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Capturing the narrative March 26, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics.
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William Keegan in the Observer has some useful thoughts here on how the Tories have managed to shift and indeed capture of the narrative on the roots of the economic crisis are worth considering. He notes that:

The coalition would have it that it was excessive public spending by New Labour that produced what they like to call “the mess they inherited”. So far they have been getting away with blue murder in propagating this interpretation of events. By their logic, excessive public spending by the Labour party was responsible for the sharp increase in budget deficits throughout the western world. Sadly they have managed to fool quite a lot of the people quite a lot of the time; but I still hope that their shameless bluff will eventually be called.

But as he says:

It was the temporary collapse of the financial system that caused the budgetary crisis – successive British governments, for instance, had relied too heavily on revenues from the City; and since the crisis the consequences for the City of London have affected both budgetary revenue and the so-called “invisible” earnings previously relied upon to offset the chronic deficit on our overseas trade.

And he continues:

It is now widely accepted that policymakers in the advanced industrial countries “lost the plot” during the years that preceded the onset in 2007-08 of the worst economic depression since the 1930s.

What is remarkable is that the Tory led government is far from loved. Very far from it. Despite fluctuating polling data the Labour lead remains extant (albeit narrowed in recent days) and has done so broadly speaking throughout the lifetime of the current parliament – the always useful UK Polling Report provides a sensible antidote to headlines (not least in the Guardian and Observer themselves of the parties being neck and neck). http://ukpollingreport.co.uk
Nor is this the most competent incarnation of the Tories, let alone of a government.
And yet somehow it has managed to rewrite history, to in a sense localise the parameters of the argument so that the genuinely global events of the period from 2008 onwards (and of course before that in terms of the underlying dynamics) are ignored almost entirely. How can that be? How can it plausibly be suggested that the collapse of tranches of the international financial sector was somehow separate and distinct from the British experience? Perhaps it is a question of attributing blame, in that Labour acquiesced to that sector. Or to put it slightly differently, Labour is blamed for the wrong crime.

As to ‘austerity’, Keegan is scathing:

We are promised yet more years of austerity by a chancellor whose “plan” to eliminate the deficit has so far patently failed. No wonder the budget was replete with diversionary announcements – the principal one, of course, being the decision to free new pensioners from the constraints of low yields on annuities.

That failure by Osborne is curiously unremarked. That too appears to be a case of the capture of the narrative.

SV from the CPOI – March edition March 9, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in European Politics, Irish Politics, The Left, Uncategorized.
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Layout 1

It can be viewed online here.

Table of contents:

Vulture capitalists eye Irish homes [NL]
James Reilly’s plenary indulgence [TMK]
The Victorious General
Give us bread and roses too
Social media: Whose interests do they serve? [EON]
Lions led by donkeys [NOM]
Is Monsanto poisoning us? [TMS]

They haven’t gone away, you know! [FK]
United States and European Union launch their destabilisation strategy [EMC]
Did Mandela really change South Africa? [TOM]
Venezuela: A difficult year without Hugo Chávez [SE]
Media watch
Creating a shared future: Winning the Shankill? [TR]
Letter: Creating a shared future

From the lead article:

Vulture capitalists eye Irish homes
A number of mortgage books have already been sold to unregulated private equity companies or hedge funds, mostly American; but in the proposed sales of the IBRC residential book (13,000 former INBS mortgages) we are looking at the largest sale ever of mortgages to unregulated vulture capitalists . . . What does this mean for mortgage-holders?

Unusual comparisons… March 8, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in European Politics, Irish Politics.
6 comments

…# 45,673

The arrival of two leading Ukrainian politicians in Dublin to plead with European Union leaders for meaningful action to prevent a Russian takeover of their country put the simultaneous debate about Ireland’s legacy bank debt into perspective. Whatever the outcome of the Government’s effort to secure a more favourable deal on the debt, our problems look like small potatoes compared with those facing Ukraine.

People’s Party March 6, 2014

Posted by doctorfive in European Politics.
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eppps

Meet the new economic boss… March 5, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics.
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…same as the old boss.

The EU will confirm that, following the end of its EU-IMF bailout, Ireland is now subject to two review missions a year until 75 per cent of the State’s bailout loans are paid back – a period that could last for decades. The last ESM loan is scheduled to be repaid in 2042.

Swedish polling and politics running up to general election 2014 March 2, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in European Politics, The Left.
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Here are the first couple of paragraphs from the new site Liberius has set up in order to explore polling, politics and other topics in greater detail. Many thanks to Liberius for this.


