I’ve recently been watching a documentary series about the British Labour party in the 1980s, and what struck me was how passionate the debate was between traditional socialists and Blairite reformers debating both the values and actual policies of the party. It really fascinated me because it was such a sharp contrast with the stale if non-existent debate about values that exists in Irish politics. The traditional conservative side of the Irish political spectrum, made up of FF, FG and a large section of Labour gets a pass to some degree, on the basis that we are a conservative society so if you vote for conservative politicians you are essentially voting for the status quo. But the real left in Ireland, the shinners and the United Left don’t have that excuse.
Yet, they still manage to offer an alternative vision of Ireland that is not grounded in reality. Take the fundamental issue of the eradication of poverty. The left pull grim faces at cuts in public services and do hand wringing to an Olympic level, yet they still refuse to engage with the core fact that the most immediate form of poverty eradication is basic wealth transfer, taking money from comfortable people and giving it to poorer people. The quickest way to do this is probably to set up a Basic Income system, where every citizen is entitled to a straight payment of, say twenty or twenty five grand a year.
But how would you pay for such a thing? It’s here where the Irish left scuttle for their bunkers, exclamation pointed banners flung over their heads in their panic. You increase taxes. Now, I can see you frowning from here. The left support higher taxes, you say. No, I say, they don’t. They support magic taxes on the “mega wealthy” but relying on them to fund everything is like relying on stamp duty from a booming property market to pay for everything: it’s not sustainable. Taxes on non-movable assets, like the bulk of your population, are the only way to fund stuff like this, and the Irish left are as opposed to those taxes as were the Progressive Democrats. They’re not even in favour of luxury taxes. Supposing we brought in a hefty tax on foreign holidays, cars with large engines or above a certain value, TVs above a certain size, SkyPlus and cable television, things that you don’t need but like having. Think the Irish left would applaud? Of course not, they haven’t got the stones, and that’s your reality right there. If the Irish left aren’t willing to advocate left wing policies based on life here on planet Earth, they can hardly expect us to believe in them, can they?