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CLR meet up 5th of June May 31, 2023

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Anyone around Monday 5th meeting in usual spot at 8pm. May move on from there by 9 so will post that up on the site on the evening if that happens. All those who have been before to these meets welcome as well as any new faces. BTW I can be there a bit earlier if people are caught for time.

A partial reversal of opinion on Brexit, but… May 31, 2023

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Reading this in the Observer I was struck by a few points:

A clear majority of British voters now favours building closer relations with the European Union, according to new polling that highlights a dramatic reversal in the tide of public opinion since Brexit.

Even in those constituencies that recorded the highest votes to leave the EU in 2016, more than twice as many voters now believe the best route forward is to move in the opposite direction – and forge closer ties with Brussels.

The survey of more than 10,000 voters, for the internationalist campaign group Best for Britain, accompanied by detailed MRP (multilevel regression and poststratification) analysis based on new constituency boundaries, will provide sobering reading for Rishi Sunak, who backed Brexit as a route to greater economic success.


The poll by Focaldata found that three times as many adults (63%) now believe Brexit has created more problems than it has solved, compared with just 21% who believe it has solved more than it has created.


Overall, 53% of voters now want the government to seek a closer relationship with the EU than it now has, having left the single market and customs union, against just 14% who want the UK to become more distant.

I’d imagine the polling is accurate, and yet, look at that 53%, that’s not that much higher than losing margin in the Brexit referendum. In other words only perhaps 5% has been added to the overall Remain vote. Granted that’s not a question about Remain – this is simply (or most complexly) about a closer relationship whatever that may be. But look at the fact there’s 10% who don’t know what they think of a closer relationship. I’m not suggesting that sentiment hasn’t changed, that combined 37% of those who don’t want to change the current relationship or seek a more distant relationship (just 14% which is striking given the continuity hard-Brexit efforts amongst some on the Tory right) is small enough. But it’s not an overwhelming change in sentiment.

There’s little question but that Brexit has been hugely counter-productive to Britain. We know that most acutely on this island and for good reason. But in some ways all this is abstraction. The current government is likely to remain in power another few years. They most certainly will not change the relationship with the EU. Labour seems largely mute on the issue and while their return to power would likely ease matters yet further I wonder how far the current remarkably hesitant version of that party will want to shake things up in an area that it sees little scope for anything other than negative blowback to it? And beyond that, a sense that in truth the status quo, if it can be maintained in the face of the DUP, is likely to persist into the indefinite future. Whatever the polls say.

5,149,139 May 31, 2023

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

I was born into a state which had 2,852,401 people. That’s the population that the Republic had in 1965 (Okay, I was actually born in London and was then brought back here as an infant. But the point stands). It’s remarkable to see that that has not quite doubled to 5,149,139 people in the space of 57 or so years. 

The latest Census figures show that there were 5,149,139 people in the State on Census night, which took place in April last year.

That is an 8% increase on April 2016 figures.

The Census population of 2022 summary results also show the average age of the population increased from 37.4 in 2016 to 38.8 in 2022, compared with 36.1 in 2011.

There’s so much in the Census returns to consider. When it was taken a third of all workers worked from home (due to the pandemic). The fall to 69% of the population declaring themselves Catholic (from 79% – down 10% in just 7 years).

There’s 631,785 non Irish citizens. 12% or so. Just a thought, I’ve read that if Ireland had proportionate the same population density as England there would be 35.5 million people on the island. Worth considering when people argue Ireland is (sic) full. As it is, if England had the same population density as Ireland it would have just shy of 10 milllion people. As it is in England there are 54.8 million people.

The average age is now 38.8. The highest increase in numbers in the population cohorts were those over 70s – 26%. That’s not insignificant given Covid and so forth. In the 25 to 39 cohort there was a fall of 4%.

There are more women than men, 98 males for every 100 females.

And lest all of this seem fantastic, consider this:

The number of people who reported experiencing at least one long-lasting condition or difficulty to a great extent or a lot was 407,342 (8% of the population).

