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Left resources and links – June 2017 June 30, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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We’re looking for links/resources useful to the Left at Starkadders suggestion. This can be archives, support groups, study groups, whatever people think can assist in building up a stack of easily accessible tools necessary to the tasks ahead. Perhaps keep articles – unless they’re longform, to the What You Want to Say thread.

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Brexit Culture News! June 30, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Some may have missed a useful piece in the SBP, written by Colette Sexton, from a couple of weeks back which looked at the Irish film and television industry (that is the film industry on this island, north and south) and how that would be impacted by Brexit.

There’s so many issues – television crews covering sport who criss-cross the island on a weekly and daily basis.

A hard border would have a massive impact on companies, crossing the border with an outside broadcast unit, or a satellite van or even carrying a camera kit.

And a comparison was made with the EU and the processes of inventories and so on that have to be outlined before getting a sniff at entering that state.

This would be totally impractical in NI.

And a very very valid point is made that I haven’t heard articulated before…

Even if we are going to Donegal we pass through the North, going in one end and out the other. It would just be impossible and unworkable to try to do that on a weekly basis.

And here’s another point which I haven’t heard articulated either…

If the border is sealed it will lead to production companies and broadcasters like RTÉ, TG4, TV3 and Eirsport having to negate access to continue the sports coverage they do north of the border. That coverage is crucial, because the GAA and rugby are 32 county organisations and the coverage does not take any cognisance of the border.

All this points to how to all intents and purposes this is a borderless island and has been since 1998. And now the potential for that to change and change utterly wreaks havoc with workers and jobs.

There are some business opportunities – they’re outlined in the piece – though many of them will see jobs lost in the North as the RoI becomes ‘a gateway to Europe for Hollywood and vice versa’ as one interviewee puts it – particularly since this state ‘will be an attractive location for multinational co-productions looking for a home in Europe for financial reasons, an English-speaking crew and cast and to qualify as European content’ , but really they don’t outweigh the massive logistical inconveniences and worse that seem likely to be imposed.

Joyless June 30, 2017

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Interesting point in the IT last week about the British General Election campaign and the tone of same. 

Mrs May’s joyless election campaign was rooted in hostility to Europe.

I’m not particularly exercised by the second point, but the first I think is worth exploring. Certainly she tried to convey seriousness and strength. But somehow it didn’t add up. And joyless is a perfect description for what she offered.

All those pat phrases – strong and stable, Brexit is Brexit, and  so on (amazingly effective in terms of being memorable, appallingly useless in terms of being applicable to anything material). And just on the phrases, she was at it again on Friday in relation to EU citizens rights – a ‘fair and serious’ offer…

There was no vision at the election, or before it, no sense of tomorrow being better than today. And in a way that followed on seven years of Tory political part-dominance (again the fact that the Tories only managed a majority for hardly two years is fascinating). A period of outright austerity – an austerity that the Tories revelled in as they used it to slash at the state again and again – and in ways that even Thatcher eschewed.

I genuinely find it incredible to read reports from the UK of the gaps and deficits in state provision – libraries, health care, education, welfare and so on. The network of supports and resources that I remember from living there in the 1990s seems to have been deliberately picked at. The simple fact of the growth of food banks an absolute affront to the concept of a civilised society. That this should happen in Britain is just unbelievable.

And yet, this was presided over, and not merely tolerated but encouraged by Cameron and May. In that respect their reworking of the post-Thatcher dispensation represents a radical hardening and deepening of it albeit clothed in more ameliorative language.

That this was also tolerated by the British electorate has been startling too. Albeit we saw a retrenchment and push back this year at the GE (and enormous credit to Corbyn et al for being part of that push back) and again granted Tory rule since 2010 was weaker than it seemed.

But I do worry that so much damage has been done that it will take a very long time merely to return us to the status quo ante, let alone anything better.

Legal matters… June 30, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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I’m at a loss reading Stephen Collins in relation to the judicial appointments process. He is hugely antagonistic to the judicial appointments process going through the Dáil at the moment. And he writes in very stark terms about it. 

Fine Gael has stumbled into a dangerous confrontation with the judiciary that threatens to do serious damage to the image of a party that has always prided itself on standing by the institutions of the State.

