After Privatisation December 10, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics, Culture, Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
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Ian Jack in the Guardian on Saturday has a thought-provoking article on the nature of privatisation, how far it can go and just how large the gap between the period before the arrival of Margaret Thatcher and now actually is. He notes that it was Harold Macmillan who introduced the phrase ‘selling the family silver’ in relation to the processes of privatisation, and not in a complimentary fashion, though he later disowned it.
But it is when Jack gets into the detail that the differences between now and then come into sharp focus:
At the time of Macmillan’s speech, privatisation had hardly begun. British Rail’s ferries and hotels were the first to go (how strange it now seems that the best hotels in almost every city outside London were owned and run – usually well – by public servants in the most literal sense). But British Telecom, British Steel, British Airways, British Shipbuilders and Rolls-Royce – all of them listed as targets in the Tories’ 1983 manifesto – had still to complete their journey from the public sector, and the big privatisations that that would affect every household had yet to come. Gas, water, electricity: people puzzled as to how the same stuff flowing through the same pipes and wires could be owned by different companies, and yet somehow it became so in the name of competition. Then came the British Airports Authority and British Rail and large chunks of the Ministry of Defence, while many public institutions such as local authorities and the NHS outsourced much of their activity and shrank sometimes to the role of regulator. Nigel Lawson triumphantly announced “the birth of people’s capitalism”, but many private companies sold out to foreign ownership; others were taken over by private equiteers; others again subsumed into octopus-like businesses such as Serco and G4S, which picked up the contracts for outsourced work ranging from Royal Navy tugboats to nursing assistants.
There are issues, obvious one’s in relation to some of those companies. Rolls-Royce springs to mind, although it was not simply a car manufacturer. The Concorde project from earlier in the 1960s and 1970s likewise. The idea of state funding to ensure Phil Collins et al made it to the United States in jig time was problematic, to put it mildly. But the sheer scope of nationalisation is demonstrated by this list.
And why not. Why shouldn’t the state run hotels or ferries? I’ve always been puzzled too by the idea that a state-owned airline was somehow odd. Semi-state bodies charged with doing so seems eminently sensible in a broad range of areas and with a better understanding of market conditions and so forth what reason is there that such bodies couldn’t turn a penny for the state?
The bizarre nature of attempting to marketise areas, such as public utilities where there was no clear logic to same is underlined by Jack. This wasn’t competition but the pretence of same, and we’ve seen examples of that much closer to home, and one suspects will continue to see more. The chimera of ‘people’s capitalism’ likewise.
Jack offers an excellent quote to sum up these processes:
The words of the novelist and reporter James Meek ring ever truer. “The commodity that makes water and roads and airports valuable to an investor, foreign or otherwise, is the people who have no choice but to use them,” Meek wrote last year in the London Review of Books. “We have no choice but to pay the price the toll keepers charge. We are a human revenue stream; we are being made tenants in our own land, defined by the string of private fees we pay to exist here.”
What is most evident is that we, the citizenry, are coerced into transactional relationships in a myriad of areas – and that often due to an inability of the private sector to live up to its own rhetoric that of necessity means that many are shut out of those relationships in whole or part.
It’s darkly entertaining though to read Jack’s closing thoughts.
But why not take it further and outsource the air force, the army and the navy? Mercenaries from poorer countries would be cheaper, accepting even worse rates of pay than the average British infantryman. Why not outsource the police, given that prison warders are already privatised? Why not outsource the government? It has cut so many parts from itself that it does no more than bleed on its stumps.
Clearly he’s unacquainted with the libertarian right and those who cleave to similar paths albeit using less overt rhetoric. The current Tory project is ever more nakedly about constraining the size and shape of the state, and state provision, in a manner which, in part due to the thinness of the state in the period since Thatcherism, is vastly more easy than it was in 1979 onwards.
That said he does offer the idea of outsourcing the British political class itself, say to the Finns… yeah, that’s not the worst idea.
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Much to his surprise a friends father told him at the weekend how after his speech in the Mansion House in Dublin on the 1st July 1990, Nelson Mandela left his speech with some handwritten notes on it, on the podium……….
