The water charges party May 12, 2016Posted 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.