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That ‘centre-left’… January 28, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Pat Leahy in the IT at the weekend was making great play of a supposed bloc of political support – that of the ‘centre-left’. So much so that a long-time friend of the CLR sent the following analysis – having noted that Sarah Carey was on the Independent website [arguing]:

…that people have to vote Fine Gael because there is literally no choice and the only problem with the last government was that FG didn’t have enough seats. It’s the old, “That’s not real Fine Gaelism, real Fine Gaelism has never even been tried,” argument. I suspect the electorate may ignore Sarah and make their judgement on Actually Existing Fine Gaelism.

Which is without question the best way to deal with that. But this friend went on to note that

…perhaps even worse a piece in the Times by Pat Leahy arguing that’Labour and the Greens have everything to play for.’ Wherein he argues that the Greens will get ten, and maybe more if there’s a wave and Labour will get seven and maybe even more too so between them they could have a united 25 seat bloc of the ‘Centre-Left’ which could negotiate with FF or FG. Nary a mention of even the SDs let alone the wild eyed bunch of society wrecking zealots beloved by the CLR. Kind of worse than the Carey piece because (A) This is supposed to be analysis rather than an opinion and (B) Unlike Carey who’s a true believer, Leahy must surely know he’s writing nonsense.

Leahy’s piece is remarkable, in many ways.

There are three steps, as I see it. First, maximise the votes for the Green Party, Labour and other centre-left parties and Independent candidates. The Greens are in the hunt for 10 seats or so, and could well do better than that if a wave comes their way (possible but not yet probable). Labour needs to keep its existing seven, and win a few more. Maybe less likely, but hardly impossible. A few more centre-left TDs, of whatever guise, need to be elected. This is more likely.
Do your sums: that’s a block of 20 to 25 (on a very good day for them) red/green TDs.

That’s curious maths given that the LP is static on 4-5% and the GP is at or about 9%. Between them what could one seriously expect them to get – 15 seats. So it’s not ‘a few more centre-left TD’s’ but rather 10 more. Again, the numbers just aren’t there. At best the SDs are going to get 3 (or very very unlikely 4). And the other element in this equation – an FF or FG with less than 60 seats? Well less if polls are to be believed.

But it’s not just the math.

Because we need cast our minds back a mere four years to the last time any of these formations were in government, at that time a vastly larger LP, and we can consider how that fared. The answer, as we all know, is so poorly that the LP had quite literally no separate identity within that government. The record of the FF/GP coalition is hardly more cheering. And who can be surprised given that these parties were adjuncts, making up numbers, however large or small their parliamentary cohorts were.

Which brings one back to the basic lesson that they would be better, for their sakes and for ours, to eschew coalition until they or some combination of forces that we can loosely ascribe the term ‘progressive’ to are in the driving seat. But one has the suspicion that’s not going to happen.

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1. Paul Culloty - January 28, 2020

A political earthquake in Galway West?

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Joe - January 28, 2020

Suimiúil. Interesting. I posted a piece from Tuairisc.ie on another thread which has Aontú in with a chance of the last seat in Cavan/Monaghan. That was an opinion piece. The Galway West scenario appears to be based on a poll. And says both the SDs and the Greens are in with a chance of a seat each. Which would be a bit of an earthquake.

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baalthor - January 29, 2020

I was in Monaghan town a few days ago and Aontu’s Sarah O’Reilly posters are everywhere and very noticeable.

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2. sonofstan - January 28, 2020

A green in Galway West is hardly that shocking is it?

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Joe - January 28, 2020

No but a Green and an SD would be.

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WorldbyStorm - January 28, 2020

What happens to Catherine Connolly?

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road bowling correspondent - January 28, 2020

A Green gain would most likely be at her expense which would be a step back. Certainly a Green and an SD seat would spell curtains for her.

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Paul Culloty - January 28, 2020

Sceptical about Grealish being this low, but 2 FG, 1 FF, 1 SD and 1 Green seems possible based on the figures:

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3. Daire O'Criodain - January 28, 2020

“Which brings one back to the basic lesson that they would be better, for their sakes and for ours, to eschew coalition until they or some combination of forces that we can loosely ascribe the term ‘progressive’ to are in the driving seat. But one has the suspicion that’s not going to happen.”

Are you going to tell us what they should do or is it just that they should do nothing until something happens that isn’t going to happen?

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road bowling correspondent - January 28, 2020

It’s hardly controversial to note that occupying the role of junior partner to FF or FG has been disastrous for parties of all hues in the past.
‘Doing nothing’ would have been preferable to the eager dive towards electoral oblivion taken by the Labour Party.
And if FF and FG, whose combined vote is lower than ever before, were to be forced into coalition after this election, there might well be the possibility of a broad left (ish) coalition with perhaps SF at the helm at the following election.
‘Doing something’ in the name of political realism hasn’t worked. The alternative course of not simply providing the numbers necessary for FF or FG to govern the country has never been tried. So we can hardly judge whether it’s a good idea or not.
Though at this stage of the proceedings speculating on what the LP should do is almost beside the point. They’ll get four seats this time and are effectively kaput.

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WorldbyStorm - January 28, 2020

Agreed RBC. And yeah, it’s a truism. Government tends to impact negatively on small to medium sized parties that go into coalition. I don’t think there’s a silver bullet in this. But… if the BLP had stood aside in 2011 with its historic number of seats, or if SF in the future stood aside there’s a chance that they would be perceived as the opposition in the context of FF/FG having to lash up together (indeed one can argue that this is precisely what has happened with SF this time around in terms of public perception).