In the first of a series of planned articles on opinion polling and politics around Europe, I’ll examine the polling and political situation in Sweden during the period of January 2012 through to January 2014.
1. Political overview

In the aftermath of the Swedish General election of 2010 the Riksdag(Swedish Parliament) was divided amongst eight distinct parties and three distinct camps. These parties included amongst them the following:

Sveriges Socialdemokratiska arbetarparti(Swedish Social Democratic Workers’ Party, SAP, [2010 Result:30.66%,112 seats]) – (Electorally as: Arbetarepartiet-Socialdemokraterna)
Moderata samlingspartiet (Moderate Party, M, [2010 Result:30.06%,107 seats])
Miljöpartiet de Gröna (Green Party, MP, [2010 Result:7.34%,25 seats])
Folkpartiet Liberalerna (Liberal People’s Party, FP, [2010 Result:7.06%,24 Seats])
Centerpartiet (Centre Party, C, [2010 Result:6.56%,23 Seats])
Sverigedemokraterna (Sweden Democrats, SD, [2010 Result:5.70%,20 Seats])
Vänsterpartiet (Left Party, VP, [2010 Result:5.60%,20 Seats])
Kristdemokraterna (Christian Democrats, KD, [2010 Result:5.60%,19 Seats])[1][2]

The Moderate Party, Centre Party, Liberal People’s Party and Christian Democrats together form the Alliansen, which is the current governing bloc in Sweden, and control a collective total of 173 of the 349 seats in the Riksdag; they, as can be seen, were short of the majority point of 175 seats. In opposition to the Alliansen is De rödgröna, an alliance of the Social Democrats, Green Party and Left Party; De rödgröna controls 156 seats in the Riksdag. The third camp in the Riksdag are the Far-right Sweden Democrats who, owing to their perceived extremism, are without any allies in the Riksdag so sit alone with the 20 seats.
2. Electoral system overview

In Sweden, the electoral system is an open party list with 310 seats divided amongst 29 constituencies, based for the most part on the counties of Sweden but with the larger counties being split up into smaller units. On top of the constituency seats there are 39 adjustment seats at national level, which are divided amongst the parties based both on the total number of votes received nationally and the amount of seats won at constituency level. Allocation of seats at all levels is determined according to the modified Sainte-Laguë method, a form of highest averages method not too dissimilar to D’hondt, but widely recognised in its unmodified form to be ‘fairer’ than D’hondt; in its modified form it performs much the same as D’hondt. Parties are subject to two different sets of ‘thresholds’ during an election to the Riksdag; a 4% threshold applies nationally which, if achieved, entitles parties to participate in the distribution of seats at both the constituency level and the national adjustment level, and a 12% threshold applies at the constituency level for parties not reaching the 4% national threshold, if this is achieved, a party is entitled to participate in the seat distribution for that constituency[3].

The LP meets. They may be feeling good. Why? February 17, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics, The Left.
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Was Harry McGee being mischievous at the Labour Party’s expense this weekend, was his tongue firmly planted in cheek when he wrote this column, was he, to put it bluntly, having a laugh? Because how else to interpret a piece that examined the situation of the LP as it had a one day conference which started with the idea that while last year it had a ‘miserable performance’ in the Meath East by-election and ‘a string’ of defections…

…the party seems to have recovered some of its support and – more importantly – some of those vital but hard-to-grasp qualities: morale and purpose.

It sounds good for Labour, doesn’t it? Except no particular evidence is offered to sustain this idea of increased support, or even moral and purpose, well bar Ruairi Quinn being quoted as saying that while he ‘stops short of saying the party has turned a corner’ he does however ‘accept a recovery of sorts is underway’. And… that’s that!

Has there been a new poll indicating revived fortunes for the LP? Not exactly, the Paddy Power RedC poll last month had them at 10%, down 2% on the previous one. The RedC SBP poll of the 26th of January had the LP on 9% (down 3). Sure, the SI/Millward Brown Poll from that same day had the LP up 3% on 12%. At best one could say that there’s conflicting signals – albeit tilted towards bad news for the party, more realistically that the weight of evidence suggests a weakening of the LPs position.

But mood and morale, always somewhat intangible, what evidence is there to support this good feeling?

Some of those who voted for the party in 2011 will never return because of perceptions of broken promises and failures to strike a match to thrown onto certain bonfires. That said, its successes on abortion legislation, on the promissory note (though may turn out to be less than the sum of its parts) and the exit of the Troika may have persuaded enough of its traditional supporters to return.

‘May’? Not the stuff of recoveries, that. And yet McGee argues that:

…the atmosphere at its one-day conference in Enfield, Co Meath [will be], if not buoyant, a whole lot better than last year

Yet again, where’s the evidence for same, or rather they may be in a good mood, but for what reason, because then McGee goes and spoils it all by pointing to the problems ahead.

