Saturday 22 October 2016

Welcome to slowly evolving change

We didn't fall for the fake stability scam. Neither did we run back to Fianna Fail, writes Gene Kerrigan

Published 28/02/2016 | 02:30

Illustration by Tom Halliday
Illustration by Tom Halliday

The 2011 general election result was pretty good; this one is even better. It's as good as could reasonably be expected - given that we're witnessing the slow collapse of institutions that served us badly for generations.

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Reporting on its exit poll, the Irish Times said, "An inconclusive outcome does not even begin to describe what we are left with."

Ah, now, lads, come on.

You can come to that conclusion only if you've totally swallowed the propaganda that this election was about stability versus chaos. That's how the right wing parties hoped to retrieve lost ground - by painting themselves as having the economy under control, heading towards a return of the good old days.

And anyone else was an anti-business wrecker, people who shouted things and didn't wear expensive suits, like real politicians and bankers do.

And, yes, if you see things in those tired old terms the result was indecisive.

But the notion that Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour represent stability was decisively and rightly rejected. It's the fake stability of a "recovery" that involves increasingly dangerous hospitals, growing homelessness, soup kitchens, the growth of unpaid labour and badly paid McJobs, the tolerance of politicians who look you in the eye, smile, shake your hand and lie.

The collective vote of the right wing parties is shrinking. Thirty years ago, in 1987, they - Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour, the PDs - got 89pc of the vote.

Twenty years ago, in 1997, they got 82pc.

At the last election it was 72pc.

Now, it's about 57pc.

This election was about slowly evolving change.

The Cowen regime spiralled down out of the sky, bits falling off it, and crashed. And even in those circumstances Fine Gael couldn't win an overall majority.

The Kenny/Burton regime had five years to prepare, with massive election spending okayed by a nod and a wink from their EU chums. They had war chests carefully built up since their first day in office. They had patronage to dispense, favours to call in, threats left hanging. They had the right wing media howling down their opposition. They proudly displayed the letter they got from David 'Call me Dave' Cameron, wishing them luck.

And Fine Gael still couldn't win an overall majority. Fine Gael and Labour together couldn't win an overall majority.

The people aren't yet sure how best to proceed. Without a convincing analysis around which to rally, they have gone all over the place, as they desert those who betrayed them.

They abandoned Fianna Fail in 2011, now they've abandoned Fine Gael. Some went back to Fianna Fail, but not enough.

That was the danger, that voters who couldn't stomach the fake stability of Kenny and Burton would rush into the comforting arms of the oldest daddy of them all, Fianna Fail. They didn't. Preliminary figures say Fianna Fail got a smaller percentage than at the local elections in 2014.

Some voters went to Sinn Fein, but that party has yet to prove that it isn't just another chip off that shabby old block.

Some went to the left, some went back to the Greens, many sought integrity in independents. Those few gluttons for punishment who reckon we need even more right wing politics went to Renua.

The voters have gone for anything but stability, if that stability means trusting again the parties that have asset-stripped the country.

Slowly evolving change.

There's nothing inevitable about it. At any time, the voters may take fright and run into the arms of the usual suspects. Then we'll get another of those Penny-farthing Coalitions. With the same old gobshites perched shakily on top of a bicycle made of one big wheel and one little wheel. And they'll call that stability.

Fine Gael and Labour asset-stripped the people in order to implement policies which Michael Noonan, in opposition, said were not only unfair but obscenely so.

And then declared themselves the parties of stability.

And the media obliged by selling that message with ferocious zeal.

No one is more gullible than the media when convinced it's doing a public service by sucking up to those in power.

The most significant media intervention was RTE's decision to frame the election as an exercise in which the four top parties were supposed to generate the makings of another of those Penny-farthing Coalitions.

In reality, the election was about the old politics and its inability - and unwillingness - to defend the people's interests against the interests of the bankers and bondholders. Against this was pitted a variety of smaller parties and individuals - left and right and all points in between.

On the one hand, old parties that demonstrated they could not do the job. And who couldn't even get elected without promising the opposite of what they knew they would do in government. On the other hand, ideas - sane, tentative, worked out, hopeful, speculative, some a bit makeshift.

By cutting out everything but the four top parties, in the last debate before the vote, RTE obscured the reality of the election - and did so deliberately.

As I type this, I have one ear glued to RTE radio as the results come in. An expert has just explained that Enda and Joan made a mess of the TV debate because they failed to mount enough attacks on Gerry Adams.

Good God, madam, assuming you watched that last debate, you badly need to pay a visit to Specsavers.

Enda and Joan and Micheal Martin could hardly have assaulted the poor bastard more grievously without tying him down with piano wire and pouring molten wax on his nipples.

(Right now, in an office in South Dublin, one of Fine Gael's bright young things, preparing for the next election, has just read those words, underlined them and scribbled "Viable????" in the margin.) This election was in line with most political discourse in recent times. It was about the inability of the old regime to maintain support as it does the things its right wing ideology, and that of the ECB in Frankfurt, dictates.

And, against this, an array of political elements trying to find a viable route to fairer, more democratic ways of running things, where bankers and bondholders lose the right to veto the electoral outcome.

Where do we go from here?

The fake stability parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, together have enough votes to form a government. They can do so, or they can threaten the electorate.

They can issue the following threat: give one of us enough votes to form a Penny-farthing Coalition with some little wheel desperate for office, or to hell with our fake stability image.

We'll make you vote again and again until you do what we want.

A bit like an EU referendum.

It was easy last time - Labour had a number of old men and women who were approaching retirement and who were offered the opportunity to get some ministerial credits to top up their pension pots. Had they not gone into office they'd be too old now, with too many younger "power is my drug of choice" gobshites coming up behind them, so they took one of those "hard decisions" and propped up Fine Gael.

It involved going back on the promises they made when they were waving their "Gilmore for Taoiseach" banners, but what the hell. That's what you do after an election, or so I'm told.

The ball is in the right wing's court. We'd rather do without any more of your mock fights, based on the position your ancestors took in the civil war. Have the courage of your servile convictions.

Meanwhile, perhaps the left could bother to provide voters with an analysis that says politics need not be about lies and betrayal.

Sunday Independent

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