Monday 21 January 2019

Prudence comes out to play

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Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

The mother has a great phrase for former wild men who give up the drink. "Oh, he got sense," she will say witheringly, and strangely disapprovingly. Of course the whole country has got sense now.

People are twisting themselves in knots to outdo each other on the sense front. You'd think Fianna Fail had never touched a drop in their lives, such is their new-found sense. In fact, bizarrely, they now seem to be trying to portray themselves as the party of prudence next to the wild men of Fine Gael.

This weekend the two main parties are in battle for that elevated territory known as the Rock of Good Sense. Paschal has firmly planted his flag on it by letting it be known that he will be slipping some of the fiscal envelope into his back pocket for a rainy day. There's even talk that he might only blow €1bn of a potential €3bn bonanza. That's a good sense ratio of two-to-one, which is pretty ambitious. Fianna Fail, with the fervour of those recently converted to sense, are calling FG's bluff. They're pointing out that the rainy-day fund was their idea in the first place and that they will not stand in the way of Dear Prudence.

Of course, you could argue that Fianna Fail are being crafty here. "Off you go," they are saying to Fine Gael, "save the money. Don't have a big giveaway Budget before the election. Really. It's a good idea. People will admire your responsibility and reward you for it when they go out to vote. People are always grateful for a bit of prudence. It's a historically proven fact."

Indeed, if I were Fine Gael I'd be getting nervous about how Fianna Fail are becoming more amenable to this prudent Budget all the time. "We're right behind you guys. In fact, if you wanted to be really sensible and raise taxes we won't stand in the way."

It seems the only one who didn't get the memo was Barry Cowen, who suddenly wants to abolish USC. At first we thought we'd misheard him and he wanted to abolish the UFC, after McGregor in New York. But no, he meant the USC. And he said it with the confidence of a man who knows he won't have to make any decisions in the Budget. So no harm to get it out there, that that's what he'd be doing.

Cowen is cute, you see. He has that Don Draper strain of FF DNA that can see beyond pious posturing and into the subconscious, to what people really want, not what they say they want. And Cowen knows that when consumer spending is looking set to break €100bn for the first time this year, and people are strangely nostalgic about seeing queues to buy houses, what's on those people's minds is: 'PARTAAAYYYYY!'

So on you go there Leo and Paschal with the Prudence. Steady as she goes. FF are right behind you.

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