That election date… and other matters. December 31, 2010Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
So there I am reading Dan Boyle’s latest remarks as reported in the Irish Times. First up the election…
“The Finance Bill is going to be published in the middle of January. It will take three to four weeks to process it in both Houses. Our commitment is to leave Government on the passage of the Finance Bill,” Mr Boyle said.
Some might quibble with that. The day they announced their protracted withdrawal from government most of us understood that they were demanding an election to be ‘called in January’.
When the Greens made their declaration of intent last November to withdraw from Government, party leader and Minister for the Environment John Gormley said: “We believe it is time to fix a date for a general election in the second half of January 2011.”
Mr Boyle commented: “We were probably over-optimistic in saying that an election could be called in January, rather than for January: there was a lot of confusion that was caused by that.”
But this ‘commitment to leave on the passage of the Finance Bill’ doesn’t quite tally with that formulation. Although there’s wriggle room aplenty in this new analysis.
“We don’t know whether there will be a government in existence for a number of weeks after we leave Government, and we don’t know the choice the Taoiseach will make as regards the length of the election campaign.
“The earliest an election could have been was mid-February and it seems the latest an election could be is late March.”
Hmmm.. what post-GP departure government would that be then. Is this preparing the ground for a minority FF administration to see the Finance Bills to a safe passage?
Anyhow, all this makes all that positioning before Christmas seem, well, a little academic.
There’s more though…
The party will be running in all 43 constituencies in the election, including Cork South-Central, where Mr Boyle himself is a candidate.
“I would be confident that we will have a Green presence in the next Dáil,” he said.
It’s odd. After all that’s happened I find that analysis disappointing, because there’s a part of me that thinks back to the Green Party prior to government and thinks that once upon a time they might have been, due to an internal culture that seemed at least a little different (though never enough, or perhaps too much so, for me to ever be tempted to join them), a bit more straight about their electoral chances and about the situation that they are now in. Sure, they wanted to win seats, but they always seemed to be a fraction more open about matters.
In a way this cross-references with the interview with the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin that I posted up yesterday. As he put it…
‘Somehow the Greens managed to do a complete turnaround and stabilise the Fianna Fáil government, and they have stayed there through thick and thin. It’s a very sad thing.’
And indeed if one looks at their demeanor in government one will note how they made great play about the constraints of being in that government. That too was meant to be a reflection of at least some aspect of an identity that was theirs, and theirs alone.
Let’s be honest. The chances of a Green Party presence in the 31st Dáil is now very very slim indeed. I had expected perhaps one TD, maybe two, to be returned. But on the current figures, as AK/IELB has noted they’d need transfers that simply won’t be there.
And once upon a time one feels that they might have been wiling to face up to this, would have been able to come out and say, ‘look we did certain things, supported certain actions, and we’ve paid an electoral price already and look set to pay a further price at the Election, but.. we think we did the right thing as best we could, and granted we’ve made mistakes…’.
That Green Party, wedded to an almost painfully consensual model, reflective to an extreme and whether one liked it or not was in some perhaps nebulous way appeared distinct from other political formations – at least in internal organization, was an alternative that was sufficiently attractive to attract a vote sufficient to see six TDs elected two Dáil terms in a row.
But that Green Party, and okay, also being honest it’s unlikely that they’d have put it quite that way, seems now to belong to history.
Did it ever really exist? Or is it that shorn of any sort of class analysis that it was simply unable to fix upon a specific socio-political/economic ground upon which to base itself. Because economically the party has been all over the shop.
Or rather given their original positions (anyone remember basic income?) they’ve aligned neatly with the orthodoxy – and this is true of their political attitude as well. Not in everything, but in far too much – and this using the apologia that they could only do so much. Now, that’s true to an extent, unlike the Progressive Democrats they weren’t kicking down an open door politically speaking. But rather than being a genuine irritant in government, an oppositional voice as it were to their partners, they appeared to be absorbed by the system.
That sense of them providing, or articulating, that oppositional voice simply faded away.
I think that that shift is what has so blindsided so many who would have supported them, or given them preferences, in the past. It wasn’t just going into power with Fianna Fáil, it wasn’t just supporting a raft of decisions that one would imagine would have made a progressive party blanche, it’s not just that they stayed on board through thick and thin. It’s that they seem to have undergone a cultural shift, where being in government was seen as almost its own validation, that doing something was always better than doing nothing, or avoiding doing the wrong thing by withdrawing. Where busy busy took precedence over asking whether this was the best possible context or way to be busy busy.
Perhaps there was no cultural shift. Perhaps it simply was that they weren’t in power. That prior to that they never had to exercise…well, anything. And that once they were in power they aligned with the prevailing modes that are extant there. Form follows function, and so on.
But if that’s the case then that’s an analysis that is depressing for more than just the GP.