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The water charges party May 12, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.


The point was made this week by PaddyM amongst others that Labour is doubling down on being the Irish Water/water charges party.  It’s a great point and deeply puzzling. Here is a policy that has failed in every real sense. Whose delivery structures are about to be completely overhauled, whose funding mechanism faces the chop and where those who did pay in are likely to get rebates sooner rather than later. To lash oneself to the mast of that endeavour is curious in the extreme.

And yet, and yet, there may be method to their madness. For a start this has little to do with ideology. For those of us who have never joined the LP, never wanted to, indeed regarded it as – whatever the virtues of a diminishing cadre of members within it who have been left wing – always an insufficiently, imperfectly and often only tangentially a left wing party across its lifespan the sense of betrayal felt in some quarters while explicable isn’t something that we share. I’ve never expected better of the LP as an institution and why would I? There’s plenty of parties and groups to its immediate to further left that on any given day would be more appropriate left wing vehicles. But that’s not what this is about.

This is about holding on to what it has and perhaps growing it slightly.

That 5% or so who continue to vote for it clearly aren’t going to go anywhere if they haven’t gone already. For them Irish Water, the approach to social welfare, the myriad policies implemented by the LP are baked into their votes. And it is small wonder that the LP is attempting to consolidate that vote because the grim truth is at this point who else will vote for them?

Indeed they may calculate that they might in the longer run potentially prise votes away from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil voters disenchanted by the volte face on water charges.

That none of this makes any sense in political terms – that water charges are regressive in their impacts (and particularly as structured by the LP and FG in the last government), that for a supposedly social democratic party to be planting its flag on this terrain when even the ‘centre-right’ (I use the term advisedly) is in retreat is neither here nor there. That the LP until 2011 had set its face against these very charges that Alan Kelly now appears to believe have an existential role in Irish politics likewise.

It reminds me of spam and scams on email. Some may laugh at the implausible appeals from friends or acquaintances in far flung places who have supposedly lost their documents and money and need the latter wired to them, or sneer at bureaucrats in foreign lands who have somehow come into millions of euros only requiring a signature and a bank account and an identity to unlock them and pass them across to the reader but there is a small number who will read these and will send the money, offer the signature and identity. And that’s why the scams continue.

And so it is with defining themselves as the Irish Water party. A situation where a good fifty per cent refused to pay, and the rest in the main grudgingly and with some relief that the situation has changed still means some paid with a whistle on there lips and spring in their step and the LP has some of those and would like a few more.

Of course it is no way to run a railroad – let alone grow a political party. But in a way it is a telling mark of how far they have fallen, how meagre the potential for their growth in a political environment with multiple rivals to their left right and centre (for example, had the SDs been established a year earlier I’d put good money on them having more TDs than the LP at this point).

Consider too that the path to their left – even if they wanted to take it – is now blocked. There are the SDs, stepping on their ideological toes, beyond them the apostates and left of Labour and ex-Labour TDs, and along side that cohort are SF. And beyond them again are the not quite further left TDs and beyond them AAA-PBP and beyond them. There’s little or no space in all that.

So yes it’s bizarre, but it may be the only throw of the dice left to them.


1. irishelectionliterature - May 12, 2016

I think the appeal to them is that it is a definite Policy on Water….and (aside from the Greens) they are the only Party in favour of the present Water Charges regime. Their position is to try and get a portion of those ‘responsible’ law abiding citizens that paid and feel like mugs for doing so.
After the agreement between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael neither of them have any real policy on water , instead they produced a massive fudge that alienated many of those that paid and many of those against Water charges.


2. dublinstreams - May 12, 2016

and the bin tax party?


3. Gewerkschaftler - May 12, 2016

Who the gods wish to destroy …


Gewerkschaftler - May 12, 2016

or more accurately “Whom the gods would destroy…”


4. deiseach - May 12, 2016

It’s not that they can’t admit that they got it wrong. They can’t even admit that there were alternatives, something you can do without having having to admit they got it wrong. If they switch off the soothing lullaby about making the Hard Decisions, the shock might kill them.


5. Roger Cole - May 12, 2016

I think Wordstorm’s piece got just right. Labour will seek to keep their marginal vote and seek to move even further to the right to build it up. Kelly would be their ideal new Leader leader. The real issue is how long SIPTU will stay affiliated to it. When Blair transformed the British Labour Party into a war mongering neo-liberal imperialist party, the unions stuck with them as did Corbyn etc, because with the first past the post system, unlike Scotland, there was little alternative. In Ireland there is plenty of competition on the left and we have PR, so as the Labour Party moves further to the right, SIPTU might, or at least should, break the link with the Labour Party as other Irish unions have already done.


Alibaba - May 12, 2016

The trade unions have long sought political representation. That was the rationale for the establishment of the Labour Party in 1912. It remains within their DNA. As to those who seek disaffiliation, I always ask, where else to go? No answers arise and into the abyss has gone political levies or more accurately into the coffers of the trade unions. I wouldn’t discount the notion that SIPTU might change course if Labour moves further to the right. But I don’t see any viable alternatives in the parliamentary circus nowadays.


6. lcox - May 12, 2016

I tend to think as with the GP before it we are seeing more of a Waco syndrome. Anyone within the party who was going to leave – over support for austerity in general, over water charges or any of the other horrendous things the LP has stood over – has long since done so. Those who are left inside are those who have drunk the Kool-Aid (to mix the metaphor) and nailed their colours very much to that mast.

Like the GP, we will be seeing no apologies, no recognition even that it was a political mistake (other than perhaps a failure to “communicate”), and much sympathetic support from media and academics who feel the same way. It’s possible that a new leadership would make a strategic decision to try and brush the whole thing under the carpet, of course.

But to have remained in the party over the last five brutal years with any degree of left or movement conscience would have required either such a capacity for self-delusion or being bought in such a fundamental way that such people are not going to be causing any ructions over something as “little” as water charges (indeed a common line of defence is to minimise the significance of the issue and claim that what really matters is homelessness, or mental health – as though these were opposites or as though the LP had been busy channelling resources to such issues since 2011).

Liked by 1 person

FergusD - May 13, 2016

What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate!

Liked by 1 person

7. gendjinn - May 12, 2016

Isn’t this the logical conclusion of Clinton/Blair 3rd wayerism?

Liked by 1 person

EWI - May 12, 2016

I overheard my local union Labour apparatchik – he had no idea I was behind him in a queue at a nearby bakery – describe himself to a management type with him as ‘but socially I’m liberal’.

Says it all.


gendjinn - May 12, 2016

The working class can kiss my arse, I’ve got the foreman’s job at last?


8. fergal - May 12, 2016

What will the LP do in the current Dail? Why would they oppose the neo- liberal fg+ others + ff line? How could they? On what grounds? I can only see one…that the new government isn’t right wing enough. Now that Labour wears the mantle of best austerity dealers and not only that but with pride..what purpose do they serve?


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