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Good(ish) news February 28, 2017

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From the IT:

Unemployment is now on course to dip below 6 per cent, close to what economists consider full employment, by the middle of this year following another monthly slide in the official jobless rate.
Central Statistics Office (CSO) data, released on Tuesday, put the State’s unemployment rate at a nine-year low of 6.6 per cent in February.

It would be useful to see where the job growth is occurring and what the situation outside of Dublin and the East Coast is. It is also worth noting the following:

Davy analyst Conall Mac Coille said net emigration had flattered Ireland’s unemployment rate in the past. “Unemployment would have been higher had Ireland not seen net outward migration of 155,000 through 2010 to 2015.”

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After the by-elections 3: That Tory popularity February 28, 2017

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I dislike almost everything Rafael Behr writes about the by-elections here. I think he’s disingenuous in the following, for example even in attempting a cosmetic ‘fairness’ he is anything but:

It is true that a divided party whose MPs have bellowed out loud their lack of confidence in the leader will struggle to make electoral headway. It is also true that some British newspapers write about politicians of the left with vindictive aggression. There is ample responsibility for Labour’s problems to go around – it needn’t all collect in a puddle at Corbyn’s feet.

Yet still he blames Corbyn.

But he does make one point that is not unimportant and speaks to a broader conversation.

And Theresa May can take some credit for her own relative popularity, too. She must be doing some things right for Copeland to swing into Tory arms.

This, in a way, is most troubling because if she can exert that pull on former BLP voters where does that end? It’s not even a case of voters not voting for the Tories, but actually being attracted to them.

That this runs contrary to all the predictions we were offered hardly much more than half a year ago as to how matters would proceed in the context of Brexit – supposed divisions that would tear the Tories apart, that would see a newly freed and untrammelled BLP and Corbyn achieving remarkable heights of popularity, hardly needs saying. None of that. Literally none of that has come to pass.

And worse, the Tories are not simply sitting on double digit leads but are winning by-election seats. Now absent a Brexit referendum win for Leave from all this and what would one have seen? A continuing civil war in Toryism, UKIP still fighting the bad fight. And a J. Corbyn who would have the happy situation of leading a party that could point to a win.

Compare and contrast with the present situation and which would have been the more positive environment for the left?

After the by-elections 2: Chaos is overstated… February 28, 2017

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John Harris makes a point that I think is well worth exploring in recent column in the Guardian. Not so much the complaints over Corbyn, though he has to admit that the problems facing the BLP are such that they long predated his arrival in the leadership. Whether his leadership has ‘immeasurably deepened’ the crisis in the BLP I do not know, but I’m somewhat dubious. It is more his misfortune to arrive at a time when Brexit et al, and the key loss of Scotland to the BLP has left that party uniquely ill-positioned to face the future. Again, I’ve been astounded by how complacent some of those arguing for a Lexit were given those realities. I think this is telling in terms of demonstrating just how bad things are for the BLP:

…the shadow cabinet minister Cat Smith reportedly reckoned that “to be 15-18 points behind the polls and to push the Tories within 2,000 votes is an incredible achievement.” I am not sure how you would describe that kind of thinking: it sounds distinctly like someone taking comfort from the fact that a complete disaster could conceivably have been even worse.

Harris mocks that line, but I don’t. The problem is that it sums up perfectly just how bad things are. And they are. Desperately bad for the BLP. They’re kind of worse too, as was mentioned elsewhere, there’s now a radical populist right party gaining 1 in 5 to 1 in 4 votes at these elections. Sometimes that will work to the advantage of the LP, but sometimes, perhaps often it won’t.

Little or none of these, it is essential to note, is Jeremy Corbyn’s fault. It is difficult to see how he could have done anything different in the last twelve months. Indeed far too little is made of the reality of his MPs, or rather a tranche of them, splitting away from him. And while the rebellion over Article 50 in the last month was problematic what more could he have done when even those closest to him took a differing view of matters?

That said I will agree with Harris on one thing.

Amid Trump, and Brexit, and the political hurly-burly that now regularly grips mainland Europe, it is easy to get the impression that politics no longer follows hard-and-fast rules, and amounts instead to a series of unforeseen events and complete accidents.

