Friday, May 18, 2007

I'm voting for Fianna Fail and PDs

I don't think I've read one pro Government blog for so long in the election run-up. It's far cooler to be anti-establishment. But I'm brave. Forget all the silly media hype of scoring on individual events, who-said-what and Bertie's modest personal transactions etc. Here's the real deal...

The current Government is a coalition. It works well and has been stable for so long because FF and PDs have similar ideologies and the PDs are of course an original FF offshoot. Plus the PDs are very small but make a useful contribution. There is much hype about McDowell. He has arguably an irritating personality - but by golly he is the best Minister for Justice I can recall in my lifetime. Exactly the right decisive man for the job.

We have largely forgotten about how bad coalitions can normally be. FG+Labour+Greens is quite a bizarre cocktail of ideologies and has a high chance of failure when difficult choices come about. It may not always be apparent at the top table but you can be sure that grass roots in the respective parties will cause hell when it gets hot on policy implementations.

I don't trust this inexperienced Rainbow coalition to do any better on health or spending. It's much more likely they will squabble and argue and waste more time and money. Much of the problem in health is in sorting efficiencies in hospital management, sorting out consultants, increasing services and improving and balancing public and private care. It's certainly not to do with shortage of funding. The Government have a plan in place, it's slow and difficult but it is making progress. Do we really want to tear it all up and start again with a new government of very mixed colours? Can't you imagine FG and Labour arguing over private/public? Not apparent now? Everything sounds rosy when your just talking from the sidelines. Just wait to see them in Government making real and tough decisions.

The bottom line is I like stable democratic Government (which we have taken for granted in the last ten years) - the Rainbow simply don't convince me that they have the ideologies or experience to achieve this.


I wrote this before lastnight's Ahern-Kenny debate. I thought I'd hold back posting just in case I learned something interesting from it. All I learned was that Kenny sounded loud but inexperienced and full of individual anecdotal cases, but Ahern had all the big answers. In theory it's easier for opposition to attack the sitting tenants. This didn't happen - Kenny had his figures muddled - got worse as the debate went on - and just fired out good sounding individual cases when he was being cornered. He couldn't even be clear on economic figures nor be consistent on his Justice spokesman's figures. Can't you imagine how more muddled Kenny would be with Labour and the Greens at his side? Kenny isn't a bad politician but he and his party are still lightweights. Until they get much bigger with better players and can stand a good chance in Government without far left wing parties support, they simply don't have my vote. We may perceive that there are problems in the country now - I sure as hell don't want them getting worse.


Dario Sanchez said...

While the Rainbow opposition is held together with staples and sticky tape, the current Government had destroyed out health service. I could have done a better job of running the HSE, and frankly John, for all the improvements made in infrastructure and housing - and they have been excellent, I'll give the FF/PD crowd that - I would sooner have a hospital bed if I had a peptic ulcer than be scooting down the shiny new M3.

They're talking about one centralised hospital for the North-East. Can you imagine that? If I'm losing blood from a traffic accident outside of Cavan town I will have to go to Drogheda in the future. My life is worth more than that, I think i can say, and that is why despite their jumble of ideologies, I'll be voting for the FG/Labour/Green crowd.

Omaniblog said...

Now that's a clearer statement in favour of continuing with the current government than I have seen anywhere else. Ever considered going in for election yourself?
I can't judge the competition for best minister for justice because I don't know who was in that position before. But I can't remember one good thing McD's done in the last 18 months. Maybe the garda reserve. I'm in favour of that and I admired the way he refused to give in to trade union type pressure from garda.
The non-FF coalitions have never been elected twice in a row, ever. Isn't that right? So I guess a vote for FG & Labour is most likely a protest vote designed to keep FF on their toes. FF have been the 'natural' party of government since 1932, I think. But, if that's true, I feel it might not be a bad thing to vote FF out, just to give the young blood in FF an opportunity to re-invigorate the party and bring it up to date - like distance it for the construction industry and get it better focussed on health. (See how investment in mental health has been allowed to decline during FF reign... see how the mad idea of putting the new central mental hospital in prison grounds has been allowed credibility within FF). If FG & Labour do an OK but not brilliant job, that will pave the way for a fabulous FF government in 5 years time, perhaps.
Unless FG & Labour get into power, they will never gain experience of wielding power and the argument will grow that we can never have any experienced people except FF, and that surely would not be good.
FF give the impression of having few internal dissentions; is that good for the body politic?
I think you are absolutely right not to trust FG & Labour. But I think you are unwise to trust FF. No one should trust any politician, I think. They are all in the business of seeking power through the manipulation of public sentiment.
It would be simpler to have a rule that said that after 10 years, the next government must be a new one, purely on the basis that it is time to give the body politic a jolt. Surely FF are not saints; they must be complacent by now; there is a risk that they'll be thinking 'we deserve to govern'. Unless the other gang get a chance soon, it'll be hard to see them ever convincing people they might not be too bad.
Perhaps you might think of voting tactically, voting to revitalise FF. Be cruel to be kind, that sort of thinking. But if you have some close friends or family that are dependent on how the election goes, I grant you that's a different story.
A bit of an exciting ride might not be such a bad thing after all. Five years isn't all that long to try a bit of social experimenting. Grant you Mary Hannafin is my choice for the new FF leader. It's time we had a third leader with a name like Mary.

