Fine Gael and Labour should strike out now for a new deal

With Fianna Fail now finally swept aide, will the two victorious parties dare  make the one move that would weld them together in an instant and all Ireland with them?  Only the most starry-eyed europhile would fail to give two cheers for the briefings emerging from Dublin that the about-to-be-born FG-Labour coalition really mean it.  They will seriously try to renegotiate the bailout. They may yet confound the ranks of critics in advance who balked at standing themselves, Browne, O’Toole and McWilliams, and  threaten to pull down eurozone’s house down if they don’t get a better deal. Or so the profoundly eurosceptic Daily Telegraph seems to think, and it’s  backed by the normally  staider FT.  which actually quotes Micahel O’Leary approvingly.

At the very moment the Irish people have performed the basic act of democracy, even pro-Europeans must feel it’s pretty galling to be told by an anonymous Brussels bureaucrat –

that the terms of the EU-IMF bailout “must be applied” whatever the will of Ireland’s people or regardless of any change of government. “It’s an agreement between the EU and the Republic of Ireland, it’s not an agreement between an institution and a particular government.

Factually correct it may be, but this is but no way to handle an electorate who have just spoken.  There is something almost revolutionary about defying the mighty eurozone. And if you don’t do it with an emphatic fresh mandate, when will you?   If the crowds in Cairo, Benghazi and Bahrain can get a better deal, why not the Irish people who have voted for one?  To adopt Tony Blair, I know the answer, but the question is better.

Adds Support for renegotiation comes from the Observer

The regime being imposed on Ireland is utterly unrealistic. A depressed and deeply indebted economy with just 1.8 million people at work cannot underwrite private banking liabilities of €200bn (135% of GDP). The parties that will form the new government promised to renegotiate the deal with the IMF/EU. If democracy and European solidarity are to mean anything, they should get a sympathetic and fair-minded hearing.

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  • another

    It is odds on that they will burn the bond holders. Were they not to do so, they risk a revolution three months down the line, when voters realise that they have in fact voted for more of the same.

  • lamhdearg

    gerry says no.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Basically sweeping aside Fianna Fáil is only half the job.
    Sweeping aside the Fine Gael is the second part of the job.
    Five more years…..

  • Brian Boru

    Enda Kenny and Brian Hayes were very non-commitment on RTE today on whether they would go in with Independents or Labour. Brian Hayes said that while a new government ‘must be stable it must also be compatible’, and said when confronted with a proposal from new centre-right Independent Shane Ross on a plan for 8 Independent TDs to do a deal with FG, that it would depend on the numbers of seats. Leo Varadkar also appeared to row back slightly from his earlier reference to a FG-Labour government by refererring to the possibility of govt with support from Independents if the party won in the late seventies. The Sunday Independent is running today with a headline calling on Enda to “go solo”.

  • Jimmy Sands

    While Fine Gael ponder their options I’ve yet to hear an argument as to why Labour should do it. If the goal has been a realignment of Irish politics on a left-right axis surely the obvious course for Gilmore is to become Leader of the Opposition?

  • slappymcgroundout

    (1) the Euro source sounds just like the Euro sources who were insisting that Iraq had to honor the debts of Saddam Hussein. Unfortunately, Eire doesn’t quite have the same leverage as Iraq (the oil and the US with its artillery, cruise missiles and tank shells). Pity that Eire never joined the US in a war on an official basis. Might have provided Eire with some chips that could be cashed in right about now.

    (2) I cannot understand why Labor would want to go into coalition in any govt following this election. Even if some either get a better deal from Europa or bag on Europa, no matter, there’s going to be too much pain experienced to want to be associated with that pain. If Labor can’t see that then they deserve to be savaged, as they will be, the election following. Now is when you want to be positing a more pain free alternative that will always remain theoretical as you are the minority and not the majority.

  • Harry Flashman

    “the obvious course for Gilmore is to become Leader of the Opposition?”

    I know the death of civil war politics has been predicted since Moses was a wee fella but if not now when?

    If Labour are serious about being a socialist party as opposed to being a party which gets a few cabinet seats every decade or so when Fianna Fail screws up then they should hold out.

    Clearly a Labour/SF/Socialist/Independent bloc could make a credible left wing opposition forcing Fianna Fail and Fine Gael to put up or shut up and decide what they actually stand for economically and socially as opposed to what side their Great Granda took in 1922.

    I won’t hold my breath however, those ministerial mercs are always tempting to “socialist” politicians, it has been ever thus.

  • Henry94

    What should happen is for Fianna Fail to accept that it is finished and wind up. It’s remaining TDs should apply for the FG whip or in some cases the Labor whip if it was more in line with their views. That would provide a stable centre-right government and a Labour led left opposition.

  • abucs

    Long odds Henry. 🙂

    Do you actually think FF might be finished ?
    Or would you expect them to bounce back at FG and Labour’s expense next time around?

  • This is a very stange op. Why should the votes of a msall island people affect mainstream Europe, especially as the Irish voted, as every for conservatives or populists. Ireland must handle its debt; it cannot get out of its obligations by voting in one or other set of clowns.

