An… independent… an independent… Alliance! June 3, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
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.
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.
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.