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Public Meeting Tonight on Public Sector Deal May 6, 2010

Posted by Garibaldy in Socialist Party.
4 comments

Thanks to Mark P for this information in the comments on the DTUC thread.

Public Sector Deal

How can we defeat the government’s agenda

Workers’ Forum hosted by Joe Higgins MEP

Speakers:
Joe Higgins MEP
Brendan Ogle Organiser UNITE
Eddie Conlon TUI
Terry Kelleher CPSU Executive
Helen Metcalfe IMPACT
John Kidd Convenor Dublin Fire Brigade, SIPTU

Teachers’ Club Parnell Square
Thursday 6 May @ 8pm

Public sector workers are asked to come to this forum being organised by Joe Higgins MEP to facilitate a public discussion on how workers can defeat the government’s agenda of making working class people pay for the economic crisis and their plans to destroy public services.

All welcome……

The Irish Left Archive: Militant Irish Monthly, Issue No.3, June 1972 April 13, 2009

Posted by irishonlineleftarchive in Irish Labour Party, Irish Left Online Document Archive, Militant, Socialist Party.
5 comments

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militant-no3-opt

Under the heading “Introducing the Irish Monthly” this four page broadsheet is confusingly numbered as No. 3 and introduced as ‘the first issue of the MILITANT Irish Monthly”. It continues:

The great success of the MILITANT Irish Editions made it absolutely clear that there was a real demand for a paper which put forward a clear and consistent Marxist view of the bloody events in Ireland.

This speaks of a concentration on the events in the North which is exemplified by the photograph of the Vanguard March at Craigavon Bridge, an inside photograph of Craig and Enoch Powell in full Orange regalia and accompanying articles on the situation including an highly critical overview of the Northern Ireland Labour Party. Note the main headline: North and South: Fight Orange and Green Tories with: Class Action.

An article calls for the ‘creation of an armed TU defence force to fight sectarianism coupled to a socialist programme for the nationalisation of the banks, insurance companies and major monopolies’ in order to ‘side-step’ the ‘possibility of a protracted civil war’.

As ever with Militant it is a clear and well produced document.

This text and these files are a resource for use freely by anyone who wants to for whatever purpose – that’s the whole point of the Archive (well that and the discussions). But if you do happen to use them we’d really appreciate if you mentioned that you found them at the Irish Left Online Document Archive…

The Left Archive: Ireland: The Socialist Answer, Socialist Organiser, 1989 – Part 2 October 20, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Communist Party of Ireland, Irish Left Online Document Archive, Sinn Féin, Socialist Organiser, Socialist Party, Socialist Workers' Party, Workers' Party.
2 comments

As promised, and with an unexpected hiatus last week, the second part of Ireland: The Socialist Answer from Socialist Organiser.

The first part can be found here.

Just a further note. Consider that this document charts the views of all the significant left protagonists in Ireland at the time, from the Workers’ Party, the SWM, Militant, Sinn Féin, CPI and so on. And it also looks at the position of the British Labour Party and has contributions from Tony Benn.

One may quibble with its conclusions, but it would appear to be the most comprehensive overview of the area produced at that time.

The files, as previously noted, are fairly large so I’ve broken them up for easier download.

Smaller files… fewer pages:

Pages 35 – 51 (file size – 6.9mbs): itsa-35-51

Pages 52 – 68 (file size – 7.2mbs): itsa-52-68

One big file…

Pages 35 – 68 (file size – 14.1mbs): itsa-35-68

The long war? December 5, 2007

Posted by franklittle in Environment, Irish Politics, Local Politics, Minor Left Parties, Socialist Party, Socialist Workers' Party, The Further Left, The Left, Trotskyism.
7 comments

I was slightly surprised to read on Indymedia today that the Galway Bin Charges Campaign held a picket outside Galway City Council as part of a laudable, and it should be noted successful, campaign against an initiative from the City Manager to remove the waiver on bin charges for bin lifts. Protestors accurately pointed out that this would have a substantial impact on the worst off in Galway.

My surprise was not because Galway Alliance Against War felt it necessary to turn up in a credulity stretching interpretation of its mandate, but in the continued existence, however chimera like of the anti-bin tax campaign in places around the country and the continued lack of anything like a strategy to get rid of the charges.

