As we head into the final stretch to polling day, let’s look not just at the likely result, but also the after effects.
First up, Sean Gallagher has already won, even if he isn’t elected president on Thursday. He has the potential now to become a national political figure. Having said that, he will face the paradox that if he chooses to remain in politics if not elected, possibly by contesting the European Elections in 2014, he may have to ponder a party affiliation. If he declares for Fianna Fail, it will surely damage him by confirming the doubts about his rupture with FF. Could he seek a nomination from Fine Gael, or possibly stay independent? Either way, whatever happens on Thursday, Sean Gallagher’s political options are now wide open.
Michael D. Higgins and Labour will be disappointed if he doesn’t win, but it won’t be a humiliation. After all, Labour’s first preference vote will probably exceed its general election tally.
Martin McGuinness will be happy enough with the result, but Sinn Fein’s failure to become the definitive party of protest during the campaign will also be a disappointment, given that the party had the potential to emerge as the highest polling party in a national election.
David Norris will probably be happy if he isn’t humiliated, and coming in fourth place would be respectable enough given the depths that his campaign has ended up. He will still win more votes in this election than during his entire political career to date.
Gay Mitchell and Fine Gael have got to be dreading Thursday, where Fine Gael has managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory mere months after an election win. Funnily enough, FG has form on this: having won the February 1973 general election, FG went into the May 1973 presidential election as the favourites, and were then promptly defeated by Fianna Fail. Having said that, Pat Cox must be having spontaneous fits of giggles.
Dana’s campaign never seemed to take off, if anything getting more surreal as it went on. Given her very respectable showing in 1997, coming third in a five candidate field with 15%, the possible margin of error result will be a humiliation. One would also wonder what happened to the Christian right vote?
Mary Davis must rue her entry into the race, yet another victim of the curse of Adi Roche and the temptation of wide but thin celebrity status. She will probably be surprised to be leaving the campaign with her reputation in a worse state than it was when she went in.
Finally, the other winner of the election has got to be Fianna Fail, who have been vindicated by their decision not to contest the election, especially as Fine Gael look like they may end up losing over €200,000 into the bargain, whereas FF seem to just have to pay for the price of a phone call to Gay Byrne.
Watching the violence in Athens, you can’t help starting to speculate about the long term future of Greece in the euro, if only for the feeling that the Greek mindset just won’t tolerate for much longer what is currently on the menu.
Think about it: all they are being offered is permanent austerity, and this from a country which (unlike Ireland) does not seem to actually have a functioning high value export economy. Devaluation is probably the only tool left in the locker, and even that is only a short-term solution if not accompanied by that the kind of fundamental economic reforms that have people on the streets objecting in the first place. It’s a bloody awful scenario, and either civil war or the rise of a far right nationalist “F**K them all” movement is not that far fetched either.
The problem, of course, is that once you let one country leave, the markets immediately accept the concept and start looking at who is next? How do we prevent that? Possibly by coordinating Greek exit with the activation of the “Big bang” shield of eurobonds and fiscal union for the rest of the eurozone? It might work, but unfortunately is reliant upon masterly coordination and leadership by our leaders. Oh crap.
One of the more curious aspects of European affairs in Ireland is how we become obsessed with certain issues (Neutrality, abortion) during debates about EU treaties, and yet hardly ever discuss them on our own time. I’m a reasonably well informed individual, and yet I have only a vague idea, for example, as to what the government’s position is on abortion. Fine Gael supports the right of an Irish citizen to abort a foetus outside of the country, whereas Labour is seemingly moderately pro-choice but not if in government. Glad that’s clear, then. As for neutrality, we are even more vague. We are opposed to war, and don’t take sides. We do let US forces use Shannon airport, though, whilst they are on the way to a war, which we are against, as long as we don’t have to actually do anything about it. Oh, and here’s the most beautiful part of our defence policy. In order to protect our neutrality, we took the power to deploy Irish troops abroad off our OWN national parliament, whom we don’t trust, and gave a veto on deployment to the US, UK, France, Russia and China. And they call Belgium the capital of European surrealism?
