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To tell the one from the other… May 14, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics.
8 comments

A small but telling snippet of information from the UK General Election… this from the Guardian:

…there was a secondary head-to-head between the big-name American campaign consultants charged with greasing their paths to Downing Street.
In this backseat battle, President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina, who was advising Cameron, prevailed over the efforts of his fellow former top Obama aide David Axelrod, who was paid handsomely by the Labour party.

First Past the Post May 14, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics.
14 comments

One thought that struck me watching the UK election coverage was just how important PR is for political activity. I’ve mentioned the hollowed out nature of UK political parties, as noted here. No one would suggest that there isn’t some element of that in Irish political parties, and yet, the situation does not appear to be quite as bad (despite calls for more technocratic approaches, including List systems etc). Indeed it seems to me that multi-seat constituencies where if not all, at least a good number of candidates have a chance at winning a seat actually engenders and sustains a political life above and beyond that imposed by central parties. Moreover it means that the dead hand of a limited number of ‘competitive’ marginal constituencies, though what that means in UK politics today may well be quite different from last week, is ameliorated because simply put almost all constituencies are more rather than less competitive.

Moreover and this is stating the obvious, simply by permitting smaller and non party voices a chance to enter the mix it functions as a conveyer belt of at least some degree of plurality. Consider how in the UK even today there is but a handful of PC and GP MPs as against the remarkable numbers of independents and small party TDs here.

Not that that’s necessarily an unalloyed virtue, of course. Implementing a programme becomes more difficult in a context where government building is almost by definition a process of coalition building. And yet, looking at how in the UK the hopes of left Labour governments have been stymied time and again, and the prospects for alternatives further to their left have been minimal even when commanding reasonable vote shares it is difficult to see our situation as actually worse.

Ironic too to hear the UKIP strand of right wing politics beginning to cop to the necessity for PR if they are to make any impact at all. There is, it has to be said, a sort of injustice in their vote share translating into but a single seat – another sort of injustice in Scotland perhaps with the clean sweep by the SNP even if that was based on a stronger political sentiment proportionately.

But will anything be done about it? Hardly. It is not in the interest of a Tory party perhaps now convinced that it can rule alone and for quite some time to come. Perhaps the LP will look more kindly upon it, but I wonder how the John Reid’s and others of this world who were so adamant against it in the past will now feel to see the gates shutting them out for five years, and possibly more.

Meanwhile the SNP want to retain the HRA! Good on them. May 12, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics, Irish Politics.
1 comment so far

This just gets better. The Scottish government has indicated it wants to retain the 1998 Human Rights Act if the Tories replace it in the rest of Britain.

Said Act is written into the Good Friday Agreement, and scrapping it would it appears breach that agreement. And even better breach what is an international agreement between the UK and the ROI.

So if the Tories pursue this course of action they could potentially wind up in a position where Scotland retained the HRA, NI lost it and they’ve just violated an agreement with the ROI.

FFS.

UK GE as seen from the ROI May 12, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics, Irish Politics.
7 comments

Good piece by Pat Leahy in the Business Post on the British General Election. He marks out three areas which are of interest, and importance in some respects, to this state. First up the danger of Brexit. He notes that there is broad consensus that that would ‘have calamitous consequences for Ireland. At the very least, it would complicate hugely relations with Northern Ireland – given that the border would become an EU frontier’.
Truth, I suspect, is that would perhaps be less of a problem given that Ireland and Britain are islands. The border would indeed become an EU frontier, but… some form of local dispensation would probably operate with a somewhat stronger regime in place at entry ports in this state. We already operate opt-outs from Schengen. It’s not difficult to see those being boosted in some form or fashion to keep everything sweet on the island.

But it’s not just the border. Leahy makes a very very persuasive point that…

In pursuit of the objective to avoid a Brexit, Ireland will likely become Britain’s strongest ally in negotiations to secure new terms for British membership. The Irish government will want to help the British get a deal that Cameron can endorse as a better deal for Britain, and so campaign for staying in.

You bet. Dublin will see it as explicitly in its interest that London remains inside the fold. And even if that falters, well, it will stick close to London one way or another. The economics of the situation will determine that.