Drimnagh, where I live, was home to one of the strongest anti-bin charges campaigns in Ireland. Joan Collins, former SP, successfully rode the campaign into the Council chamber and Bríd Smith of the SWP/PBP wasn’t a million miles away from doing the same in Ballyfermot. Like most households in our area, the Littles refused to pay the bin charges, attended the meetings and a couple of marches and protests and quizzed candidates in 2002 and 2004 on where they stood on the issue.

Now, again like most of our neighbours, we pay the charge. Grudgingly certainly, but we pay it nonetheless. Yet, as a search on Indymedia for bin tax related stories will reveal, there are still occasional protests and campaign work in parts of Drimnagh, in Ringsend, and there was a small protest outside Dublin City Council when the Estimates were debated at the end of November and where, for the first time in Dublin City, Sinn Féin councillors backed the Estimates containing bin charges.

But here’s the thing. The campaign is, to all intents and purposes, over. Non-payment, as a means to ‘axe the tax’ has failed. I don’t, by the way, think it failed because it was the wrong strategy. I think it was the right one. It failed because the unions, Labour and Sinn Féin wouldn’t back it and they should not be allowed to forget that. Non-payment levels in the Dublin local authorities are not worrying the City Manager and outside of Dublin it was never really a political issue. The extended family in the rural homeland of the Littles was paying bin charges for several years without complaint before it blew up as an issue in Dublin.

Power to bring in and set the level of the Bin Tax has been taken from the councillors and put in the hands of the City and County Managers. Regardless of how a councillor votes, he or she cannot alter the rate at which the charge is set. In theory, a majority of councillors could refuse to bring in the Estimates and collapse the Council, but this would need to happen in several different areas before the Government would be forced to act in any way other than simply appointing Commissioners to run the City or County.

But there is no sign of such a majority on any Council, and every indication from the recent elections that the working class are not rising from their chairs with a ballot paper in one hand and a burning Bin Charges bill in the other. Indeed the most prominent anti-bin charges campaigner in the country, whose constituency was home to one of the stronger anti-bin charges campaign, lost his seat. If anything, with the inclusion of the always pro-bin charges Greens, the prospect of their abolition has become even more unlikely. Councillors in Dublin City who voted against the Estimates because of the charges have had their positions misrepresented as having votes against the new playground for the area, or the new litter warden because they were also contained in the Estimates. Clearly, supporters of bin charges are no longer afraid, and many opponents no longer see political capital in it.

So, why do the protests and the anti-bin charges campaign continue? In part, one supposes it is because of the still outstanding legal issues around the charges, but I can’t help but wonder if certain individuals and parties are happy to keep the campaign ticking over in order to maintain their profiles ahead of the next election.

This is not a debate about the rights and wrongs of double taxation. The bin charges are wrong and should be opposed. But is it the best use of the limited resources the left in Ireland has available to it to fight a battle that has been lost for a couple of years? There is, in my opinion, no shame in accepting that, for now, a battle is lost and preparing to fight a new one until the opportunity to refight the charges comes again. There is and was shame in not fighting at all, or in supporting the charges in the first place.

At what point do you accept that a campaign is over? At what point do you acknowledge defeat or claim victory? And when does the maintenance of a campaign become more of an exercise in political manipulation and candidate profiling and less of a genuine attempt to right a wrong and correct an injustice?

Distinctions not cost effective, Social Democracy or Democratic Socialist: and is the Irish Labour Party hoping to slay an imaginary dragon? October 17, 2007

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Labour Party, Irish Politics, Social Democracy, Socialist Party, Socialist Workers' Party.
13 comments

An interesting post on Politics.ie drew attention to a proposed motion in the upcoming Irish Labour Party Conference in November.

Motion 74 states:

Conference resolves that the party constitution is amended as follows:

Part 1, Introduction, paragraph 3, line one, delete the words ‘Democratic Socialist Party’ and substitute ‘Social Democratic Party’ Paragraph to read:

The Labour Party is a social democratic party and, through its membership of the party of European Socialists and Socialist International, is part of the international socialist movement working for equality and to empower citizens, consumers and workers in a world increasingly dominated by big business, greed and selfishness.