Its a fairly nifty thing to have. It was kindly scanned and sent on to me this morning.
Interesting to see the changes made by Mandela such as The mention of the Irish Soccer team and the ‘solidarity with our struggle’.
you’ll have to click on the image to enlarge….
Party polls… December 9, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.
Reading the SBP yesterday, there was a snippet in their back page somewhat flippant ‘Last Post’ column that was interesting. Discussing the European Elections it suggested that ‘the Labour Party has conducted a private poll on its chances of retaining the three Euro seats it won in 2009′. Feels like another world, doesn’t it, 2009?
Anyhow, the SBP report continued with the following, that ‘the results, one hears, were not entirely encouraging. The problem is that one of its MEPs – Nessa Childers – has left the party following an unfortunate sundering of relations. The other two… were not elected in the first place, but rather were replacements when the elected MEPs stood down’. And it argues that their impact on the ‘public’s imagination’ has been low.
It concludes by suggesting that ‘the real danger for Labour is that it will lose them all’.
That all has a ring of truth, though we’ll see. Six or so months yet to go until the European Elections. But more broadly on party polling, presumably all the larger parties are out doing this at this point in the electoral cycle. I often wonder what particular value they have, though something is perhaps better than nothing. Any evidence of other parties conducting such polls? And here’s a question, has anyone ever actually been approached to participate in such a poll either in person or by telephone?
When (political) distinctions are superflous December 8, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
In the newsagent this morning what did I see on the cover of the Irish Mail on Sunday but the news that Fianna Fáil is looking for other TDs to add to their – ahem – success with one C. Keaveney, or to put it another way, ‘high-profile’ recruits. Names bandied about included Peter Mathews who it would appear is not a member of the Reform Alliance, which may come as news to them. Tom Fleming, the indomitable Mattie McGrath and others were mentioned. But there was Stephen Donnelly who was oddly equivocal. Of course a lot depends on how the questions were put, but at least Donnelly put his finger on it, that the differences between FG, FF and the LP were relatively minimal and someone like him would feel comfortable in any of them.
Nelson Mandela – Dunnes Stores anti-apartheid strikers to sign book of condolence at Mansion House in Dublin 5pm Saturday (meeting 4:45pm) December 7, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, South Africa, The Left.
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Many thanks to the person who sent us this:
Nelson Mandela – Dunnes Stores anti-apartheid strikers to sign book of condolence at
Mansion House in Dublin 5pm Saturday (meeting 4:45pm)
Group to include Mary Manning, Karen Gearon (shop steward) and Brendan Archbold (trade union official during strike)
THE DUNNES STORES ANTI-APARTHEID STRIKERS will sign the book of condolence for Nelson Mandela RIP at the Mansion House in Dublin at 5pm on Saturday 7 December.
Amongst the group will be Mary Manning, whose support for the international boycott of produce from the apartheid state by refusing to handle South African produce on 19 July 1984 saw the start of the nearly three-year strike. With Mary will be Karen Gearon (shop steward) and Brendan Archbold (the trade union head office official throughout the dispute), and the other strikers who endured one of Ireland’s longest trade union struggles in solidarity with South Africa’s oppressed.
ELEVEN YOUNG WORKERS (ten women and one man) at the Henry Street, Dublin, branch of Dunnes Stores took a stand against apartheid in on 19 July 1984. They thought it would last two weeks – it went on for two years and nine months.
The strikers – including Mary Manning, Karen Gearon and Brendan Archbold – were held at gunpoint at Johannesburg Airport and deported by South African security police when they flew there in 1985 at the invitation of Nobel Peace Prize winner Bishop Desmond Tutu while Mandela was still in prison. Brendan Archbold quipped at their deportation that the young Dubliners must be “the most dangerous shop workers in the world”.
Strikers Karen Gearon and Michelle Gavin later went to New York to address the United Nations Special Committee Against Apartheid.
The strike only ended when the Irish Government agreed to ban the import of South African fruit and veg until the apartheid regime was overthrown.