    Reading the entrails:
    1. FF did not do so well. They wil not be forming the next government and they will have no part in it as they are toxic right now.
    2. The others all gained at their expense. Those gains can be looked at as floating voters who may or may not stay loyal to their new home. Floating Irihs voters have been fickle in the past.
    3. FG will be thinking of FG’s long term options in forming the next government.
    4. FG’s best long term strategy would be to have Labour in opposition well ahead of FF. Embracing SF would be more toxic than Cleopatra’s asp.
    5. FF and SF will definitely be in opposition. Even a FG/Labour government will almost certainly spell the end of FF as it has lost too much ground,
    6. FG have a difficult call. Call it wrong and they could go la FF and throw the door wide open for all the lunatics to take over the asylum that is Ireland.

  • http://www.rte.ie/news/election2011/results/

    The graphs here make awful reading for FF. Of all the TDs who lost seatrs, only one is FG, the rest FF/GP. The top 10 votes – none FF. And so on.

  • ORWELLSPEN

    If Labour go into coalition , what we have is a National government in all but name. Secondly, how could they call themselves a second party if they are seen to be bedfellows of the first party ie FG. Come election 2016 and if the FG/Lab coalition proves as toxically unpopular as Ff are today, who will the electorate turn to? FF and SF. For the sake of evolution of normal politics and mitigating against lunatics taking over the asylum, Lab should do the patriotic thing and go into opposition but abstain on confidence motions. This way, they provide the people with a decent scrupulous democratic alternative to FG should the people want that

  • Mack

    I doubt FF are finished. They got 17.4% of the vote so far. Now they are out of government they’re support will likely start to rise (particularly as austerity is not about to end) , they’ll be more transfer friendly next time out too..

    It’s unlikely FG (or Labour) will suffer the same melt-down next time out either

    Basically sweeping aside Fianna Fáil is only half the job.
    Sweeping aside the Fine Gael is the second part of the job.
    Five more years…..

    Um… who did the sweeping?

    FG up 9% approx
    Lab up 9% approx
    SF up 3%
    Inds up 7% (and a good few of those are FF gene pool (Lowry, McGrath, Healy Rae or otherwise centre-right).
    Greens -3%

  • If Labour enters a government with FG they will be betraying those who voted for them and more to the point in the case of the LP leadership denying what they claimed was the purpose of their political careers, i e to bring about a leftwing realignment in Irish politics. For is that not what the Workers Party/Democratic left crowd who now rule Labour claimed throughout much of their political careers.

    For the first time ever there is a sizeable number of left wing parliamentarians and as Harry writes,

    ‘Labour/SF/Socialist/Independent bloc could make a credible left wing opposition.’

    Who ever governs Ireland in the coming period their will be tears and anger on the street. For all socialists far better to live by Napoleons maxim of not interrupting your enemy whilst they are making mistakes.

    If labour join a FG government they will be treading a well used path, a ministerial chair, a few scraps from the big boys table, the odd useful reform and come the next election they will be punished and have to await their next turn at the trough, ten years down the road.

  • Reader

    Mickhall : If Labour enters a government with FG they will be betraying those who voted for them…
    apart from all those labour voters who went to the polling booths in the knowledge that by far the most likely outcome was a FG/Labour coalition. I.e. – almost all of them. There were candidates in most constituencies for those left wingers who didn’t like the writing on the wall.

  • Reader

    Mickhall: For all socialists far better to live by Napoleons maxim of not interrupting your enemy whilst they are making mistakes.
    Is is really better for the left to give the right a free hand for 5 years while gloating over the polls? That would surely be a betrayal of the people who voted for them *this* time. Which is more important, the people or the party?

  • I thank such disparate types as fitzjameshorse1745 @ 1:57 am and Harry Flashman @ 4:54 am for assuring me I’m not wholly cuckoo.

    There is a historical opportunity here. For it to happen there has to be a realignment on ideological lines (and not on historical Civil War grudges). The only honourable place for Labour (now the dominant party in Dublin) is on the Opposition benches.

    The Coalition alternative guarantees defections to a vocal and credible socialist and “socialist” bloc left behind in Opposition. Someone needs to be expressing the continued pain of the Plain People of Ireland, as the de Selbys of the ECB suck the oxyg€n out of the country (Ha! two Myles references in a single sentence!). On present performance that “someone” could welll be the economic illiterates of SF.

    As for the other ingredient, of course there will be a bit of nipping-and-tucking to keep FG merry-and-bright inside the EPP tent. Don’t count on it being more than cosmetic, though.

    The seedy, self-serving, brown-enveloped heart may have been ripped out of FF, but I’ve still got the garlic-smeared crucifix and stake to hand, and a likely crossroads in mind. You’ll have to bring your own comely maidens for any dancin’.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Labour clearly have a decision to make about Coalition. Id certainly prefer that they did not join. But clearly its a matter for the Labour Party itself.
    Clearly it has been Labours intention to try and join in Coalition….with degrees of nuance about whether they can act as a brake on FGs excesses.
    But the shrill cries of Higgins Socialists and assorted ULAs/PBP refusniks are no friends of the Labour Party so talk of “betraying the Labour voters” is just nonsense.

    The Labour Party probably has the interests of its voters at heart. It would be arrogant of any other minority Party to claim that they had the interests of those voters more at heart.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Incidently I wondered how George Lee feels about missing this moment. His decision to leave politics seems extremely rash just now. He would probably be given a cabinet seat.
    But maybe the role of economic guru looms.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    guru=tsar

  • Comrade Stalin

    If Labour enters a government with FG they will be betraying those who voted for them

    Rubbish. The FG-Lab coalition(s) of the past were broadly popular and stable, and coalition between FG/Labour was pretty much a cert during the course of this election campaign.

