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

What will British eurosceptics do if there is a No vote?

Posted by Jason O on Oct 11, 2013 in British Politics, European Union

When one reads British conservative and Eurosceptic websites, one can be struck by a common theme that runs through them. This is the assumption that the great majority of British people are very strongly opposed to further participation in the European Union, and will definitely vote for withdrawal, if given the opportunity.

Whilst I admit winning a Yes To Remain vote is a challenge, I’m not convinced that a vote to withdraw is the absolute in-the-bank result many eurosceptics seem to believe. Consider, for example, Yougov’s April poll, which gave a 43%-35% lead to those advocating withdrawal. Pretty depressing stuff for pro-Europeans, you’d think, but I’m not sure.

The fact that in THE most Eurosceptic country in the EU, in a country where nearly every newspaper is opposed to EU membership, over a third of voters are STILL pro-EU, before a campaign even starts, is extraordinary.

Then add in the campaign itself, with the prime minister coming back from Brussels with some (admittedly modest) reforms, but then mounting a Stay In campaign with EVERY living former prime minister? This thing could be much closer.

Now, supposing it’s a narrow Yes to remain, say, 53% on a turnout of 55%. What now for the eurosceptics? Will they demand a second vote, suddenly discovering a deep and profound respect for the Irish constitution?

Because let us not underestimate exactly how beneath the political waterline such a result will hole them. They have built an entire political movement, an ethos even, on the idea that the British people were tricked in 1975, and that the EU now is a bastardised conspiracy going far further than that which was mandated in Harold Wilson’s referendum.

But a Yes vote wipes that whole slate clean.

I genuinely think we may see an outbreak of psychological and emotional breakdown on the No side if such an event were to occur. Bear in mind, this isn’t just a victory for the hated Brussels. This is a betrayal by the people of glorious Albion themselves. A Yes vote will devastate the image many eurosceptics have of Britain and the British.

Indeed, the more extreme elements may even start talk of a coup, as they did during the chaotic days of the 1970s, believing their values represented the real Britain and therefore overruled the mere votes of the riff-raff.  Will they start drawing lines around areas that voted for withdrawal, for example, and start demanding that those areas should be permitted leave? Mad stuff, I know, but these are the people who talk of EUSSR and the Fourth Reich.

Let us be clear. A vote to withdraw will be respected by Parliament, the government, and Britain’s European partners.

But that also means that a vote to remain most be respected by the eurosceptics, and I’m not sure they’ve prepared themselves for that. The NHS would have to be ready.


Gordon Brown Rap: an oldie, but I love it.

Posted by Jason O on Oct 8, 2013 in British Politics, Not quite serious.


Why do the Left keep losing elections?

Posted by Jason O on Oct 6, 2013 in British Politics, European Union, Irish Politics, Politics

Angela Merkel’s handsome victory in the German elections is yet another chapter in the ongoing saga of how the Left across the Western world seem to be either incapable of winning elections, or, on gaining power, not seeing their public support collapse.

In recent years, and all within a period of crisis for international capitalism, conservatives have ousted or defeated social democrats in Norway, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Britain, Canada, and Poland. In Ireland the dominant conservative Fianna Fail party suffered a terrible defeat in 2011, but only to be replaced by an equally conservative Fine Gael. In France the Hollande administration is amongst one of the most unpopular governments to have ever sat in the Elysee Palace, with former President Sarkozy regularly outpolling the incumbent. Only in the US have the Democrats managed to hold on, by being what would be to the Left in most other Western countries a centrist and even conservative party.

Why is it? Why can the Left not grasp the opportunity? One possible answer is that the Left is now actually the conservative anti-change side in modern politics. Many on the Left seem to dedicate more effort to protecting the vested interests of specific sections of society, even as those sections have actually shrunk. For example, both the British Labour Party and the Spanish PSOE seem more concerned with protecting the benefits of existing public sector workers than with helping larger numbers of younger workers into permanent employment.

In addition, the Left seem to struggle with communicating that a modern welfare society needs the balanced approach of rights AND responsibilities, and that welfare in the winter needs everyone to contribute in the spring. The modern Left is very easy at spending money and opposing cuts when in opposition, yet positively Gingrichian in refusing to sell equally the responsibility of all citizens to fiscally contribute to the funding of the welfare state when in power.

