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Let us add one further thought to the criticism of this government… February 15, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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…when the histories of this last five years come to be written perhaps some thought could be given to a singular aspect of the Coalition’s ineptitude. That is its rank inability to fashion political approaches that were sufficient to resonate with the Irish electorate in all its forms. For it really is quite some achievement (in the negative sense) to arrive at a situation where the Coalition’s support is stuck within the 27-30% for Fine Gael area and 7-10% for Labour. In other words they’ve managed to convince somewhere between 34 and 40% of voters. Well, so one might say, that’s what FF did for quite some time at its height. Yet the difference is that FF was able to coalesce with others to make up parliamentary numbers. That task this time out appears radically more difficult for FG and the LP.

And yet the issue is deeper than the anything but simple Dáil arithmetic. It is about perception, and an understanding of how policies impact on the broader society. It struck me long ago that FG and – most particularly – the LP were remarkably cloth-eared in regard to their situation and those whose support they would ultimately require. Perhaps they were taken in by the siren voices who whispered (and in truth often shouted) out for ‘difficult measures’ and ‘courage’ in implementing them, though curiously those who made that case tended not to be those who would be negatively impacted by same (and ironically were the very ones who seemed to argue for a lifting of ‘difficult measures’ in regard to higher taxation and so on – i.e. the very measure that impacted upon them!).

Well, we know now where that has left the two parties, becalmed – at this point, on that far from sufficient share of the vote. This may all change. It is likely that there will be a massive assault on the electorate to do the right thing, to seek ‘stability’ and so on. And one would have to be fairly insulated not to understand how for those who are on low or lowish wages, in difficult and unpleasant work environments, owe money or are unemployed that is going to resonate. But then again part of the problem is that the stability that the government talks about is one which incorporates a continuation of just that sort of approach itself. Why not take a punt on an FF that has softened its image of hawkishness (whatever about the reality), or on SF which has presented a fairly traditional ‘moderate’ ILP approach (no doubt much to the chagrin of the actual LP) or to those on centre left and independent left and further left who stand waiting in the wings to take their share of the vote. There’s no end of choice – tellingly though the one formation seeking those who might drift rightwards waits in vain. There’s no one there to go to them.

But for FG and the LP not to game this out, not to realise the enormous gulfs in the society they have governed this last while, not to see that the animosity and outright hostility that was focused upon them might stymie their chances of cobbling together an even half functioning government without esoteric and likely short-lived alliances is quite something. To be here, just over half-way through the campaign facing all this. Quite something.

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1. Brendan Ryan - February 16, 2016

To say this was a very thoughtful piece would be to insult all the other fine pieces from the CDL! It i more than thoughtful , it is entirely spot on about the LP.
FG, in my view are stuck on their more or less natural vote 28-30% drawn overwhelmingly from ABC1 and big farmers. It has listened to its own constituents and offered them substantial cuts in both personal and inheritance taxes. Their problem is that everyone else can see that! Labour are also back to their basic core vote of around 5% but seem bewildered by the fact that nobody loves them! Two poll revelations make Labour’s problem clear.The first was that SF had greater credibility on economic matters than Labour. The second that only 5% of 18-25 year olds said they’d vote Labour. And yet Labour fought, it is alleged, to have the election on a Friday to ensure young people voted. That was in the deluded belief that young people would be voting Labour.
Labour’s problems are two fold. The first is the glaring contradiction between their position pre and during GE 2011 and their practise in government. There were the broken promises dismissed by them as not important. There was also the entirely correct argument ,put also by ICTU, that the Troika agreement would damage an already fragile economy.
Labour’s second problem follows from that.They are claiming credit for the ” recovery” and implying that it was caused by the government’s policies. That of course implies that LP opposition to the the Troika was always only rhetorical electioneering.
many of us tried to get debate going early on, indeed at the first Conference after LP entered government.A motion seeking a special Conference to discuss LP “achievements in Govt” was on the Agenda. It apparently want noticed until close to Conference date. Then mayhem followed. I was chased down to a lovely restaurant in Tuscany to be told that the motion would entirely mess up the Party, the Leader, and the government.
The motion was “referred back”. The following year a similar motion was ruled out of order (20% of motions submitted were treated similarly). So no debate on Labour in government was ever allowed.
The result was that the Local and European election results came as a great shock to the Leadership. Only when they began knocking on doors did they realise just how angry people were. They were out of touch.
How out of touch they were/are is amply illustrated by the repeated plea that the property tax, water charges etc are “modest sums”.
To somebody on a TD’s salary and generous expenses, and more so to a Minister they are. But to the 50% of the workforce on or below the median earnings level they amount to a weeks wages or more, equivalent to €3000-5000 for a minister.
Water is not the cause of Labour’s problems, it is just the most obvious symptom

