Posted by Jason O on Feb 28, 2010 in British Politics
Given the imminent outbreak of a general election campaign in the UK, I thought I’d put together a few thoughts on some of the parties contesting the election. That and the fact that UK politics is actually about issues, as opposed to the politics free zone that is Irish politics, which is primarily about what parish a fella is from and how he can steal money from someone else in a different parish and give it to you.
The Conservatives. Don’t believe the polls saying a hung parliament. The Tories will win a modest majority because they will perform better than the polls expect in the marginal 150 constituencies where British elections are actually decided. The new Cameron administration will initally disappoint eurosceptics by being rude to Brussels in style but not in substance, but will please the anti-political correctness crowd with a few bits of red meat. Watch as they shamefully move to make the BBC look more like ITV: Less history and current affairs/more reality television, because that’s “what the market wants”. There won’t be much room for tax cuts, which will disappoint the right. Don’t be surprised if a Christian Right wing of the Tory party emerges in parliament.
Labour. Labour won’t do as badly as expected. The battle for the leadership will be between Alan Johnson and David Milliband, and I’d put money on Johnson for his ability to sound like a human as opposed to Milliband who is struggling not to sound like he has never been in anything other than politics. The Labour party will have a battle to decide what it stands for, but will recover faster than expected, especially as Tory cutbacks start to bite.
The Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dems will lose seats to the Tories, but not as many as expected, as Lib Dem constituency work will allow some to hold narrowly on. Expect them to pick up some urban seats from Labour. The big issue will be how Nick Clegg answers the “Is a Lib Dem vote a vote to keep Labour in?” question. Also, how Nick Clegg does in the much vaunted leaders debate will draw attention to the party, but should not be overestimated.
UKIP/BNP. Each party has the ability to drain small but crucial votes from the Tories and Labour respectively. Nigel Farage may win UKIP’s first elected seat running against the speaker John Bercow.
DUP/UUP/TUV. For sheer entertainment value, the DUP might get a bit of a kicking from the Traditional Unionist Voice running on their right, and the UUP/Tories (with some interesting candidates, not something you hear often about Ulster elections) running to their left.
The Greens: Have an chance of winning their first Commons seat with party leader Caroline Lucas running in Brighton Pavillion, which is seen, with its large gay demographic, as being the most likely seat to elect a Green MP, given the strong Green performance in local elections.
Posted by Jason O on Feb 26, 2010 in Irish Politics
That's not a mayor, THAT'S a mayor!
I have a lot of time for John Gormley, and really believe that he is a good guy trying to do what’s right. I also believe very strongly that local government change, based on elected mayors, is a key part of reforming Irish politics. But I think the jury is out on what John Gormley’s proposing. You see, the key problem in Irish politics is the disconnect not just between voter and elected official, but elected official and ability to do stuff. Nearly all our TDs and councillors have little ability other than to lobby people who do have power, and it creates a malfunctioning political system where Irish people constantly believe (wrongly and at times selfishly, having voted for people) that the way the country is run has nothing to do with them.
This new office of Dublin Mayor seems likely to perpetuate the cycle, creating yet another publicly funded person to “call” and “urge” things. Sitting on committees is not good enough: Surely John Gormley’s membership of the cabinet has proven that. But what is most puzzling is why he is so reluctant to actually give the mayor direct power over things like Dublin Bus? He/she will be elected, after all.
What’s the problem? Is it as Deirdre de Burca has said? That FF are blocking everything? Gormley has said he will discuss the bill with the opposition. I’d say go further. If the opposition propose amendments that are good, Green TDs should vote for them. Who cares if it pisses FF off? The Green Party does not exist to placate FF, and if Cowan wants to sack Gormley and Ryan as a result, good. If FF want to call a general election on the outrageous premises that the Dail has debated and discussed legislation, fair enough. Just because the Dail votes through a bill the government doesn’t like, that doesn’t mean the government should collapse.
Still, I wouldn’t completely rubbish the proposal yet. A lot can depend on who actually holds the office. If a serious candidate is elected mayor, he/she could use it as a bully pulpit to actually get something done. But you can’t help thinking, is there not a lot here that a minister of state for Dublin couldn’t do?
