Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics

Fine Gael call for “something to be done, maybe, like in that Bruce Willis film” on volcano.

Posted by Jason O on Apr 20, 2010 in Irish Politics, Not quite serious.

The Volcano: See at a Cairde fail dinner?

The Volcano: Seen at a Cairde Fail dinner?

Fine Gael has demanded that the government take immediate action to deal with the volcano crisis. “It’s a disgrace,” said Hurrinda Whipcrack TD (Dublin South Nice) ” that the government is not planning some sort of daring plan along the lines of that Bruce Willis film about the asteroid, or that lesser known one about the giant drilling machine starring Aaron Eckhart. It is quite obvious that the government don’t care, and I think the time has come for  a public inquiry into their relationship with the volcano. I wouldn’t be surprised if it emerged that Fianna Fail were in the pay of the volcano. I really wouldn’t.” 


Where was this filmed?

Posted by Jason O on Apr 20, 2010 in British Politics

The Conservative party leader David Cameron

The background to David Cameron’s party political  last night seems very modest and middle class. Is it his back garden, I wonder? Or at least, isn’t that the impression given? That Dave is just an ordinary bloke getting by. Yet, and I admit I could be wrong, it all looks a bit too modest. After all, the Camerons aren’t short a few quid. So come clean Dave. Is it your garden, and if not, why not?


If you liked The Office or Only Fools and Horses, then don’t vote Tory.

Posted by Jason O on Apr 20, 2010 in British Politics

The Tories have come along way from being the nasty party, on gay issues and social moralising generally. They are even getting ready to realise that in government, the European Union is a fact that has to be dealt with, not sulked about. However, there is still one good reason why they should be stopped.

Rupert Murdoch, for his own perfectly reasonable (for him) reasons, dislikes the BBC. He sees it as unfair competition, and so the Tories have effectively agreed to beat the crap out of the BBC on his behalf, including the very possible scrapping of BBC Three and Four. Whatever about BBC Three, BBC Four is one of the few channels around now that caters for grown ups, with thoughtful and provocative drama, history and current affairs programming. It is a model of what public service broadcasting is supposed to be, giving the public maybe not what they want (yet another f**king reality/talent show) but what they need. Getting rid of it would be yet another contribution from the so-called Conservatives to the coarsening of British life.

Remember, this is the party that broke up the old ITV monopolies and turned ITV from the channel that created The Jewel in the Crown and World in Action into the ITV of reality shows and home camera man-getting-kicked-in-nuts shows.  

But go one step further. Name the great comedies of the last 15/20 years. The Office, One Foot in the Grave, Only Fools and Horses, Little Britain, all were given a chance not by ITV, which seems to regard comedy as being too risky, but by the BBC. People forget that Only Fools and Horses was a flop when it was first transmitted, as was Blackadder, but the BBC had faith and gave them a chance. Think ITV would have done that? ITV cancelled Men Behaving Badly, BBC took in on, and made it a success.

Rupert Murdoch doesn’t like that, and so his Tory puppets are going to put the boot in, and restrict the BBC’s funding and ability to create, in short, to sabotage one of the areas of culture that Britain has excelled in so that that Rupert Murdoch (An Australian-born US Citizen) can sell more US shows to British television.

Well done the Tories, the so-called patriotic party.  


An interesting book you should read: A Disturbance of Fate.

Posted by Jason O on Apr 20, 2010 in Books

What if RFK had lived?

What if RFK had lived?

First, a warning. This is a a dense tome, and is written in the style of a detailed history book from a world radically different from out own. The basic premise is that Robert F. Kennedy survives an assasination attempt in 1968, and goes on to become President. “A Disturbance of Faith” is obviously a labour of love by its author, Mitchell J. Friedman, and requires a fair bit of knowledge of the state of US politics in the late 1960s, but for aficionados, it’s a fascinating read. It’s very much a liberal fantasy piece, although it is interesting how much more to the left US politics actually was in the past, compared to today, and if anything, highlights how the American Left pretty much walked off the pitch in the late 1970s.    


Dangerous times for the Lib Dems.

Posted by Jason O on Apr 19, 2010 in British Politics

One false step...

One false step...

The recent polls showing the Lib Dems soaring in the polls (One poll put them in first place!) means that the party is now the target party for the Tories. On top of that, the Lib Dems are weak on three key issues.

The first is Britain’s nuclear deterrent. Clegg has hit a hot button with the cost of Trident, but he’s failed to follow up with details as to how the Lib Dems will keep nuclear capacity with less cost. Unilateral nuclear disarmament is not where the British people are, and he’s left the party vulnerable to that charge.

Europe is the second. It’s easy for the Tories and their media mates to set the Lib Dems up as Euro Fanatics. Clegg could kill the issue by promising a British referendum on EU membership, something even Cameron hasn’t done, and something which will put the Tory leader under huge pressure.

The Gordon Question. The big stick for the Tories is whether a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for Labour. Clegg needs to firm up on what he’ll do in a hung parliament. Perhaps say that it would be untenable to keep Gordon Brown as prime minister in that situation?

