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Signs of Hope – A continuing series March 22, 2018

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Gewerkschaftler suggested this recently:

I suggest this blog should have a regular (weekly) slot where people can post happenings at the personal or political level that gives them hope that we’re perhaps not going to hell in a handbasket as quickly as we thought. Or as the phlegmatic Germans put it “hope dies last”.

Any contributions this week?

Those SF MPs March 21, 2018

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Difficult to disagree with this assessment on Slugger that even Noel Whelan’s latest thoughts on SF MPs taking their seats after a Westminster General Election are not really sufficient unto the day in regard to the basic issues at play. Particularly good is the withering takedown of Polly Toynbee by Brian Walker where he notes that ‘her argument is at heart a self-serving UK argument, an attempt to play a green card rather than an orange one’. But he is also right that even after a General Election one cannot tell whether there would be any ‘need’ for SF votes at Westminster or what they could add to the feast.

Polling news… March 21, 2018

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This didn’t surprise me, news that polling remains relatively accurate. 

It seemed to be a hat trick of polling catastrophes: Brexit, the 2016 US presidential election and the 2017 British general election. But researchers now say that despite popular perceptions, polls are as accurate as they have ever been.

They say a new analysis of political polls shows that errors have not increased over the decades since the 1940s – and might even have diminished.

“A lot of people have claimed that polling is in crisis, that there have been political events that surprised us over the last year … [but] what does the data say?,” said study coauthor Dr Will Jennings of the University of Southampton

Of course we know there have been some high profile misses, but in general terms the methods seem relatively robust given that polls are only snapshots. For Brexit the polls were actually there or thereabouts given the closeness both of the polled results and the actual vote on the day. For Trump Clinton won the larger number of votes but at state level where the electoral college functioned she lost badly. The 2017 General Election in the UK is interesting because while Labour still lost it gathered remarkable momentum during the campaign.

In a way I can’t help but feel that people demand certainty of processes that are anything but even at their best.  A poll is not a vote. To demand a poll to provide a future outcome in total seems perverse. We’ve long noted that in Irish polling there’s remarkable variation between polls and in terms of outcomes. That’s hardly surprising given PRSTV. But that said polling data is useful in regard to giving a sense of broad bands of support and overall dynamics. No-one, I think, can disagree that the polls broadly chart changing weights for parties and so on across time, even if the precise figures elude them. And this has consequences, this last that is. At the 2016 GE FF did better than expected on a relatively marginal increase. Surprise. Likewise parties and independents did well with low individual percentage figures, figures that allowed for positive outcomes but which couldn’t predict those outcomes.

Which of course is what is frustrating about the current situation where we know that Independents and smaller parties are likely to lose seats but we cannot tell which and where.

The Dáil debate on the 8th March 21, 2018

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Any thoughts on the debate on the referendum bill last night?

What you want to say – 21 March, 2018 March 21, 2018

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

Money talks March 20, 2018

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From the moment posters went up around Dublin advertising the – as of their posting – unlicensed Rolling Stones concert at Croke Park I was almost certain that the event would be permitted to occur, despite the fact, as noted on RTÉ:

Spokesperson for Clonliffe and Croke Park Area Residents’ Association Pat Gates, said the extra event would cause 18 days of disruption to residents with construction works and rehearsals lasting until as late as 1am.

He pointed out that An Bord Pleannála had limited the number of concerts to three per year in the interest of safety and public health.

The date of the concert on a Thursday evening with also cause traffic chaos particularly with road closures, he predicted.

One has to wonder how this is squared with An Bord Pleannála. It will be interesting and no doubt educative to hear more.

Politics and the personal March 20, 2018

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Anyone reading the SBP at the weekend will have surely noticed on the inside section a long interview with Paul Murphy TD. It’s an odd one. Murphy is, as ever assured and articulate, but the questions he has to field don’t really engage with issues and seem instead to see Murphy as the single personification of the SP/Solidarity. This isn’t his fault, he’s clearly happy to move to policy and principle, but on it goes. Even there there’s an odd disconnect. Not a word from the interviewer about Brexit, or a raft of other issues that weigh upon this polity – instead we are lead back through water charges and then onto far from uninteresting but not necessarily relevant discussions of future crises of capitalism. All that said nice to see an interview that, limited as it is, does at least take Murphy and his politics seriously and not-unsympathetically.

