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Success story? May 30, 2019

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It struck me yesterday that the Social Democrats increase was the unsung success story of the local elections.

They went from six councillors (though two or three others retired I think) going into the locals and emerged with 19. Just to put that in perspective Catherine Murphy’s old political homes – DL and the WP, in 1992 18 WP councillors joined DL, by the time of the merger with the LP 16 DL councillors and 1 WP councillor joined the LP. In 1991 the WP had 24 councillors elected.

One would think that that haul of councillors might be no harm to their Dáil prospects next time around and certainly provides a boost for a party that in recent times had been floundering and seemingly purposeless.

The issue of their European run is slightly different. Does Gannon’s local performance, managing to take a seat in a different part of the Dáil constituency for the locals indicate a broader pattern of support for him? He did alright but hardly amazingly at the European election.

And there’s the curious rhetoric around them. For instance the entertaining suggestion by a certain LP Senator that that party, the SDs and the Green Party should merge and it was only their leaderships who were standing in the way of this seeming inevitable development. Talking to a number of people involved in the GP and SDs subsequently that analysis is not shared very widely. And why would it be? The LP did okay, all things considered, albeit it is now a shadow of what it was even a decade ago. And the GP, boosterism aside, is clearly on a bit of a roll, if not quite what some of the more superheated analyses at the weekend (and exit polls) suggested. So what, as the question would have it, is in for those parties to lash up with the LP when they’re doing quite okay as it stands.

European Election – recount thread May 30, 2019

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If this keeps up the counts will still be on tomorrow. Well, probably not. But still…

Independent Alliance Councillors? May 29, 2019

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Been trying to work out which councillors associated even loosely with the IA made it through. As far as I can see of three Cllrs working with Shane Ross only one made it back but not sure how closely badged as IA they were. One for Finian McGrath. Sean Canney formerly of the Ind All had one Cllr working with him and replaced him on the council when he took the Dáil seat in 2016, but he didn’t retain the local seat.

Any others people can think of?

Apparently there were some up in Sligo on the IA ticket this last week. Any word on them?

That new Brexit border… May 29, 2019

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This from Slugger certainly skewers notions that there’s any prospect of a ‘technological’ border on the horizon. Peter Donaghy notes that any such border would be an intrusive surveillance technologies nightmare. He suggests:

However, to focus on the technological challenges of these “alternative arrangements” is to miss the point entirely. None of the technological solutions being discussed are technologically unfeasible. The issue is a moral and ethical one. To implement all of the ideas that are being discussed would, in addition to the red tape and bureaucracy imposed on business, be tantamount to the creation of a surveillance state.

There’s an interesting distinction between being unfeasible and not being technologically unfeasible. There are so many layers to this, and some are so politically and otherwise unacceptable that in practical terms they may would prove impossible to implement. And the technological aspects seem so complex that even if in theory they might be achievable in practice one has to wonder. Indeed buttressing the sheer dubiousness of the propositions is the fact they are implemented nowhere in the world and we’ve seen no real sniff of a practical outline of these advanced technologies from the UK government in what is now three years or so since Brexit.

There’s some genuinely panglossian stuff in the comments section about how nothing will change. This from the IT and Piaras Mac Éinrí, lecturing in geography and European Studies at UCC from earlier in the year may dispel such illusions.

That new post-referendum(s) politics… May 29, 2019

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..is oddly conspicuous by its absence. I write this in the sense that after the last two referendums there were, particularly in the IT, rather sunny pieces about how all what changed…utterly. That a new layer had been mobilised in Irish political life which would, with its energy and activism and progressive slant, change all after. And yet, even before the elections this last weekend that didn’t seem to be born out by the polls (or where arguably it might have been, as with Maria Walsh, it was co-opted by the ‘traditional’ parties).

Look at the Social Democrats, at PBP and Solidarity, look at left independents of various stripes and what was most striking was that in poll after poll they remained fairly static, or even somewhere behind where things stood prior to the referendums. But then at the elections they fell back and sharply (the SDs provide a kind of counterexample picking up council seats but only to a limited extent).

The latest iteration of this on the IT this week was that the Green ‘bounce’, a bounce which saw them tick upwards by 3 or 4 % in the locals was evidence of a new youth driven politics. In the cold light of day – and in no way denying that the GP had a good election, that’s not a commanding change in Irish politics.

I’ve always been sceptical about the energy/enthusiasm argument. It seems to me to be based on a belief that somehow a political event can trigger a fundamental change in human behaviours significantly different to those that are seen before. This isn’t to disagree that people can be mobilised to an extent by events, but that the effects of that tail off, either more or less rapidly.

Yet where is the surprise. Back in the 1980s I recall a different mobilisation around referendums where some young people became very active around anti-abortion and other social conservative positions. Thankfully that dissipated too.

I’m happy that climate change is coming into clearer focus politically – but the idea that this is a ‘new’ politics is unpersuasive.

European Election – Count Thread – Day Four & What You Want to Say 29th May 2019 May 29, 2019

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Saving the planet here by doubling up posts. Too soon? Not soon enough?

