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June 2009 Editorial

Party Over: New Party Needed

Lately Village has tended to avoid mainstream politics in favour of a broader focus. It is in reversing this tendency for the current election edition that we have been reminded of its explanation. Our politicians are just so confused, just SO uninteresting. It is now the working assumption for Village that FF have no ideas, have shown themselves to be incompetent and are broadly corruptible except when scared by the electorate; FG are no more comfortable with imaginative ideas, are less competent and are only slightly less corruptible; Labour have still not cast off their aura of staleness; the Greens are not as green as the Science they believe in requires them to be; Sinn Fein are not clearly enough on the Left and appear to be waiting for their moment to sell out; and our independent TDs are charlatans.

Civil War politics has been a dead end and has left us with two indistinguishable parties as the main government and opposition. It is a myth for example that Fine Gael spotted the downside of our lax regulatory regime and would have closed down banking excesses in good time. Only two years ago they (and all the other parties including the Greens) projected similar economic growth rates to those the outgoing government was making. Village likes the idea that at one time you could tell an FFer from a FGer just from the way he might look at you. You certainly cannot now. They both serve the interests of the propertied classes. And they have both latterly and ironically let down even that interest. Fianna Fáil, and their thoroughgoing and systemic incompetence, are responsible for half of our loss of GDP. The party is over. Seven and a half of the projected 15% downturn in GDP is due to the actions of that party, NOT the international situation. If you miss your share of the seven and a half per cent you are probably in a special rage with FF. You are, indeed, probably going to vote FG. If on the other hand you think that the boom and bust game, driven by conventional short-term economics was a cul de sac, you may be looking further afield. Village certainly will be.

One of the most intriguing things about politics is what motivates people to get involved, not in general, but in the particular way they do. Village thinks politicians should be drawn from ranks of people who show less interest in money and power than our current bunch of anti-popular losers. Village thinks citizens with a talent for the position for which they seek election should be favoured over those with the usual panache for bluff and parochialism. Village would prefer horses for courses. Citizens with the legislative and networking skills to be MEPs need quite different skills from the pot-hole-and-speed-bump-resolution and rezoning wisdom required of a good local councillor. MEPs should be equipped to navigate the differences between consultation, co-decision, and co-operation in the European Parliament. We need politicians who are enthusiastic and imaginative about the possibilities of the body to which they are seeking election. Not all-purpose wheel-me-outs.

Beyond this, candidates should have strong political views that they want to put into effect, they should lay out their stalls and on that basis ask people to vote for them. They should not change their policies just because people do not vote for them. They should wait for them to come around because their politics, and not something more popular, is what they believe in; and they are not hypocrites or power-creeps. Politics is not consumerism. Simple!

And as to policies Village demands much greater coherence. Guff and waffle just won’t do now we’ve seen the need for seriousness. It really was silly to elect people like Charlie who was corrupt and Bertie who had no vision bar consensus among those who had his ear. It’s time to eject the time-servers and elect our best and sharpest. In this regard Mr. George Lee looks like he might be a harbinger of a sort. But more than coherence and seriousness there is a need for a mature agenda and platform. Village does not think the agenda is or ever should have been laissez-faire boom (followed by bust). It thinks the agenda is equality, the environment and quality of life. Environmental, social and economic agendas should be promoted equally. It is out of a merging of these agendas that a national consensus and optimism may rise.

This sounds like high-minded hooey. It is not. It imports an agenda that should not be controversial but is radically different to current politics. The environmental agenda focuses on good planning, the environment (which should be protected for its own sake), the community, and the long term. Together with the social agenda it cultivates quality of life. The social agenda also promotes equality, including equality through social expenditure. The economic agenda needs to be less hubristic than it has been for a generation, especially since nearly all commentators got it so wrong that dignity demands their silence.It is legitimate, probably desirable, to use economics and market mechanisms to environmental and social ends. In a better world it might be possible to be less economic, but economics is an efficient means to an end in pursuit of the other agendas, which unlike economics, actually are ends in themselves. We should harness economics – markets, competition, capital, property, trade, and the like – while recognising they are not goods in themselves. They should serve social and environmental purposes.

What is needed now is politicians who are fit to serve those purposes. And probably a new party for those politicians.