The stakes could not be higher, because if Labour and/or the Lib Dems end up in a majority, then the Alternative Vote could be on the way in, and that means that it will be impossible for the Tories to win a future election without appealing to a larger section of the British people, something they have failed to do since the mid 1970s. At her height even Mrs Thatcher failed to convince less than 44% of them to vote for her. The Tories don’t like having to bring the little people along with them.     


Eamonn Gilmore’s “I’m your man” to the Public Sector speech.

Posted by Jason O on Apr 18, 2010 in Irish Politics

Eamonn Gilmore: Nailed his colours to the Public sector mast.

Eamonn Gilmore: Nailed his colours to the Public sector mast.

Eamonn Gilmore’s speech to the Labour national conference last night showed that he is in fact the best speaker of the party leaders. His delivery was cogent, in that he felt comfortable with what he was saying. This is is direct comparison to Enda’s “I’m as surprised by the text as you are” style, and Brian Cowen’s “This is a chore so I’m going to shout slogans at you.”

The content was also interesting, in that Gilmore set himself up as very much the voice of the Public Sector voter. He talked much about their rights, and very little about their need to modernise or deliver improved service. In fact, his big idea, to create a department full of public servants to supervise the reform of public servants had a hint of “Oh, really?” about it. He pushed Labour’s school building programme, which is a good idea (I work in the construction industry, so you’d hardly expect me to say otherwise, now, would you?) but his proposal for a constitutional convention is flawed, and here’s why. I support the idea, but he is proposing that it will not be finished until 2016, after which the Oireachtas will almost certainly spend another 1-2 years fluting around with it’s finding, if indeed they ever put them to a public vote.

A Labour-leaning friend of mine assures me that they will have no choice. Really? Why? Sure, the Irish people voted in 1979 to reform the Senate university panels, a decision that was never implemented by sucessive governments. Basically, this means pushing political reform back at least eight years. Eight years. Middle of Sarah Palin’s presidency, that’s how far back we’re talking. At least Enda is promising a vote of the Seanad wthin a year in office. It just is no longer acceptable for Irish politicians to keep saying “We need a full-scale comprehensive review” on political reform. They need to do things now.  

As for making Labour the largest party in a government: There’s a fundamental flaw with that. It requires Labour becoming, like FDR and Tony Blair, a broad church. Getting Labour into the mid 30s in the polls needs Labour to reach out to small businessmen and that means accepting that “profit” is actually ok. Think that will happen? Name all the businessmen who openly support the Irish Labour Party. Take your time, I’ll make a cup of tea. Joan Burton looks like she’s going to have a stroke when she uses the word “profit”. Labour seem to be convinced that the Irish electorate will just have to change to suit Labour.

The sad thing is, Labour are actually going backwards on this. Pat Rabbitte was willing to criticise the parts of the public sector that didn’t reform, whereas Gilmore has set Labour up as the parliamentary wing of the CPSU. It’s good politics, and will win more votes from public sector families, but it will not widen Labour’s appeal beyond that. 


Stop TDs from being ministers.

Posted by Jason O on Apr 17, 2010 in Irish Politics

Many of the problems facing the country today come from the fact the the Dail has been remiss in its duty as a check on the government. There’s a simple reason for this: Most ambitious TDs see the Dail merely as an electoral college for the cabinet. There’s no room, as there is in the US Congress, for example, to be a useful and sucessful legislator, and that, coupled with the fact that most TDs are elected as local fixers rather than legislators makes the Dail an ineffective  institution.

Barring TDs (and senators) from being ministers would have many benefits, and few drawbacks. The truth is, we cannot claim that we have the most talented people in the country in the Cabinet. As for the very talented TDs, they can be appointed ministers, they’ll just have to resign their seats. Someone in Fianna Fail said to me that they wouldn’t do that, because they want the safety net of a Dail seat. A safety net? If 400,000 people don’t have the safety net of a spare job “just in case”, then neither should their representatives. TDs who don’t want to resign their seats probably shouldn’t be ministers anyway, and no, we won’t have a mini general election, we’ll do what they do in France and what we do here in the European Elections: We’ll elect substitutes on the same day as the general election. And we’ll have no problem filling 15 cabinet jobs at €150k a piece, either. With good people who actually know something about their briefs.

” But is it democratic?” the cry goes out. Is it democratic now? If the people of  Leitrim elect someone who ends up as minister in charge of transport, how are they answerable to the people who use Dublin Bus? They don’t elect him. The fact is, his democratic mandate actually comes from the fact that a majority of the Dail elected a Taoiseach who appointed him a minister. Which then begs a bigger question: Who elected Brendan Drumm, a man who controls a bigger budget than most cabinet ministers? Or who is he answerable to? If he was appointed Minister of Health he would have to answer directly to the Dail.  In fact, the Dail could sack him, if they wished, again something they can’t do today. Would that be more or less democratic than today? What about the Taoiseach? What about him? Yes, he would resign his seat too, and parties could pay their leaders a salary if they weren’t TDs (don’t some already?) because the key is that it is the Dail, acting in concert, where democracy lies, not in Offaly because they were lucky to elect a fella who became Taoiseach. It’s time to point out to voters that for every constituency that is lucky enough to get a cabinet minister (and the perceived benefits of) there are two that don’t, and are therefore discriminated against. But then, maybe the problem is exactly that: Is there anything that fuels that satisfying Irish sense of grievence (which deep down we love to wallow in) than the idea that someone else is doing you down?    


