Wednesday 26 October 2016

Which horse to back in UK vote?

Published 18/04/2015 | 02:30

Mary Lou McDonald
Mary Lou McDonald

My sojourn to Britain was tremendous craic. Spectacular sunshine at Aintree ensured a best-ever festival, with seven Irish winners. This was preceded by my three days of intensive training at Fairyhouse, so that I was in peak condition for drinking and gambling.

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The problem was deciphering the horses that had gone "over the top" since Cheltenham, compared to nags that stepped up from festival form. Apparently trainers only find this out after the race. The same dilemmas await at the Punchestown finale in two weeks.

Combining pleasure and work, I observed first-hand how UK electioneering is shaping up ahead of polling day on May 7. The most striking visible difference on the streets between here and there is a complete absence of posters or billboards. Travelling through Liverpool and north Wales I didn't see one lamp post adorned with a politico's mug shot. Obviously the Brits regard such political paraphernalia as litter - a wise innovation and one we should consider.

You would hardly know there was an election on at all. Among the punters, Cheryl Cole and Wayne Rooney warrant more chat than David Cameron and Ed Miliband.

The blizzard of poll data can be confusing and contradictory. An Irish feature emerges, of loyalty to MPs saving them despite party travails. This may save the Lib Dems from annihilation.

The Tories have alternatively derided Miliband as a fool and left-wing ogre -and have failed to inflict maximum damage with either approach. They're on safer ground promising inheritance tax cuts and cheap house purchases. The most effective negative campaign is their attack on Ukip: "Vote Ukip - get a Labour government".

Punting angles are risky due to 14 possible coalition permutations. A Tory minority government may be the initial outcome, followed by a Labour administration. My top tips: Conservatives towin most election seats at 4/7 and Ukip to only get one or two seats at 5/2.

Subsidising inequality

Not one politician in the country can be found to voice opposition to the latest populist measure subsidising inequality. The agreement between Minister for Health Leo Varadkar and the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) - to grant free GP care to all children under six - is, as predicted, a lot more expensive than originally thought. Irrespective of any medical condition or means test of financial hardship, the best-off parents can cash in, rather than pay €50 to get their toddler attended to.

Even more bizarre is the decision to, simultaneously this summer, extend free GP cards to all persons over 70 years of age. Nine out 10 pensioners already have an entitlement to free care. The income limits are €500/€1,000 and €700/€1,400 (for singles and couples), respectively for medical cards and GP cards.

Therefore, this decision means the wealthiest pensioners, above these thresholds, are sole beneficiaries of the crazy change. Rich retirees who don't need or didn't seek cover get priority while struggling young families with mortgages are neglected. Free third-level fees for all were unsustainable and have inflicted long-term damage on our universities.

Child benefit remains untaxed and non-means-tested, despite years of punishing austerity.

Socialists are blatantly failing to focus scarce resources towards those in greatest need. Seeking votes is the lowest common denominator.

Wally of Week

Mary Lou McDonald's defence of her December Dáil dramatics merit my Wally award this week.

Despite being explicitly legally advised at the Public Accounts Committee against revealing details of a civil servant's Ansbacher allegations, she named six former ministers as holding illicit offshore bank accounts.

She dug a deeper hole by claiming "out in the real world..." and citing her harsh treatment relative to other politicians' failings.

The key point is that outside the Dáil chamber bubble, she'd be sued for defamation for these remarks. She hides behind Dáil privilege.

If she truly believed the public interest was advanced by naming names, then she would repeat it in the public arena.

Investigations into abuse of Dáil procedures should be conducted independently by Standards in Public Office, rather than Committee of Procedures and Privileges, with sanctions applied for blatant opportunistic defamation breaches. Mary Lou should reflect and do the honourable thing and withdraw her original statement. Adopting a victim mode or defying reality won't earn her credibility or respect.

Irish Independent

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