“Reclaim our country!” “Dignity for all!” “Social Justice does not have a price!” “People first!” When you first hear them, you assume they’re from a demonstration against something, declarations nestled in with the obligatory “Careful now!” and “Down with this sort of thing!”
But then you realise that the entire article our hero has written is just a collection of these slogans. In the same article, which seems to travel from one left wing social journal to another, he describes himself as a community activist, whatever that is. For the most part it seems to involve using someone else’s money to complain that Cause X is not getting more of someone else’s money.
He’s a perennial at public meetings and “workshops” and “People’s Assemblies” where he speaks for a good 45 minutes, full of passion and vigour, but leaves you wondering as to whether you are the only person in the audience who notices that he hasn’t actually said anything. Then it dawns on you that the audience is full of people who speak exactly like him, who regard things such as “self esteem” and “respect” as tangibles. They know more “fascists” than Martin Bormann did.
Throughout his career, as a result, he’s never wrong. How can he be? He’s in favour of people getting whatever they want, and against unhappiness. It’s all fluffy and warm and untouchable.
Except for his specific budget, that pays his salary and funds his platform for demanding more funds. He’s up and down that spread sheet with more fluidity than Ajai Chopra, and 20 years from now he’ll be on the Goldman Sachs Social Justice Fund panel.
Working to change them from the inside, obviously.
Fine Gael: FG continue to win on points (and polls) by having a clear narrative to tell: We’re fixing the economy, and it’s working. During the EU Presidency, Noonan and Creighton were the clear winners, with a simple “we got some money back” message, and Coveney performing strongly in an area very important to a key FG constituency. Where FG continue to fail, and come across as sleazy, is on political reform. Every “reform” is carefully neutered to ensure that power remains where it has always been. They want to reduce the candidate age for the presidency, but blocked anything that would make it easier for non-parties to nominate candidates. It’s a very Arthur Daley approach to politics, effectively tampering with the political mileage clock. Enda might as well be wearing a sheepskin jacket.
Fianna Fail: FF are, without question, recovering, having ceded Most Hated Party status to Labour, which is some achievement, and a testament to the gnat-like attention span of the Irish. Aside from the pandering, which seems to be hardwired into FF when it comes to things like cutbacks, Martin cleverly managed to turn a problem (Lack of consensus on abortion) into a strength with the free vote. The only problem on that is the precedent it establishes on, say, gay marriage, which may come to haunt him. But it’s wrong to say that the free vote damaged Martin. Only amongst Fine Gael hacks, so that doesn’t matter.
Labour: Oh. Sweet. Jesus. Eamonn Gilmore resembles a man plummeting to Earth strapped to an anvil, who’s getting angry with people for not appreciating the magnificent workmanship that went into fashioning the anvil. I hesitate to use the word “freefall”, as that’s usually associated, at least, with the use of a fall arresting parachute at some stage. This is more like what Michael McDowell used to call “an experiment in steam powered flight”, in that it’s fascinating to watch but seemingly doomed to catastrophe. The constant shedding of elected representatives must surely raise the issue of a Continuity Labour Party now, if only on a temporary basis to oust Democratic Left Eamonn Gilmore as the price for reunification. After all, supposing on all those councillors and Nessa Childers ran under a coordinated Real Labour tag next year? Or what if there’s a by-election caused by a European Commissioner appointment? Would a Real Labour candidate (with canvassers supplied by all 26 expelled reps) outpoll official Labour? Would Eamonn Gilmore survive that?
Sinn Fein: Interesting call by Sinn Fein on Seanad abolition. Have the shinners decided that opposition to abolition is not really a populist issue, and only motivates establishment types?
The Left: As ever, the Liquorice Allsorts of Irish Politics continue to raise a question. If the CIA wanted to set up a fake political party to look like a genuine opposition without ever changing anything, this would be it. Biggest crisis in capitalism since the 1920s, and the Irish Left are actually going backwards. Extraordinary.
Well-known political commentator, author and general master of the political arts Johnny Fallon (@jonnyfallon) highlighted a very interesting fact on Twitter recently. It was that Labour has now lost an MEP, a senator, 17 county councillors (one admittedly joining FF) and 4 TDs through defections. Or as I see it, the nucleus of a brand new party. Because let’s be honest, if that number of sitting elected representatives had defected openly to a new party, it would be big news.
Is a Real Labour party viable? I wouldn’t rule it out. There is an angry Labour vote still uncomfortable with Sinn Fein and certainly Fianna Fail, and don’t forget, a Real Labour party would almost certainly pick up transfers from everywhere save maybe Fine Gael, and certainly from Labour, if its candidates held respectable first preference votes.
Is it likely? I haven’t a clue. But when you look at all 21 elected representatives together, remember that Sinn Fein got by on considerably less for quite a while. It would also put enormous pressure on Democratic Left Eamonn Gilmore, especially if leadership rivals started touting the need to reunify the party.
Finally, let’s not forget that Labour has form on this: Labour has split into two Labour parties in the past. From 1944, the National Labour Party fought separate elections from Labour, winning 5 seats (including Dick Spring’s father) and holding a ministry in the 1948 coalition alongside Labour. They rejoined Labour in 1950.