A further 702,215 (14% of the population) reported a long-lasting condition or difficulty to some extent or a little.

As well as:

The number of unpaid carers increased by 53% to more than 299,000 between 2016 and 2022.

What you want to say – 31st May 2023  May 31, 2023

Posted by guestposter in Uncategorized.

As always, following on Dr. X’s suggestion, it’s all yours, “announcements, general discussion, whatever you choose”, feel free.

Not so after Covid May 30, 2023

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Thought John Harris in the Guardian over the weekend made a solid point about the fact that the Tories appear utterly dysfunctional in the face of reality. He notes in particular the machinations amongst some in that party to bring back Boris Johnson. Yet he argues:

But there are even bigger oversights at the heart of the Johnson cult, which also seem to be evident in politics and the media more widely. In Westminster, news about his alleged lockdown antics inevitably generates a huge amount of noise – but in doing so, it heightens the sense that there are stories about Covid and its legacy that we have still barely heard.

And he points to continuing high rates of absenteeism in British schools post-pandemic. 

Rates of “persistent absence”, defined as missing more than 10% of school, have soared from 13% to 24%, which means that 1.7 million children in England are regularly not in the classroom. These numbers are much worse in places with high levels of poverty and deprivation: Newcastle, Bradford, Middlesbrough.

And there are other signs of the problem:

Clearly, every absent, underperforming or anxious child is indicative of a level of social damage that still seems to be barely registering. In January this year, an estimated 2 million people in the UK were experiencing what the government calls “self-reported long Covid”. In 2022, 2.5 million people said they were not working because of long-term sickness, an increase of about 500,000 since the pandemic began. Between 2021 and 2022, the number of people newly awarded disability benefits doubled: about a third of the new claims were for mental or behavioural conditions, but among those under 25 that figure rose to 70%. The most visible political response to all this so far has been the government’s tightening of benefit sanctions and Tory calls – linked to the party’s angst about immigration – for the benefits system to punitively push people into work, which is a good indication of Conservatism’s current ethical bankruptcy.

And this:

At the most recent count, there have been 226,622 deaths in the UK with Covid mentioned on the death certificate, which entails a terrifying number of people who have experienced the effects of bereavement, often in the most impossible circumstances. Through 2020, 2021 and beyond, friendships slipped, and millions of people’s loneliness deepened. Grandparents and their grandkids were stuck in the midst of a particularly awful predicament: the time eaten up by lockdowns was an eternity to most children, and equally soul-sapping for people approaching the end of their lives. Throw in Brexit, inflation and all our other national problems, and you have an instant picture of why this country feels so disoriented and exhausted.

In some ways Harris is almost making a whataboutery case – almost. But to a purpose I think. 

I’ve long been struck, and others have mentioned it on this site, at how much damage, and much of it unacknowledged, the pandemic has caused – first and foremost in terms of those dead or with chronic illnesses. But also at the fabric of lives and the mental health of all who went through an unprecedented process that lasted for years. Few if any alive now experienced this before, surely? And certainly the impacts of the pandemic (which by the by it’s only fair to note isn’t over albeit much alleviated) across so many areas are obvious to see. Politics was already fragile in some ways here and there, but certain expressions of political activity I’d hesitantly argue were accentuated by the stresses of the pandemic. And similarly across a range of areas. How could it be otherwise.

Of course the question is how to address all this, I’d also wonder is that even possible given the complexity of the society? Harris suggests notes the absence of consideration about the pandemic and its impacts. He writes ‘we hear almost no attempts to even speak meaningfully to the country about what it is still going through.’ In one sense that’s understandable. Politicians, of all people, are keen to turn the page. So are people. It’s been noted how the 1918 flu pandemic faded from memory with remarkable speed, though the proximity to the First World War no doubt played a part in that. Is there some element of that at play here?


Cohesive? For now. May 30, 2023

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From RTÉ:

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has insisted that Government will remain cohesive as he sought to play down the row between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

Last week, three Fine Gael junior ministers wrote an article proposing a €1,000 tax break for workers in autumn’s budget.

