Joan Burton winning is essential to the public good – and we are proud to endorse her.
It might seem unusual for us, as former Progressive Democrats, used to being roundly castigated by Joan Burton, to take the step of supporting her bid for the leadership of her party. In truth, it is not a step we are taking because we love Joan Burton – rather, because we love our country.
The nation is at a crossroads, and it would take very little for those in the Government parties who are more concerned with their own seats than the future of Ireland to be blown by the political breeze away from the path of sober austerity and onto the road to reckless populism. There are those who now seriously argue that the nation should abandon its projected €2billion in budgetary cuts this October, and instead return to the bad old days of handouts, grants, and goodies for the preferred children of Ireland’s chattering quangocracy.
Alex White is amongst them. Joan Burton, so far as we can tell, is not.
Minister Burton has a proud record at cabinet. Since her election and subsequent appointment to cabinet office, she has largely cast aside the populist bleating that defined her term in opposition, and dedicated herself to the task of rationalising and reducing the state’s bloated and obscene welfare budget. She has done so quietly and efficiently, coming to media prominence only in defence of those necessary and judicious reductions in spending that have provoked scorn in those who judge every policy on its emotional, rather than economic appeal.
There are those in her party whose reaction to welfare cuts, the reduction in our outrageous levels of child benefit, or the long-overdue slashing of funding to spurious agencies and activist groups would have been to abandon their post, as we saw with Roisin Shorthall. There are those today who would challenge Minister Burton whose reaction and rhetoric poses the same threat – instability driven by base emotion.
The temptation to be perceived as “compassionate” instead of competent, or to bow to the taunts of those who exist to denounce basic mathematics as a form of cruelty, is growing in the Labour Party, many of who yet cling to the notion that the numbers on the national balance sheet will improve if it is simply wished for hard enough. Minister Burton is the one candidate who has shown the ability to put her head ahead of her heart, and though we do not share all of her views, we commend her for that.
Then there is the matter of stability. The nation needs sound and stable Government – a trusting and enduring partnership between the two parties that have been entreated to serve. Minister Burton has shown that she can work around the cabinet table, and that when called upon, she can enact the policy preferences of her senior partners with as much enthusiasm and energy as those that are dearest to her own heart. She has shown herself a servant to the nation first, and the narrow demands of partisan bickering a distant second.
We live in a time when mature and sober politics are under threat as never before. Leaders face a daily barrage of hysterical tweets and emotional emails and withering whines from the opinion pages of newspapers. There are those who would redevote Labour to what they see as the deserving classes – a sector of society whose relative poverty and pleaded helplessness is seen as a reason to cast aside the austerity programme that has rescued the nation in the cause of more demeaning and expensive handouts. That would be an error for the country.
We trust Minister Burton to pursue the liberal agenda that we agree with her on. We trust her to be sober, judicious, and responsible with the public purse. We trust her to subordinate the emotive demands of the online horde to the inescapable demands of the national ledger. We trust her, in short, to become the historic figure she was born to be, and not the partisan player she might be tempted to become.
Of her opponent, little need be said. When given a choice between a putative Tánaiste who has delivered for her nation, made the toughest choices, defended and embraced economic reality, and a man who was a student Marxist-Leninist, the choice is clear.
As proud former Progressive Democrats, we stand with Mrs. Burton. We ask all right-thinking people to do the same.