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An… independent… an independent… Alliance! June 3, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
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One can almost see the lightbulbs flashing above the heads of those who thought up the latest cunning wheeze from the Reform Alliance camp. Let’s be honest, the latter formation (if that is too kind a word for it) isn’t exactly popular. The RDS shindig demonstrated that while there may indeed be those who are keen on reform, the RA’s USP was largely focused around the issue of abortion, or rather no abortion.

And it seems that lacking any genuinely charismatic figures (none even on the scale of that empathic titan Dessie O’Malley in the late 1980s, I joke, but only just) they are likely to dwindle to yet further insignificance.

So what are they to do?

Someone was looking at the polls, studying the elections and – ta-dah! Here we are presented with an Independent Alliance. Why yes:

Detailed plans for a new party have been drawn up and discussions are taking place with politicians inside and outside the Dáil who are considering joining.

And:

The party, emerging from the group calling itself the Reform Alliance, will publish a policy document on political reform in the coming weeks as the prelude to the formation of the political party later in the year.

And not only but also!

The success of Independents in the recent elections has boosted confidence that the time is ripe for the formation. The party is likely to be called the Independent Alliance.

Now perhaps it is me, but… surely this is a contradiction in terms, a party that is ‘Independent’? I’d tend to the view that any such ‘party’ is likely to founder on the rocks of the sentiment for… yes, that’s right… independents. Any possible independents who might join will be faced with a problem, that they were elected as independents and that there is a massive sentiment against political parties. Perhaps this Alliance will transcend that, but I’d bet that most independent TDs (though not all) will tend to err on the side of caution.

Moreover, and this is even more problematic on a long term basis, what particularly new does this putative IA bring to the feast?

The group is keen not to become overly identified with the anti-abortion issue and it will not be central to the policy of a new party. Instead Ms Creighton and her colleagues intend to make freedom of conscience on moral issues a central plank of its policy platform.
Sources in the movement say the new party will adopt a liberal economic agenda emphasising budgetary discipline and free market policies, along with a commitment not to apply the party whip on issues of conscience.

All good stuff, if that’s your political inclination, but not a million miles away from either FF or FG. Moreover the free whip is near enough irrelevant because the RA in the sort of numbers it could expect – say the current core group (possibly shorn of a Flanagan or whoever) plus one or two extra TDs or Senators isn’t likely to be faced with anything that will massively exercise them in that regard any time soon, or more importantly depend upon them in that respect voting wise.

Nor is it likely to appeal to the left of centre Independents who it is said have their own plans fermenting (though they might not want to let that go on too long either, time is a passing).

There’s also another problem. Look at their much vaunted plans for ‘reform’.

The document on political reform due to be published this month will detail how the whip system should be changed.
It will also advocate fundamental changes in the way governments are formed, with strict time limits on how long ministers can serve in cabinet.
The document will propose that ministers should automatically leave the cabinet after serving one full term plus two years.

And:

It will also suggest that politicians’ pay should be capped and then linked to the pay of ordinary PAYE workers.
It will propose the abolition of pensions to the taoiseach and members of the government, with all former politicians being entitled to draw only a TD’s pension.

Now, it’s one thing to position yourself in opposition to the orthodoxy, whether entirely or in part, but quite another to position yourself effectively within the orthodoxy, because the truth is that all those policy positions could be – with some degree of tweaking – sit more than comfortably on an FF and FG policy platform, or indeed that of the current incarnation of the LP. In other words if this document sees the light of day expect it to be ransacked liberally by the government.

That’s the thing, the biggest problem that faces the RA is that in truth far from providing an ‘alternative’ at most it provides a diversion. Entertaining for us. Problematic in a small way for the government, but fundamentally no challenge at all to anyone or anything.

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Comments»

1. BB - June 3, 2014

Spot on, I think. Still, for some it will inevitably be a case of a one foot in and one foot out approach for a while yet.

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WorldbyStorm - June 3, 2014

And they will be waiting to see if it catches fire, so to speak!

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irishelectionliterature - June 3, 2014

Cutting Politicians Pensions (and Ministerial Pensions) was one of the initial policies of the Progressive Democrats …… died a death when they got into office though.

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2. The Big Bang Theory | An Sionnach Fionn - June 4, 2014

[…] Where there is a circus there are always some clowns. From the CLR: […]

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3. sonofstan - June 4, 2014

Won’t work for the same reason the ULA didn’t work; in Ireland, once you’ve been elected as an independent or once you’ve left a party and established yourself as ‘a lone voice’, the electoral value associated with that far outweighs any advantage that might accrue from being in a party. A party in the ascendent helps unknowns and newbies get elected – Labour in 92 and 11, SF now – but is of limited help to already established vote winners, and, obviously when in a tailspin, a real hindrance to getting elected – witness FF in ’11, Labour now.

Until there is some actual incentive for independents to join a party, we’ll continue as we are, both on the right and left, and with a steadily shrinking collection of ‘main’ parties dividing the actual business of running stuff while representing a smaller and smaller fraction of the electorate – but continuing to get enough seats to do so, because, while the system favours indies to a certain extent, the transferable vote, as it transfers, dissipates the independent share and rewards parties disproportionately (not hugely, as in FPTP, but enough)

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4. ivorthorne - June 4, 2014

But isn’t the point of the RA to further the careers of its members and not so much to grow a new political party or further an ideological agenda.

Many of the RA members are hoping that the numbers will fall kindly for them in the next Dail and that as a result, they will be in a position to get a couple of Minister jobs in exchange for propping up a FG government. At that point, those members would probably be happy to re-join FG.

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WorldbyStorm - June 4, 2014

Yep, can’t disagree with that analysis of yours.

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5. RosencrantzisDead - June 4, 2014

The freedom of conscience bit is interesting. A careful way to de-politicize ‘social issues’ (whether a woman has any control over her body; whether two people can get married) by framing it as encrochment on a ‘freedom’. Who dares oppose freedom?

And the religious conservatives, currently beset on all sides by effete liberals, will see that this is the platform from which they can make increasingly difficult demands on society. The next trick will be to pressure the still Catholic run hospitals to act ‘in accordance with their ethos’ and refuse to carry out terminations. Who could be against such demand?

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BB - June 4, 2014

This is so true. And isn’t the ‘freedom of conscience bit’ a handy manoeuvre to attract in those economic conservatives who wax liberal on social issues?

In answer to your question “Who could be against such demand?” I would say those forces who could — and who should — argue for separation of church and state. I would draw a distinction, however, when an individual is requested to perform a termination. Despite being a Pro-Choicer, I deem it necessary to respect the right of individuals not to perform activities that are abhorrent to them. That could be easily done anyway, while demanding that hospitals facilitate termination procedures generally too.

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WorldbyStorm - June 4, 2014

+1

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6. Independents… | The Cedar Lounge Revolution - June 4, 2014

[…] Isn’t it interesting how close all this seems to the latest stuff emanating from the Reform Al… One wonders if he was tipped off about the latest ‘developments’? […]

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