For example:

To be sure, recovery or not, both sets of elections in May are going to be very tough nuts for the party to crack. Labour’s historic average vote is a little over 10 per cent. It did very well in 2009 getting some 15 per cent of the vote (though it fell short of its exceptional performance in 2011). However, opinion polls show that the party is struggling to get into double digits in terms of popular support.

As if that’s not bad enough, how’s this?

In the local elections in 2009, it became the biggest party in four councils, Dublin City, Fingal, Dublin South and Galway. It is very unlikely to remain as the biggest party on any of those councils and is likely to see both its percentage and seat-share slide.

He presents a ray of light, a gleam in the dark, a flicker at the end of the tunnel…

The one consolation is that with the local government reforms – and the abolition of town councils – the actual number of full local authority seats will increase.

Only to…er…extinguish it immediately.

That said, Labour will struggle to retain the seats it held and may see it slipping into third or even fourth place on those councils.

Feeling gloomy about the LP’s prospects (or elated at same if you’re antagonistic to all their pomps and works)? You should if you’re reading the rest of his analysis:

The picture for the European elections is grim. The party won three seats in 2009. Two of its MEPs subsequently stood down and the two substitute MEPs Emer Costello and Phil Prendergast, don’t enjoy the same profile. In addition, another of its elected MEPs Nessa Childers, elected in the extinct East constituency, will be standing as an independent in Dublin.

And then he bundles it together and adds in a masterpiece of understatement:

The falling support for the party, plus the slightly lower profile of its candidates, will see the party struggle to retain any of its European parliament seats. So the messages will be slightly mixed. The party is more comfortable in its own skin in Government than it was until now. Yet it knows that the elections will provide it with another uncomfortable challenge.

The message will be slightly mixed?

In fairness to McGee, the rhetoric emanating from the conference was pretty odd in its own way, try this for size from Gilmore:

“We have done it,’’ he said. “If politics is the art of the possible, then Labour is the specialist in doing the impossible and let us do it again.’’

I think I know what he’s getting at, but… I’m not sure it scans the way it was intended. Or perhaps it does – who can say?

And then there’s another curious outbreak of unwarranted confidence:

We have shown that over the past three years and I am confident we will show it again in the forthcoming local and European elections,’’ he added.

[Gilmore] said Labour in Government had prevented tougher cuts being made, even if the party had “taken political risks with the choices we have made”.

Labour had made sure a “threshold of decency” was maintained, and will continue to do so to “make sure nobody is left behind”.

One doesn’t know where to begin in deconstructing that given the measures actually implemented by this government in the past three or so years. So I’ll leave it to others.

Whip system February 9, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, European Politics, Irish Politics, The Left.
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Reading about the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis, and very interesting it is too – and well worth returning to during the week ahead, I was struck by the debate on SF taking a position on a free vote on abortion. In essence it boiled down to whether the party could or should take a position which its representatives had to abide by. I’ve no problem with the latter, on any issue. More broadly I dislike intensely the idea – for example – that there are some issues which are ‘conscience’ votes and others, usually on matters economic, which are not. The very public spectacle of politicians wrestling with the former and waving through the latter is deeply unattractive.

To my mind, party discipline alone as well as communicating a coherent position – even if others disagree or find that position inadequate – requires a degree of acceptance of central positions democratically legitimised.

Anyhow:

Meath West TD Peadar Toíbín, newly returned to the parliamentary party after losing the whip by voting last year against the party’s position on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill, supported the motion.

Mr Toibin said it was the last debate he wanted to have on his first week back in the fold.

“I’d rather nearly wear a Dublin jersey on the streets of Navan at 3 o’clock in the morning. But the motion is there and I believe in it with all my heart.”

But he said “the whip system in Ireland is an oddity, exists nowhere else in western democracy. It’s illegal in some and anti-constitutional in others.”

Is it though? Not so sure about that.

Just on the debate, this from Mary Lou McDonald gets to the heart of it:

“we cannot accept as a political party that we would not have a considered policy position on the matter”.

She said “we have to be in a position, notwithstanding the diversity of view and the passion within our ranks, to come to a considered view, and we have done that on this issue. The issue of protecting a woman’s life is not just a conscience issue, it’s a public health issue, it’s a social policy issue as is the issue of abortion itself.

About Europe January 23, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in European Politics, Irish Politics, The Left.
37 comments

This may have got lost in the news before Christmas, but the People’s Movement had an interesting poll run on their behalf by RedC on attitudes towards the European Union. Commissioned by the EU Democrats it had two major findings.

Patricia McKenna said it was notable that despite two referendum campaigns 69% of Irish people were still unaware of the most significant political change introduced by the Lisbon Treaty – which is that voting in the all powerful EU Council of Ministers will move to a population- based system giving a huge increase in voting power to the big states at the expense of small states like Ireland. In 2014 Ireland will see its vote more than halved to less than 1% while Germany will see its vote doubled to 16%.