The reality is that politics is, if not quite predictable, still open to analysis. It is possible to determine broad dynamics, to see trends, to appreciate what is more rather than less likely to happen. Brexit itself, was simply more finely balanced as an issue than expected. But polls were consistent that that fine balance existed. It could have gone one way, it went another. Trump likewise. Other issues will rise and fall. But many many political dynamics – the continuing and long term problems facing the BLP are of a different order. In a way what is the puzzle? The retreat of self-avowed social democracy, and its replacement not with left but right and populist forces, is something we’ve seen time and again. Why would Britain be any different?
Phil at Workers Playtime has an important post here which further underlines this is not a problem due to the Corbyn leadership alone, or even in full.
And for a sense of what it was like on the by-election trail here’s his post on same from Stoke-on-Trent.

And here is the other Phil from All That is Solid and his take on it.

CLR Book Club – Week 9 – It Can’t Happen Here -Sinclair Lewis February 28, 2017

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Anyone made it to Chapter Two, and what are the thoughts on the book so far? I’m enjoying it, though it is much of its time. That said some uncomfortable resonances with the contemporary.

After the by-elections… February 28, 2017

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This is a bit disturbing. From the after-byelections in the UK coverage on the Guardian. Discussing how UKIP was squeezed at the by-elections.

On the Today programme this morning Matthew Goodwin, who co-wrote Revolt on the Right, the most authoritative book on the rise of Ukip, with Rob Ford, expanded on the same point made by his co-author. Goodwin said:
Today some people have been saying the Ukip ballon has completely popped. We still have a second-placed radical right party in a Labour seat with 25% of the vote. That is a significant issue for all the main parties to think about.
But also, let’s assume Theresa May wins back half of the Ukip vote. Labour MPs today are cheering the demise of Ukip. What does that mean for Labour? It means that around 45 seats will go to the Conservatives pretty quickly at the next election quite easily, because you have Labour MPs on small majorities where Ukip has around 15/20% of the vote. So Theresa May’s strategy right now, I would suggest, is spot on.

This is one of the more pernicious aspects of FPTP. UKIP don’t have to win, or come close to winning, or can in fact see their vote eviscerated by the Tories without any benefit to Labour. Imagine 45 seats transferring from the BLP to the Tories.

As Phil noted on the CLR last week, the Stoke ‘win’ is actually deeply concerning.

And Phil makes another point which is crucial. There’s little purpose in the BLP becoming a Tory/UKIP lite in relation to Brexit matters etc. That side of the political terrain is already well covered. Pulling back support from there is the name of the game.

Military Matters February 28, 2017

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From the media today.

US spending on overseas aid is expected to bear the brunt of dramatic cuts as part of Donald Trump’s plan to increase defence spending by $54bn in his upcoming budget.

And this is intriguing. From the ‘white nationalist’ camp inside the administration the following.

Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, said last week that one of key priorities of the White House was the “deconstruction of the administrative state”.

Given how partial and thin the US is in terms of federal provision what does that imply for the future? And what of the obvious contradictions and ever more evidently crocodile tears shed for the ‘white’ working class by those such as Bannon?

Dublin Left Alphabet Soup Quizarama for Mags February 27, 2017

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Wednesday, March 29 at 8:00 PM

Teachers Club
36 Parnell sq , West, Dublin, Ireland D1

In this the 100th Year since the Russian Revolution we present the quiz that will put an end to all the squabbling and decide once and for all the one true Dublin leftist party/group/org./current/tendancy/movement that is correct on everything. We invite teams from SF, SP/AAA, SWP/PBPA, WSM, I4C, WP, SD, CP, N.A., union members and whatever progressive movement you are having yourself. Teams of four must strictly be ideologically and organisationally pure (however if your party only has 3 members we will find you a 4th).

Recommended entry of €10 per person. More or less accepted. This is in aid of all of our collective – regardless of political affiliation – comrade, Mags Forkan. Mags goes for lifesaving surgery in April and every penny is going towards that and her recovery. More details can be found here on Mags’ GoFundMe page

So come comrades, come gather your quizzing forces, spread the word and prepare for the Dublin Left Alphabet Soup Quizarama.

It would be great to see some CLR faces there!

Many thanks,
A reader

Fine Gael… not quite a mass party… February 27, 2017

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Interesting snippet squirrelled away in the IT in some of the coverage of the FG leadership contest. Fiach Kelly wrote:

It is believed Fine Gael has about 24,000 party members, with 2,000 in Dublin. The remainder are based in clusters around the country, such as Mayo, Sligo, Cavan, and Longford-Westmeath. TDs in those constituencies would be expected to influence their own members such as if, for example, Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys declared for Varadkar. Longford-Westmeath’s Peter Burke is understood to favour Varadkar.