    The mad far-left socialists, outside SF, barely have enough to form a technical group in the Dáil. Bear that in mind when you want to parrot your propaganda here.

  • Comrade Stalin @ 2:32 pm:

    Valid; and I’m not questioning that. For all the faults of FG (let me count the ways …), FG-led coalitions have been a whit more progressive than the alternative.

    Even so, there is a job of house-training to be done. We are going to have a (presumed) Dáil in which the two largest parties will have a huge (100+/60ish) majority. I’m trying to search my memory: is that unprecedented? We’ll also have a relatively large new intake.

    I’m also trying to make sense of the opposition numbers (as I write 16FF, 13SF, 3 Socialists and the 14 rag-bags). Does that allow Martin to claim to be “Leader of the Opposition”? Especially if Gerry wants to be awkward, and the rag-bags decide to be nasty to the FF rump (plus, will Pearse Doherty —just for one — be strutting his stuff?).

    The great President Josiah Bartlet reckoned that politics was the show that never ends. Politics in ireland won’t stop tonight. Which is just as well for us junkies.

  • Reader

    One of the main problems with the last Dail was there was not an opposition of any size which could effectively challenge the FF led coalition on economic matters from a non neo liberal stance. Thus the markets and their EU gofers could dictate terms over the loan etc. And that is exactly what they did.

    The question is, will a FG-LP coalition be willing to rethink the speed and scale of the cuts and thus re- negotiate the loan agreement to the benefit of the Irish people. Myself I doubt they will, and the only thing which might force them to, is strong oppositional pressure from the street and within the Dail.

    This is a time of massive cuts, and if by joining a FG coalition all Labour can achieve is to help administer those cuts, that will not help their working class electorate a single iota. In addition like the Green today, they will undoubtedly be punished at the next election. The outcome of which will probably be a return to office of FF, in other words no change overall in the way the country is run.
    —–
    Comrade Stalin, simply throwing childlike and outdated insults about socialists having mental health problems helps move the debate forward how? The cold war is long over, try and catch up.

    Unless you failed to notice amongst those who were/are to the fore in bringing about change in the middle east are the very kind of people in Ireland you insult with such ease.

    By the way, if left socialist are what you call mad, what does that make those mainstream parties who either implemented policies which bankrupted the country or failed to offer an alternative, sane and rational? You need to get out more matey and take a cool look at the world you live in.

  • Reader

    Mickhall: The question is, will a FG-LP coalition be willing to rethink the speed and scale of the cuts and thus re- negotiate the loan agreement to the benefit of the Irish people.
    They will do what they can – it would not be in their interests to do otherwise. In addition, once the financial hit is fully quantified, it is for the government to decide on how it is met by balancing cuts and tax rises and sale of the family silver. That is surely where the government parties will have something substantial to discuss.
    I think, for the sake of their own voters, labour needs to be involved in those decisions.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Comrade Stalin…….agree 100%

  • lamhdearg

    Are labour in the republic not like labour in the u.k., only labour in name, most mainstream partys are now surely as central as each other, so a strong f.g. labour coalition gov is the way to go, years will be needed for eire to sort it’s problems out trying to bring down the gov from the sidelines will not help the people to ireland, so labour should get to work IN goverment. One wonders (sidetracking a little) with s.f. having such a good preformance lead to a bigger vote for the d.u.p in may, or shall the unionist’s and their vote splitting ways continue to sleepwalk towards a s.f. first minister.

  • “At the very moment the Irish people have performed the basic act of democracy, even pro-Europeans must feel it’s pretty galling to be told by an anonymous Brussels bureaucrat – “that the terms of the EU-IMF bailout “must be applied” whatever the will of Ireland’s people or regardless of any change of government. “It’s an agreement between the EU and the Republic of Ireland, it’s not an agreement between an institution and a particular government.””

    If you care to read this ….. http://www.zerohedge.com/article/guest-post-analysis-global-insurrection-against-neo-liberal-economic-domination-and-coming-a …… you might like to tell all those pompous and anonymous Brussels bureaucrat, to fcuk off and die. The really annoying thing though is, that Stormont and Westminster appear to be party to, and puppets of the scam, too.

    It might be a good plan to find out if they are willing active agents who are going to continue to assist in the fiasco, or whether they were just arrogant and/or ignorant dupes and passengers, who had no idea of the game and tricks being played on them, to play on the electorate.

    And this is a nice tale, too……. http://understory.ran.org/2011/02/25/breaking-wisconsin-police-have-joined-protest-inside-state-capitol/

  • Malcom

    you raise some interesting points about the sise of the governments majority if Labour join FG in a coalition. Is there not also a question here for the LP about responsibility to the nation as a whole.

    Would the country not be better served if Labour mounted a solid opposition with the other left parties (I use the word left broadly)

    What real difference will labour make in government, will its presence alter how FG deals with economic and social matters? I doubt it will.

    We know from Thatchers period in office, a government with a large majority, without a strong opposition is a road to disaster.

    One cannot expect FF to be much of an opposition on economic matters as they differ very little from FG. For these two parties it is neo liberal economics or nothing.