Many Fine Gael backbenchers and Senators were horrified to discover in recent days that they are at loggerheads with the country’s senior judges at the behest of Shane Ross. To make matters worse, Sinn Féin and the hard left are backing this assault on one of the pillars of Irish democracy.

He brings in another figure to underline this…

Labour leader Brendan Howlin struck a chord with many in Fine Gael when he observed in the Dáil on Tuesday night that “the party of Collins and Cosgrave is being assisted in this endeavour by another party for which – if I put it at its kindest – the concept of the courts would not always have passed constitutional muster in the past”.

Fine Gael backbenchers did not begin to appreciate the implications of the so-called reform of the judicial appointments system until Chief Justice Susan Denham made her concerns known on Monday following the trenchant comments of High Court president Peter Kelly.

What horror is this new appointments process going to involve? What anti-democratic aspects can we expect?

Collins writes:

To be fair to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, this mess is not of his making. He inherited a programme for government that contained a specific commitment to follow the Ross agenda on judicial appointments. It was the price of Fine Gael being able to put a government together but pressing ahead now in the face of public opposition from the judiciary is another matter.

But what is the problem?

Most members of the public are probably not too concerned about the proposed change in the judicial appointments system, which provides for an advisory appointments committee with a non-legal majority and a non-legal chair.

Yes yes, it’s above the citizenry… bless them… but wait, a non-legal chair? That’s the problem?

The bottom line, though, as articulated by former Supreme Court judge Catherine McGuinness, is that the removal of the Chief Justice from the chair of the committee represents “a deliberate kick in the teeth” not only to the incumbent Susan Denham but to the judiciary as a body.

For Ross and Sinn Féin the whole point of the Bill is to give the Chief Justice and her colleagues that deliberate kick in the teeth. While the system of appointing judges could certainly do with some improvement, the deliberate humiliation of a judiciary, which has broadly served the country well, is a dangerous path to go down.

If all this seems almost risible, well, then perhaps you and I share similar feelings about this. Is this approach unknown elsewhere? I look at the UK judicial appointments body and see that they manage with a ‘lay’ chair. Now I’m the last to say we have to follow the UK in all matters…

But other than the utterly emotive ‘deliberate kick in the teeth’ line what precisely is the problem? Surely the status of a judiciary rests upon its own actions and pronouncements in the course of its work? And if the perception of ‘humiliation’ is the worst that Collins can eventually find (despite accepting the process need improvement) then he’s not best positioned given his own constant rhetoric about the  need in Irish politics for governments to take ‘hard’ and ‘painful’ decisions. Nor is it as if the proposed appointments process is that robust, the body will still only make recommendations…

Or is there more to this representation in the appointments process? Surely not.

The stuff about Fine Gael and the judiciary, though, is so revealing. Isn’t it?

 

For a more measured view what of this from a barrister, political scientist and former FG legal advisor (who clearly doesn’t share Collins superheated view of these matters), Dr. Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, who has written a work entitled The Politics of Judicial Selection in Ireland, though entertaining to see Pat Leahy  rather misrepresent her position – as enunciated in an article she had published the previous day. MacNeill’s view is that the judiciary has lobbied the government and that:

The particular problem is this. What is the broader impact of the judiciary successfully lobbying to change the contents of the proposed Bill? Whether or not that was the cause of the Government changing the proposed legislation, the volume of lobbying and the strength of feeling expressed both privately, and now publicly, has left the judiciary in an impossible situation.

If the Government pays no further regard to the policy preference expressed by the judiciary, then the judiciary will have been on the wrong side of this now rather public constitutional squabble. If the Government capitulates to judicial pressure, then there will have been real damage done the to doctrine of separation of powers – making it more difficult for future legal advisors to political parties to dissuade politicians from making statements about judicial processes.

One has wonder at the pushback in the IT against this too. The general consensus is that the appointments process while sub-optimal isn’t an issue. Well, maybe not, but.. given someone has made it an issue why this opposition?

Finally we are served this fantastic, and I mean that in a literal sense, analysis from Collins…

Ross in his long career as a journalist and politician has engaged in one populist campaign after another. He is the nearest thing we have to an Irish Donald Trump and Fine Gael needs to think very carefully before betraying one of its core values to appease his grudge against the judiciary.

Ross is Trump-like? Core valuesof Fine Gael – what is Collins talking about? What exactly is going on here?

