly this is more or less what was said. The speech is up on the LP website.

Take the 75 per cent of budgetary adjustment:

But we can also be clear about the path ahead. As I set out earlier, 75 per cent of the budgetary adjustment we have to do is behind us. And the budget is only one part of the picture. We are working towards a deal on our bank debt. We are implementing our plan to help people climb out from under unsustainable mortgage debt, and we are pushing ahead with a series of measures to tackle unemployment – from a stimulus plan from Brendan Howlin, to a radical reform of employment services from Joan Burton, to a major overhaul of further education and training from Ruairi Quinn.

And the exit from the IMF programme and tough budgets?

By pushing ahead now, it means that by the time the Government is roughly half way through its term, we can exit the IMF programme, and people can be confident that the long series of difficult budgets has finally come to an end. By keeping a clear focus on our economic reform agenda, we can position the economy for growth and better living standards, and influence the future shape of our society.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m no genius when it comes to math, but roughly half way through its term is next near enough this time next year. That suggests he thinks that this budget we face is the last tough one?

Hmmmm… http://notesonthefront.typepad.com/politicaleconomy/2012/01/the-government-in-signing-the-fiscal-treaty-has-effectively-committed-itself-to-introducing-up-to-6-billion-in-tax-incre.html

I don’t know. A lot of hostages to fortune there. But moreover there’s also what seems to be a masterclass of hope over actuality. The idea that we’re close to an end to austerity, that there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and so on – even if I just list off the measures yet to be implemented from water and household charges to further cuts in expenditure to a still plummeting housing market, is so far from the reality that it’s difficult to know what to make of it.

And on the party political side Shortall’s resignation shows up at the very least a gap between the actuality and rhetoric as regards implementation of Labour’s self-designated values (and more on them later). A very large gap indeed. Or could it be that Shortall heard the speech and wasn’t convinced?

BTW, for anyone interested in the actual effects of cutting allowances in the PS on the deficit, read here…

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Comments»

1. irspstrabane - September 28, 2012

Gilmore is a fantasist clutching at straws. The Labour party are finished, they have abandoned any semblance of the left. Irish Labour are a utter disgrace and have fallen foul of another Gilmore greedy coalition power trip with the right. Any leadership challenge, even from any lowly TD, has the potential to split Labour in two. The legacy of the Greens and the PDs must gaunt Gilmore’s dreams as he is on a historical collision course with their destiny.

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2. EWI - September 28, 2012

But we can also be clear about the path ahead. As I set out earlier, 75 per cent of the budgetary adjustment we have to do is behind us. And the budget is only one part of the picture. We are working towards a deal on our bank debt. We are implementing our plan to help people climb out from under unsustainable mortgage debt, and we are pushing ahead with a series of measures to tackle unemployment – from a stimulus plan from Brendan Howlin, to a radical reform of employment services from Joan Burton, to a major overhaul of further education and training from Ruairi Quinn.

I’m slightly confused here. Is E. Gilmore referring to Labour’s priorities or to FG’s? I don’t see anything here that couldn’t be FG policy beneath the euphemistic words.

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3. greengoddess2 - September 28, 2012

WBS, what does the ” usual caveats” mean re Phoenix? A well thought out post . Matt Coopers piece in the Examiner today is the stuff of sleepless nights too

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Tiny sect on the fringes of the labour movement - September 28, 2012

I’m sure what it means: but I’d worry about praise from that quarter- they tend to turn pretty quickly on those they praise.

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greengoddess2 - September 28, 2012

Something to look forward too!

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4. LeftAtTheCross - September 28, 2012

“By pushing ahead now, it means that by the time the Government is roughly half way through its term, we can exit the IMF programme…”

Interesting that Gilmore references the IMF rather than the Troika. Is it simply that “the programme” is legally an IMF one, or is it that he is being a good European and reluctant to associate the EU / ECB with the damage falling out of the programme? Or is he covering his arse and separating the finite duration IMF-austerity from the ever-lasting EU/ECB-austerity, so that he can’t be held over what he said in that speech come the next election? Maybe I’m getting cynical.

I scanned the speech until I came to the bit where he said “As Will Hutton puts it, successful economies are built on…”, at which point I gave up. For my sins I’ve been reading Hutton’s “The Writing On The Wall China and the West in the 21st Century” (I have an excuse, I picked it up cheaply in a 2nd hand bookshop!) and while I won’t go as far as saying that the book is woeful, because actually it’s quite readable, if fundamentally wrong, I will say though that it is a great example of why social democracy has failed to assert itself in the face of the crisis. And if Gilmore is using Hutton as his guiding light then it certainly doesn’t offer much reassurance that Labour has much of an understanding of the structural difficulties facing the economy and society. But we know that anyway from the empirical evidence.

The CLP’s policy platform contains good mootherhood and apple pie stuff. It would be progress if the LP could be turned in that direction from within. Clearly one can’t expect that to happen anytime soon, but there is much to like, from reputiation of the debt through investment in state enterprise, state exploitation of natural resources, rebalancing the tax system to tax wealth etc. Of course the devil is always in the detail, but these are the types of measures that the further Left also tick as boxes in their rhetoric around alternatives to the neo-liberal status quo. They are the sort of measures that one could envisage a social democratic SF finding easy to agree with, or even a mass-party ULA perhaps at a stretch if it wasn’t dominated by the SP/SWP. Certainly one might want more than what is contained in the CLP proposals, but as baby steps go in the journey leftwards, well it’s a start. All of the above said in my continuing post-summer mood of generosity of spirit and goodwill.

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5. Tomboktu - September 29, 2012

Am I right in thinking that the last time a political party had this many TDs off the whip, a new party was formed?

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WorldbyStorm - September 29, 2012

We need IELB on the case. Could be though. I was talking to someone associated with one of the whipless TDs yesterday who couldn’t think of another LP TD who might jump ship any time soon, and yet… six months ago I doubt Shortall would have been high up the list of potential refugees.

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6. Tomboktu - September 30, 2012

Joan Burton’s defence of Eamonn Gilmore’s lack of support for Roisín Shortall — on the Marian Finucane radio programme this morning — creates more questions than it answers. Gilmore, she told us, has to look to the national interest first. On what basis does allowing a cabinet minister engage in stroke politics — adding locations ahead of others with greater merit by the criteria that had been agreed but with his supporters in place to lobby for them — consitute the national interest?

Left and Right differ deeply on what is or ought to be the national interest — that is why there is a Left and Right. But in theory they do agree that politics is not for the personal benefit of those in power. Labour’s Joan Burton has just dismissed that, even as a pretence.

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EamonnCork - September 30, 2012

If you believe that ‘the national interest’ is best served by you being in power then you’re justified to do almost anything, and sacrifice any principle, to remain in office. I think this time honoured theory of Irish Politics is what’s being invoked by Joan Burton here. It has the great advantage of making self interest look like self sacrifice.

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WorldbyStorm - September 30, 2012

“Left and Right differ deeply on what is or ought to be the national interest — that is why there is a Left and Right.”

Couldn’t agree more. That’s what’s so pernicious about this ‘national interest’ line, and it ties in with other stuff I’ve heard about ‘putting aside politics’ for the crisis.

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7. More on that Carton House speech from Eamon Gilmore… « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - October 2, 2012

[...] democracy and social democratic formations over the last while (which in a sense Tomboktu joined here, and more on that later in the week). Just a few comments here and there where we’ve been trying [...]

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