Of course it’s not sensible to forget that inside the UK there are enormously powerful interests who will argue vehemently for a retention of the status quo. For all the vainglorious sub-ourselves alone stuff coming from UKIP and parts of the Tories, the city of London is all too well aware how – rather like this state – there is a benefit from being on the edge of the EU, but in. Always in.

So there’s no certainty that a referendum will be lost, one way or another. At least not yet.

Leahy also notes that the result in Scotland has to increase the chances of independence or some much greater degree of autonomy. Very possibly, albeit that is further down the line. That said he also points to the fact that in Northern Ireland unionism had a pretty good election. Republican and nationalist increases stymied. Alliance seen off. The UUP back in the game (no small thing that). It’s all very 1990s, isn’t it? Actually it is, rather like the continuing hold FF has on a body of the Irish electorate, a testament to how change can even after massive events come slower than might be expected, how it can even appear to be reversed.

Leahy then goes on to examine the more – shall we say – local implications, how the dynamics apparent in the UK might be reflected in terms of the Coalition here.

The fact is that a government that shredded many areas of public spending, that demobbed half a million public sector workers, that cut taxes for the wealthy and cut welfare benefits for millions of people on the margins has been resoundingly re-elected in a country not all that dissimilar to ours.
What does this mean for Irish politics?

Well let’s start by noting Irish politics is radically different to UK politics. First past the post, no massive structural change in party support consequent on the crisis, the sheer fact the UK is a composite state, a Tory party which sits outside European Christian Democracy unlike, for the most part, Fine Gael, all these feed into massively different dynamics. So when Leahy points to the above one has to be very very careful in defining hard and fast potential outcomes.

He writes;

It’s possible to encapsulate three reasons why Cameron won: leadership, economic competence and the huge risk aversion of voters.

At least two of these three factors could apply to the next Fine Gael campaign. Enda Kenny – though having done the job of Taoiseach, he has neutralised many previous doubts about him – won’t win the election on his own. But he won’t lose it either. The two big coalition advantages are the economic record and the voters’ risk aversion. These are big things, and it is the big things that matter most. In short, the British election reinforces the centrality of economics in politics.

Yes. But. There’s a difference there too. Cameron didn’t face a running battle over a key element of economic policy − that being water charges. Nor at any point did he or Osborne have to rework their approach in a policy area like that due to popular protest. So while it is indeed the economy, it’s perhaps more than that.

I’d even wonder if it would be possible for Fine Gael to ‘demob’ public sector workers. Politically it would seem unlikely. Again, this is a different state, different dynamics.

Where it does seem possible to draw more direct comparisons, Leahy does so explicitly, is the comparison between the Liberal Democrats and Labour in this state. He’s not optimistic.

Perhaps the best model to follow is one of the few successful post-coalition small party campaigns in modern times – the Progressive Democrats in 2002. While the Fianna Fáil-PD government was running very much for re-election as a government, Michael McDowell unleashed a barrage of attacks on Fianna Fáil during the campaign, culminating in his famous “Single Party Government – No Thanks” posters. Whether Bertie Ahern would win a majority became the defining question of the last week, and the PDs doubled their seats.
Unless Labour can similarly elbow its way into the defining question of the final days, the fate of the Liberal Democrats surely beckons.

That’s a tough one to try to emulate. Not sure how it could be done. And we don’t need to look to the UK to see how this is likely to pan out – at best with a very few TDs returned. The experience of the Green Party, and the PDs just before them, tells us much we need to know about how ‘mudguard’ parties function in elections.

Not and well are two words that come to mind.

Still, for all that Leahy points to the significance of the election in the UK to this state, and perhaps how marginal this state is in regard to what happens afterwards in relation to decisions the UK takes.

Somehow I think this definition of ‘compassion’ isn’t the one I’d use… May 11, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics.
6 comments

From the Guardian this evening:

The prime minister also said the Tories needed to show they were the party of compassion by pressing ahead with reforms to welfare and education.

Here’s another one in a similar vein:

Finally, he said the Tories needed to bring the UK together.

Kudos to UK Polling Report May 8, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics.
10 comments

…for this masterful example of understatement…

a few quick thoughts about the accuracy of the polls.
Clearly, they weren’t very accurate.