  • lamhdearg

    Mickhall

    If you change the name from Thatcher to Blair, you may have a point, maggie sorted a sick U.K. out, sure there was a lot of pain but she and the torys of the time left the u.k. a better country than labour has, i say steady gov is what Eire requires and the best hope is F.G. and labour forming a strong goverment.

  • Mickhall @ 5:57 pm:

    Sadly, I’d have tend with you on all points.

    lamhdearg @ 6:12 pm:

    I didn’t realise there were still died-in-the-wool Tories who conflated what was good for stockbroker Surrey with what was good for the nation. Obviously the “better country” Thatcher delivered omitted most of northern England, and all of the other subject territories. As I recall, it took fifteen years of Major and Blair to deliver some king of stasis in NI. Meanwhile, if “pain” is the recipe for a well-governed country, perhaps the RoI should have stuck with FF.

  • Comrade Stalin

    slappy:

    Pity that Eire never joined the US in a war on an official basis. Might have provided Eire with some chips that could be cashed in right about now.

    I’m getting utterly bored of clueless yanks who clearly know nothing about Ireland or the thinking of the people who live there lecturing us on how to run our country. Granted, though, it certainly beats having them raising money and sending guns to paramilitary organizations.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Comrade Stalin, simply throwing childlike and outdated insults about socialists having mental health problems helps move the debate forward how? The cold war is long over, try and catch up.

    Your point about Labour disappointing their electorate was at odds with any observable reality. Labour voters know fine well that the party has a long history of establishing coalition with FG, and this was discussed during the election campaign and categorically not ruled out.

    I only wish that Labour and FG would have been able to come together in government six or seven years ago. I don’t think the country would be in quite the state that it’s currently in, and some real work could have been done on making the country a more progressive place. Unfortunately now Ireland has been left in a state where heavy government intervention to build decent public services is not possible; the state is skint. I’m up for burning the bondholders – I’d hope it’s the first order of business – but it must be recognized that the banks aren’t the sole source of fiscal profligacy in Ireland. A fundamental reckoning with the public sector , and especially with unionized sectors particularly the likes of CIE, is required. This business of bribing the unions every year in exchange for them agreeing not to halt the country through strikes has to stop. The country can’t afford it.

    I’d hope that by the time 2015 rolls around that Ireland is on the mend and we are back in the place where we can start talking about building a progressive state. Healthcare in Ireland is fundamentally broken and needs to be fixed, and education requires urgent attention as well in order to keep the country competitive. A fundamental rebalancing of the tax system is required as well.

  • Mack

    @Comrade Stalin

    That’s pretty much spot on.

    I’d hope FG and Labour aren’t just discussing a program for government for the next 4 years but are looking at the next 8 and how to stay the course / manage the malcontents etc.

    At the end of that we should get a new health service modelled on the Dutch system. FG’s propsoals would certainly be enhanced by having Labour in government.

    Perhaps they might be able to deliver public sector reform too.. but I’m not holding my breath on that..

  • lamhdearg

    Malcolm
    I am not a died in the wool tory, i dislike the current lot quite a bit, and i did not agree with all the thatcher policies. As i recall in 79 northern britain there where place’s where you could not get your dead buired, and that rubbish was piled high in the streets, it needed a goverment that was not looking to keep one or two self interested people on board “a strong goverment” i believe that an honest coalition between F.G. and labour could supply such a goverment, pain will come however with or without, with strong/stable goverment the pain could, should be over sooner, Lets hope so.

  • Greenflag

    Comrade Stalin ,

    ‘A fundamental reckoning with the public sector , and especially with unionized sectors particularly the likes of CIE, is required. This business of bribing the unions every year in exchange for them agreeing not to halt the country through strikes has to stop. The country can’t afford it.’

    Could’nt agree more . This is what happened during the last 1980’s economic crisis . There is almost a deja vu aspect to the current situation which runs something like this .

    Economic growth takes off at a decent rate -private sector expands and public sector unions jump on the gravy laden train thus increasing national overhead and bringinging the train to a halt . Train halts -lard is cut off and away we go again on another growth gravy train with public sector again hogging . Each time the public sector ‘hog’ seems to forget who is producing the ‘gravy ‘

    Now I know the above is ‘simplified ‘ but I believe the gist of it to be true . Government cannot create ‘jobs ‘ other than increasing ‘overhead’ and eventually that overhead will eat away the ‘productive ‘ economy.

    FG have said they want to reform the public sector -but what does this mean in practice . More consultants and fewer nurses? more administrators and fewer teachers.

    Part of what has given rise to this crisis and I repeat part has been ‘excess’ on the part of some state employees particularly those at the top end of the pyramid .

    We still have a Taoiseach that gets paid more than his British counterpart and our TD’s must be the highest paid in the EU if not the world ?

    But the Labour Party is now the party of the public sector and how will they ‘react ‘ to an FG assault on their ‘supporters’?

    So what we have in the Republic is a two or maybe now three tier ‘class ‘ system being gelled on the left with Labour being (in coalition ) being part of the economic establishment via it’s public sector union control and support ). SF the voice of the great unwashed -the non unionised economically marginal etc and then there are the ULA the ultras of the left who are close to the edge of ‘revolution’ at least in the sense of believing that the ‘system ‘ capitalism is irreformable .