Whose integration? March 20, 2018

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Excellent piece in the Observer at the weekend from Kimberly McIntosh of the Runnymede Trust in the UK where she notes as a black British woman she often hears the question ‘whether ethnic minorities were doing enough to get on and fit in’ in the UK. To which she asks ‘does anyone ask the caller if he’s faithful to his end of the bargain. In our new integration briefing we found that may white British residents are living in isolation from other ethnic groups’. And it’s a basic point. Integration is a two way process.

Moreover she points to massive contradictions in all this. There are stated policies in favour of integration, but when it comes to the practical:

When the government launched its integration green paper, communities secretary Sajid Javid made it clear which side he felt had work to do. He promised to expand English language classes, claiming that 770,000 people can speak little or no English, most of them women from Pakistani or Bangladeshi communities. The actual number is closer to 138,000, many of them pensioners. Younger Britons of Bangladeshi and Pakistani heritage almost all speak English. So if he’s serious about bringing “divided communities together”, then why is he so focused on 0.3% of the population? And if the government is serious about increasing access to Englishlanguage lessons, why did it slash funding by £132m between 2010 and 2015? It is handing over only £50m to implement its entire integration strategy.

And there’s a workers aspect to this, as always:

That time should be dedicated to making equality in the workplace a reality. We mustn’t forget that more than half a million BME people are missing from the workforce. We’re glad that the government has shown leadership with its Race Disparity Audit and is looking at inequality in the job market. At work, we have to achieve goals collectively with all sorts of people. Many of us spend most of our week there. If integration and socialmixing is going to happen anywhere, it’s at work.

Positioning for an election? March 20, 2018

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Perhaps not, but the thought strikes reading this, this morning that:

The Government is to pull back from spending all the money available to it in this year’s budget, in a move which will lead to conflict with Fianna Fáil.
The dispute could threaten the confidence-and-supply agreement that underpins the minority government.
The Irish Times understands senior figures in Government believe it would be “crazy” to spend all of the €3.2 billion – or higher – available to Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe in the last budget of its deal with Fianna Fáil.
“You would be mad to spend it all,” said a senior Government source. “No economist in the world would.”

How very Fine Gael.

And interesting too the expression of a worldview – and how pervasive it is in the article when it continues:

It is understood the view that some of the money which would ordinarily be spent on tax cuts and spending increases should instead be held back has hardened in recent weeks. Sources said this opinion is particularly strongly held by Mr Donohoe and his officials in the Department of Finance.

Why tax cuts. Of course.

Actually, just from the polls and the general political weather the idea of any party really being enthused about an election now seems a little unlikely. But on the other hand both FF and FG will be pushing back here and there at the other. And it takes only so much before…

Austerity nostalgia and nomads in Australia March 20, 2018

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Interesting podcast on the Australian Blueprint for Living podcast about austerity nostalgia. Owen Hatherley, author of the Ministry of Nostalgia was talking about the hold post war austerity seems to have in some quarters.

There’s the argument that in the 1970s there was a retreat from people being in control as they had been (they say from the 1930s on, I’d put it later) societally, or at least more in control, something which foundered with the retreat of the state etc. But it points to the dangers in a response to that being an emulation of that 1940s-1970s period, or as one contributor says:

They ask how can we bring that era back… well, by consuming its stuff… which is kind of pointless.

Some excellent points about how people can collectively take control of their destiny and how nostalgia can be hugely performative – the point being made no young people, or practically none, want to go work in a steelworks or coal mine but that…

Another point was made that ‘everyone wants it to be the 50s’. And that there are different flavours, whether of left or right.

A lot to think in there.

Fantastic piece too with indigenous Australian Claire Coleman who writes about myths of the supposed nomadic first Australians… and counterposes it with the idea that in some respects it was the English who were the nomads, both in coming to Australia and also in their practices in regard to farming on the open spaces. Itinerant workers, cattle stations the size of small European countries, and within them indigenous ‘countries’ encompassed by them. And also the point that understandings of indigenous peoples has been predicated on a remarkably small number of them … extremely insightful.

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