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Labour and THAT Pact

5.30.2005

The recent vote by labour in the beautiful Tralee, to enter a pre-election pact is harmful in many more ways than we think. There are a few times in Irish political history when this nation may have stood at the brink of an ideological shake up, (69, 92 and maybe 07). Each of these times it is labour who stood to gain from advances in a coherent ideologically motivated electorate. In 1992 Labour enjoyed a great deal of success running as a Labour party, not some one else. The assertion of identity and promotion of diversity is something labour does quite well, if only because of the big-tent nature of the left.
It is fair to argue that these changes didn’t take root because the adequate follow up work was never done, labour never hammered home this division in the system and never clearly developed a stage two from the stage one of winning more seats and being more popular. In 92 many believe it was entry into government with FF that killed them at the next election, however polls tend to indicate that it was actually throughout the life of the Rainbow government that labour began to lose ground. This poll data supports a point I feel is quite essential to a new progressive consensus in Ireland.
The point is that when parties do their own thing and act as a independent and representative structure they tend to be supported, I like to term this alternative ‘politics’. However, when parties instead succumb to the easy option and align themselves into blocs of two or three there tends to be less enthusiasm. This I like to term alternative ‘government’. The key objection I have to the new labour pact is that it robs the voter of their say, we no longer get the opportunity to choose a party close to our own outlook but are instead forced to vote for the bloc we think wont run the country badly.
This is the weakness that has affected the Irish party system for years, i.e. that the FF dominance in this country forced the other parties to be a bloc of any one but FF. I think that the current ebb in FF dominance and indeed that of FG is something of an opportunity for other parties to establish an identity and a coherent choice for Irish voters. The voter is more likely to respond to different ideas and debate than they are likely to respond to two drab pre-agreed points of view disseminated across the many parties. Granted the Greens and the Independents are going it alone but it seems that labour and FG held the best hope of forcing a new cleavage in Irish political mindset, i.e. beyond the FF centric view of government and towards the party centric view of politics/policy.
The Labour party looks set to be the team that may let the side down again and it is a pity for there may be gains in it for them unknown to polls and party management data.
The alliance with FG may make some on the left of the party uncomfortable but the threat posed by the significance of the deal is more considerable. I am dismayed that the party didn’t opt for voter empowerment and choice openly encouraging all parties to pin their policy flag to the mast and let us decide. Number can be examined afterward and that is the time for hard-headed politics. The election is a call for people to say how they wish to be governed under which ideals and through which policies. The more variety the more likely they are to respond. By opting to play the alternative government card politicians are admitting they are all the same but some are nicer, they should have opted for alternative politics and let it be known to all that they are fighting on different platforms and for different goals.
It is my belief that labour truly hold the key to this new cleavage and that is a weighty burden laden with risk, I say its labour because only labour can recast 1922 divisions in a more modern ideology driven environment. They can create a genuine tripartite partition and encourage other smaller identities through their independence but by being conservative and taking the safe option it is doing us all a disservice.
Alternative politics is possible and most dearly desirable, we can choose more deeply clearly and truly. A vote for FF/PD or FG/Lab is not some clear policy agenda it is a call for a change of personnel and nothing more. Alternative politics empowers us to make a fuller decision. A vote for FF is different to a vote for PD as one is closer to the unions, one closer to business, likewise a vote for FG can be different to one for Lab as one is closer to rural conservatives and the other closer to urban progressives. I think it s time we re-framed the debate in Ireland and sought the alternative politics.
Red Rover

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  1. Blogger Kevin Breathnach | 10:35 p.m. |  

    It all comes down to something we're seeing in both Irish, America and UK politics. Probably a lot of other countries too.

    Which should be the priority? Popularity, a chance at power or principle and ideals?

    The Liberal Democrats are debating whether or not they should adopt this flat-tax fad thing, whether they should go for much lower taxes and economic policies in line with that of the Adam Smith Institute.

    The US democrats are now at risk of changing their policies to conform to the newfound Christian-Conservativism in society. They are talking about dropping their pro-Abortion line, pro-Stem Cell Line and whatever hint of a social model they conformed to.

    Equally, it could be said that Labour are sacrifices some ideals to gain some power. One could easily argue that without power, ideals are nothing.

    Your point about it giving the voters less to vote for is fantastic. It's sad that in the UK they are arguing that PR will get rid of tactical voting, but perhaps one ought to look back and see what else it would get rid of? The bigger parties will need some small ones to form governments with, and while this could give the small parties some influence, the smaller parties beliefs could be conveniently "adjusted". I'm such a rambler.

    Anyway, I think that Labour is a big enough party to have some sort of clout within a coalition government. The only objection I would have is that which you raised, the voter having no real Labour party to vote for.

    Sorry for the long, incoherent, rambling sentences!

  2. Blogger Dr Manifesto Brunkerawritz | 11:02 p.m. |  

    Im tending to agree with Red Rover on this, consistantly throughout Irish political history, Labour had the power to give the voters a real alternative but shyed away.
    Their very abstention from the 1918 elections, their failure to make the FF aliance work in 1992 (I don't hold them soley responsible) and their continued performance as FGs sidekick.
    I personally believe its time for them to open their options and break away from FG, which also opens up Fianna Fails and if we're lucky means the end of PD coalitions.
    That said I'm just a gynacologist and except that I may be in error

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