National Rifle Association leaders have expressed delight at the decision of the Reverend Al Sharpton and Reverend Jeremiah Wright to call for all African American men to form themselves into armed militias, as is their right under the Second Amendment to the US Constitution.
A spokesperson for the gun rights group also expressed support for the decision of pro-gay rights groups, Arab-American groups, the Occupy movement, the American Socialist Party, welfare and food stamp support organisations and pro-choice organisations to also begin to heavily arm themselves into “Liberal Militias”.
The spokesman, who sweated increasingly during a press conference as the various groups made their announcements, stuttered a few times as he welcomed the rights of all Americans to exercise their right to bear arms. In response to a specific question, he replied: “Yes, I’m sure all our members are delighted at the idea of every African-American man carrying an assault rifle when out walking through white neighbourhoods, as is their right.”
He was then seen screaming at his PA to order more ammunition.
In other news, the anti-death penalty movement has, pending its abolition, called for the death penalty to be extended to white collar and financial crimes. John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives remarked: “Eh, let me get back to you on that.”
Anyone remember “Avon”, from “Blake’s Seven”? Avon was initially a baddy, an embezzler and self-serving criminal played by Paul Darrow, who became, arguably, the most popular character on the BBC science fiction show. His character was blunt, rude, caustic, yet audiences loved him because he turned out to have, beneath it all, a decent streak. But most importantly, deep down, the audience knew where they stood with Avon, because he confronted them with ugly truth and harsh reality. You knew where you stood.
The Troika are our Avon. Their title has become the byword for blame and finger pointing, the source of angst and woe. Yet any reasonable person would accept that all The Troika did was hold up a mirror to us, and ask questions that for a generation the people WE chose to elect refused to ask, and hid under a cloud of guff about social justice and solidarity and “resources”.
The Troika have been the most consistently honest factor in Irish politics in the last decade. Unlike our own leaders in Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Fein, The Troika told us things that made us angry even though we knew they were true. In particular, they confronted us with the most offensive statement in Irish politics: if you want the government to spend a euro on someone, first it has to tax that euro off someone else. That sort of strong language has rarely had a place in Irish politics. Just watch, when The Troika has departed, how slowly our elected leaders will be to point out the fact that austerity is not a construct of The Troika, but the way things are going to be from now on.
Some people say that The Troika is undemocratic. Certainly, I’d love to see them on a ballot paper.
There’s a lot of bitching going on, in both Ireland and the UK, about the cost of state broadcasters. TV licence fees are high, and both RTE and the BBC can be their own worst enemies when it comes to how they spend their budgets.
Yet the reality is that whatever about the commercial side of RTE and the BBC, producing or buying in programmes pretty much indistinguishable from commercial broadcasters, balanced news and current affairs coverage needs to be subsidised by someone.
I trust RTE and the BBC. Do I see bias sometimes in their stories? Yes. But look at the US. Watch MSNBC or Fox News and tell me that they are less biased. The worst development in broadcasting is where people only seek news from sources that confirm their own ideological prejudices, even though it’s a commercially sound approach.
For all his many sins, Rupert Murdoch has rightly pointed out that professional news gathering is an expensive business. Someone has to pay for a professional journalist to be where news happens, and in today’s world, where Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy has to count as news to make many news operations commercially viable, where world class newspapers are struggling to stay open and maintain standards, I’ll accept that I have to pay my TV licence fee.
I won’t like it, but it’s the price of balanced news and current affairs.
“The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer” is a curious one, although worth a look. A black comedy about the political rise of the mysterious Michael Rimmer (Played by Peter Cook), it’s not laugh out loud funny, but pretty far-sighted for its time (1970) about the way politics was going. The movie was a flop at the time, and Cook got slated for his wooden acting, yet his performance has a curious Blairite charisma to it.
Full of the television comedy stars of its day (John Cleese, Arthur Lowe, Ronnie Corbett and the beautiful Valerie Leon, whom you’ll know when you see her) the plot is actually quite interesting as a satirical comment on British politics, with a very interesting conclusion and a final shot in the movie which is quite chilling.
It also boosts a simple but ingratiating theme music that’ll you’ll find yourself humming for hours. Pick it up if you see it going cheap.
With, nominally at least, a date of October 2014 for a trial of some of the Anglo Irish executives, we should now be considering should it be televised? There are arguments against televising, of course, with the phrase “media circus” jumping up and down like Jedward in a Red Bull commercial.
However, the reality is that the entire Anglo affair has brought seriously into question the confidence of the public with regard to our justice system, and how it deals with the powerful. Does justice not just need to be done, but be seen to be done by the great majority of the people of whose consent is required, in order for the system to stand?
Of course, the fear is that if the Irish public actually see an Irish courtroom in action, they’ll be appalled. Perhaps so. Maybe that would be the one good service the Anglo Irish gang will render the Irish people.
A fan produced Star Trek: The Original Series episode. The production values are very much an homage to the 1960s show, and are very impressive. Keep an eye out for one of the Mythbuster crew, and also Chris Doohan, son of James “Scotty” Doohan, in his late father’s role. The computer’s voice will seem curiously familiar too.