There’s no guarantee that staying aside one more time would deliver ‘largest party in the Dáil’ status, but… given the grievous injuries inflicted on parties as diverse as the PDs, LP and GP from their time in government with larger parties surely it is logical that at some point a party gaining a sort of critical mass might at least attempt the exercise in the hope of consolidating support and then gaining more. And indeed – ironically, this is by default the position SF finds itself in given, at this point, the lack of willingness of FF and FG to deal with it. Perhaps post-election they will change their tune – if I was them I would if only because the established pattern is so clearly to the detriment of their coalition partners.

Unlike some I’ve no principled problem with coalition per se. I think there are times when a ‘least worst’ situation can kick in. But I do think that a left led government must be a goal of leftists – and by that I mean that the largest component of any given government will be leftwing. Even that will compromise the nature of a given government, so ideally an exclusively left govt would be best.

But if the idea is that FF/FG dominance is set to continue in perpetuity and therefore the best that can be hoped for are minor improvements which are part gained and in doing so damage the very political vehicles that are trying to get them. Don’t think that’s the best way forward.

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WorldbyStorm - January 28, 2020

BTW the LP of 2011 was intrinsically unable to step aside then. It just wasn’t in its nature. The GP in 2007, touch and go perhaps. SF now. Who knows?

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road bowling correspondent - January 28, 2020

To be cynical about it, given that some very good left wing candidates may lose out to the Greens, maybe the most desirable alternative is some kind of an FF/Green combination.
If only to remind people what Ryan et al are like and to disabuse anyone of the idea of voting for them for another decade.

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Colm B - January 28, 2020

So “doing” only happens if you join a gov, any gov?
A cursory glance a history would indicate that most significant social change happens from struggles from below. Only those thoroughly wedded to narrow electoralism would believe that the only social or political activity that makes any difference happens within gov.

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Stan - January 28, 2020

I doubt if anyone here disagrees with you.It’s just that this is a thread about the election and the possibility of doing things within the limitiations of electoral politics.

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Colm B - January 28, 2020

Sorry Stan, I should have made clear that I was responding to Daire’s comment: “Are you going to tell us what they should do or is it just that they should do nothing until something happens that isn’t going to happen?”

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WorldbyStorm - January 28, 2020

Yes v much agree, politics has to embrace a broad range of areas, non parliamentary, community, workplaces, cultural etc. I’d have my criticisms of the old PCI but the community aspect from what I gather was good. But my suspicion of single parties encompassing all the above is such that I think alliances or allied structures or parallel ones are even better ie many points of focus albeit broad agreement on goals and outcomes

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Daire O'Criodain - January 29, 2020

No, I don’t think anything in my comment advocated any position. But, I do think there’s a touch of Hamlet about WBS position. He doesn’t like having the gear lever in neutral but moving either forward or reverse doesn’t work either. So, what DO you do? I am not of your church so not going to preach. I do think Mr. Taft has offered good ideas, perhaps a bit too prosaic for some, but the fence isn’t strong enough to hold you all. In the meantime, SF is at least looking at your lunch.

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Colm B - January 29, 2020

What you do, depends entirely on your end goals. If you think, as l do, that capitalism is an inherently unjust, environmentally destructive and oppressive mode of production, then you act in whatever ways that might lead to its replacement by a more just and more democratic system. Of course elections, governments etc.will be part of that but a change of government is not a change of system. As to what exact activities you engage in to bring about system-change, well then your entering a century of debate on socialist strategy and tactics.

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WorldbyStorm - January 29, 2020

Sorry, not being smart about it, but whose lunch is this you’re taking about Daire that is being eaten by SF? if by that you mean SF is beginning to supplant elements the left/further left, well, that’s no surprise to me – albeit I’m puzzled by the fact it comes after such a dip in Sf’s fortunes. I’m certainly not antagonistic to SF or wedded to the idea of the further left taking state power. Quite the opposite. I’ve been quite open – I’m actually considerably more open to coalition than most here – but with the proviso that I would seek a coalition led by a left formation or alliance of such formations. So for me that includes SF (again some here would balk at considering them left at all). Indeed I’d see the rise of SF as a significant party as a hopeful development. I’m a bit dubious that GPs anywhere can be the major component in such governments – they don’t seem to build sufficient vote share, and with all due respect to them I’ve no optimism at all about the smaller parties (amongst whose number the LP can now be counted) having sufficient weight either. The idea that an SP or PBP or whoever can achieve the sort of critical mass necessary to build sufficient seat numbers strikes me as unlikely in the extreme. Independent leftists likewise. So… where does that leave us? The LP and GP in the past were unable to stand aside from government and little good it did them. Given that track record I would hope SF might think twice about entering government as a junior partner. there is a possibility – I’d put it no more strongly than that that they will be well positioned to be the larger component in a government next time around (and of course this next government may, if it is indeed an FF one in situ due to some confidence and supply arrangement, be quite a short lived one). So the point being to answer your question – what would seem sensible this next time around would be for a party that is middling large like SF to stand aside this time out, resist a coalition where it will be junior partner and seek to have FG/FF locked once more in a political embrace, in the hope that they will be see further support as the ‘alternative’. It would be good if others would work with them in that project, ie other left or left adjacent parties, in order to build a broad progressive front, but given the disparate orientations of parties and formations on the left I’m not exactly sitting here with bated breath that will actually happen.

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