If we are serious about neutrality (and that’s a big if) we should have a referendum to define what we mean. Now, let’s be honest, Irish politicians don’t want that, because they don’t want their hands tied, which is fair enough, but that points to the problem at the heart of Irish politics, and not just our foreign policy. We constantly think that saying one thing and doing something else is clever. So let’s have a referendum to insert a realistic policy into the constitution. Let’s scrap the triple lock, and insert a pledge that Irish troops will only serve abroad in defence of the rights outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That means that we don’t do colonial wars, but we will do human rights interventions. Iraq no, Kosovo and Libya yes. Or we could just have the usual row when Lisbon III comes around. I won’t hold my breath.
The more astute of you will have noticed that I have started running ads on the blog in an attempt to defer costs, so go ahead and have a browse at the fine goods and services being ballyhooed about on the far right column here. Click on the ads and I get thruppence halfpenny every quarter century. Everybody wins!
A number of eurosceptic Tory, Labour and DUP MPs (when they’re not lobbying Brussels for money for Northern Ireland. What neck. And they say they’re not Irish!) in the British House of Commons (Canada has one too, smart-arses!) are moving the following motion in the next week or so:
“The House calls upon the Government to introduce a Bill in the next session of Parliament to provide for the holding of a national referendum on whether the United Kingdom
(a) should remain a member of the European Union on the current terms; (b) leave the European Union; or (c) re-negotiate the terms of its membership in order to create a new relationship based on trade and co-operation.”
Personally, I think this is a good thing. The Brits should sort it out. But what makes me wonder is that if there are three options on the ballot paper, does that mean that the winning proposition does not need to win a majority of the votes to win? So if the eurosceptic vote splits evenly between options B&C, the stay in the EU lobby wins on 34%? Seriously?
This seems ridiculous to me, but this is how elections are fought in Britain, so I suppose the eurosceptics would accept the result. After all, they just had a referendum to bring in a voting system that required a majority of the vote to win, and rejected it.
Of course, if the eurosceptics insist on a preferential system for the referendum, then surely it will require a referendum first? There is much sniggering to be done with this one.
Reading about the Rick Perry “Niggerhead” issue here, I can’t help thinking: Seriously? This is the sort of nonsense that people should be getting excited about? It raises a bigger issue about modern western politics. We now live in an age where candidates are terrified of offending people, putting off wavering voters, or expressing opinions that may cause potential voters to disagree with them. Note the phrase: “potential voters”. Michele Bachmann has no problem offending voters in San Francisco, because they’ll never vote for her. Likewise, Pres. Obama will not spend a huge amount of time worrying about voters in Utah, for the same reason. But key scientifically identified swing voters of either party, they get mollycoddled and pandered to and in the end we end up with candidates who “believe in the country” and “putting people ahead of the special interests” and all that nonsense.
I have voted for and donated to candidates I didn’t agree with (easier with the Irish preference voting system, admittedly) because I respected them if not their views, and I believed that a political system needs diversity. I have also forgiven candiates for gaffes because I knew that those gaffes did not define them as a whole. There was more to Dan Quayle than “potato”. There was more to Bill Clinton than Monica. There was more to Howard Dean than a single roar, and yes, there was more to George W. than his twisted syntax. There’s more to Rick Perry than a rock with a name on it, no matter how offensive that name is, and we need to recognise that our elected leaders need to be judged on the whole sum of their values, not tiny snippets that suit our prejudices.
If only Harry Pearce's MI5 knew of some economic organisation made up of shared democratic values that Britain could join?
Yes, I know that BBC’s spy thriller series “Spooks” is fictional, but it is interesting how a TV series is influenced by the prevailing culture of the time. Consider the current (and final) series of “Spooks”. In it, the Americans are very much the baddies whilst the government is negotiating a defence and economic cooperation treaty with the Russians. The home secretary in the series justifies the deal to MI5 chief Harry Pearce on the grounds that the US is no longer reliable as an ally and Britain is a small country that needs strong friends in the future, especially when it comes to energy security. What???