Now (assuming the post is correct), perhaps this displays my ignorance of the LP, but I always assumed that they were a Social Democratic party. Certainly they’ve acted as such for most of the last century. Indeed, one could argue that they’ve acted more rightward than that during that time – particularly in government. And lest that seem like a needless dig against them I am all too aware of the constraints of governing in a broadly conservative social and political milieu and applaud what gains they did make.

But let’s come back to this notion of Social Democracy as against Democratic Socialist. The comments accompanying the post are revealing. There is a clear split between those who adhere to the ‘socialist’ tag and those who consider that that is inappropriate for the LP. What is interesting is how reminiscent this is of arguments I’ve heard before. Long long ago. Wasn’t it a certain Eoghan Harris who wrote in the late 1980s of the “necessity” for Social Democracy in the WP. Moreover, whatever the nature of the WP at least in 1988 one could argue that it retained a strong Marxist approach albeit modified by the then prevailing fashions of more ‘reformist’ currents.

And what precisely are the distinctions between Social Democracy and Democratic Socialism? If we are to argue that this is a distinction between evolutionary socialism and revolutionary socialism, well then I’d suggest that anyone in the latter camp inside Labour is in the wrong party (On the other hand, a fairly cool-headed appraisal of the likelihood of revolution in this society in the near future tends towards a negative prognosis. That being the case why not, revolutionary spirit intact, join a party which has at least some serious links with the working class? And so the old song plays out).

But of course, and here in particularly, generally democratic socialist simply indicates a line further left than social democracy. But how much further left? Often the terms are used interchangeably. But they don’t have to be. Social ownership of industry? Re-distribution of wealth through taxation? Planned economy? Acceptance of representative democracy (or some form of participative and pluralistic democracy)? Marxism of whatever hue? All these appear to aspects of both social democratic and democratic socialist projects. However, contemporary social democracy appears to have essentially shied away from the first, largely the second, the third and the fifth. I’d suggest, that the first and the third might well comprise a democratic socialist agenda. To be honest even a strong social democratic program would – in this day and age – constitute a light democratic socialist program, such is the way that the left has tilted towards the centre (although that is not the whole story. There has been a retention of broadly social democratic impulses amongst the population at large – sometimes in unexpected and contradictory manifestations and government has had to act to appease such impulses hence the stalling of privatisation agendas and the ‘safeguarding’ of core elements of welfarism).

Then again, in economies where planning and ownership appear completely off the agenda the mechanisms for reappropriation seem limited in the short-term. So is this an agenda subject to perpetual delay? And it is also fair to point to new strands, or reworkings of old strands, of libertarian socialism which are strongly averse to statism of whatever form. So therefore while the terms have a utility, it is not exhaustive. But that is the point. It is impossible to clearly demarcate Social Democracy, impossible too to clearly demarcate Democratic Socialism. And as noted above, the distinctions are not entirely cost effective. At best these terms serve as guides, not proscriptions.

One interesting dynamic of contemporary Irish left politics is the way the SWP and SP have cornered the market on the term ‘socialist’. Not entirely, but sufficiently to give a certain distinctiveness to the utility of the term by others. There is no more tiresome argument than to read an SP member or other argue that they alone have some sort of moral or ethical copyright on the term socialist (although by way of balance can I propose that there is little more irksome than to read Ireland’s leading self-proclaimed ‘socialist’ use it either). On a personal note, and following on from some of Garibaldy’s comments on another thread, I entered Democratic Left in the hope that it would be Democratic Socialist/Eurocommunist (and let’s not open that can of worms). I left convinced that it was hardly less social democratic than Labour and in some very important ways, to me at least, was actually more rightward in its positions.

Consider the situation across the Irish Sea. Today, Polly Toynbee, writing in the Guardian last week has found Labour wanting. Writing about the dismal fiasco that is represented by the frankly disgraceful retreat on inheritance tax by Labour she notes that ‘this was the week that social democracy ebbed away’. Not democratic socialism, mind you, but social democracy. And to contextualise it she argues that Blair and Brown ‘purged’ socialism when they forged New Labour. She suggests that “Clause Four was indeed archaic nonsense’. And yet, the curious thing is that if one should trouble oneself to consult the BLP Constitution one will find…

‘The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few.’