John of Dublin said...

Thanks Dario and Omani for the comments, your points are all well made.

Health is the biggest challenge as you both have mentioned. Progress is being made and I agree that much more need to be done. I just have an uneasy feeling that FG/Labour/Greens will make so many u-turns that it well get worse. Michael Noonan of FG was crap as minister for Health the last time.

Omani - you speak a lot of sense on the area of 10 years being long enough for one party in Government. If FG/Labour/Greens could convince me they were going to be even marginally better I would vote for them in an instant. I just think we have forgotton how bad a coalition of very mixed colours can be and I have a strong suspicion they will be unstable and won't agree on programmes. Ideally I'd love FG to organically grown to be similar in TD size as FF are today. They are still too small and rely too heavilly on the far left to get anything coherent done.

Omani - I have an admiration for Mary Hanafin myself and she could make a future leader sometime - main weakness is she is unlikely to make Minister for Finance position, where most of the good leaders gain experience. She is in my own constituency and works hard locally - I've met her a few times.

BTW - I've no connection whatsoever to FF, nor do I know any relations or friends who are going for election.

Omaniblog said...

The photos of Enda Kenny with arms outstretched surrounded by well wishers reminded me of Neil Kinnock's disastrous entry to a Labour conference one week before the UK election. He lost. Many pundits have said he lost because he misjudged the mood of the people in the last week. Enda's photo gave me the impression he misjudged the mood too.
I didn't realise FG had a poor minister for health last time they were in. That means that all their telling points in criticism of the inadequate state of the health service are listened to in sceptisism by voters who remember.
Might as well get all the election stuff out of my system...
I don't care for the "Contract with the Irish People". A contract is a legally enforable agreement. An offer is not a contract. For there to be a contract there has to be acceptance. Acceptance in this context could come in the form of signed ballot papers but it cannot be said to exist before the vote. It is wrong to say that one side can have a contract with the people. I think people know this even if they would not express their knowing in this way. I think many people feel there is something not right about the FG contract. Also, I don't buy the image of a leader who will sack whoever doesn't do a good job. That's poor management. A weak manager talks about sacking people; an effective manager talks about changing people. So all that stuff about Enda being decisive and getting rid of any minister who doesn't perform sounded to me like the voice of a weak man who is striving to sound strong. Finally, when he said he'd negotiate with the nurses, I was disgusted. Imagine the Taoiseach negotiating with one sectoral group. That made me suspicious of his clarity. It felt to me like a politician playing a populist card, unclear about the proper role of a taoiseach.
So I am far from convinced that Enda is anything special.
But that's what I meant when I said I had low expectations.

When all is said and done, ten years is enough. I still feel it's time the children were let in to play.

John of Dublin said...

Hi Omani - wow, you just put together a better argument than I did for not voting FG! Let the children play after 10 years? Fair enough, but my argument is that they should become adolescents first by getting more and better quality TDs. At the moment it's like putting children in charge of a nuclear power station. It's just too important to be messing around. Kenny looks to me like someone who would crack under pressure. I agree with you about the contract and all the other things you said.

It is possible for them to grow and be strong some day. Take Labour in the UK which I'm sure you observed at close hand when you lived over there. They were worse than FG in the Thatcher era with clowns like Michael Foot in charge - but look how big and strong they got under Blair. Oh, and you reminded me vividly of Kinnock's bad ending at the election also! Poor sod!

Paige A Harrison said...

Thanks John, my friends have been trying to make me feel cheap and nasty for having the same feeling. On the basis that it is easier to knock than construct, I've searched for an alternative for positive reasons. I can't find another party/ies that offer anything better. So I'm prob going to vote for the status quo on the basis that stability is better than pointless change.

Omaniblog said...

I wish I had time and energy to keep this up with you John of Dublin. But I must rush now.

One more thought: it doesn't feel to me like we are at a critical juncture in Irish politics or economics. I mean an especially critical point. All elections will seem to be important but this one feels a safe enough time to experiment a bit. What's the worst FG& Labour could do? I won't try to spell out an answer but my fears for the future are not that acute. Perhaps I won't vote for FG&Labour but I feel I could and wouldn't regret it.
Also, I think it's dangerous to let FF get away with having a leader who seems to have behaved like a money launderer. And I care, selfishly about the decline in investment in mental health as a proportion of total health investment.
I have little opportunity to voice my dissatisfaction in a satisfying way.
Paige: I bet you'll rue the day you used the phrase "pointless change".
But I better admit that I've always been suspicious of stability.

John of Dublin said...

Hi Paige. On reading your blog recently I could see you were the classical "floating voter"! I've had the exactly the same feelings. I do want to emphasise that anyone under about 30 would not even remember how delicate coalitions can be. Especially with the likes of FG+Labour+Greens. Can't you imagine the Greens causing hell with economic pregress - they would hold the balance of power in a Rainbow. FF+PDs has held together really well and we simply forget how hard it used to be to get tough progress made.

Omani - I understand your points, they make some sense. But the danger with this type of Rainbow is that it simply won't last - there will very likely be some left/right disagreement at Budget voting day or some other crucial Dail vote and the Government would collapse - it's happened more than a few times in my lifetime.