Japan gives hope to the political underdog

After 54 years in opposition, Japan’s Democratic Party has won a landslide victory in the country’s general election. The centre left party’s victory has been welcomed by the markets as well as less privileged citizens. It’s the latest win for progressive politics in a major industrial country and follows Barack Obama’s election in the US and Kevin Rudd’s in Australia. Many will see it as further evidence that voters do look to the progressive parties with strong economic policies at times of economic strife.

Closer to home the Irish Labour Party will be hoping this wave of change lifts their prospects at the next general election. The SDLP, another party in a period of renewal and strong on the economy, has began its hunt for prospective MPs with an open invitation to party members to become candidates.

  • J Walsh

    The SDLP is in a period of renewal? Are you sure that isn’t just wishful thinking? If republicans/nationalists want to challenge SF in the north they, I would argue, need to do so (slowly) using a new, all-Ireland vehicle.

    FF might have been able to do something but they’re obviously in trouble at the moment. Likewise, Labour aren’t exactly strong on the North, particularly not the ex-WP people, despite Langhammer’s presence.

    I grant you that Labour is on the rise in the South but more by default than anything else.

  • Chris Donnelly

    “The SDLP, another party in a period of renewal and strong on the economy…”

    Conall

    Nice to see you’ve a sense of humour…

  • J Walsh

    Also, do you really think that Obama and Rudd qualify as ‘progressive’? An improvement on their immediate predecessors I’ll grant you, but that’s about all.

  • Billy

    Conall

    I think that this more open selection process is a good thing. However, I have to agree with the previous posters. I know quite a few people like me who were once SDLP voters but who no longer vote for them.

    Durkan may be popular in his own constituency but he sure isn’t popular beyond it. In my experience (and opinion) he is viewed as arrogant and self serving. He seems to think that he is very clever but he’s in a small minority there.

    Frankly, the paucity of SDLP “talent” was shown up by the selection of Alban for the Euro election. A talented and decent guy but too old.

    I remember seeing a program a few months back about the blooming SDLP youth wing and it’s resurgence. Since then, I have neither seen nor heard anything to back this up.

    Given Sinn Fein’s recent difficulties, there was a big opportunity for the SDLP to make inroads into the Nationalist vote which they clearly failed to do. That speaks volumes.

    I would like to see a resurgent SDLP with new young representatives and fresh ideas. The problem is that, even if you get some youthful candidates, the ideas and agenda will still be dominated by Durkan, McDonnell, McGrady etc.

    They are all perceived (correctly in my opinion) as being more interested in self promotion than anything else – McDonnell in particular has previous on this.

    The fact is that the SDLP requires new faces and new ideas. The move to get new younger people is welcome but, unless you’re prepared to face up to the failed leadership you’ve currently got, it will be the same old rubbish wrapped up in different packaging.

    That won’t fool anyone for long.

  • Continental Drifter

    Conall,

    You can’t just write the SDLP is in a “period of renewal” and “strong on the economy”! If that were a Wiki entry, you’d be rightly clobbered for lacking references!

    FACT: The youngest SDLP MLA was born before Kennedy became President.

    FACT: There’s more to developing the economy than selling a few forests.

    Neither of your claims stands up to even a hint of scrutiny. Therein lies the SDLP’s problem. I seriously wonder if there is any future whatsoever for the party – it is divided, defined only by its past, and utterly lacking in purpose for the future.

  • Continental

    I hope you are not being agest. People of all ages have big contributions to make to Irish politics. That the SDLP is asking openly for applicants is surely evidence that it too recognises the need for renewal.

    With regard to the economy you are plain wrong. The SDLP has always been regarded as strong on policy and remains the only party to have published a comprehensive paper on the regional impact of the recession.

    Conall

  • IJP

    Conall

    To be fair, in response to Continental, you’ve committed the same offence again.

    You said the SDLP was committed to renewal – the evidence Continental gives concerning the age of its MLAs is actually quite staggering and very much to the contrary – the youngest MLA will be over 50 by the next election, hardly the sign of a youthful party.

    You said the SDLP “has always been regarded as strong on policy”, yet you fail to state by whom.

    I don’t necessarily disagree with your sentiments, by the way, I just feel you need a lot more evidence than you present.

  • IJP

    On the Japanese issue, it’s a very different political set-up and yet highly relevant. A bunch of men-in-grey-suits has been replaced by a genuinely representative group who managed to bring out younger voters (turnout was up).

    The lessons are clear.

  • Greenflag

    Conall,

    ‘and the SDLP remains the only party to have published a comprehensive paper on the regional impact of the recession. ‘

    All very well Conall but is’nt this a bit like after the financial bomb has dropped pointing out to prospective voters and possible supporters ‘lookee here folks at the local impact to the NI economy ?

    What the voters are looking for is solutions not more analyses of the damage already done?

    Admittedly the other parties haven’t done a stitch but shure isn’t that expected anyway . They have no power to do more than apply a little band aid to a lacerated corpse that will need major surgery at the very least ?

    IJP,

    ‘The lessons are clear.’

    The result may be clear and the voters intentions clear but the prescription is something else and seems less than clear . Japan certain needed change but the new government is promising wide social reform (costly) with high unemployment (for Japan) at the same time as curbing the bureaucracy and cutting back on the public sector . It will not be an easy ride politically. The former ruling party has been stashing away it’s supporters into government jobs for the last half century . So while the seats have been rearranged in Parliament the seats remain unchanged among the mandarins and I suspect that said mandarins wield a lot more power and can be even more obstructive than say their British or Irish counterparts ?

    Still it’s progress of a sort . Simply the fact that the ruling party was voted out of office is immense in itself . I can’t think of anything on this side of the world that would compare unless say FF were to be returned with half their present seat total at the next election ?