Now that, no doubt, will raise the occasional wry chuckle from those, like myself who have passed through the BLP at one point or another. And yet, it remains part and parcel of that party. It has a certain currency. It can be used as an yardstick against which the goals and objectives of the BLP can be assessed. But the point is that by any standards of a ‘democratic socialist’ party the u-turns on inheritance tax represented a debacle. I can stomach much, but to my mind inheritance tax is fundamental to a left project. Toynbee also, correctly to my mind, argues that “we now have a centrist government in Europe’s most unequal country. Our government stands somewhat to the right of Merke’s coalition in Germany, to the right of economic policy in France…at least in Europe there are leftwing parties to still make the public arguments: in England, due to our malfunctioning electoral system, a political generation has barely heard the case for social justice.” The point is that this dynamic is equally apparent in this polity, perhaps more so because the explicit left is so weak (although let me – if I haven’t before – rapidly reference a brilliant piece by Splintered Sunrise which notes that objectively FF was for most of its history more left wing than SF – perhaps that tells us something too).

And weirdly, despite the fact that I’m putting forward a defence of the word socialist in this context, I’ve never much liked it. I’m vastly fonder of it with the prefix ‘democratic’. I’m not hugely fond of the term Social Democrat, that may be a hangover from the foundation of the UK variants (although I’ve always admired from afar the Nordic parties of the same name). But like so much in politics categorisations seem to be hauled out often for no other reason than to bash ones ideological opponent over the head. Mind you, also worth noting that the LP belongs to the “Socialist” International, and indeed the European “Socialists”. How to square that circle? I look forward to the Conference.

For myself I see no problem with the terms Democratic Socialist and Social Democrat co-existing. Personally I prefer the terms Marxist, or leftist or indeed left progressive or red/green and, again, I’m fairly certain the word democratic is in there somewhere. But all these categories are fluid. One of the most illuminating aspects of building up this left archive is to see how catch-all ‘socialism’ is. Communists of the Moscow line were ‘socialists’, Mitterand was a ‘socialist’, the British Labour Party is ‘socialist’, Joe Higgins is a ‘socialist’, I’m a ‘socialist’ of sorts and I’ll bet a large percentile of you are ‘socialist’ as well. It hasn’t stopped some interesting and even heated discussions and debates on these pages, and if it has that flexibility… well then perhaps we shouldn’t invest it with too much emotion. Yet, sometimes we have to. Sometimes it is necessary to say that a term has a currency, however nebulous it may be, however difficult it is to feel entirely comfortable with it and that it links into broader discourses.

What I find depressing is to see an argument I saw in the late 1980s replayed inside Labour. If the left is going to move forward I genuinely believe it should start to move beyond attempts to corral everyone within neat categorisation and accept that there are different strands that have to work together. To be entirely honest, both about itself and its potential Labour would append Social Democrat as a descriptor within the Constitution in addition to Democratic Socialist.

It is entirely reasonable, perhaps even necessary, that within a political party of the left that there are different platforms that represent different strands. Sometimes this can be destructive, but sometimes it can lead to a vitality, an energy, and indeed an honesty about the realities of political formations.

But let’s put this in perspective. Is it seriously suggested that altering this term is going to bring the onset of a Gilmore tide? Where is the public demand for such a move, other than in the mutterings in the media about Labour ‘changing’ in some unspecified fashion? And yet, perhaps this is the dragon about to be despatched. Gilmore generating his Kinnock-like ‘Militant’ moment. I genuinely hope not. I find the idea that that dynamic of change, that token of political ‘authenticity’ and power, is somehow still with us uniquely depressing. Because the thought strikes me that we might well see a more overt promotion of the the term ‘Social Democrat’ within the Labour party on foot of such a change. As I say, I have no argument with that term, amongst others, in usage within Labour, but I’m also beginning to wonder could this be the first gentle soundings that would precede a name-change?

Ther ain’t no party like a Ché party, coz a Ché party don’t stop October 8, 2007

Posted by franklittle in Sinn Féin, Socialist Party, The Left.
28 comments

If the size, scope and attractiveness of the event being organised to commemorate the life of Ché Guevara in Dublin this week is the best indicator as to which of Ireland’s myriad of left-wing political formations can best claim his legacy, then it’s time Gerry Adams donned a beret and fatigues again as the Shinners are really pushing the boat out.