Standing alongside his constituency colleague, Fine Gael TD Alan Farrell, he claimed the events of the last week had been overplayed.

Mr O’Brien said the best place to put a budget together was at Cabinet, saying it will be in keeping with the agreed Programme for Government.

Very good. What did Deputy Farrell say though?

A solidarity union to safeguard the UK? May 30, 2023

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Anyone see this from Mark Drakeford? He argues:

The UK could break apart unless it is rebuilt as a “solidarity union” where every citizen’s rights to public services and financial security are protected, the first minister of Wales, has warned.

Mark Drakeford said the social and political bonds that tie the different parts of the UK together have come under “sustained assault” from 40 years of neoliberalism, a trend launched by Margaret Thatcher in 1979 and then reinforced after Brexit by Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.

“In order to persuade people in all parts of the United Kingdom that their futures lie together within a restructured United Kingdom, we have to recreate a solidarity union,” the Welsh Labour leader said in an interview with the Guardian.


That included rebuilding the safety net for those sick or out of work, with fundamental rights, he said, to environment, consumer and trade union protections, to human rights and to affordable public services.

“We have to rebuild the safety net, so you know that your membership of the United Kingdom entitles you to that collective security that it represents,” Drakeford said, implying that without it, Scotland and Northern Irelandcould choose to leave the UK.

“If you move from Scotland to Wales, you know that you will take those fundamental rights with you as part of your citizenship. Those have all been eroded progressively by Tory governments, particularly since 1979.

“The long years of neoliberalism have been a sustained assault on the notion that citizenship means rights and the next Labour government needs to rebuild those rights, to do it explicitly and to say to people, this is what you get – that’s why it is worth belonging [to the UK].”

Of note is where this message is to be reiterated:

Drakeford is expected to expand on that stance at a conference in Edinburgh on 1 June hosted by Gordon Brown, which will explore Labour’s proposals for significant reform of the UK. Organised by the former prime minister’s Our Scottish Future thinktank, speakers will include Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, and the Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar.

Drakeford is one of Labour’s most prominent advocates of wholesale reform of the UK, arguing that is the most credible response to the demands for independence in Scotland and for Northern Ireland’s reunification with Ireland.

He’s right. But. How can this possibly happen in a context where the most populous part of the Britain is run by the Tories, at least for the next couple of years? And cast an eye closer to home and contemplate how a party like the DUP would ever integrate the idea of a ‘solidarity union’. Or the UUP for that matter? It is remotely plausible that they would buy into that in the way that even the SNP or Drakeford style Labour could? 

Tellingly Drakeford appears to get parties like the SNP (or PC obviously in Wales) better than many in Labour. 


That outlook helped Drakeford build a close working relationship with Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s former first minister, during their battles with the UK government over Brexit and during the Covid crisis. Drakeford is widely respected by senior Scottish National party politicians.

That said, given the Union isn’t about to vanish today or tomorrow one wonders if some will consider what is being said by him more seriously? 


Unionism managing elections… May 29, 2023

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Isn’t there something fairly disingenuous about the following from Jeffrey Donaldson as noted by Freya Clements in The Irish Times:

Defending his party’s performance, Donaldson told the BBC there was “no getting away from the fact that unionism needs to take a long, hard look at how we manage elections, the splintering of the unionist vote, the differential in turnout between areas”.

It ignores the fact that Unionism itself is – obviously, divided between different approaches (does Donaldson think that the TUV and DUP constitute a seamless whole? Doubtful). The UUP offers a somewhat inchoate but possibly milder form of Unionism, the TUV a harder edged one again than the DUP. Alliance sits in an odd position being functionally Unionist while protesting that it would take no position on a border poll. Well, that’s an experiment I’d love to run. Then there’s the PUP, perhaps not unexpectedly stripped of its most high profile political representative. 

Donaldson must be aware that in such a context there is little likelihood of Unionism coalescing around one brand of political Unionism – albeit there’s a different matter of Unionism coalescing around the Union, in the main, should a border poll be run. 

