#EUREF: Will vote crystallise the real left right divide (with Labour on the wrong side)?

Interesting piece by former FF point man for Willie O’Dea, Derek Mooney in last night’s Herald which hits several nails on the head re the Fiscal Compact referendum…

WITH less than a week to go the referendum campaign seems more and more to be about less and less. If you believe the posters, the choice is to vote Yes to achieve stability or to vote No to end austerity.

But do any of us really believe these claims? Regrettably, like previous EU referendums, the debate has been conducted at the extremes, not the centre.

He notes, with the almost single exception of Declan Ganley, the almost complete absence of the political right from the No side:

The sight of Declan Ganley sharing No platforms with irredentist left firebrands is a joy to behold, especially when you consider that they agree on virtually nothing, including Europe. Most on the hard left are euro-sceptics while Ganley is avowedly euro-federalist.

While passing the Fiscal Treaty will herald no major day-to-day changes — mainly because it just restates the centre/centre right economic orthodoxy in place since 2008 — it will cement it into domestic law for the foreseeable future.

It is this that the Irish left fears and opposes most. Passing the Treaty would recalibrate the centre of the Irish political spectrum a few points to the right.

It won’t be a seismic or noticeable shift, but it torpedoes the Left’s ambitions of shifting it the other way. It doesn’t vanquish them, nor does it make them tone the rhetoric down. If anything, it will do the opposite.

This explains why the campaign from Joe Higgins, Boyd Barrett and Sinn Fein has been so fierce. But not as fierce as when its over and they start to target each other.

And the upshot? Well, Mooney rather mischievously lumps Labour in with the centre right. Mischievous, but it sort of chimes with what many stalwart Labour supporters are saying when 40% tell of them polsters they’ll be voting against the party line.

And it’s this weak point that the Sinn Fein motion in Killarney this weekend calling for the Unions to disassociate from Labour is intended to target. Mooney concludes:

In the meantime Sinn Fein will continue to do well at Labour’s expense, after all Gerry and Mary Lou are saying now what Eamon and Joan were saying two years ago.

It is Labour who will be the biggest casualty then. Polls showing 40% of Labour supporters voting No could have longer term ramifications for the leadership.

But whatever they may be, they can be nowhere near as damaging as Gilmore’s infamous “Frankfurt’s Way or Labour’s Way” slogan. It may turn out to be the most devastating political slogan of recent times.

For its authors, that is.

That would certainly suit Sinn Fein, who have been winning the contest for disaffected Labour sentiment already. As we noted after their performance in the February 2011 general election:

Sinn Fein is no longer purely the interest (some might say obsession) of assorted internet anoraks and ‘Nordies’, but a political force that will factor much more highly than in any previous legislature.

So why is Mooney so gung ho? Because the slow decimation of Labour in austerity administration may also suit Fianna Fail, which lost a whole tranche of voters (urban dwellers, and lower income public sector workers) to Labour in that same election. Thus far they have concentrated almost solely on building confidence in their hard core.

Shaking voters loose from Labour may initially at least send some of them to Sinn Fein (though I suspect they already account for that party’s rise in the polls), but the destabilisation of Labour could be Fianna Fail’s first opportunity to begin pitching to a significant chunk of that lost public sector vote…

Much depends on how well Labour keep their nerve. Having mercilessly derided the Greens for mud-guarding Fianna Fail, they may be doing the same thing for Fine Gael.

But the residual reality is that whilst Ireland loves to talk publicly to centre left, but when it comes to the crunch, they have consistently voted overwhelmingly to the centre right.

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  • “Mooney rather mischievously lumps Labour in with the centre right.”

    Perhaps he could do the same with SF:

    Last week, Pearse Doherty, a Donegal TD and someone to watch when Gerry Adams steps down, gave a hint of things to come when he said: “We need entrepreneurs and business leaders to be adventurous and to be successful.” .. Liam Clarke

    Perhaps left-right labelling isn’t particularly relevant to Ireland’s politics.

  • Mick Fealty

    Peering down the wrong end of the telescope again Nev?

    This from early last week:

    If Sinn Fein are to push forward they need to cleave their way past traditional urban hunting grounds. It’s essential that they get into the heads of the middle class; the kingmakers of Irish politics. And indeed, a poll rating of a fifth of the Republic’s population suggests they are making some headway in that task.

    Labour has always been largely middle class party. That, for now at least, is what SF is after. Not the Blueshirts or the Legion…

  • I can widen or narrow the focus without mechanical assistance. I think it’s important that not just the middle class but all who are dedicated to democracy get it into their heads that the SF parapoliticians are part of a fundamentally fascist organisation. Disillusionment with the establishment may tempt the electorate to opt for an alternative – but they might rue the day.

  • Mick Fealty

    They might. But that’s democracy Nev.

  • I work with SF councillors, Mick, but I’m very aware of their anti-democratic credentials. Burke was very conscious of the limitations of democracy so I suspect he would have cautioned against the tyranny of parapoliticians. You don’t have to look any further than our OFMDFM to find a lack of competence and a surfeit of ‘authoritarian impulses’. Ireland has enough problems.

  • Nevin,

    Burke was opposed to democracy, full stop, and as for his opinions of protestant dissent, less said the better. He believed government existed to represent property and not people. So dodgy help for arguing about the undemocratic credentials of others (not that there’s not a great deal of truth in what you’re saying about authoritarian impulses).

    As for the free state labour party always being largely middle class. Simply not true, although it may well be true now.

  • Garibaldy, I appreciate I was on dodgy ground. I think your ‘full stop’ is also a bit dodgy 🙂 I don’t know what he said about Presbyterians or Methodists but if it was about democracy run riot he was right!

    We seem to have ‘progressed’ to a position where dogma supersedes dog-wit, where we replace useless conservatives with useless socialists and vice-versa. And public relations will mollify the masses 🙂

    Is there not also some merit in the issue of ‘lack of competence’? We expect professional expertise in the operating theatre yet we dispense with it when it comes to the provision of operating theatres and their location. Is it not ironical that a wielder of the iron bar that smashes limbs into smithereens could end up as the boss of the consultant who wields the scalpel?

  • I don’t know Nevin, I think my full stop was perfectly reasonable 🙂

    Agree on the need for competence, but on the flip side, if we’d left it to the doctors there’d have been no NHS. and if we left the economy to the economists – well, we did that and look what happened. Not only the biggest crisis in decades but anti-democratic technocratic governments made up of people who helped cause the crisis in Italy and elsewhere.