Nelson Mandela met almost all of the strikers when he visited Dublin in 1992 except for Mary Manning and Vonnie Munroe, who had emigrated to Australia.
Brendan Archbold also saw Nelson Mandela in 2008 while on a family holiday in South Africa.
Fine Gael and single party government… December 6, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.
Just this week I was talking to someone who suggested that we might hear some unusually sympathetic noises to the the Labour Party from various quarters over the next while, in part because there’s a sense that their weakness is SF’s opportunity. And what’s this in the SBP, but Backroom arguing that:
Fine Gael’s new communications director, Majella Fitzpatrick (ex-Ibec) started work last week in Leinster House. One of her first tasks was probably to make sure that the more voluble members of Fine Gael’s parliamentary party said or did nothing to steal the limelight before or during the Labour Party conference in Killarney this weekend.
And s/he notes how Enda Kenny was out of the country for Gilmore’s big speech. In that respect s/he notes how Kenny has watched with interest previous coalition governments which tussled with the vagaries of party positioning – not least Labour and FG themselves. Backroom points to the 1997 Election which s/he claims saw Bruton ‘swallow hard’ as he attempted to keep the LP content in government. Though the parties went on to lose the election, and while FG did alright, LP faltered badly. Backroom doesn’t suggest why that might be though. A couple of thoughts come to mind, not least that under Ahern Fianna Fáil presented a more populist, and more engaged alternative than the LP and FG together.
Interestingly s/he argues that:
They want to be re-elected in 2016, something Fine Gael has never done. So the party has a vested interest in helping Labour recover, at least a little bit, so the two parties can be re-elected together. Fine Gael’s main interest is to ensure that Labour holds enough seats at the next election to put the government back together. If this means swallowing hard here and there on either policy or pork-barrel local political projects, so be it.
The logic is curious. If Bruton did his best in 1997 and Labour failed to win sufficient seats, then why would Kenny expend energy on an LP that appears much much more damaged politically than it was back then? Or perhaps it is that in terms of government formation for FG to return to government their preferred option remains the FG/LP coalition than others which might be a lot less congenial. To put it another way, there’s no other choice really. Even if that seems like a long shot, and on current polling figures it would have to be seen as such. Adrian Kavanagh’s extrapolation of the most recent RedC/SBP poll which saw a slight LP improvement, albeit within the margin of error, suggested the following outcome:
Fianna Fail 40, Fine Gael 60, Sinn Fein 20, Labour 16, 0, Independents, Green Party and Others 22.
In a 158 Dáil that would mean 80 odd was the figure necessary to reach. That would leave FG and Labour four or five seats beneath that. Of course there are like-minded folk of both left and right amongst the Independents, but…
The fevered few who speculated before the last election that Fine Gael might get an overall majority have packed that dream away. While some in Fine Gael occasionally like to point out when Labour irritates them too much that Fine Gael could always form the next government with Fianna Fáil, few in either party consider it as a preferred option.
I think that is sensible of FG. Their poll figures have been on the slide now for years. Though in fairness they are the one force to remain consistently strong and in or around their current place. Kavanagh argues, convincingly, that the only genuinely stable configuration at this point in the polls would be an FG/FF option. Small wonder FG might be more keen to hope for the best with Labour.
This Week At Irish Election Literature December 6, 2013Posted by irishelectionliterature in Irish Election Literature Blog, Irish Politics.
Given the passing of Nelson Mandela some Irish Anti Apartheid Movement Posters And Flyers
On then to next years Local Elections…
A leaflet introducing James Coughlan of The Workers’ Party to voters of the Cork North West Ward
“Introducing the Anti Austerity Alliance” a leaflet from the AAA introducing both the AAA and their 2014 Mulhuddart Local Election candidates Annette Hughes, Jimmy Keenan, Ruth Coppinger and Bernadette Rynne.
and finally a reminder that the Greens are still about with a leaflet from Patrick Costello who will be running in Rathgar/Rathmines ward.
