Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fine Gael by serious default

And so it finally ends.

This writer usually loathes those who throw out the notion that all politicians and political parties are the same. The idea is the refuge of those who haven't the attention span to immerse themselves in events that will have an impact on their lives. But the longer the campaign went on the more unpalatable all the options have become. They may all assuredly not be the same, but that doesn't mean they can't irk in almost equal measure. The key moment of the campaign actually may end up being the inability of the David McWilliams/Fintan O'Toole to form a coherent group, as this may lead to a Fine Gael overall majority.

Fianna Fail:
Michael Martin has run an impressive campaign, debating rationally and proposing plenty of sensible change. One would almost pine that he isn't leading a radical new party. But the reality is that he was playing naughts and crosses in the back of the state car for the last ten years. The public have been impressed with him: But it's heartening to note that they aren't remotely ready to vote him into government. Re-apply in five years Micheal: Or better yet ten.

Sinn Fein:
Gerry Adams isn't a member of the I.R.A. Nor did he ever join the I.F.A. And it's apparently a smear to point out that no serious historian or commentator believes him: And he also believes the Government's behaviour in recent years regrading the economy is akin to terrorism. You couldn't make it up: Gerry Adams does though.

Labour: For many people Labour's campaign can only be looked through the prism of their linkage with trade unionism. Eamon Gilmore hadn't the gumption to comment on the Croke Park agreement before the unions had voted on it. Members of ICTU Youth were prominent at Labour's election launch. The message was hammered home in late 2009 that a concerted effort was being made to divide public and private. But the lean to Fine Gael, throughout the campaign, despite their manifold faults, indicates that many in the private sector still cast a jaundiced eye at Labour despite their overall moderate policy agenda. Plus Labour's bizarre profligate use of the word 'family' in the last days of the campaign would find favour with the likes of Rush Limbaugh.

United Left Alliance:
Whatever you think about their far left policies one issue hasn't been commented on sufficiently. That is even if you wished to implement left wing policies in Ireland, you can't as you would then be unable to raise money from abroad to pay our way. Thus if you want Ireland to be red, you would really be best to be storming a Bastille on the continent trying to ferment International revolution.

They won't be going away you know. The Green agenda was prominent in warning us about the insanity of over-development in the naughties. We paid them no heed and now we're out to get them for their, admittedly, mistaken decision to enter government. Yet do we really think a Dail without Eamon Ryan would be a better thing?

Fine Gael:
All in all a supremely oily, controlled Fianna Failesque campaign. Enda Kenny dodged the awkward squad interviewers outside of R.T.E. ( Vincent Browne, Matt Cooper ) When he did debate he did it with all the naturalness of an automaton. They want to bring back stag hunting. They will promise anything to the farming community. If you feel you have no choice but to vote for them, seeing Lucinda Crieghton, Alan Shatter, Peter Matthews, Michael Ring etc on your ballot paper may be the final straw. It really will be hold the nose time!

Friday, February 4, 2011

general election campaign so far

So how have all the crew been getting on:

Fianna Fail- This writer went on to the Fianna Fail website yesterday to do a head count of the number of candidates the natural party of government were running. Aside from noting that a former drinking buddy in Law School ( not Brian Cowen ) was running for the party, I came to a tot in the high 70's. In other words, and this may come as a shock to some of you, Fianna Fail aren't running enough candidates to win an overall majority. We keep being told by commentators that anything could happen ( the 1-2 on offer of a Fine Gael/lab government a couple of weeks ago was an absolute steal ) but a repeat of 1977 isn't one of the eventualities.

So thus it's curious that Micheal Martin keeps talking about the incompatibilities between Labour and Fine Gael. It would be nice if he would get around soon to telling us who his party would be compatible with. Or could it be that they have no interest and expectation of being in government. The leader claims to want a new style of election campaigning where parties deal honestly with the issues. Kudos to the Jimmy-Barry Murphy impersonator if it's true, but it's a little like Jeremy Clarkson announcing that he's seen the error of his ways and looks forward to seeing everyone on public transport.

Fine Gael: Easily the most significant blue shirt related matter so far has been the demise of the nascent New Democracy movement which could have been a serious threat. Now many centre-right voters will likely half-heartedly plump for Fine Gael for the lack of any real choice. They might though have to close their eyes and ears to Fine Gael candidates in their constituency to prevent being assailed by cant and cliche. The person we do want to hear is Enda Kenny, especially if he ever makes it to a debate that isn't diluted from being over populated. It's sadly obvious that the man who will be Taoiseach not only is reticent to debate the leaders of the other two main parties, but also to debate under the ambit of a 'loose cannon' such as Vincent Browne.