Posted by Jason O on Feb 25, 2010 in US Politics
Back in the 1960s, 1970s and maybe even today to some degree “States’ Rights” used to be a code word. Oh, it sounded noble enough, after all, who could be against states deciding their own affairs. Democracy in action, right? Well, it was, save for the fact that the democratic majority didn’t like the black minority gettin’ all uppity and demanding to vote. So the Republicans, and conservative soon-to-be Republican Democrats came up with the phrase to send a nod and a wink to racist voters. No longer talking about n**gers, they were now in favour of states’ and the federal government minding its own business. As a result, liberals have always been suspicious of the concept of standing up for states’ rights.
Is it time this changes? I ask this because it would be hard to find a time where the US was more divided than it is now, at least since the civil war. Even in the 1960s, at the height of Vietnam, there were conservatives in the Democratic Party and liberals in the Republicans,a nd more importantly, both parties recognised the need for two wings. Yet now the parties are both mostly hardline, and every election is practically a winner takes all and the other guy can go screw himself. This isn’t good, for the US or the rest of the world. Is there a solution?
There might be. The fact is, the US is more culturally divided than ever, and maybe it is time to recognise that. Maybe its time that certain rights, and control over rights (abortion, gun control, same-sex marriage, death penalty, campaign finance) be devolved, by a new constitutional amendment, to the states. Yes, it will mean that in some red states women will lose the right to have abortions. But it’ll also mean that in some states far more strict gun control, or gay marriage will be permitted, and all without liberals and conservatives fearing that the other side will stack the supreme court with their people, and override those rights. People can just move to the states that reflect their values (something which will, I suspect, hurt the red states far more than they realise, but that their business)
Time for “Liberals for States’ Rights”?
Posted by Jason O on Feb 23, 2010 in Irish Politics
I’m not sure that was necessary. Was what he did really that different from what every TD does every day, writing bogus and ineffectual letters on behalf of constituents? Admittedly, it was an honourable thing to do (resigning), and not something you’d see FF do too easily, but it strikes me as overkill. Any chance Dan Boyle could be appointed a junior minister? After all, nothing in the constitution to stop it.
Posted by Jason O on Feb 23, 2010 in Irish Politics
Dan Boyle: The Green Gnasher?
Some of my older readers will remember the scenario during the 1989-92 FF/PD government. FF would do/not do something, there would be rumblings in the PDs, Michael McDowell (who was not in the Dail at the time, but was party chairman) would voice a pretty robust opinion which would be read by the media as the “true” voice of the PDs, and FF would know where they stood, Dessie and Bobby Molloy would point over their shoulders at the Ranelagh Rottweiler with a “You’d better give us something or he’ll kick off!” look, and FF would back down, with backbench hatred directed towards McDowell, something which did him no harm in the general election. The key was that McDowell could speak as a true PD, and be nasty to FF, but with authority as to what the PDs might do if FF didn’t buck up their ideas (love that phrase) There’s a lesson for Dan Boyle here.
Posted by Jason O on Feb 23, 2010 in US Politics
I’m pretty open-minded on gun ownership (in the states, not here! Are you mad?) but this story really takes the biscuit.
Posted by Jason O on Feb 21, 2010 in Just stuff
Watching a certain world famous sportsman “apologise” for his “sex addiction” is just plain stomach churning. He betrayed his wife, and it’s up to her to forgive him or not, but to claim that the whole thing is an illness, as if it were out of his control? It’s a curious feature of modern American culture, where nothing is ever anyone’s fault, but a symptom of some syndrome. Hack your family to death? It’s not my fault. The Twinkies made me do it!
Give me the simple honesty of Berlusconi, who admits that he likes having sex with attractive women, rather than this faux act of contrition.
Posted by Jason O on Feb 19, 2010 in Irish Politics
Finally, they seem to have shown some bottle. Now: Don’t deny it. Piss off Fianna Fail a bit, that’s what your voters voted for. Remember, it isn’t FF who will reelect Green TDs.
Posted by Jason O on Feb 19, 2010 in Irish Politics
The state of play.
