More on the ‘new’ party… January 3, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
Tom McGurk makes an interesting point in the SBP this weekend in relation to the comments by Michael McDowell on the need for a ‘new’ party. He argues – tellingly – that the future outcome of an election, given the current balance of forces is an LP ‘slaughter of FF-like proportions’, a ’smaller FG than is current’ and probably a ‘larger FF and SF from which to construct a government’. Could be. And as he says, FG and FF will ‘never appear more indistinguishable’. He also suggests that if neither can cut a deal with SF they’re going to have to try to do so with ‘quixotic Independents’. I doubt it will come to that last, unless the number of FG TDs returned is higher than currently seems probable. But overall I think he’s correct. It’s a mess.
But while he thinks that McDowell is correct that there is political space for a new party, he suggests that following:
McDowell’s thesis may be fundamentally flawed because, not only has the economic crisis changed the shape of the Irish political system, but it has also trapped it in an economic vicegrip that no political party currently existing, or in the planning, can escape.
Much of the political class – as well as journalists and commentators – seem to have blithely forgotten that the final remnants of Irish political sovereignty – post the various EU referendums – disappeared with the bailout.
And that’s well worth reflecting on. The sort of party that McDowell would like to emerge would, presumably be a PD redux, in some form or fashion. But such a party would hardly be offering, or given its adherence to the orthodoxy able to offer, anything substantially different from the status quo ante. Indeed it would be more likely to agree with many of the precepts of the orthodoxy or seek to implement them with even greater vigour. This is the paradox. There is dissatisfaction with FG to a small enough extent and LP to a much greater extent not because they’re cutting and taxing with insufficient enthusiasm but because they’re cutting and taxing. That’s not to say that space could not be fashioned for a euro-scepticish party of the neo-liberal right, but such a party would, as McGurk says, be constrained by the external circumstances which it would in large part agree with anyhow.
And McGurk makes a reasonable enough point when he continues:
So simply to think in terms of new political parties which would inevitably end up juggling with the same political and economic Rubik’s Cube is hugely to underestimate both the creek we are up and the necessity for the paddle we are lacking.
In fact, to think in terms of just another political party parading up and down the boulevard of the social democratic centre ground, promising to be different to everything that has gone before, is to fundamentally misunderstand the depth of the political and democratic crisis we face – not only in Ireland, but across Europe as well.
That point about social democratic centre ground is perhaps overstated, though it is true that in terms of much of contemporary social democracy it is hard to see much difference between the forces at play in this polity in terms of FG, FF and the LP, whatever about oddly antiquated references to Christian Democracy from some in FG. But even accepting that pushing rightwards doesn’t seem to offer much scope for a party (there’s also the thought that SF provides a more convincing albeit more traditional take on social democracy).
And there’s a broader conceptual problem, which McGurk notes:
Perhaps not since the 1930s have we faced such economic and political uncertainty. What has added to our crisis is an entire political class pretending that there is some sort of salvation around the corner if we just “do” more austerity. We are like the souls in some bizarre political and economic purgatory, suffering our austerity, but devoid of any discernible release date.
This is an huge issue. With no prospect even, or especially, in the medium term of the end of the current crisis what can any party that cleaves to the orthodoxy offer? This is the central problem for Fine Gael and the Labour Party in particular, but also for Fianna Fáil. Once there’s no actual opposition to, or effort to reshape the nature of, the current dispensation then there’s no space for meaningful change. And any new party will face precisely that point. Either it accepts that dispensation, in which case all it can do is fiddle around with the margins, or it doesn’t. Is it genuinely likely that a party with McDowell and his ilk involved would present any serious opposition to the orthodoxy? I’m doubtful in the extreme.
Mind you, McGurk while seeing the need for a change in politics is oddly nebulous as to what that might constitute:
I have only the vaguest idea of what the new politics might constitute, but of one thing I am absolutely certain: we have to restore the sovereignty of our democratic process.
Which leaves us exactly where we’ve been hitherto. But difficult to take issue with his concluding thought:
“Hold on, and things will get better” has been the message every new year now for more than five years. Will anyone have the neck to try it again tomorrow night? How much more sand do they think they can kick in our faces?