Likewise, the failure of the Left to grasp that the ground has shifted on cultural issues has led to its alienation within traditionally loyal voter groups. In Britain, France and the Netherlands, for example, Labour parties are losing voters on the immigration issue to populist parties on the right, with those Left parties paralysed from even addressing the issue for fear of breaking age old internal taboos about race and in particular multiculturalism. The casualness with which people on the Left are willing to brand anyone who disagrees with them (including their own potential voters) as racist or sexist indicates a desire by many on the Left to conform to an ideological purity checklist over actually winning a majority of voters to their argument.

Even now, in Ireland, the hard-line Left parties are struggling to breech the margin of error in opinion polls, despite Ireland having bailed out banks with billions of euro of taxpayers money. Despite genuine anger, the public still refuse to align behind traditional left wing arguments. Why is that? One possible cause is the refusal of the hard Left to recognise that the public does not accept the argument as being for or against capitalism. The public do not hate capitalism, or wish to abolish it. Instead, they want manners put on it, normally with a big state stick. Yet this doesn’t fit in with the One More Push for Socialist Utopia pushed by the hard Left and not believed by anybody else. Capitalism, in whatever shape, is the only game being played now, and has, much to the anger of the Left, popular support.

Curiously, one has to look to South America to see left wing parties winning power, but often only when absolutely shocking disparities between the rich and everybody else are permitted to fester. The reality is that these huge gaps just don’t exist in the western world, thanks to the wealth redistribution of the welfare system.

Is it possible that they could emerge? You’d be foolish to rule it out. But does it mean that the lower half of society has to be pushed to absolute breaking point before it votes left?


The People Have Spoken.

Posted by Jason O on Oct 5, 2013 in Irish Politics, Seanad Referendum

A major tipping of the hat to the No campaign.

It was a masterly and professional campaign, over turning a seemingly insurmountable poll lead and winning what should have been for the government an unlosable referendum.

They worked very hard, and it paid off. Congratulations to them.

Now, over to them.


The Seanad Referendum: Now that it’s over.

Posted by Jason O on Oct 4, 2013 in Irish Politics, Seanad Referendum

I decided to write this in that twilight after the polls have closed but before the boxes are open, so that no charge of sour grapes or mocking triumphalism can contaminate what I have to say. But what have we learnt?

1. There are many genuine reformers on the No side, who believe particularly in the Zappone model. I have to admire their sincerity. The problem is that they have been effectively used as human shields by self-serving party political hacks who chose not to defend their own record (“Nobody is in favour of retaining the current Seanad”) but instead hitch up to a noble cause to get them through the storm. If there is a No vote, the reformers, will, I believe, be shocked at the speed at which their new allies will ditch them, and start the same old pre-referendum tricks designed to delay any reform for years, perhaps even decades.

2. I will be STUNNED if a No vote leads to the implementation of Zappone/Quinn. Stunned. It will absolutely change my view of Irish politics as an incredibly cynical self-interested arena.

3. People forget that by saving the Seanad, the pressure is off to propose proper reform. What that means is that if FF in government, for example, proposes a Seanad elected on closed party-nominated hack lists, the only way to stop it is by voting to keep the current Seanad. Abolition is the only way of getting a clean slate which forces genuine reform.

4. The government’s record on political reform is appalling, and claiming that Seanad abolition is reform is nonsense. This government has no more interest in genuine reform than the last one did. It is nothing short of bizarre as to why the government didn’t send the Seanad to the Constitutional Convention, and then put all three options to the vote. That would have forced the No side to attack the Convention.

5. The No campaign started very strongly, but became dominated by Fianna Fail and its obsession with damaging Fine Gael. Obsessing over how much the Seanad cost was such “insider baseball”. And seriously, Fianna Fail has great strengths as a party, but playing the integrity card is not one of them. This is the “IMF aren’t coming” party. Putting Michael McDowell and Micheal Martin up on the last night was basically one big “remember us?” moment.

Finally, on a personal note, I have to say that this campaign has been the most fun I’ve had in politics in years. Whatever happens tomorrow, the people will have spoken, and that’s still a pretty beautiful thing to see in action. For all the name calling we do, the reality is that no one will seriously question the integrity of the result, and that’s something that can’t be taken for granted in huge swathes of Earth. Democracy: sure isn’t it grand?

Copyright © 2020 Jason O Mahony All rights reserved. Email: Jason@JasonOMahony.ie.