‘Another context’ redux October 23, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
Those of who have wondered whether Colm Keaveney’s doings in the last while were a case of poacher turned gamekeeper in regard to his relationship with the LP leadership will find a piece in the Phoenix quite interesting on the same matter. Oddly enough it dovetails with the piece here this week on government formation in light of the latest polling data – or perhaps that should be government deformation.
Anyhow, the Phoenix noting that Keaveney, who appeared at one point to be Public Enemy #1 to the LP leadership when elected as LP chairman, produced a remarkably emollient email on the matter of the resignation of Róisín Shortall wherein he appeared to exonerate the leadership from blame in the matter and wrote darkly of ‘another context’ which one E. Gilmore had been unable to speak of publicly in terms of explaining said resignation.
I’ve already noted one explanation for the latter turn of phrase, but the Phoenix offers another. It suggests that above and beyond the general noise about Croke Park, and an ‘increasingly aggressive’ tone from FG back benchers towards Labour, an editorial in the Irish Independent last month ‘put the fear of God into not just Gilmore but also Siptu’.
And that editorial? It lambasted LP TDs for irresponsibility in the ‘face of the crisis’ and suggested that ‘Kenny has the numbers in the Dáil’ to go it alone without Labour. The Phoenix suggests that Keaveney’s SIPTU connection (he’s an union official with them on secondment) is in part responsible for the new tone of this communications because…
SIPTU is aghast at the prospect, however theoretical, of the Blueshirts – rampant with a throng of Thatcherite TDs who regard Kenny and Hogan as ‘wets’ – going it alone with the Labour hand brake off.
And the Independent threat is one where FG would either rule with Independents – and names suggest themselves – or call a snap election which would weaken the LP decisively.
It could happen. No doubt about it. And yet. And yet. Consider the current dispensation – FG on 74, LP on 34, FF on 19, SF on 14, Independents and others 19 with 1 extra for the Ceann Comhairle and 5 LP/FG dissidents. Fine Gael would need 84 to have a majority. And that would be 1 vote. So in real terms it would need to find 10 extra votes to govern without Labour.
The current crop of Independents is, as the Irish Times has noted – ‘left leaning’. Of those who are not there is Lowry (difficult to use him, but not impossible), Fleming, Healy-Rae, Grealish, Naughten (if he were to return to the fold and that’s an open question), Mattie McGrath, Donnelly, Ross and… er… that’s it. Would Healy-Rae support an FG government, would Fleming? Perhaps, but it’s unlikely enough.
That would still leave them two short and two short of the slenderest of majorities with an opposition that would be united in one thing and one thing alone, tipping them out of power. Is it seriously likely that a ‘Thatcherite’ FG could call on Murphy, F. McGrath, Ming, etc? And that’s who they’d have to reach out to next.
Or what about Fianna Fáil in some sort of confidence and supply process. Does FG really want to throw a lifeline (of sorts) to FF in its currently parlous state? And would FF want to take that lifeline thereby solidifying it as some sort of a junior partner?
Moreover, is Kenny the sort of leader who would take such a risk? His political career thus far has been characterised by an steady as it goes approach – and the two areas where he has deviated significantly from that, his ferocious fight-back over the leadership and the abolition of the Seanad are notable precisely because they’re so exceptional. And while from outside the bubble his star seems to be descending and fairly rapidly from inside it he remains the man who brought FG within a whisker of an overall majority and beat FF down into an electoral pulp.
So again, it’s possible. But once one sits down to work it out it begins to look less and less feasible.
A Fine Gael that calls a snap election? Interesting. Interesting, but problematic in the extreme. The current figures for FG are nowhere near the sunny uplands that greeted them in early 2011 at the last General Election (and more on that in the next day or so). One would think they are almost certainly going to lose seats – particularly if there is something of a reconsolidation of the FF vote (this is tricky for FG because it means the centre-right area they currently dominate is going to have to be shared – and it also has implications for transfers).
The analysis of Keaveney’s position in the Phoenix may be complete cobblers, but we’ll many of us have heard apologia’s for the LP’s participation in government that are not a million miles from that offered above. And the possibility that the Independent ‘threat’ is indicative of a broader sentiment in FG is not unrealistic.
That said it is easy to sit and write an Independent editorial making assertions that are – well, just a little bit detached from reality. But really, at this point in time and for quite some time it seems to me that the FG/LP coalition is the only game in town on that side of the political fence, and perhaps FG might be wise to not be quite so chipper about their own position in all this. Granted they look well set to be in the next government, but short of yet another catastrophe (and granted that’s not as unlikely as it might once have seemed) that won’t be as a majority administration. But that also means that there’s no point either in overstating the situation from an LP point of view.
In a way all this seems to me to be nothing so much as passing the blame around. It’s not entirely dissimilar to the rhetoric that underpinned the last coalition, one where we kept hearing about how the situation had been forced upon them. Maybe so, but it’s amazing – is it not, how in politics formations that have genuine agency will do all they can once they achieve some measure of power to project an appearance of the opposite.