The Socialist Party, clearly not wanting to mess with a winning formula, have gone for a public meeting tomorrow night (The 40th anniversary of his death) in Wynns Hotel where a man called Tony Saunois will address the massed ranks of workers and peasants on Ché Guevara and the struggle against capitalism. Depending on which SP poster you see, Saunois is described either as a ‘Socialist and author of a book on Ché’ or ‘Latin American Organiser of the CWI’.

His book, Che Guevara: Symbol of Struggle is available on Amazon and, if you rush, you can be the first to review it. Normally, you couldn’t pay me enough to attend, but having had a heavy spending weekend, all offers will be considered.

The Shinners however have really gone all-out. Ché’s emissary in Ireland (Mary Lou McDonald) today made a presentation to the Cuban Ambassador in City Hall with representatives from SIPTU and the ATGWU, as well as Sinn Féin’s City Council Group and there is a vigil planned at the James Connolly statue outside Liberty Hall on Thursday evening.

But it is the party they’re throwing that night in the Floridta Cuban bar that excites me the most. Live Cuban music, classic cocktail bar, Latin American Cuisine and (My personal favourite) ‘Exclusive Cigars’. My, my, exclusive no less. And the Cuban Ambassador appears again. To be honest, it sounds pretty attractive. Rum, mojitos and cigars figure high on my personal list of things I strongly support.

Beats the Hell out of the Wolfe Tones I expect. To be honest, I never really got the whole Ché obsession in the broad left despite the fact that friends travelling in Latin America seem to automatically assume my dearest wish as a souvenir is another Ché shirt (Of which I have five) or poster (Two). It also strikes me as interesting, maybe even telling, that after an election campaign where Sinn Féin ran like terrified rabbits, with as much coherence, for the centreground, they’re embracing a man who was an unreconstructed militarist and revolutionary until the day he died.

Never mind the politics comrade. Sit back with a glass of rum and a cigar and admire the rhetoric. I might even turn up.

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Defeat for SP in ’07, but where is the internal debate? August 12, 2007

Posted by franklittle in Irish Election 2007, Irish Labour Party, Irish Politics, Labour Party, Marxism, Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin, Socialist Party, The Left.
47 comments

It has been a bad year for Trotsky’s representatives in Ireland, the Socialist Party.

In the North hopes that water charges were going to be introduced, allowing the SP through it’s dominance of the We Won’t Pay Campaign to take a lead on the issue, were dashed when the new Assembly suspended the Charges. The issue is not dead by any means, and the introduction of water charges is still a strong possibility, but the opportunity that was there for the SP to take on a position of being a serious player in Northern politics through the non-payment campaign has disappeared, at least temporarily.

The Assembly elections were equally disappointing. The party’s two candidates each polled less than 250 votes with Thomas Black coming 13th out of 15 candidates in East Belfast and James Barbour 13th out of 18 in South Belfast. The SP’s explanation for this is that they were too busy working to build the mass non-payment campaign to take seriously such minor matters as Assembly elections. It is an explanation that lacks any real credibility.

The SP had undoubtedly done more to build the campaign of opposition to water charges than any other party yet in an election where the charges were one of the biggest issues, their two long-standing candidates failed to register anything more than a ‘friends and family’ vote. The use of non-payment campaigns like this to raise the profile of election candidates was standard SP practice for Higgins and Daly in their respective Dáil constituencies and for Mick Barry and Mick Murphy in the Locals. With the election of Brian Wilson as the first Green MLA, Anna Lo as the first from an ethnic minority background and Kieran Deeny retaining his seat in West Tyrone on a hospital services ticket there are tiny green shoots of an alternative politics to the unionist and nationalist blocs. It is one that seems to have no room for Peter Hadden.

But all of this was secondary to the disaster that was the party’s performance in the 2007 Elections. Like most observers I expected to see Higgins retain his seat with relative ease though I did suspect he might drop a few votes to a growing Sinn Féin organisation in the constituency. Though he dropped votes, it was certainly not to the pretty poor Sinn Féin performance. Again, like most, I expected to see Daly take a seat in Dublin North and so did she by all accounts. Yet even if the constituency had been a five seater, it simply wasn’t on the cards.