But as was pointed out on this site in comments, even were Unionism to simply attempt to pull all its multiple strands together that would not suffice to fend off the dynamics presented by a growing and more confident Republicanism and nationalist vote. 

Indeed Donaldson is in a sense evading the issue completely – because he is not making any efforts to attract soft nationalist and other voters (and I know this is becoming a single transferable post but unfortunately the context is such that it continues to have relevance). This is in some respects inexplicable. At what point is it possible that Unionists will be open about the fact that, well, to put it bluntly, there are insufficient unionists to carry the day in the traditional way up until this last decade?  Perhaps admitting to that truth is too great a step, that politically it is easier to pretend that all is well, that by some effort of will the numbers will fall right if only Unionism pulls together. 

Clements notes:

Demographic and societal change has irrevocably altered the North’s political landscape; though it is a crude yardstick, there are now more Catholics — more likely to vote for nationalist parties — in Northern Ireland than Protestants. Moreover the continued growth of Alliance, largely at the expense of unionist seats, is indicative of an appetite for an alternative among people who might once have voted unionist.

This is the changed reality with which unionism must now come to terms and attempt to address

While we cannot extrapolate from this PR election how people might vote when presented with the binary choice of a Border poll, it is nevertheless true that more people are choosing parties that want a united Ireland and fewer for those who wish to remain in the UK.

This is the changed reality with which unionism must now come to terms and attempt to address.

The MLA — and, briefly, DUP party leader — Edwin Poots described this election as a “wake-up and smell the coffee” moment for the party. What remains to be seen is if it can do so.

In some respects it hardly matters if a border poll is not imminent. The border poll is not the only game in town. The simple fact of nationalists and Republicans having this political prominence in the day to day affairs of Northern Ireland is a step-change. It’s not simply power-sharing in the context of the GFA/BA, it is a broader integration into the structures of the polity – one that has been evident and will continue to be into the future. Small wonder that there is a suspicion and more than a suspicion (Clements notes it in her article) that one of the reasons the DUP has refused against the wishes of the other parties, bar TUV, to re-enter Stormont is because a Sinn Féin First Minister brings home in the most concrete form the nature of that integration. 

Perhaps Donaldson realises there is an entirely new situation. And yet, I can’t but recall that he along with some other familiar names was amongst that cohort of UUPers who jumped ship during the GFA/BA process to the DUP. That inflexibility, that unwillingness to face up to the reality that was taking place not merely in front of them but in which they were involved in terms of direct engagement with the process, suggests that they and he are not best placed to bring Unionism through what is likely its most existential crisis yet – albeit one that is unfolding very very slowly. 

That RedC/SBP poll at the weekend May 29, 2023

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So SBP/Red C have a new poll, and they’re making a lot about actually relatively small movements. Richard Colwell of RedC writes;

Sinn Féin has regained the very high levels of support it last saw during summer 2022. The party has seen support rise by three percentage points, securing it 34 per cent of the first preference vote.

These gains appear to be very much at the expense of government parties. Fine Gael support drops by two percentage points, leaving the party with 20 per cent of the first preference vote, while Fianna Fáil also sees a marginal drop of one percentage point, leaving it at 15 per cent of the first preference vote.

Okay, it’s 3%


SF 34% +3

FF 15% -1

FG 20% -2

GP 4% NC


SD 6% +1

PBP-SOL 3% +1

AONTÚ 1% -1 


None of this is hugely striking. Sinn Féin was 35% in the last B&A/ST poll from early in the month. Ireland Thinks/SI had them at 31%. But in April they were on 37% for B&A/ST. So, we see some degree of variation. They remain, as always, the leading party in the polls. Colwell seeks to frame this in a number of ways. 

Gains for Sinn Féin appear to be due, to some extent, to the considerable success they had in the local elections in Northern Ireland, much of which was covered in the news just before the poll took place. The respectability obtained by the party doing well in actual elections gives voters here the social proof that it is acceptable to also express their support for the party.

That’s probably correct. Sinn Féin does have advantages other parties in the state do not enjoy, not least an aura of political achievement that sits outside the rhythm of ROI elections. That’s enormously advantageous when they are seen to be successful. Doesn’t always have to work that way if things dip for them. 