Small isn’t it? One would have to wonder if those ‘clusters’ see higher numbers what is it like in areas with fewer numbers? How few, indeed, might there be in some constituencies, even with sitting TDs?

And what is the picture like for Fianna Fáil?

These aren’t academic questions. The base a political party can call upon at election time is absolutely crucial to its continued political survival.

Caretaker administration February 27, 2017

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Noel Whelan isn’t entirely wrong when he writes in the IT that:

Unfortunately, the delay [between FG leaders] will serve to make our already weak politics even more vulnerable. Kenny will be clinging to office for another eight or 10 weeks but will have no power. Since this minority Government came into being last May it has been low energy. Before that, for two months last spring, Kenny and his Ministers were merely in a caretaker capacity. It is surreal that this spring again, for the next two months we will have what is effectively another caretaker government. Fine Gael ministers will not be focused on their jobs. They will be absorbed by the machinations of the leadership race.

But I think he’s far too kind. We arguably already have a caretaker government. And everything he writes merely points this up:

Not only is the Taoiseach himself now a lame duck, but all Fine Gael ministers will be running their departments only on a care and maintenance basis, knowing that they are likely to be reshuffled by Kenny’s successor and some of them are likely to be shuffled out. Another spell of even weaker government seems a high price for the country to pay just so that Kenny can beat some Fine Gael milestones, such as outlasting John A Costello in office. This may be of interest to historians but matters nothing to voters.

The government is already remarkably low-wattage. Little is being done in terms of legislation, indeed the government has made a virtue of necessity in that regard, losing Dáil votes, pushing through new measures with remarkable sloth if only in order to not antagonise their silent partner – Fianna Fáil.

We have a government, we are not fully governed. It’s quite a situation, and nothing short of an election is likely to see that change.

Ascribing blame is almost beside the point. Fine Gael and Labour were unloved, but few would argue FF was much more loved. And the broader fragmentation of Irish politics is such that it was always going to be a stretch to cobble together a long term broad based coalition to govern for the next while.

By the way, Whelan points up one dispiriting aspect of the FG leadership race.

It would be regrettable if the period merely allowed for more of the tabloid- type coverage that even some supposedly serious media have engaged in about the Fine Gael leadership contest over the past week. Independent newspapers in particular seem determined to make relationship status an issue in this race. I have followed media coverage of Simon Coveney as closely as many political commentators over the past 16 years but I don’t think I have ever seen a picture of him with his wife or members of his family before the Independent decided to run one on its front or second page each day last Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. These photos of Coveney were always juxtaposed beside one of Leo Varadkar on his own.

And:

Independent newspapers have also run tittle-tattle stories about Varadkar’s own relationship and a series of columns devoted, at least in part, to suggesting that it matters who our taoiseach’s spouse would be. It echoes the suggestion touted by Bertie Ahern’s opponents in the early 1990s that the “people needed to know where their taoiseach sleeps at night”. It was insidious then. One would have thought that 25 years later we would have moved on from such nonsense.

I’ve complained about the lack of ideological differentiation that the supposed contest is about, but almost as bad is to import extraneous irrelevancies. I think it good someone calls out the Independent newspapers on this.

Left Archive: Comment, Fortnightly, Vol.3 No.4, 1974 British & Irish Communist Organisation February 27, 2017

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commentbico

To download the above please click on the following link. BICO COMMENT 1974

Please click here to go the Left Archive.

Many thanks to Bobcat for forwarding this to the Archive.

Another document from the British & Irish Communist Organisation from the 1970s, this focuses on the front page on the National Wage Agreement and the revival of the Gaeltacht. Inside there are pieces on the views of the then Fine Gael/Labour government in relation to Stormont and Article 3 of the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland which offers an insight into the thinking of B&ICO at this point in time. There’s another interesting analysis of multinationals which perhaps was echoed in the thinking of others later.

Also included are pieces on the Chilean Coup and a scathing analysis of the Communist Party of Chile and a short analysis of Noel Browne’s thoughts on democracy. A number of other pieces take the Vatican to task on contraceptives.

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