Jobstown Verdict June 29, 2017

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.
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Having followed the Trial on Social Media it’s hard to see how the jury could have reached any other verdict than Not Guilty.
There will no doubt be plenty more written here about it but a number of things that struck me about the whole thing.
-Hard not to think it was a Political Trial, were it a farmers protest about suckler payments, rather than a Water Charges/Austerity protest featuring Paul Murphy you’d imagine there wouldn’t have been any investigation or Trial.
-The initial Main Stream Media reports were somewhat exaggerated (If I recall there was even photoshopped brick throwing in some news outlets). It was those reports that framed the initial narrative about the protest.
-Clearly the difference between Gardai Statements and The Video evidence leaves some questions about the Gardai. (as indeed does the circumstances of the initial arrests of the defendants , especially compared to some of our banking friends)
-The Legal team for the Defence did an excellent job.
-False Imprisonment was a ridiculous charge to be bringing in this case.

Signs of Hope – A continuing series June 29, 2017

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Gewerkschaftler suggested this recently:

I suggest this blog should have a regular (weekly) slot where people can post happenings at the personal or political level that gives them hope that we’re perhaps not going to hell in a handbasket as quickly as we thought. Or as the phlegmatic Germans put it “hope dies last”.

Any contributions this week?

An election, yes. But when? June 29, 2017

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Noel Whelan notes that this last week Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar were locked in battle in the Dáil over the former attorney-general’s appointment to the Court of Appeal. And arguably Varadkar came out of it better – if only because Martin personalised the issue in a somewhat unwise fashion. 

As Whelan colourfully notes:

Martin and Varadkar are now involved in a struggle for dominance. There will be much roaring and pawing of the ground between now and the next election. If they both insist on standing their ground it will all escalate to full electoral conflict sooner rather than later.

And like Stephen Collins the same week he waves the issue through fairly sharply. Hardly surprising, neither FF nor FG can stand on any moral high ground in relation to the processes detailed.

But Whelan does have a very good point which is that:

The personalised nature of the some of the criticisms of the newly-appointed Court of Appeal judge was also disappointing. This growing tendency to attack or disparage persons who are not in the House or who are otherwise not in a position to defend themselves further diminishes our legislature. It amounts effectively to parliamentary trolling. It reflects an increased aggressiveness in public debate generally and a pandering to populism.

I’m not sure it is pandering to populism – he himself notes that:

The big issues of housing, mental-health services, the health services generally and the Brexit threat all play second fiddle to political theatre, this time about a judicial appointment already made.

I think a deeper problem is a belief that this sort of issue has a political traction that those others do not in terms of oppositional (and government) politics. In other words it won’t be Brexit or even the health services, that bring down this government but an issue like appointments or what have one.

And therefore much greater emphasis is placed on them than otherwise would be the case.

Frankly I’m dubious about his other thought on this:

The fact that Whelan’s appointment to the Court of Appeal is only the second judicial appointment made in 20 years outside the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board process makes it politically controversial but does not make it legally unsound.

Given that the thrust has been to greater transparency in appointments even if it is not legally unsound it would be reasonable to say it was politically questionable and therefore the old line of ‘better not’ would come into play.

That FF was unable to use this effectively says more about FF than about the issue itself.

And just on that election, well, that’s been raised in an earlier post today, but perhaps this does bring that closer. But for all the talk about how static Irish politics is that in itself presents a problem. Without some shift, some change, that is clear and sustained, there’s no percentage in anyone taking any risks. Indeed after the last two years – Brexit, Trump, Corbyn, and so on who would bet everything on a throw of the dice? Or that a poll that is positive today is going to translate into actual votes three weeks down the line.

Is Varadkar of a mind to take that sort of a risk just now?

Waiting in the long grass… the UK electorate?  June 29, 2017

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Chris Jones in the IT last week argued that a year ago when the referendum result was announced he already had a column written from a Remain victory perspective. I’ve got to be honest, I was less and less convinced that it would win in the fortnight before the vote. It was just too close in the polls and I think had you asked me to put money on it I would have said it would go 55/45 to Leave. As it happens it was even more knife edge than that – something that it seems reasonable to suggest has been part of the subsequent problem and may have inflected May’s approach of utter certainty. Because it was almost a 50/50 vote and therefore discerning how to proceed was almost impossible.