Labour: The Labour think tank would likely be your only men if you were crossing the road with them. Look left, look right, look left again. All very safe cross code. Their heads must be spinning. There's also an element of good cop bad cop about it. One minute Eamonn Gilmore in fine Brian Cowen tradition shouts and roars that Home Rule will hold sway over Rome/Frankfurt rule: The next morning Ruairi Quinn emerges to calm down the rational middle class horses.

Far Left: Richard Boyd Barrett was torn apart on his plan to reduce the deficit the other night by Vincent Browne. A very noble/contrary thing for Browne to do considering he admitted voting for Boyd Barrett in the last election. Barrett's proposal for a wealth tax will likely bring in nowhere like the 6 billion that he envisages, bar perhaps the united Left go the whole hog and implement a wealth confiscation from the idle rich. Since charity begins at home perhaps Jeremy Irons might get the ball rolling for the Dun Laoighre candidate.

The other main news story in recent days ( well The Irish Sun might disagree in light of their 'transsexual in Trinity' lead story ) was The Supreme Court decision to approve developer Paddy McKillen's appeal to keep his property out of NAMA. This reflects very poorly on Attorney General Paul Gallagher. Guiding the NAMA ship very much became Gallagher's baby at the same time that he seemed to be advising the Government that progressive reform in many other areas would be unconstitutional.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Taoiseach and the smartest guys in the room!

There is a notion abroad that it was very curious that An Taoiseach Brian Cowen didn't ask Seanie Fitzpatrick on the golf course in the summer of 2008 what the latest situation was with the financial problems of Anglo Irish Bank. But this columnist doesn't feel the Taoiseach's lack of interest was that surprising: Let me explain.

A normal lowly Fianna Fail politician has two ambitions: To get elected to the Dail, and then to get re-elected. A select group have more grand ambitions: To become Taoiseach and to remain in that office. So it is naive to believe that Fianna Fail leaders would be that concerned with esoteric matters that would be outside their purview, like the state of health of one of the country's financial institutions. About five years ago the Fianna Fail top brass would doubtless have been proud of their role in the economic prosperity that they presided over. But around that time they had effectively ceded their role in governing the economy to those who were the 'smartest guys in the room'. ( as the boyo's in Enron were called ) If the Financial Regulator and the Governor of the Central Bank were lax in their roles policing big business, it was because they got their lead from the cabinet. Ministers had become so in thrall to the Seanie Fitzpatricks of this world, partly because a group consisting of teachers and solicitors naturally didn't feel they were in a position to rein in bankers about banking.

Apparently when meeting members of the public during his tenure, one of Bertie Ahern's stock phrases was to proclaim; 'how's the hard working man'. For the former Taoiseach it wasn't necessarily important what one was hard working at. Indeed those egghead types who would have been into long-term planning likely wouldn't have been Bertie's cup of tea: As opposed to those who were keeping the show on the road by building houses with borrowed money that in actuality didn't exist. His successor Brian Cowen is not an identikit politician. He didn't share Bertie's ravenous desire to be Taoiseach for instance. But he found himself in the top job because he was popular in the Dail Bar and had never offended any of his superiors. It also seemingly never perturbed him that he mightn't be qualified for the job. As a stalwart member of the party, steeped in it since a child, he would have been honoured to keep the hamster wheel rolling. Although it may seem bizarre, one gets the impression that he wanted as easy a life as possible. Certainly the Government has seemed behind the eight ball throughout the crisis, as if they couldn't believe their bad luck and just hoped the misery could be wished away. In this context it wouldn't be strange that Brian Cowen wouldn't have quizzed the head of Anglo-Irish Bank in 2008. He simply didn't want to know if there was bad news, just as a student who has done a poor exam mightn't be in a rush to get the result.

Our economic calamity has occurred because our leaders had no interest in long term planning. They were willing to sub-contract their responsibility to civil servants who kept their heads down and to bankers and developers. The ironic thing about the Fianna Fail led governments in the last 13 years was that they only took the long view in regard to events outside the jurisdiction, i.e the northern peace process. Bertie Ahern withstood insult both from the media and Unionist politicians, as well as sidelining moderate parties, in order to effect a settlement that could stand long term. But in the south everything was done on the hoof and all parties were placated in the short term. The bubble allowed new elites to emerge, and Brian Cowen wasn't going to discommode them on the golf course in July 2008.