Business cultures… May 28, 2019

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A great overview a few weeks ago of the demise of GEC by Aditya Chakrabortty in the Guardian. One that as he concludes…

…is not a story about genius versus idiocy, let alone good against evil. Weinstock was not quite as dull as made out, nor did he avoid all errors. But it is one of the most important episodes in recent British history – because it highlights the clash between two business cultures. On the one hand is Weinstock, building an institution over decades; on the other is the frenetic wheeler-dealing of Simpson and Mayo, mesmerised by quarterly figures and handing shareholders a fast buck. The road GEC took is the one also taken by ICI and other household names. It is also the one opted for by Britain as a whole, whose political class decided it cared neither who owned our industrial giants or venerable banks or Fleet Street newspapers, nor what they did with them. That is why our capitalism is today dominated by unsavoury, get-rich-quick merchants in the Philip Green mould.

That there is a key aspect of matters – because it wasn’t simply business but also the political class that had the ability to channel and direct business in so many different ways.

Chernobyl May 28, 2019

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A troubling outline of events around the Chernobyl accident on the Guardian Today in Focus podcast a few weeks back. One of the most striking aspects is the lack of transparency – the USSR did not acknowledge the accident for weeks. Indeed it took Swedish radioactive monitors to discover what was going on. There was literally no excuse for that secrecy given the seriousness of the events at Chernobyl.

But there’s other aspects too, some genuinely shocking. For example the use of silver oxide to disrupt weather patterns to prevent radioactive rain falling on Moscow and instead fall on Belarus.

Kate Brown the author made the point that while there was an argument for a triage – save Moscow by diverting to Belarus: “The only problem was they didn’t tell anyone in Belarus that they had done this, not even the leader of the Belarus Communist party. The place wasn’t depopulated until 1999 and for fifteen years people, farmers… took in large levels of radiation”.

A system that cannot tell itself the truth, let alone those it purports to represent, is one unlikely to be able to negotiate the very real challenges and shocks that are thrown up by the passage of time.

A permanent electoral campaign? I guess it’s easier than governing… May 28, 2019

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Some take the idea in politics of a permanent campaign to heart more than others. Donald Trump, for example, and now Matteo Salvini who it is reported is in trouble because he has been travelling around Italy campaigning for his party in police aircraft.

But there’s more:

La Repubblica newspaper claimed Salvini had spent just 17 days behind his desk at the interior ministry since the beginning of the year, and that state transport was used to get him to rallies up and down the country in recent months as he supported League candidates in local, regional and European elections.


La Repubblica said Salvini had attended 211 political events so far this year. He often says he prefers being among his supporters than in the office. At a rally in Pesaro last week, Salvini spent more time posing for selfies than delivering his speech.

Difficult to disagree with the sentiments expressed in the following:

His frequent absence from the interior ministry has been criticised by MPs from the centre-left Democratic party. “When an interior minister chooses not to involve himself with the security of the country but to muck around with rallies and selfies, it is not worthy of the office he holds,” said one MP, Gennaro Migliore.

But then, while his politics is deadly serious the actual business of governing clearly isn’t, or at least not in that way. I’ve long argued that a lot of the dynamics and activity seen on the far-right are essentially performative, and here’s a perfect example. And yet this isn’t a glitch so much as a feature. The sort of state one suspects that Salvini wants is one that eschews complexity, is perhaps brutally direct. In a way his position within that is near enough irrelevant albeit he’d want to be the one from whom authority derives. But actually government? Making decisions. How much more fulfilling for him to get the selfies and rallies and the affirmation.

And so while what he represents is entirely serious and has to be treated as such by his opponents, the actual approaches he has aren’t. And that works to his advantage in a way because, if you want a streamlined state, one which does little enough, bar perhaps security and a cosmetic tilt in regard to welfare, but only for the approved, then it makes sense to portray the current state as essentially irrelevant. The more he is out of the office the more he can undermine and delegitimise the state.

Oddly this brings to mind the Koch brothers. I was wondering recently what their views on abortion were, given their famous right libertarianism. As it happens they are social liberals so they are personally in favour of provision. But their proxies spend huge sums funding those against abortion provision. You might, as I did initially, think this a contradiction but it transpires that it makes a rough sort of sense. They seek to delegitimise the US state and reshape it to their own ends. Pushing back against such provision even if they believe in it themselves, does precisely that – because it locks into the world view of people who are anti-statist in small or large part. And by marshalling those battalions they are able to advance their cause on one front even if losing on another (it would be interesting to see if once the state was deconstructed, even partly, were they willing to throw their resources behind abortion provision, wouldn’t it?).

The bigger question is whether that will ultimately work for Salvini. The European contest was good for him but that’s the European contest. I tend to the view that people aren’t naive or stupid. So fingers crossed there’s less mileage for him in that respect. But these are strange times.

New Green Dawn fades somewhat… May 28, 2019

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I was sceptical about the hype at the weekend in regard to the Green Party and I’m even more so today. This is not to say that they didn’t make gains, but they weren’t anywhere near as massive as suggested and the disparity between exit polls in Midlands North West and the actual first count was striking.

The results for the GP were impressive, but… keep in mind their actual local election first preference vote was 5.6%, and that they were coming from a much lower base prior to that. This isn’t to deny that in various places they did very well, arguably supplanting more left wing rivals. But while this is good news for them – without question, and offers the prospect of an increase in their numbers of TDs at the next election it is not quite the sea change some have presented it as (including some in the GP itself).

There are some very interesting questions to be asked about the exit polls and the way in which they seemed to show a stronger GP showing. The situation with McHugh is particularly intriguing.

Of course here we get to another set of problems – the manner in which European elections are invested with too much meaning and also how they are confused with national elections. But they’re not strictly comparable and direct correlations with national elections are difficult to prove.

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