    Bertie’s ‘agreements ‘ to hold the social contract and the industrial peace which seemed to work during the Tiger years was all very well in principle and in practice BUT it was based on and probably in licensed premises – The economic growth and income growth rates being used by union negotiators and public sector mandarins used to justify the latter’s insane incomes – were not real -i.e they were based on inflated values and a sense of entitlement which was not born out by the real economic realities .

    Of course in that kind of an environment once the big boys get more lolly then the trough has to be passed down the line .

    The bigger issue in all of this generally and it just doesn’t apply to Ireland but to the rest of the developed and developing world is the ‘relationship ‘ between average private sector wages and salaries and public sector particularly in economies where the public sector is strongly unionized and the private sector is not or it’s weak .

    In current economic conditions worldwide it’s clear that the de-unionization of the workforce has brought with it an increasing gap between the ‘protected’ versus the ‘unprotected’
    In Ireland we have an almost perverse argument being put up by many of our ‘mandarins’ demanding they should be paid the same as CEO’s of private companies or more ?

    I’m sure many are very capable and probably worth the money but they need to remember that their employer is the Irish taxpayer and if they want millionaire salaries they need to ‘transfer’ to the private sector and earn the big money while being subject to the free market risk that such work entails .

  • Greenflag

    Mack,

    ‘Perhaps they might be able to deliver public sector reform too.. but I’m not holding my breath on that..’

    And you’d be right . Beyond the ‘debt ‘ issue it’s the one nettle that has’nt ever really been grasped by any Irish government since the establishment of the State bar Ray ‘mack the knife’ McSharry’s ‘keep out the IMF ‘ploy in the 1980’s . But now that the IMF are in maybe that will give Enda the cojones to kick Gilmore where it hurts and in today’s world wide economic and political climate ? it’s a moot point whether or not Enda would outsurvive Eamon if such an encounter were to take place ?

    A new paradigm folks don’t you just love that world -beats political gene pool by an Irish mile ;)/

  • lamhdearg @ 7:29 pm:

    As i recall in 79 northern britain there where place’s where you could not get your dead buired, and that rubbish was piled high in the streets

    Then you have a very convenient memory.

    In the matter of burials, you refer, I assume, specifically to Liverpool and Tameside. There was an unofficial strike by grave-diggers (who were somewhat offended to find they were earning less than five years previously and expected to do so in an iron-hard freeze). It was sorted within a fortnight. Meanwhile, private burials continued without interruption.

    Any highly-publicised “rubbish in the streets” was mainly in the City of Westminster (a Tory-run Council since Ethelred was still Unready) and very scenically in Leicester Square. Now, I simply cannot think why any Tory authority would chose that particular site and attract those headlines in an election year. Subsequently, of course, any Labour authority which had avoided confrontation through an arrangement with the GMB was surcharged by the local auditor (with full approval of the incoming Tory government). Spiteful? Well, hardly.

    And, also of course, there haven’t been any problems with dustbins and rubbish latterly, have there? Any more recent stories, concerning dificulties LibDem and Tory Councils were having with their privatised contractors, must be socialist propaganda. Leeds, Bradford and Sheffield didn’t get the same amount of press coverage as 1979, but then the rubbish wasn’t in full view in Leicester Square.

    As I’ve already implied, the winter of 1978-9 was the coldest since 1962-3. Now, promise me we didn’t hear the present Tory-led coalition pleading bad weather at any time this winter.

    None of which is relevant to this thread.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Mack, Greenflag,

    It’s ten years since I lived in Dublin so I’m a little out of date but some of the things I remember the most keenly were the railway strikes, the formation of an unrecognized union (the “ILDA”), and this idea that DART drivers had to be paid an extra £6K or something per year before they would obey instructions to drive the new trains which had just been brought in at the time. I also remember all the Cork drivers walking out when one of their number was discplined for smoking (against the rules) on the platform. There is no question of workers rights or conditions there – these people were brazenly using union power to suck money out of the taxpayer to line their own pockets and to overturn the discipline necessary for the proper running of a public service. That’s money that could have been more properly invested in things like expanding the rollout of the Luas, accelerating the railway infrastructure improvements etc. The only reason why they get away with this is because these are nationalized industries, and the experience with the Luas is an interesting demonstration of how privately-run public transport services – backed by the right kind of contract – can actually work quite well.

    But it’s not possible, much less fair, to ask the unions to back off and be reasonable while giving the banks everything they want, so there will have to be a package of measures that addresses the question of value for money right across the board. Despite everything I find Gerry Adams’ ideas about drastically reducing the salaries paid to politicians, especially ministers, to be sensible in the circumstances and if implemented this would send out a serious message about the will of the politicians to fix the problems.

    And while I’m in rant mode, the first thing this new government needs to do is go down to Donnybrook and organize a clearout at RTE. That election coverage over the past few days was outrageous in its Fianna Fáil bias. The atmosphere in the studio was positively funereal, and the presenters were barely able to contain their unhappiness – the low point was where Pat Kenny asked Brian Cowen how he could look at himself in the mirror in the morning. RTE clearly operates inside of a Fianna Fáil D4 bubble and, as of Monday morning it is clearly in the country.

  • lamhdearg

    Malcolm,
    70s britain was not know as the sick man of europe for nothing the unions had simply gotten too big for their unelected boots, and this is what the maggie lead torys sorted out. Now”None of which is relevant to this thread”. on this we agree, as for a strong/stable goverment for Eire, i stand by my belief that it is better than a goverment that can be held to ransom by a few because it has a small majority, so that means a F.G. Labour (if they can work it out) coalition, rather than a F.G.+ hoch poch of independents that could fall once a independent or two won’t take a closure of something on their patch.

