The shenanigans over the past twenty four hours in relation to the Finance Bill, as noted by Harry McGee yesterday on the Irish Times website and quoted here… was indeed as he put it when…
“…both [Labour and Fine Gael] will facilitate the passage of the Bill (which both really really want to see going through) and then both will have the luxury of voting against it. In collusion with the Greens (and relucantly) Fianna Fail.”
And lo, it came to pass.
As neat a piece of political work as one could imagine. But one which shows up the enormous credibility issue for Labour, and much more so than Fine Gael.
For those who were preparing for the LPs stint in government for the inevitable, as they saw it, sell-out, wait no more. They may well be, indeed will or are, pointing to this positioning and say – ‘we told you so!’. And in truth the LPs position, one which has not merely converged on the political centre but crossed it, is far from creditable. If they disliked the Finance Bill so much, well, push the no-confidence motion in the Taoiseach and watch the Government fall, or better still watch Fine Gael attempt to prop it up in order to pass the FB. Or do something, anything, but something better than this shambles where their race to be respectable and ‘provide stable government’ outweighs any other consideration, even the serious attrition of their vote to the left and further left.
And as Mark suggested last night in the comments on the above thread, ‘Saw that too with a sinking feeling. And I thought the 18% tax promise in 2007 was just a blip.’
But it wasn’t and this isn’t. Labour, for whatever reason, has decided that in order to retain its current levels of support (but note that decline) it needs to play to… well, who precisely?
I generally take a sympathetically critical line towards the LP. None of us on the left can ignore how difficult it is in this state to argue a left of left of centre line. Decades from the lives of leftwing activists have been spent on fairly marginal achievements, and that’s true from the LP leftward.
It’s a difficult ask in a society as conservative in some respects as this, at least in terms of pretending that there is no such thing as left/right politics much of the time, to be leftwing, even mildly so.
And there’s a danger in complaining about the rhetoric emanating from the worthies mentioned in the headline to this post that we forget that the further left has never been behind the door in articulating precisely its discontents with the Labour Party. Meetings the length and breadth of the state will echo to the sound of complaints about them. No one here, LP or otherwise, can claim the status of innocent victim.
But that party leaves me exasperated as regards not merely its innate caution, something that seems to me have been intrinsic to it from its foundation, but also its politeness as regards the centre and centre right and a remarkably deaf ear to all others. Because while one has to appeal to a broad variety of voters and people in many different circumstances there’s all too often a sense that the LP has lost sight of who and what it is meant to represent while making that appeal. This may seem unfair to the many many genuine leftists I know within the LP, but from the outside, and from a position that is certainly some way short of say the SP or SWP this is a perception. I can’t say how widely shared it is. But it exists and it frustrates.
And every time a Roisin Shortall or a Rabbitte articulate something along the lines of a ‘rag-tag’ left, something that seems inexplicable given the personal political history of so many people in the LP, you can sense the SF, ULA and Independent vote bump slightly upwards. And remember, it only needs slight increments because – as also noted previously – the targets of all three are actually quite modest. SF will be pleased with 7 TDs, sufficient to form a Technical Group. If the ULA happen to get Higgins, Healy and RBB back into the Dáil that will be a good days work, any more and they’ll be naturally delighted. As for the Independents, each extra one is one more. ‘Nuff said.
Does Shortall or Rabbitte care? Probably not. They’ve got their eyes fixed on a larger percentile of the vote than the ULA, or SF or whoever can dream of. And they’re all too aware that the further left and SF can deny them second seats here and there, but particularly in Dublin. But, there’s a problem, it’s not entirely working. – How else to explain that the FG vote is more or less constant while the SF and Independents/Others vote is increasing while the FF and LP votes are declining? Labour has seemed at best coy for quite some time now, coy and evasive. And the latest deal has something of that tone too.
So no wonder they’re throwing the odd rhetorical comment agin the further left. By their calculation they have little to lose and if they discredit said left even slightly… but the damage to the discourse is difficult to take, even if we put all else aside.
This is, as was also noted last night, oddly reminiscent of the Green Party, who also went through a similar process, albeit one after they arrived in government rather than before, of attempting to project ‘responsibility’ as if were the primary political virtue, and the jettisoning of if not the entirety of older policy positions, at least an effort to put green water between them and the party.
That that strategy wasn’t exactly successful is now all too evident, and there’s more, much more, to be written about the Green Party and what went wrong during the past three years.
Implicit in that though is a warning to the Labour Party, who though they may think that from a 2007 base if they lose say two-thirds of the support they’ve gained across the last two years they’ll be doing well.
Surely, in purely electoral terms. But if they believe that being in government is its own justification then they’re in for the same shock as the Green Party when not dissimilar circumstances leech the political capital from them.
And, unlike the Green Party, they won’t have the excuse that all this was completely new to them.
This post originally appeared on Cedar Lounge Revolution.