Curiously though he doesn’t mention the spat between the Coalition – ahem – partners this last week when polling was conducted. I’d think that might soften some support for those parties (and perhaps make them a little hesitant about directing their fire against one another rather than others – not that this actually proves anything much about that, but nonetheless, a bit of caution about being seen to be too eager to knock chunks out of one another appears logical). 

No, indeed, he skips to this:

Concern among the public about the rehousing of refugees and the suitability of accommodation given to them is widespread, with three quarters of the electorate suggesting that they believe Ireland has now taken in too many refugees. A figure that rises to almost eight in ten among those over 35 and is a strong view of those in lower income areas and those more likely to vote for Sinn Féin.

All this can be true and yet politically have little impact. 

Consider a post from Irish Elections Projections here from last month or so. Simply put they’re not bothering to rank where this issue is for voters (as well as ignoring the obvious signs that the issue has broadly subsided, albeit it is far from a perfect situation. Very far indeed. Where do voters actually put the issue as against other issues?

Michael Brennan in another piece on. the same topic offers this:

The Red C poll shows a significant split in public opinion about accommodating asylum seekers. Around half of voters, 49 per cent, agree with the statement “I am not happy about the state’s failure to provide accommodation for all asylum seekers who arrive here”. But 40 per cent disagreed with this, suggesting they are supportive of what Mick Barry, the Solidarity TD, has branded as the government’s “sleep in the streets” policy for new asylum seekers.

How nuanced is that analysis one wonders? Both cohorts could hold a range of opinions and attitudes. But the polling doesn’t parse them out at all. 

Or take this:

Around 76 per cent of people, for example, agreed with the statement “I can appreciate some of the anger people feel about asylum seekers being moved into their local area“. That is a warning to government that there is a broad public acceptance that people can have legitimate concerns about the rapid establishment of some of the 145 new emergency accommodation centres since January last year.

That’s quite some weight placed on the word ‘appreciate’ isn’t it? One can appreciate the anger some of the residents of a local apartment block in the same complex as a refugee centre have (borne of lack of communication from the state etc as well as other factors) without jumping to the conclusion that these are ‘legitimate’ concerns or that this constitutes broad acceptance  around the issue as framed in the article. Again the point is that the sentiment the polling reveals does exist, who would deny that, but that it is framed and presented in a way that reifies it and ignores all other elements. Even if these views were held uniformly it would make little difference in material terms. The state, and society, would still face precisely the same issues as it does now.a Ironically Brennan notes that we have international obligations (rightly so) as well as: ‘Opposition parties have called on the government to develop a better way of communicating with communities – rather than just rushing in new asylum seekers with very little prior information.’


Sure Colwell concludes with this, which I largely agree with:

As I raised in January, the immigration issue has certainly become far more important to the political fortunes of the government parties than it once was. They need to find a way to solve the issue of housing asylum seekers, while also making sure they are seen to appreciate voters’ concerns. More consultation and understanding are key, as well as perhaps a greater focus on the positive contribution of asylum seekers and immigrants generally to Irish society.


But just as ignoring the issue like the government has appeared to do is of no use, nor is presenting it as a larger issue than it actually is. As IEP noted:


You may remember my past issues with how Red C engaged in wild, incorrect and damaging speculation about the rise of racist rhetoric as an electorally influential force. Well, rather than just making things up without data, B&A actually went and did some research and guess what? Immigration is a top three issue for just 7% of voters, and a top issue for just 3%. And of that 7%, over 36% of them are likely non-voters (rising to over 42% of those who said it was the top issue). That pretty much shows the speculative stuff we saw in January was nonsense.

7% is not nothing, but nor is it something that is going to mobilise most voters. Worth keeping in mind when Colwell writes ‘There also appears to be significant backlash against the government with regard to how it is dealing with asylum seekers and refugees arriving in Ireland’. Is there any such backlash? I’d wonder, and again that’s not to say that the issue isn’t discussed or that people don’t have feelings on it.