  • George

    Malcolm,
    The Coalition alternative guarantees defections to a vocal and credible socialist and “socialist” bloc left behind in Opposition.

    I fear you are thinking of the1980s rather than the party of Gilmore. Those in Labour who would have considered defecting, such as Joe Higgins and his ilk, left long ago.

    The Irish Labour Party does not have a (radical) left rump to defect.

  • SethS

    What is slightly concerning is the inevitability which which commentators seem to give to a Labour FG coalition. Personally I agree with sands and flashman that the only cedible option for Labour is to form the main opposition (if Labour has any pretence to being left wing).

    1. There’s nothing to gain for Labour in coalition. Sure there’ll be bit of tinkering at the edges but fundamentally the same policies will be pursued. If it works out FG will get most of the credit. If it goes wring Lab will share the blame.

    2. The long term future of Labour requires an end to cvil war politics. leaving FF and SF as the only oppostion, hands FF an easy opportunity to regroup.

    3. There’s a certain democratic deficit if the country’s two largest parties go into coalition and leave no effective opposition.

    I would hope Lab would think long and hard about coalition and only go into it if there is really is no choice (ie FG are too short of a majority to form an effective government with independents – you don’t want to et the blame for the failure to form a government). Of course they probably won’t be able to resist those ministerial perks.

  • From the Irish Times running blog:

    Fergus Finlay tells RTE: When I put on my Labour party member’s hat, I wish to God we were leading the Opposition but when I put on my Irish citizen’s hat I know that there is no choice here – the country would be a laughing stock if we didn’t put in place now a stable government.

    Well, you talked your way into this can of worms, sunshine.

  • Greenflag

    ‘Comrade Stalin,

    ‘it’s not possible, much less fair, to ask the unions to back off and be reasonable while giving the banks everything they want,’

    I would’nt say its not possible . This in effect is what is being attempted by the Governor of Wisconsin in the USA and is why there are hundreds of thousands on the streets .
    In effect this is what Governments all over the western world have been doing since autumn 2008 -the Irish only being one of them. Not too long ago the ‘banks’ in the USA were deemed too big to fail . Now Goldman Sachs , Bank of America and Citicorps are bigger than ever and the talk by politicians of them being too big to fail has ceased .

    The ‘democracy ‘ that people are supposed to live in in the West as many of our newly elected TD’s (all parties ) are about to find out is -I won’t call it a complete sham -it isn’t -but it’s sadly lacking . And until the world’s G-20 or the Finance Ministers of the major powers ‘reform ‘ the current system the world will lurch from one monetary and fiscal crisis to another with increasing after effects being felt in those countries of the world were the impact is causing the most ‘pain ‘.

    ‘Despite everything I find Gerry Adams’ ideas about drastically reducing the salaries paid to politicians, especially ministers, to be sensible in the circumstances and if implemented this would send out a serious message about the will of the politicians to fix the problems.’

    It would I agree – but the question which many Irish and other peoples ask themselves is -does the will of the politicians even matter anymore ?. For when they (the politicians of all nations ) are brought to face the banking Gods of the IMF and ECB they first bend the knee and then they bend over further to kiss ‘ass’ and the final act of submission is ‘prostration’ .

    This is not a new story -its been in some shape or form the story of history from Richard the Lionheart and earlier to the present day . It’s just that in earlier times Kings, Emperors , etc were less restricted in how they could deal with the ‘eh ‘bankers’ .

  • Greenflag

    malcolm redfellow .

    ‘mainly in the City of Westminster (a Tory-run Council since Ethelred was still Unready’

    Now that raised more than a chuckle and has been filed away for appropriate use 😉

  • Further to Greenflag @ at 11:40 am, the apologists for global capitalism who parade here need constant reminding that the incomes of us ordinary folk (the “squeezed middle”) are back to 2005 levels, and being eroded further. In the US, real industrial wages are no better than thirty years ago.

    Along with that goes the growing wages gap, which gapes the more in countries where union membership and collective bargaining are weakest.

    What is happening (and it’s not a recent “banking crisis” phenomenon) is a massive and accelerating transfer of wealth from the citizenry to the corporations. Celtic Tiger Ireland merely had a brief reprieve before normality was restored.

    Like it or not, a revolutionary situation is developing. Madison, Wisconsin, is only the start.

  • wee buns

    MR
    ‘Like it or not, a revolutionary situation is developing.’
    Agreed. Global social unrest being in relation to austerity, there is no alternative.

  • Mack

    @Malcolm

    In the US, real industrial wages are no better than thirty years ago.

    This is only sort of true. The calculations used to determine real wages also include a whole basket of additional goods and services that weren’t in the basket 30 years ago (i.e. the cost of running two family cars not 1, the cost of commuting from the suburbs rather than the city, cost of childcare, the cost of food incorporates much more eating out etc and certainly most of the products are of a higher standard also).

    And there is an element of double counting in including childcare, as most households are double income now. At the household level incomes (accounting for new services such as childcare – have increased), real incomes per individual worker (including purchasing of childcare haven’t), but only a tiny minority of of single income households would be paying childcare costs (or running two cars)..