Fianna Fail: Whilst FF are taking the brunt of the public anger (and just wait ‘til the water charges kick in) they are also been looked at differently by voters who take the economic crisis seriously, almost single-handedly by the performance of Brian Lenihan. Aside from the natural anger, surely FF’s biggest obstacle is its lack of imagination, with its foot dragging on issues like expenses reform leaving a sour taste in the mouths of workers who have taken cuts themselves. FF’s failure to tackle the banks on lending is beginning to grate with small and medium-sized businesspeople. That FF seem to be unaware of this issue raises serious questions about FF’s fabled political antennae.
Fine Gael: It is hard to find anyone outside Fine Gael who think that FG’s current good performances are anything to do with FG themselves. Whereas they actually have been up front on the need for cuts, and their universal health insurance idea has substance, one would be hard pressed to meet non-FG people who are enthused for FG as opposed to being furious with FF. The Dublin Mayoral election and the Dublin South byelection could bode ill for FG, taking the winning shine off FG, and Enda continues to be a drag on the party in Dublin, and really should be bounced off to the Phoenix Park in 2011. Is it unreasonable to believe that FG would be up near 40% in the polls under a more credible leader?
Labour Party: This is Labour’s time, and the idea of a “Gilmore Gain” to rival the Spingtide of 1992 is definitely on, especially in Dublin. Labour seems to have positioned itself as the political wing of the public sector, which is good politics if not good for the nation as a whole. A crucial contest will be the Dublin Mayoral election: Labour (as pointed out by Noel Whelan) could be in serious contention to win the first election, in a straight fight with FG for first place and possibly squeaking through on FF transfers, and that coupled with a win in the Dublin South by-election will highlight Labour’s strength (and FG’s weakness) in Dublin, and will cause tension in the FG/Labour alliance, especially as their economic policies seem to be diametrically opposed.
Sinn Fein: SF seems to be having difficulty determining what it is trying to achieve, and ironically, the border is now beginning to cause them problems. SF seems to be two different parties now, with a governing party having to be realistic in the North, and a southern party struggling to define itself on the left against a resurgent Labour party and a returning Joe Higgins. The loss of Killian Forde, the face of New Sinn Fein, along with the inability of Mary Lou to get elected to things is not a help. The Donegal byelection could provide a glimmer of hope.
Green Party: The Greens still seem to be shell shocked from having spent a political lifetime as the safe party of protest to now being held (in some quarters) in even greater contempt than FF. Their inexperience in government is telling, but what is more striking is their inability to identify and deliver on issues that will actually win over potential Green voters. Whilst the carbon tax, civil partnership and the elected Dublin mayor are all achievements, the party has not figured out a way of translating those successes into enough votes to actually elect TDs. The Greens have hinted that electoral reform is becoming important to them: Given that they may suffer on transfers (note their wipeout in the local elections) it may dawn on them that small constituencies with high quotas may not be the best system for them going forward, and that some form of attached list system may at least allow Green votes to elect some TDs. Whether they have the bottle to bring FF around to that way of thinking is another thing.Having said that, the recent knifing of Wille O’Dea will do them no harm. FF coalition partner voters always like to see FF bleed.
Posted by Jason O on Feb 18, 2010 in European Union
"Let Europe arise!"
Winston Churchill’s famous 1946 Zurich speech where he calls for a federal United States of Europe with a common European citizenship. Admittedly, he did not expect the UK to join, but nevertheless, pretty embarrassing for British eurosceptics.
Nearly as embarassing as the fact that only one British prime minister brought Britain into the anteroom of the euro, the EMS: Margaret Thatcher. The same Margaret Thatcher who agreed to the abolition of the national veto in the Single European Act. Two facts that are airbrushed out of Tory eurosceptic history these days.
” Yet all the while there is a remedy which, if it were generally and spontaneously adopted by the great majority of people in many lands, would as by a miracle transform the whole scene and would in a few years make all Europe, or the greater part of it, as free and happy as Switzerland is today. What is this sovereign remedy? It is to recreate the European fabric, or as much of it as we can, and to provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, safety and freedom. We must build a kind of United States of Europe. In this way only will hundreds of millions of toilers be able to regain the simple joys and hopes which make life worth living. The process is simple. All that is needed is the resolve of hundreds of millions of men and women to do right instead of wrong and to gain as their reward blessing instead of cursing.”