In the series, Britain is happy to turn its back on the US to enter into an alliance with a very dubious regime in Moscow. It doesn’t seem to occur to any of the players that Britain could actually form a closer alliance with a group of economically and politically comparable nations that Britain already shares a treaty with, i.e., the rest of the EU. It could share defence issues and could use the economic clout of a properly co-ordinated EU to get a better deal from Russia, whilst keeping an alliance open with the US. Instead they form an alliance with Russia? Seriously?
Let’s not go mad. It is, after all, only a TV show, and a very enjoyable one at that. But the tone of the show says something. The Americans are baddies, and the rest of Europe doesn’t even get a look in. That’s how Britain, or at least the creators of the show think Britain sees the world?
I would like to think of myself as a relatively mild mannered man. Having said that, there is almost nothing that makes me want to sail over a table, fists flying, as when I hear someone casually announce that ” Of course they didn’t go to the moon. It was all a film set!”
Piers Bizony (What a great name!) sets out in his book The Man Who Ran The Moon the story of James Webb, an old style Democratic hack who was appointed to head NASA, and pretty much singlehandedly turned US policy towards landing a man on the moon. With a mix of noble belief (Webb believed that all problems, including poverty, could be solved by NASA style mission controls) and good ole fashioned political wheel greasing (Wonder why mission control is in Houston? Because the congressman in charge of NASA’s budget represented the district!) Webb took 5% of the national budget and employed 500,000 people on the moonshot.
Which, incidentally, is why I believe they did go to the moon. Because they had spent so much money and involved so many people it would have been impossible not to.
The “Occupation” protests in Wall Street and elsewhere are understandable. However, there is a certain tone to them which is disturbing, primarily because of its vagueness. In short, they’re heavy on emotion but light on rational think through, focussing not on what economic model we should be utilising, but instead the idea that there is an evil 1% who have ruined everything for everybody else, and if those people vanished everything would be ok.
As a means of venting frustration, this makes perfect sense. But it doesn’t point to an idea as to how we choose to run this planet. Many of the protestors are quick to dismiss capitalism as a failed model, but the reality is that post-1945 spike in living standards in the west was funded by capitalism. The welfare state, although initially funded by social insurance and taxation, eventually expanded to require the much hated capitalist bond markets to make up the deficit. We created a welfare system where people believe in a right to healthcare regardless of actual cost and a fixed retirement date even though advances in healthcare (brought about mostly by capitalism) have led to huge increases in healthcare costs and also increased the cost of funding pensions for people living far longer than when their retirement date expected them to. Follow that with the low taxes movement of the 1980s, led by President Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, which moved to slash tax revenues whilst doing relatively little to match those tax cuts with spending reductions, which then put an even greater demand on the bond markets to fund the welfare system. Today, we’re reaping the reward of that.
Could we create a model that doesn’t need capitalism and the bond markets? Probably, provided we are willing to live in a society free of the baubles of the capitalist system. We could build societies based on the revenue generated within that society, but you’re talking a bare bones society free from iPads and designer labels and Sky Sports, or foreign holidays, credit cards or multiple cars and it’s there that the anti-capitalist occupiers start to lose commitment. You are asking people to work hard for far less disposable income, in effect, a form of permanent austerity programme.
What we are talking about is a more equal society closer to the 1920s in terms of consumer choice and standard of living, and let us not forget that the much hated 1% included Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg and the musicians and filmmakers and many of the people that innovated the products we have grown to love. If we are to have a society where accumulating substantial wealth through innovation is not to be permitted, fair enough. But don’t expect those people to just sit quietly. Somewhere in the world will welcome them, and there they shall go, and prosper, because there is a reason why hardly any of us have products in our homes from actual communist economies. Unless, of course, you decide that they are not permitted to exit the state, and must stay and work. Problem is, the whole of Russia and Eastern Europe tried that from 1945-1989, and it didn’t work either, at least, not without shooting a lot of people.