Apologies that there is no quiz this week as I was stuck for time…
After Forbes thoughts on Ireland’s economy December 5, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
Reading EC’s comment here about the Forbes piece on Ireland which argues that Ireland is a great place to do business because of falling wages and high unemployment – or as EC quotes them ‘Nominal wages fell 17% which helps keeps labour costs in check. Unemployment remains stubbornly high giving employers a large labour pool to pick from.’ – it struck me that the logic of the article, something not picked up by RTÉ or the IT, is perhaps that we should actually have deeper unemployment, even lower wages? In other words the government shouldn’t bother to do anything to encourage recovery and then we’ll be even more successful in the eyes of Forbes and their ilk.
A sceptical view of that ‘new’ party… December 5, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
Great line in the current edition of the Phoenix (and by the by the Phoenix Annual is out and as always well worth purchasing) where they write under the heading ‘who will lead the Reform Alliance’…
…what a lot of nonsense media pundits are coming out with about the embryonic new party involving Michael McDowell, Lucinda Creighton and her band of Blueshirt apostates. That such a party could encompass Thatcherites like Lucinda and McDowell as well as left social democrats like Rуisнn Shortall and others even further to the left is out of the question, and McDowell as leader is just not on.
And the piece neatly deconstructs the Sunday Independent campaign and McDowell’s contributions to same. It also makes some very thought-provoking points, not least when it argues that Creighton will want a party in situ sooner than later, if it is to occur at all, because ‘her stature and advantage as unofficial Dáil leader of the RA will endure for the next year or so and then diminish as a general election looms. Then, TDs will begin to look like candidates at the next election, like other aspirants’.
Of course one has to wonder at how seriously she envisages life outside FG. Certainly her letter to the citizens in the SBP at the weekend wasn’t pitched from the position of one entirely off-side, and there’s the small but not entirely insignificant fact that life outside FG, or at least outside FG officially with various benefits removed is probably somewhat different to what it was like inside it. Whether the appetite is there to have to go through the genuinely difficult process of starting a party with all that that entails in terms of logistics remains to be seen. I’m unconvinced, but perhaps she will see this as step back into FG, rather than just waiting out the next two years somewhat detached and then returning to the fold post 2016. And all that is only correct if Kenny et all judge it best to keep her and the rest of the apostates off-side until that point, when they might calculate that the chance of consolidating – or even increasing – FG vote share and more importantly seat numbers in order to be best positioned for government post-2015/16 might be assisted by a grand and generous gesture to the reprobates. Don’t count that out either. I’d almost bet that someone or another in FG high command is thinking along those lines.
Though they’d want to be sure the answer was yes, or – and here’s another thought, would it matter? Would Creighton et al simply look mean-spirited and egotistical if they said no after such lengthy protestations that they were still FG members and so forth. Ah, questions, questions.
Finally, the Phoenix asks a question that the Sunday Independent and others appear all too keen to ignore. Precisely how and where is Michael McDowell meant to return to the political fray? What constituency is there that would offer him even a sniff of a return? As the Phoenix notes, Dublin South is out, with one S. Ross comfortably ensconced and the rest taken up by FGers. Dublin South-Central, well good luck with that Michael, though it would be entertaining. And then there’s Dublin Bay South, or Dublin South-East as was. As the Phoenix notes, ‘it’s difficult to see two RA candidates – Creighton and McDowell – taking seats’, even in the first flush of enthusiasm for a newly minted RA turned new party. And it concludes with the line ‘In reality there is no way back for McDowell?’.
It sure looks that way.
Sean Heuston Society – Lecture on December 7th on the ICA at the National History Museum, Collins Barracks December 5, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in 1913, Culture, Irish History, Irish Politics, The Left.
This Saturday, 7th December, the Sean Heuston Society are hosting a lecture on the formation and activities of the Irish Citizen Army.
This will take place at 1pm in the National History Museum, Collins Barracks.
This event is free of charge and non party political.
Kevin Morley, author of ‘A Descriptive History of the Irish Citizen Army’ will be main speaker.
Also we’ll have a descendant of Michael Mallin who’ll be talking about modern day revisionists who attempt to apply 21st century standards to men and women born in the 19th century.