    There is an element of choice in determining how those costs are accrued – if there are accrued at all. Stay in the city near your parents, take the bus and your purcasing power would be far above

  • Greenflag

    Mack ,

    ‘This is only sort of true’

    Thirty years ago there were NO tent cities outside major American cities . People only live in tents if they have no jobs -no unemployment benefit or it’s run out and no money or credit to rent an apartment even a low cost one .

    I don’t know what it must be like to be ‘homeless’ in Sacramento but it’s probably better than in Detroit or Chicago or elsewhere in the many cities of the world’s most heavily armed society and manufacturer of weaponry and chief ‘warmonger’ .

    But then Father Jack ‘hated ‘ the poor too eh

    I hope you can open the link and appreciate the huge improvement in living standards that the USA has enjoyed these past 30 years including the current achievement of 28 million unemployed , 12 million homesunderwater and now a speeding up of some 3 million foreclosures while 50 million are without health insurance and the the prisons are so full (3 million ) that they are now trying to find a way to let some of them out to save on budget deficits .

    ‘Stay in the city near your parents, take the bus and your purchasing power would be far above’

    I think the Egyptians tried that . Unfortunately with 40% young male unemployment there are/were no jobs to go to and it’s ditto in the USA /UK /Ireland – the ungrateful swine who won’t work in non existent jobs had the audacity to riot and boot out their leader .

    Could’nt happen In Ireland or the USA or the UK of course – the rioting I mean ? Whyever not ? Sooner or later enough people will pick up the message that it’s the bankers who rule and the politicians are lacking in the cojones department and then – well that’s when the gunfire starts . Mr Kenny and Mr Gilmore despite their 60+ majority should know that .

    Here’s a link to the FMCA (formerly middle class american ) new eh ‘paradigm’ courtesy of the neo Conservative Chicago Friedman School of Economics now being served up directly in places as far apart as London, Dublin and Madison USA and indirectly across the Maghreb and other underdeveloped economies 🙁

    http://harpers.org/media/pages/2011/03/pdf/HarpersMagazine-2011-03-0083334.pdf

  • Mack

    @Greenflag –

    That’s a fair comment, living standards have taken a severe plunge for many as a result of this depression. Muich as they did after the last one, and I’m certainly not arguing that social protections in the USA aren’t poor.

    It’s not particularly relevant to the debate (particularly the statistical debate) on real wages though, at least it clouds the issue and merges it with something else.

    Chicago school isn’t neo-con, neo-liberal certainly.

  • Sorry, Mack @ 7:55 pm, the statistical debate is highly relevant.

    In the case of the non-graduate US worker that shows “real” wages peaking as far back as the mid-70s. Since when, productivity is up by at least 40%, and the diffferential between shop-floor and boardroom pay has stretched ten-fold (the average CEO is now remunerated 500 times the rate of the “average” worker). Furthermore, the culture now makes clear that tax is for the “little people”; and that’s not just the late Leona Helmsley: we are seeing the same attitude closer to home the further we dig into AIB and the other middens. The supercilious arrogance of Bob Diamond of Barclays (£1.35 million a year basic, plus up to £6.75 million in perks) didn’t shock just the lefties of the Treasury Select Committee.

    My particular point is that it didn’t start with “this depression”: it’s been chronic over several decades. The present context is the spark, not the tinder-box. It applies across the whole capitalist world. When Glenn Beck takes time on Fox TV to spout vitriol about UK Uncut [… this unrest could spread from Middle East to Europe and eventually America and that this would be co-ordinated all around the world], nerves are jangling.

    Historically, a privileged, untaxed upper stratum of society is necessarily challenged and inevitably overthrown by popular action. Back to the future of 1789?

  • Old Mortality

    Malcolm
    ‘productivity is up by at least 40%’

    What’s your source for that conveniently rounded statistic and how do you measure it?

  • Greenflag

    @Mack,

    I tend to agree with Malcolm above on this one . What has happened in this ‘depression’ is that there has been a speeding up of an economic and sociological phenomenon which has been underway for a couple of decades if not more . This has been disguised or glossed over as the world ‘hyped’ the new technological and communications revolution for all it’s worth and now irony of ironies the fruits of that ‘revolution ‘ are being revisited on the polities that spawned it – in political revolutions from Morocco to Egypt and perhaps even back to the USA and UK and elsewhere .

    Again as long as economic and political displacement affected only the old manufacturing or agrarian /rural classes in the North of England -the American Mid West or other regions remote from the financial power centres then ‘normalcy ‘ could be maintained even if ‘pretended ‘ . But once the economic displacement starts hitting vast swathes of the middle classes -the soft underbelly of our democratic system such as it is -then the tinder box risks sparking .

    The ‘increasing income gap between those at the top of corporate America and corporate elsewhere has been achieved on the backs of much greater ‘productivity ‘ increases on the part of employees – and the largest share of that increase in productivity has gone to the top executives of the corporations with even shareholders being left behind never mind the employees .

    And despite all the above those in the topmost ranks of Goldman Sachs , Bank of America , Citicorps and other such financial institutions are not listening neither to the people or their governments – They don’t have to .

    Just look at Barclay’s in the UK ?