That May was ultimately undone by her propensity to repeat seemingly gnomic soundbites such as ‘Brexit is Brexit’ is ironic. Perhaps more ironic is that Brexit did not life the Tories to an overall victory and that economic issues other than that played a larger part. Though, and I’m not immune to this argument, given how Brexit impacts on all else it is not hard to view the election as a lost opportunity.

But Johns I think is incorrect in some of what he says…

The capture of both the Labour Party and the Conservatives by their respective hard left and right wings risks the destruction of the political centre ground.

Here’s the irony. Last week I noted that Brendan O’Neill has an almost entirely contrary argument, arguing that Labour in the UK has become an elite party of the middle class. Isn’t that almost a definition of the contemporary centre ground. I don’t think O’Neill is correct as it happens, but I do think that ‘moderate’ opinion, centre ground opinion did indeed swing behind the BLP, on Brexit and on other issues. Indeed Johns is an old enough hand to know that what the BLP offered was a notably moderate programme in all respects (so much so that Polly Toynbee waxed lyric over the manifesto, while still getting the digs in at Corbyn).

Still I think Johns is on firmer ground in the following:

Europe is about history, much more than it is about economics. And that’s something that few inhabitants of Westminster are interested in. History is not a strong suit of the Brexiteers.

Europhile UK politicians – like ex-chancellor Ken Clarke – have always pretended that the EU is just a free trade area. Clarke is smart and knows full well that economics is almost incidental to the EU’s raison d’etre.

But nobody has ever fully explained Europe to the British people, which is one reason why so many do not like it. Whatever it is that the EU stands for has been well hidden from the UK electorate.

And arguably from lots of others. And that has for many involved in the EU project been a feature, not a glitch. Which is a real problem with said project, not least for what it tells us about at least some involved in it. And he continues:

The British did not, and do not like the implicit dishonesty. Until Europe figures all this out, the “democratic deficit” will remain a troubling faultline – and not just for the British.

There’s more than an element of truth in this and it remains a huge weakness of the EU. Indeed GW was saying just the other day, correctly to my mind, that the EU remains extremely problematic and has many many aspects that need to be reformed or jettisoned entirely. And if they can’t be? Well, then we move in to different territory.

Johns has some other interesting thoughts, not least as to why economic growth was sustained in the UK post-referendum. He argues that consumer spending remained buoyant after… but…

In fact, British consumers felt optimistic enough to run down their savings at a faster rate than pre-referendum. But this is where the baby got thrown out with the bathwater; economics is actually quite good at saying what will happen but extremely poor at saying when. Now, finally, the economy is slowing, house prices probably falling and rising inflation is eroding real incomes. The final shoe to drop is probably close and will be heard when unemployment starts to rise. That’s a vista too awful to contemplate for Tories pondering the likelihood of another election some time over the next year or two. The revenge of the electorate will be brutal during an economic slowdown.

It does seem as if economic indicators are beginning to look a lot bleaker for the UK. And all this ahead of actual exit.

How does that play into politics there? I’m almost afraid to predict that this will be to the benefit of the BLP. But it should and if the BLP can continue to on the broad course it has already charted it most likely will.

Poll projection June 29, 2017

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We’ve all long argued that it is unwise to take too seriously seat projections in respect of polls. And in fairness so has Adrian Kavanagh whose latest projection is here. I’ve noted previously  on many occasions that such projections are good really only for seeing the broad dynamics, that in individual constituencies they’re simply not sufficiently robust – indeed, take Dublin Bay North at the last election – the interplay of preferences in that constituency saw remarkable outcomes. Or, Dublin Central, where Maureen O’Sullivan headed home thinking she had lost her seat only to discover that it was back in play and that she had held off her rivals.

So in terms of figures – and indeed constituencies, one would have to take with a significant pinch of salt the projections on foot of the latest Ireland Thinks/Daily Mail opinion poll. But… in terms of broader dynamics and in terms of broad outcomes it seems to me to be reasonably useful.

