Blue Sky Thinking… April 26, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
I was reading this piece by Peter Emerson in the Irish Times last week which runs through various power-sharing models as alternative possibilities for establishing a stable government in this state and it struck me that – as always – there’s a tendency to over-reify political events. For all the talk about stability the truth is that this state still functions at this point. Later Emerson held a sort of faux parliament over the weekend which apparently took but an hour and a half to arrive at a government.
It’s an interesting exercise, but I’m not sure how solid it is.
This isn’t a crisis and it isn’t really in chaos either. Moreover there are clear and immediate ways to resolve the situation, one of which is being taken at the moment. Sure, an FF/FG coalition might be the most immediately obvious one, but one has to factor in the reality of both parties and their history and interactions up to this point. But minority governments, of one stripe or another, whether long or short-lived are equally plausible. There’s really no reason to be looking outside the system as currently structured.
Furthermore there’s an assumption (not so much in the article in fairness) but evident comments and elsewhere that somehow the electorate is at fault for pitching the political system into this situation.
But I think that’s a serious misreading of the case. The electorate acted as it always does by voting for its preferences. In this instance FG was unconvincing as leading a government of any strength, FF (compared to its historical levels of support) hardly more so, and on simple numbers returned slightly less so, the Labour Party not at all. Sinn Féin doubled their representation but still are some way distant of power, Independents made up a very large, albeit fissiparous, bloc – tending both left and right, and given their approaches these last four or five weeks it would be difficult to say they’d been an unstable element (if anything they’ve been the opposite, albeit in different ways due to their ideological orientation). Smaller parties have been somewhat conspicuous by their absence but their numbers are insufficient to really make much difference one way or another.
Or look at it another way. FG wasn’t trusted but just barely enough people voted for it that it would take the lead in forming a government. FF wasn’t trust but enough people voted for it that it would have a significant input into government formation (whether supportive or not). And so on.
All this states the obvious and I’m not attempting to suggest that this is some collective expression of will, rather it is many different wills that provide an expression, rough and ready as it may be, that is the environment within which political activity must occur.
But it does I hope push this away from the idea the electorate are somehow at fault. If political parties could not convinced sufficient numbers to vote for them to provide ‘stable’ or majoritarian government then I think the fault lies with the parties not the people.
Anyhow, that over-reification I was talking about is such that we hear ever more esoteric ideas as regards solutions. Power sharing administrations that incorporate everyone, list systems (that old standby of those who would like to distance yet further representatives from the represented) and so on. All pointless, irrelevant to the question at hand. Either a minority administration will be formed, or it will not and we will move swiftly to a second election after which most likely a different minority administration would be formed or it will not… Now, if we were facing election number three in the space of say six months. Then there might be some reason to think there was a systemic dysfunction.
But I think we are a long long way from that.