What is interesting to me is the reaction of the SP to this compared to Labour and Sinn Féin, both of whom had poor enough elections. Senior members of the Labour party have gone public with their criticism of the party’s strategy. There seems at events like the Tom Johnson Summer School to be an effort to try and identify what went wrong. The deal with Sinn Féin, which covers more than Seanad nominations but also a deal in the Dáil the details of which have not been made public, suggest a re-orientation of Labour, however embryonic it is in form.

Sinn Féin threw the pages of the party paper open to criticism, sometimes quite aggressive in nature, of the party’s leadership and announced a complete review of the party’s election strategy consisting of meetings around the country. According to reports that appeared in Phoenix and that I have heard myself, these meetings have been extremely critical of the party leadership and at times quite heated and the review process is not yet complete.

The Socialist Party on the other hand, seems to have decided that the reason for the party’s poor election in 2007 is simple. It was everybody else’s fault. Presumably there is no reason for an internal debate when Kevin O’Loughlin has explained the party line on what went wrong as he did in an article published on their site on the 29th of May. The failures of the ‘official opposition’ and the trade union movement are blamed for people choosing Fianna Fáil. The lack of a ‘better mood and general combativity by the working class’ prevented seats in Dublin West and Dublin North.

Equally interesting, was O’Loughlin’s forthright statement that ‘the Socialist Party stood by its principles and politically and organisationally did everything in its power to withstand the shifts in opinion’. In other words, if something went wrong, it certainly was not our fault and therefore criticism of the party leadership or strategy, should it even exist, a red herring.

There is, in fairness, justification for one of their complaints. Had Dublin West been properly represented as a four seater, Joe Higgins would have retained his seat. But concentrating on this and claiming, as O’Loughlin does, that the strength of the party in Dublin North insulated them from the damage done by the ‘Alliance for Change’ ignores a steep decline in Higgins’ vote from 21.48% to 14.91%. Daly’s vote went from 12.52% to 8.92%. Some insulation. Only in Cork North Central and Dublin South West were they votes up, albeit marginally, on 2002. Either way, the best the SP can hope for in 2009 is to tread water at a local election level.

Losing Higgins’ seat is a disaster for the organisation on a number of levels and there is more than a little truth in the pompous claim from O’Loughlin that it is a disaster for the working class. Higgins was probably the most effective and articulate left TD in the Dáil and his media profile, far in excess of what one would expect for a single TD party, was a valuable resource. He was one of the few TDs who genuinely unnerved Ahern during Leader’s Questions and seemed to have a better grasp of the use of the Dáil as a platform from which to articulate one’s views than Labour and Sinn Féin who found themselves sucked into the institution. But more even than the political or propaganda loss, which is quickly appreciated, is the financial damage done to the party.

With the loss of the seat goes the full-time salary for Higgins, the two staff he had working out of his office, the use of the office and Leinster House facilities, the money Higgins donated to the party from his wages and expense and the Leader’s Allowance, which was worth almost 70,000 Euros per annum alone. All told, the financial cost to the SP of losing the seat, including wages, must add up to over 200,000 Euros per annum. For any political party to lose a sum of that size would be damaging. For the Socialist Party, who must have become used to being able to rely on such state funding and who are a small organisation with little fundraising capacity, it has the potential to be crippling.

Members of the Socialist Party, including its incredibly aggressive ad hoc group of bloggers and internet monitors, have been putting the best face on this. Arguing, rightly, that elections are merely one aspect of their work. That they continue to campaign in the unions and communities. That Joe Higgins will return. And so on. But one of the things the SP has done well is use the resources and profile that came with Higgins’ elevation to the Dáil to support those campaigns. With other Independents and the Greens defeated or neutralised through coalition, it opens up a space for Sinn Féin to assert dominance of the radical left in Ireland, with Labour taking the more moderate space. What kind of campaign, for example, will the SP be able to mount against the EU Constitution? What kind of local or European election campaign can they run in 2009?

These are important considerations for any political party. A debate around them could be taking place within the SP but there is absolutely no sign of it and the indications from the party’s paper is that the O’Loughlin analysis of the election, putting responsibility on everyone else and failing to address the way forward for the party in the short to medium term, is the accepted truth.

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