Brennan in the SBP argues:

There is no large party as yet which has taken the type of anti-immigrant stance that has become part of politics in France, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Austria and other EU countries.

An existing party could pivot or a new anti-immigrant party could emerge to fill this political vacuum in the next general election. The continued presence of almost 12,000 people in emergency homeless accommodation makes the situation even more fraught. Thomas Gould, the Sinn Féin Cork North Central TD, warned in the Dáil last week that there were people who wanted to create a narrative of “us versus them”.

Not helped much by this sort of polling.

Still what about the opening to the right? 

Consider the polling above. Since the last RedC poll (ignoring all others which have higher ratings for FF) Fianna Fáil has lost 1% and Fine Gael 2%. The Green Party, a constituent element of the Coalition remains on 4%. How can that last be if this is such a live issue. Moreover look at the movement of votes – PBP and the SDs, who are more liberal on the issue gain support, marginal, but support nonetheless.  Does that really fit the term ‘backlash’ over the crisis around refugees. And there’s another oddity. Only this last week we saw an SF TD being lambasted by far-right individuals. Sinn Féin’s approach on the issue is more of a piece with those other parties mentioned just now. Yet it is the one that benefits politically? That seems implausible in the context of the argument being made. 

I’d argue that the movement we do see remains largely within the pre-existing bands of support that various parties have enjoyed or not across the last couple of years. Rather than there being large scale movements they’re actually fairly minimal. Of course we’ve known small political parties live and prosper in two or three per cent in the polls across their lifetimes, but as of yet the results here don’t seem to be hugely out of line with other polling and ascribing reasons above and beyond the general ineptitude of the government is not terribly useful. 

Left Archive: Socialist View: Political Journal of the Socialist Party, Issue 8, Spring 2001, Socialist Party May 29, 2023

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To download the above:

Please click here to go the Left Archive.

This joins other materials from the Socialist Party in the Archive (many thanks to Joan Collins for donating this to the Archive). And this is the first Socialist View added to the Archive. There are a wide range of articles. Ciaran Mulholland discusses the Peace Process, Kevin McLoughlin writes about The Dublin water charges struggle, Padraig Mulholland and Brian Booth talk about NIPSA elections, Ciaran Mulholland assesses New Labour in power, Eleanor Rogers reviews No Logo by Naomi Klein amongst other pieces.

The piece on the Peace Process argues;

What working class people require is a mass working class party that can win the support of both Catholic and Protestant workers and which takes independent, socialist positions on the key political issues. Such a party does not exist at present and will only be created through mass struggles and the pressure of events.

Kevin McLoughlin’s piece on the Water Charges Struggle argues:


Non-payment had to be the basis of the campaign. It was a way for every person to participate in the campaign and it linked thousands of people in united action. It was the nub of the issue, they want your money so you have to refuse to give it to them. We argued strongly that without non-pay­ment there was no campaign. Mass non­payment had to be established and then maintained, regardless of the conse­quences. However, it is one thing to state that and it is another thing to be able to withstand the attacks and intim­idation that the councils would then unleash on residents. Crucially it was the capability of the campaign to stop disconnections and to defend people in the courts that gave enormous confi­dence to thousands of people to contin­ue not to pay: A mood developed that whatever the councils threw at us could be dealt with. If the council’s attacks had succeeded, non-payment would have been undermined and the cam­paign could have crumbled to defeat.

And makes the point:

One aspect of the campaign which assumes even more than during the water charges battle is the need to build strong links  with council workers generally and the bin workers in particular. 

Eleanor Rogers review of No Logo concludes:

…despite its flaws, NoLogo is a good study of many of the roots of the anti-globalisation move­ment and it foreshadows some of the debates within the movement so well that it is hard to believe it was written and researched before the Battle of Seattle in 1999. It contains a lively col­lection of examples of youth rebellion and statistics and information about the corporations they are rebelling against. For any budding young anti­capitalist activist wanting to arm them­selves with basic material and ideas for campaigns, or for anyone wanting to understand this movement better it is therefore an invaluable source.


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