    The ‘system ‘ is rotten and is perceived by ever growing numbers in the western world to be so . What’s making it worse is that the powers that be both governments and bankers seem very reluctant to do anything other than squeeze the remaining ‘lifesblood’ from taxpayers everywhere . Its at the apex of this point when someone points out clearly and is listened to by the millions that there are more of us ‘taxpayers’ than them ‘politicians and bankers ‘ and that as the latter seem not only incapable of but unwilling to face up to their crimes of ‘negligence ‘ and irresponsible behaviour that the balloon will go up -and while I can see some sections of the British and Irish and American police services firing on civilian demonstrators -I don’t see them doing so a la Ghadaffi or getting away with it for long -In fact I’d guess most will side with the people against the ‘banks ‘ and the IMF/ECB/Wall St.

    In the above scenario any statistical debate on real wages will have all the relevance of the price of potatoes in the Ukraine as the Tsarist monarchy was being dragged out to execution amid the flames of the October Revolution .


    A return to 1789 is not impossible – nor is a return to consideration of what is a democracy and whether our current practice of democracy in the west as we know it is in need of radical revision at least in terms of ‘relations ‘between the formal political structures and the private financial sector in particular provision of banking services .

  • Old Mortality @ 9:27 pm

    Actually I severely under-recalled the productivity increase from a NY Times graphic, derived from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    I see it is reproduced at http://www.usmessageboard.com/politics/27376-wage-productivity-gap.html

    There are regular commentaries at the Economic Policy Institute, repeatedly making the same point about the growing wage/productivity lag.

  • Mack

    @Malcolm

    I agree the statistical nature of how increases in real wages are calculated is crucial – I was refering to Greenflag’s point about homeless not being specifically relevant to real wages.

    IIRC the stagnation in real wages dates back to the mid-60’s. There are other ways of looking at the same data – food costs (despite people purchasing more organic food, restaurant meals, imported foods etc) are down significantly (although beginning to rise now), clothing costs (despite designer gear etc) down significantly, electronic costs down an order of magnitude etc.

    What has increased are transport costs (running 2 cars in the era past US peak production of oil over longer commutes), housing (reducing significantly at the moment for new buyers) and childcare costs.

    Anyway, I agree about excessive executive salaries and the lack of taxation at the top level. I’ve even blogged about it here (and real wages too, both sides of the argument, though oddly people only ever seem to recall one side)..

  • Mack

    @Greenflag

    It is a serious stretch to link revolutions in the Arab world to market liberalisation in the West. Unless perhaps you think they want a piece of the action?

    (Yes there were mistakes there, financial deregulation has been a disaster, other areas more sensible regulation has helped, but even in the era of Chicago School neo-liberalism the sheer volume of regulations in the EU and US expanded dramatically. By the way one of the European countries with the most liberal employment laws always has one the best records wrt to unemployment – Denmark.)

    Incidentally you only have to look at the ubiquitious nature of those telecommunications technologies in previously poor countries to witness the liberating effect of progress over the past 30 years and the positive impact that has had on living standards. Present crisis not withstanding.

    @Malcolm & Old Mortality

    When comparing increases in real wages and productivity do bear in mind that the basket of goods and services used to normalise wages has expanded in scope and quality over that period. I.e. one calculation has a confounding variable, the other does not.

    Which is not to dismiss entirely a growing gap between

  • Greenflag

    Mack,

    We’ve wandered a bit from the thread head. But before this one is consigned to the archives -the point I’m trying to get across is the ‘mistakes ‘ made in deregulation in the financial sector have not yet been faced up to nor have they been more than tinkered at. It seems that the ‘banks ‘who were too big to fail at one time are now too big for elected politicians and governments to tackle .

    And while it may seem a stretch to link Arab revolution to market liberalisation as you say later ‘western ‘originated telecommunications have been a major factor in these revolts –

    I’ve no particular brief against liberal employment laws if at the same time they are buttressed by a sufficient social safety net which enables social stability to be maintained at times of recession . But when you combine the lack of a ‘fair ‘social safety net with liberal employment laws and a squeezing of the middle and working classes which is what you have to the greatest degree in the USA -obviously Denmark is at the other end of the spectrum -then one is back to the ‘tinder box’ waiting for a spark . The more so when a population is increasingly disbelieving of it’s elected politicians and no longer has faith in their competence to resolve the ‘major’ issues of the economy .

    I recent times I’ve taken note of some of Pres Obama’s utterances on the ‘economy ‘ .There is a perceptible gap opening up on the one hand between his ‘preachifying’ about creating jobs -green jobs etc and other comments on ‘The Economy’ which sound as if the ‘Economy ‘ is something out there in non political land which exists and does it’s own thing -regardless – of what politicians say or do .

    And here in Ireland during this election campaign how often have we had to listen to politicians 98% of whom have never created a single job in their lives telling electorate that it’ll be their first priority if elected ?

    In the ‘real ‘world most of know and understand that government can only enable the regulatory environment in which the ‘economy’ can grow . For a small country like Ireland without scarce ‘natural resources’ there is not a lot of manouevre room for politicians when the ‘economy’ takes a hit even if much of it was self inflicted by our ‘inexperienced’ professional politicians 🙁

    ‘Unless perhaps you think they (Arabs)want a piece of the action?

    I’ve never thought otherwise . They want ‘economic ‘ futures for their children and themselves and an end to dictatorship and tyranny which is why they are on the streets.

    Which is not dissimilar except in degree from what people everywhere want . And while we in the West don’t have ‘dictators ‘ we are subject to the financial tyranny of a banking system which was allowed to go way beyond it’s traditional limitations .