Photofinish? May 6, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics.
8 comments

It’s remarkable, really, how close the polls remain in the UK. Individual polls are too close to call, this ICM one in the Guardian might give some succour to the BLP with it increasing by 3 percent to bring it level at 35% with the Tories. But the broader trends are of no trend really, with the two parties neck and neck (which I guess means the ICM poll isn’t an outlier so, though no doubt the LP is hoping that the increase in it means something). We’ll know in forty eight hours.

The wisdom of this crowd: The result of the UK GE? May 4, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics.
43 comments

I’m wondering what people think is likely to be the outcome of the General Election in the UK, given that polls put it at a photo-finish between Tories and the BLP. And what of other contests there, Scotland most obviously, but also Wales, and closer to home what of the North? Any thoughts, observations or predictions?

And Scotland… May 1, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics, Scotland, Scottish Politics.
18 comments

UK Polling Report makes a great point on foot of the latest polling results in Scotland…

MORI’s Scottish poll shows, as ever, a huge SNP lead. Topline figures are CON 17%, LAB 20%, LDEM 5%, SNP 54% (tabs). This would be enough for the SNP to win just about everywhere. A measure of just how vast the change has been in Scotland is that we are no longer surprised by polls showing the SNP with huge landslide leads in Scotland – we should be. A thirty-four point lead for the SNP in an area that Labour has consistently won since the 1960s is astounding and appears to be a true realignment in Scottish politics.

And continues:

We end up paying to the rest of the country because England and Wales are on a knife-edge while the outcome of Scotland appears settled, it’s just a question of how colossal the SNP landslide is, but it’s good to sit back occasionally and gawp at the scale of the turnaround in Scottish politics since a year ago.

It is indeed astounding, and even if it doesn’t lead to a total wipeout of all others, and who can possibly tell at this point whether it will or will not, it suggests that there has been a fundamental shift in the nature of politics within the UK. Within the UK because, of course, Scotland remains within the UK.

There’s a lot of loose talk about the legitimacy of post-election governments, Nick Clegg has, rather self-servingly given he is about to see a first-hand example of the meaning of the term attrition applied to his own party, argued that the party with the largest number of seats is the only credible party for government – and this has obvious ramifications if say the Tories are a few ahead of the LP.

Those of us who live in more complex/chaotic/somewhat more representative polities will know that it ain’t necessarily so, that it is all about who can get the majority and in whatever way. Given that joint programmes of their nature distort the programmes parties go into elections hawking the idea of some sort of purity conveyed by more numbers is chimerical.

And it’s telling to see a sub-argument of this argue that a government supported either explicitly or indirectly by the SNP is somehow illegitimate being put about too. Of course that too is about shutting down options, and in particular making it more difficult for the LP to gain power.

But it makes no real sense (particularly) if the hegemonic party in Scotland is the SNP after the next election. Because Scotland remains, particularly after the referendum, a part of the Union. Nor is that likely to change soon and rather than playing games with Scotland a real engagement on the part of London and London based parties might actually go some way to redressing the issues that have brought us to this point. Again one has to recall that the recent referendum was shaped by Cameron and the Tories explicitly to prevent the option of devolution max – the option that would almost certainly have commanded greatest support had it been on the ballot and an option that the SNP could live with. Moreover since the referendum the actions of the Tories have been blatantly antagonistic to the sentiment that saw the referendum a close run thing and that will power the SNP to an historic result this coming month.

One can argue that all this is the result of the referendum, but I think that too pat. More likely it is the result of many years of indifference and neglect and a sense that for all the talk of a union the reality was one of a centre that dominated and a periphery that was – for all that it had instruments of its own – peripheral.

But one way or another London, England, the rest of the UK, has to wake up to this new reality. Telling too that the DUP, hardly renowned for its political sensitivity and tact, is aware too of the dangers implicit in the current Tory line. They, perhaps, more than most, are able to comprehend genuine threats to the union. Perhaps they too understand, more than most, what has to be given away in order to retain that union.

An analysis of British politics… April 18, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics.
7 comments

…here on the LRB, James Meek visits Grimsby, once a Labour redoubt, held by Austin Mitchell for decades, now? Well, who knows… It’s an interesting mix of politics with some very contemporary resonances.

Just one thought that puzzles me, a lot of talk about how Britain should have stayed out of the EEC and how they could have retained a 200 mile fishing limit, but how would that work in relation to this state given the width of the Irish Sea alone is as little as a 100km?

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