Eddie Izzard: Natural Politician.

Posted by Jason O on Apr 16, 2010 in British Politics

Eddie Izzard’s party political for Labour here. Have a look. He’s such a good, natural communicator. Wouldn’t be surprised if you see him as a Labour MEP in a couple of years.


The Big Debate.

Posted by Jason O on Apr 16, 2010 in British Politics

The first surprising thing was that it was not as boring as expected. Twenty minutes in, I was ready to switch off, but the three of them got more comfortable and engaged with each other in a way that US politicians would have struggled with. The “I met a woman the other day…” vignettes they all “casually” threw in were a bit naff, but probably worked. As for performances:

David Cameron: Despite what the polls say, I still think he was the strongest performer. He looked and sounded like a prime minister, and hit all the Daily Mail hot buttons (Taxes, school discipline, immigration, govt waste) that had to be hit. His apology for the expenses scandal,     and his sensible approach to drug treatment was good. Not sure about mentioning his son (Gordon Brown lost a child too, and didn’t mention it) and watching him, he just was not as good as Tony Blair. But didn’t drop any clangers either, although I doubt the Chinese will be too happy that he pretty much singled them out for nuclear annhilation. There’s probably votes in that, all the same.

Gordon Brown: The prime minister did what many expected the debate to do for him, convinced those who supported him, and did little for any one else. He struggled with the “Yes, but why didn’t you do that in the last 13 years” and was quite naked in his love bombing of the Lib Dems (“I agree with Nick”). But, to his credit, once he got comfortable, and onto the economy, he was quite strong. The argument that the economy is fragile and the Tories will wreck the recovery is his best card, and he played it well. Also, his clutzy attempts at humour, thanking David Cameron for putting up smiling posters of him everywhere, was quite good in an awkward uncle kind of way. You can’t help thinking, when he mentions The X Factor, that he’s never seen it in his life. But then, there is a section of the country, who do vote, who will actually be quite happy that he doesn’t watch it.

Nick Clegg: The polls say he won it handsomely. I’m not convinced, and I support him. I’m always suspicious of a guy who says he’s going to be honest with you. However, he did have some very strong moments: His exasperated attack on Cameron and Brown for voting against the very political reforms (that he proposed in the Commons) they now espouse was the closest thing to a knock out blow. Also on Trident he set up clear water between him and them, which is not as risky as it would have been in the 1980s. Having said that, he failed to stress that the Lib Dems do not want Britain to cease being a nuclear power, a point he may have to correct in the coming days, as there is very little support in the UK for unilateral disarmament anymore. His line “the more I hear of them, the more they sound the same” got one of the few sponteneous audience reactions. Overall, Nick Clegg will have reason to be the most pleased of the three. For many voters, it will have been their first real look at him, and he came across as thoughtful, relatively sincere, and safe, which will not do him any harm with the Pissed-off-with-Labour-but-not-sure-about-the-Tories voter.    



The debates will change little save for giving Nick Clegg oxygen.

Posted by Jason O on Apr 15, 2010 in British Politics

The not-so-big Big Debate

The not-so-big Big Debate

If I see one more reference to the Nixon/Kennedy debate I’m going to puke. The fact is, debates have very little impact even if one of the participants throws a clanger. It confirms what people think, rather than swing large amounts of undecided votes. When President Ford told Jimmy Carter that there was no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe in 1976, that had a effect in that it confirmed doubts that people already had about Ford. Likewise, in 1980, Reagan’s famous folksy “There you go again” against Carter just confirmed that Reagan was  a better preformer, and came across as a nice guy as opposed to the right-wing ogre the Democrats were trying to portray him as.

The real deal will be the post-debate spin, when all parties will try to convince journalists to focus on what they regard as important. That will be nearly as important as the actual debate itself, as the talking heads “interpret” the debate for the public.

Don’t forget, no one is trying to win this debate, just not lose it. They’ll be ultra-cautious to the extent that I wouldn’t be surprised if the audience figures fall during it.

Finally, as President Bush proved, you don’t have to win the debate, just live up to the (usually low) expectations that have been set by your team. President Bush is a clunky but likable communicator, and that is how he came across in his debates. That’s why Nick Clegg, by just appearing as an equal and communicating a clear message, will be the man to beat. Not because he’s better than the other two, but because expectation (including actual name recognition) is so low. As Benedict Brogan in The Daily Telegraph suggested, he could arrive in power on a wave of indifference.  


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