If I were Enda Kenny, I’d be worried. Yes, the polls are giving good numbers with regard to a Yes vote, but I’m wondering where exactly is the physical Yes campaign actually going to come from? In the last three days I’ve spoken to four people who all played very significant roles in the last two treaty campaigns, and what’s frightening is that not one of them is planning to actively campaign for a Yes vote. In fact, two are even wavering about voting Yes themselves.
The reason is not as much to do with disenchantment with the EU (although that is a factor in their giving Declan Ganley a second look. More on that below) as to do with the fact that they haven’t got the energy to spend days standing on Grafton street defending cutbacks (the “Rectal Fistitude” programme) and the banking bailout. That’s the problem right there. I’ve already encountered people who would be in the usual Yes voter camp who are voting No because they associate the treaty with cuts to a public service they use. I predict that the Yes campaign will struggle to actually put non-FG bodies on the ground, as even the usually pro-EU NGOs will waiver as they battle cuts to their own funding.
But there’s another reason: many veteran Yes campaigners are so tired of the onslaught from the Easy Answers Brigade (Shinners and the ULA) that they almost want this treaty to be the trap the perennial Noes finally walk into, a treaty that can’t be halted but will have clear effects if there is a No vote. One speculated to me that he’d relish an Ireland without access to a second bailout staring into the abyss of eye-watering cutbacks, the No side finally proven to be the smoke and mirrors merchants that they are. In particular, the curious line put out by some No voters, that “the Germans have to bail us out in order to save the euro” will finally be shown to be not actually true. After all, the Greeks have proven that it is possible to remain in the single currency whilst undergoing cutbacks in public services on a scale unimaginable in Ireland.
Have you noticed, by the way, that rightwing opposition to the treaty is taking the almost diametrically opposed line that the No-To-Cutbacks left are voicing? Take a look at Cormac Lucey’s piece in the Irish Daily Mail, where he suggests that a Yes vote may allow the government to wiggle out of harsh measures to reduce the cost of the public sector. It’s a line I have encountered a few times now, voiced mostly by what would be termed “Thatcherites”, that a No vote and the contraction in funding for services it could bring will be a wonderful opportunity to start dismantling the social welfare system by the back door.
The other interesting factor is the reception Declan Ganley’s message is getting amongst pro-EU activists. The media have, quite oddly, only recently twigged that Ganley is a European federalist, something that he has never hidden in the past. I’m struck by the amount of former Yes campaigners who secretly whisper to me how much they agree with Ganley’s “not far enough” line, particularly on the democratic control of the EU. He’s winning admirers in pro-European circles (one likened him to an Irish version of Polish foreign minister Sikorski, who made a very inspiring speech on the EU last year) because he is actually offering a positive long-term vision of the EU, something this generation of technocratic poll-watching nervous nelly EU leaders have failed to provide. If he could temper his perceived right-wing social views, or at least explain them better, as John Bruton does with his, Ganley could find himself leading something interesting.