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irishelectionliterature - February 16, 2016

The 2011 promises from Labour and the lead up to that election campaign where we had “Frankfurts Way or Labours Way” are in part what has Labour where they are today. They unnecessarily raised expectations with a raft of promises and ads that would invariably bite them back at some stage.
The short term thinking of that 2011 campaign has led then to a position where they could promise anything and still not be believed.
If you are voting to keep the recovery going you may as well vote for Fine Gael.
Whilst Fine Gael are attracting circa 30% of the vote I think that their message is wrong. Their message centres around the economy rather than society. There is no admission that there are so many things still in bits be it housing , health and so on. Thats what was wonderful about FFs “A lot done, more to do” in that it admitted that there was still an awful lot left to get right.
The closing of Garda Stations was such a politically stupid move too. I gather the savings are negligible and this has been one of the opposition parties main lines of attack.
The one thing governments are always vulnerable on is crime. This is the stuff that gets FF back in with a shout of overtaking Sinn Fein.

The Labour Leadership have been desperate. Joan Burton has performed poorly in the Leaders debates and to compound the issue they have Alan Kelly as deputy leader .
I can’t really see them rising in the polls and neither Burton or Kelly are particularly popular in Dublin where Labour have the bulk of their seats. We could easily see them come back in single figures.

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WorldbyStorm - February 16, 2016

Thanks Brendan, appreciated. Just to +1 this point of yours in particular… “Labour’s second problem follows from that.They are claiming credit for the ” recovery” and implying that it was caused by the government’s policies. That of course implies that LP opposition to the the Troika was always only rhetorical electioneering.”

And Fintan O’Toole coincidentally had a not entirely dissimilar point today as regards how that undermined all the governments credibility at this election. Though as you say, many of the issues are symptoms rather than causes.

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2. eamonncork - February 16, 2016

I think one reason why this will be a catastrophe for Labour is that in the past they have at least tried to give the impression that coalition was a duty to be borne in order to rein in the worst excesses of Fine Gael. But the last few years they actually if anything have seemed to be the more right wing of the parties.
Witness Burton’s association with Jobsbridge and the setting up of Garda checkpoints to hound people on social welfare. And Howlin’s determination to persecute public servants, complaining that a survey didn’t report enough under-performance for one thing. Then you have Kelly as the face of the Water Tax. And just in case anyone was still tempted to vote for the party, Rabbitte popping up regularly to declare that anyone who voted for a left wing party was immature and deluded.
One of the great Fine Gael tropes is that the 1982-87 coalition government failed to fix the economy because they were prevented from doing so by Labour’s insistence on looking after the party’s voters. I don’t think any Fine Gael memoirs of the current government will make the same complaint about the current Labour ministers. This might not be much consolation. No-one expects the party to be socialist but a bit of mild social democracy shouldn’t have been beyond them.

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WorldbyStorm - February 16, 2016

Yes. Their comfort level in coalition was remarkable. I’m not particularly exercised by the LP as such, never been a member, admired and liked some people in it over the years, but never wanted to be a member either. I’m not particularly persuaded by the argument it has been a block on left development (to borrow Brendan’s point above made in a slightly different context – Labour is more a symptom than a cause). But all that said its behaviour in the past half-decade has been increasingly bizarre even by its own lights. What is it for as a party if it is not about at least some semblance of understanding why working people have to be protected from marketisation, removal of services, charges, etc?

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