Kavanagh notes:

The 26th June Ireland Thinks/Daily Mail opinion poll estimates party support levels as follows: Fianna Fail 26% (down 1% relative to the previous Ireland Thinks/Daily Mail opinion poll), Fine Gael 31% (up 6%), Sinn Fein 16% (down 1%), Independents and Others 19% (down 6%) – including Solidarity-People Before (-4) Profit 2% (-1), Social Democrats 2% (-2), Green Party 4% (+1), Independents 11% Labour Party 7% (up 2%). My constituency-level analysis of these poll figures estimates that party seat levels, should such national support trends be replicated in an actual general election, would be as follows:  Fianna Fail 46, Fine Gael 63, Sinn Fein 26, Labour Party 8, Solidarity-People Before Profit 1, Social Democrats 2, Green Party 3, Independents 9.  

Keep in mind how much of what we see is within the MOE. But these figures do tally near enough with other recent polls.

 

Take from earlier in June the ST/B&A poll:

Fianna Fail 29% (+2 points)

Fine Gael 29% (+1)

Sinn Fein 18% (unchanged)

Independent Alliance 5% (+1)

Labour 5% (+1)

Greens 3% (+1)

Solidarity/PBP 1% (unchanged)

Other Independents 9% (-3)

Social Democrats 1% (unchanged)

And from the end of May, SBP/RedC

FG 29 +5 (

FF 21 -7 (!!)

SF 15 -3

Ind 14 +4

Lab 6

SD 4

IA 3 +1

SolPBP 3 -1

Green 3

Renua 1

Ors 1 +1

We’ve seen a decided softening of the SDs and S-PBP’s support level – I have to wonder if the adoption of a new name has been a bit problematic in the latter case. Again, movements are largely within the MOE, but nonetheless reflected across polls but the LP seems to have gained a bit of support. The Green Party likewise.

I don’t think that were an election held tomorrow Solidarity-PBP would only return with one seat – but on these poll ratings they could see some losses. Nor do I think the SDs would lose all their two seats – but they could be in trouble. The Labour vote is intriguing. I’ve long been dubious about the idea they could be wiped out completely – there’s simply too many of them, councillors, etc about. That gives them some electoral mass (and consider how the GP has returned from an even worse straits). At a minimum I’d expect them to return with two or three seats on their worst day. But could it be that the SDs forward momentum halting has seen some of their support move back to the LP as the bigger game in town? And could it be that absence and a somewhat oppositional profile is making their participation in the last government a bit hazy in the recollection?

Sinn Féin is in an interesting position. Now large enough to carry itself through on seat numbers even with dips in its polling share. For it to return with 26 seats would be a very positive outcome for it – even if its forward march was somewhat halted – though that too would represent an uptick on its current numbers by two or three seats. As a coherent bloc it would be in a strong position as the opposition in the context of a further deal between FF and FG.

As to the Independents – there’s little question that they’re under pressure now, all of them, left and right. Given that 27 were returned in 2016 a fall to single or even to low double digits would signify a huge retreat for them.

Of course it doesn’t have to be like this. On a good day they might return 15. But if there is a consolidation of votes for the larger parties – those being FG and FF, that has to have impacts across the board as others lose first, second and other preferences and consequently lose seats.

But this poll poses many questions. Are we really seeing FG and Varadkar prise support from Inds/Others? And how long will that last? Or is it  about fluctuations between FG and FF?

And what of government formation? For a deeply frustrating dynamic (for FG) comes into play. For it to remain in government its likely partners see a fall off in numbers. There’s simply too few Independents about. And the LP may not play ball. And even were all those Inds and the LP to work in tandem with FG that would barely see them across the line. And is it tenable that all those Inds would be of a mind to do so? Though there is the GP and the SDs.

One other option on the Kavanagh figures presents itself – and all necessary caveats apply in terms of the numbers being projections – that is an FF/SF/LP coalition. Or perhaps an FF/SF/GP/SD coalition.

We’ve seen more unlikely creatures emerge from the Irish political swamp.

Really, all that can be said is that at this point – and likely some time to come – there’s no clarity whatsoever in terms of party support and government formation. And that has to play into political calculation…

With the one hand he giveth, with the other…  June 28, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he is determined that the Government will have enough money to cut income taxes in the October budget, even if that means raising other taxes.

Huh?

And this is really getting tired…

“I am determined that we find some space to increase the take home pay of two million people who work really hard in this country, who get up every day, go to work, pay the taxes that make everything else possible,” the Taoiseach said.

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