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Let’s not talk about sex… at least not in the way Backroom in the SBP is… March 31, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.

There’s an entertaining statement in the SBP Backroom column last week that due to the various events of this week wasn’t got to earlier (and speaking of which, what of one L. Varadkar’s comments which this analysis here addresses?).

And on what proves to be a very strange Backroom piece more in a moment. But the statement mentioned above goes like this:

Now Enda Kenny, Micheál Martin and Eamon Gilmore have worked themselves into varying states of enthusiasm about issues [abortion, gay marriage] it is hard to believe they care very much about. Kenny is acutely uncomfortable being locked by Labour into introducing some kind of abortion legislation. As the Red C poll in this newspaper showed, deserting the pro-life lobby coincided with the biggest single hit to Fine Gael’s poll numbers. To what extent that contributed to Fianna Fáil’s rise one can only wonder.

Is that point about the RedC poll correct?

Not exactly. Or actually not at all – though one can understand why Backroom might wish to promulgate that particular misinterpretation.

No, hold on a second. Actually I can’t imagine why s/he would do so.

But anyway, back in fact land, while it is true that between October and December of last year the FG figure fell by 6% from 34% to 28% it was neither the biggest fall since the General Election in 2011 (that being the drop between May and September of that year from 41% to 33%) and nor can it be pinned at the door of the abortion issue exclusively since there was also the small matter of a Budget during the same period. Perhaps Backroom believes the latter is unimportant but many of us would beg to differ.

Indeed even if one did argue that it was abortion that was causing the hit it is not entirely clear as to whether this was due to it ’deserting the pro-life lobby’. As easy to argue that socially liberal inclined FG voters felt the government’s handling, and FG in particular, of the issue as reprehensible and therefore if there was a direct effect on the FG poll rating it was one which came from many sources.

Though it’s not entirely wrong of Backroom to argue that FG does have problems on the issue, and handling of the issue of abortion provision in the context of X is only a part of it. There is a wing of the party, tellingly more vociferous a few months back than now, that is all too keen to burnish its ‘pro-life’ credentials. Though it’s a little hard to believe as Backroom does that the integrity (in terms of the party holding together) of FG might be threatened by the issue.

Nor is it wrong of Backroom to argue that one M. Martin of FF is tilting strongly in support of same-sex marriage as a means of covering the absolute anathema of support for X legislation.

Nor again is it wrong of Backroom to argue that the ‘fundamentalists’ are ‘being used’ as a sort of political dog whistle in order to shore up a broader electorate. And yet, and yet, it’s not quite that simple. And by the way nor is the prurient tone to Backroom this week, a sort of ‘clever-clever’ approach which seems excessively juvenile, as if writing about sex somehow can only be done by references to ‘political cross-dressing’ or ‘in this paper we don’t speculate about the mating habits of our readers’ and so on. For what are deeply serious issues it doesn’t work.

Indeed the piece, becomes increasingly choleric:

Liberalism is no substitute for lucre and anyway Gilmore, bereft of any other hand to play, is becoming stridently illiberal. Closing the Irish embassy to the Vatican and publicly snubbing the all-male Savannah Hibernians has more to do with the politics of prescription than permissiveness. It is a caricature of a politics that passed from sectarianism to secularism without pausing at pluralism.

And almost inevitably check out a certain reference in the following:

If you genuinely believed in ‘live and let live’, you would be more relaxed about men in frocks and men who have a yen for having their dinner together. The Backroom thinks the Tánaiste doth protest too much.
Boring dinners are part of the job at Foreign Affairs, and talking to unspeakable people is essential to it. There is the sense of Savonarola about Gilmore’s secularism. Looking at him glowing in the White House on Tuesday, the Backroom was reminded that it’s a long way from Pyongyang to Pennsylvania Avenue.

It doesn’t end there. No, it doesn’t:

The morality of the Irish people is a blend of self-interest and indifference. Kenny and Martin are humanists of the old school, with a tolerance for most vices that don’t get out of hand. They understand that there are no principles, only interests.
The Labour Party seems locked into a position of principle on issues that bring little reward, while being incapable of delivering for the interests that elected them.


A litmus test of politics is the familial comfort of voters with politicians they do not know. People feel they know Kenny and feel warm towards him. They may be warming up to Micheál Martin, too.
Eamon Gilmore’s stridency leaves them cold. He has hopelessly entangled the nation’s knicker elastic with its purse strings. In pulling them both tight together, he has created an excruciatingly unpleasant sensation. Something will snap.

It’s odd, but in all this I actually suspect that issues sexual will have relatively little impact positive or negative on the fate of the Labour Party in the next three years given the trouble they’re already in (and which have little or nothing to do with those issues). And I suspect people know this. But whatever about the flaws or virtues of that party – their approach on this matter deserve better than the above – and it’s worth reflecting that when the article can get a matter of fact, as in the point about ‘the biggest single hit to FG’s poll numbers’, so badly wrong one would, tone apart, be well advised to treat the rest of it with a considerable degree of caution.


1. doctorfive - March 31, 2013

That poll was 01-12-2012. Decision to legislate for X was not until the 19th.

SBP RedC FF 28(-6), Lab 14(+1), FF 20(+1), SF 17(nc), Ind 21(+4)

Party support for legislating on x: Labour 93% FF 89% FG 87% Others 79% SF 78%

FG support was actually two points higher then the 85% nationally in same poll though the drop was accounted for by a feeling that Fine Gael were very much shown up as backwoodsmen.


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