And:

[the] finding that 72% of Irish people would be resistant to any cuts in pay, social welfare or pensions to ensure the survival of the euro currency should provide a strong health warning to any further plans by government for continued austerity measures. It is significant to note that despite Irish people’s current attachment to the euro a large majority will resist any further pain to ensure its survival. Clearly Irish people’s generosity will only stretch so far. The Irish taxpayer has already paid a high price for the euro’s survival. It is now a well known fact that in order to protect the euro
project the EU and ECB put pressure on the Irish government to provided the infamous 2008 blanket guarantee for all loans by Irish banks thus ensuring that these debts were transferred onto the backs of the Irish taxpayer.

And:

People’s Movement member Kevin McCorry pointed out that while Irish public opinion appears polarised in terms how concerned they believe the ECB is with Irish interests, the findings overall show a slight majority (52%) of people have little or no confidence in the ECB’s ability to take account of Irish interests. He said this is a significant finding, in that the main EU institution controlling the economies of all euro-zone countries including Ireland attracts little public confidence from Irish people. Furthermore, it highlights yet again the serious democratic deficit at the heart of the EU structure because even if 100% of people distrusted the ECB it would be irrelevant as there is no mechanism to hold this vital decision- making institution to account.

It’s interesting to contextualise that with the following from the avowedly pro-EU European Movement poll by RedC run last year about attitudes to EU membership itself:

The large majority of the Irish Population believe that Ireland should remain as part of the EU (85%) , and on balance believe that Ireland has benefited from being a member of the EU (83%).

Clearly, given the polling data referenced above that latter isn’t an unnuanced view where the Irish population simply takes as read that all things EU are positive. Indeed there’s one other finding from the EM poll which is worth considering:

Almost half of all adults in Ireland claim that they think of themselves as both Irish and European, with a further 6% stating they see themselves as European only. However the remainder 47% see themselves as Irish Only.

Looking at the figures a slightly different story emerges. The actual figures are 45% consider themselves Irish and European, 47% Irish alone and 6% as European. Close enough to 50/50. In a way such a blunt delineation of identity is curious.

By the way, the PM’s publication “People’s News” is available here and contains the following:

 
 
Peoples News issue no. 97 Date: 12 – 1 – 14
 
Table of Contents
 
P 1 . Peoples Movement/ Red C poll – lack of public awareness of changes in EU decision making process and strong public resistance to pay more for survival of Euro
P  2.  A Gallup survey published las week shows that affection for the EU has slumped in Ireland. 
 
P 3 . Chopra’s lessons; It is unfair to impose the burden of supporting banks on taxpayers when senior bondholders get paid out. Euro zone partners stopped the Irish from imposing haircuts on senior bondholders.
 
P  3. Conclusions of the European Council (19/20 December 2013) – Welcome to NATO!!
 
P  3. Will Irish troops support French ambitions in Africa?
 
P  5. A campaign for the European Union to become a “United States of Europe” will be the “best weapon against the Eurocritics,” according to Viviane Reding, vice president of the European Commission.
 
P 5 . Latvians less than pleased! On January 1st last, Latvia became the eighteenth country to join the euro zone. 
 
P  6. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Bavarian sister party, the Christian-Social Union (CSU), plans to call for fewer EU commissioners and less new EU legislation in next year’s European Parliament elections.
 
P  7. German arms manufacturers paid millions in bribes to induce Athens to purchase German weaponry, worth several billion Euros.
 
P  8. How the security industry is shaping EU legislation – lobbyists in action!

THE PEOPLE’S NEWS contains comment on developments in the EU from an Irish and democratic perspective 

Back issues of the newsletter are available from the website http://www.people.ie
The Peoples Movement blog http://www.irishreferendum.org

Speaking of the formerly social democratic compact… January 15, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics, The Left.
10 comments

…here’s another frontal assault on it. George Osborne in a speech to be delivered today, as reported in the Guardian:

Osborne will say the EU suffers from a chronic lack of competitiveness and that the European economy has stalled over the last six years while the Indian economy has grown by a third and the Chinese economy by 50%.

And:

He will say: “Make no mistake, our continent is falling behind. Look at innovation, where Europe’s share of world patent applications nearly halved in the last decade. Look at unemployment, where a quarter of young people looking for work can’t find it.

Which leads to this:

Look at welfare.

“As Angela Merkel has pointed out, Europe accounts for just over 7% of the world’s population, 25% of its economy, and 50% of global social welfare spending. We can’t go on like this.”

It’s in the context of the European Union but that in a sense is almost irrelevant because it is the nature of the target, and the specificity of same, which is so apparent.

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