Reading the Runes… the Latest Polls and the Left…

, , 16 Comments

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 0 Flares ×
Print pagePDF pageEmail page

There’s been so much news in the past week or two that it’s difficult to remember that the Sunday Business Post ran a poll the results of which were published on the 22nd of November. And it’s a fascinating poll in its own way because it points to a serious disconnect now between the government and the voters.

The headline results are hardly startling given previous trends.

Fine Gael has extended its lead over Fianna Fáil to 13 points, while there has been a small gain for the Green Party. The state of the parties is: Fianna Fáil, 23 per cent (down 2); Fine Gael, 36 per cent (up 1); Labour, 17 per cent (down 2); Sinn Féin, 10 per cent (up 1); Greens, 5 per cent (up 2); and independents, 9 per cent (no change).

One could wonder at how and why Fianna Fáil and the Green party have seen variations in their share of the potential vote. But these are marginal results. This remains a desperately unpopular government, and for those optimistic souls who believe that time will heal all wounds I’d point them at the raw data. Fianna Fáil has now endured its worst polling results ever across a prolonged period. Sure, they’ll gain some support back as an election draws nearer. But short of a remarkable revival it seems unlikely that they will enjoy the figures they regularly saw under Bertie Ahern for quite some time. I was initially dubious about how much damage had been inflicted on Fianna Fáil, but the consistency of these figures and the fact they continue to decline reinforces a conclusion that this is an historic rupture in the Irish polity.

Even the fact that Green Party is now apparently on 8 per cent in Dublin is insufficient to ensure the re-election of most of its sitting TDs. That the GP is about to gain a Senator is perhaps a fillip for them, but given that that is not through an election beyond the Oireachtas (although neither were the current Senate incumbents for that party) it’s hard to believe that that will have any electoral impact – other than potentially for whoever gets the position and even then probably so marginally that it won’t make any difference. It would seem that the GP might save some of its seats, something that is crucial to it’s future longevity and perhaps something that marks a turn-around from the low point of the local elections. But holding all of them, or even gaining new ones, now seems to be a challenge beyond their ability.

That high Independent vote is worth noting. I’ll bet there’s a tranche of FF support hiding out there. Not a huge amount, but sufficient to add a couple or more percentage points to FF. In fact we now have sufficient evidence across a raft of polls to indicate that a chunk of Fianna Fáil support has gone to both Labour and the Independent camps. In May 2009 when the FF vote fell to 21 per cent, it’s lowest point to date, Labour was on 18 per cent and the Independents on 13 per cent. As Fianna Fáil’s vote rose towards the mid 20s the Independent percentages fell. And it’s worth remembering that in 2007 the Independent vote in all its smorgasbord variety was 6 per cent. But this is good news for Independent candidates of whatever stripe, because that may well presage increased transfers now that that psychological bridge has been crossed, even if some FF voters return home.

Sinn Féin as ever seem to move between 8 and 10 per cent. Healthy enough and consistent enough that they should anticipate at least an extra seat or two come the next election. I’m always struck by how they’ve managed to carve out an electoral niche which in percentage terms is well ahead of the Workers’ Party at their height, and only slightly behind Labour at their nadir. But the nature of that percentage is such that it appears too widely spread around the country to deliver seats in double figures like the Labour Party. This is the problem the Green Party faces too but in a much more accentuated form given their smaller support base.

For Labour the situation is a little more mixed. 17 per cent is a good result, and would see them returning a considerable number of TDs. But it could be better – and it is notable that it is quite some ways below the heights reached in Irish Times polls previously. I’ve felt that their focus, which prior to the Summer was remarkably strong, appears to have dissipated somewhat. Again, if they were to get 17 per cent or even slightly more Gilmore would potentially be looking at a result as good as 1992. But it seems unlikely that he would see the returns exceed that.

Which leads us to Fine Gael. They are now at 36 per cent. Even if there is quite a stretch to go before hitting the heady heights achieved in the early 1980s under FitzGerald that is quite an achievement. How solid it is is another matter. I’m dubious, although I hear from reliable sources that Fine Gael is delighted with this situation and Labour somewhat more glum. Coexistence in that future coalition should provide no end of challenges. But there’s no evading the central point that across this year we’ve seen consistently good polling data back from them.

If these figures are representative of the conditions a year or two down the line then it seems likely that Fine Gael will be returned as the largest single party. Fianna Fáil will lose badly and Labour will do relatively well in historic terms. Sinn Féin should provide greater numbers than in 2007 and the Green Party may limp home with two or perhaps three TDs. Beyond that if the Independent/Others vote holds up we should see a number of left wing candidates returned.

There are other more specific findings:

The poll finds that two thirds of voters blame the government for the recession, and fewer than one in five voters has confidence in the government to lead the country out of recession.

I’m a little taken aback that one third don’t blame the government, although I guess the question could be amended to read ‘exacerbating the recession’. That one in five figure is telling. Is that Fianna Fáil voters, is this the legendary core? Has it taken one global recession and the collapse of financial and other institutions to finally reveal those who will not resile from their political home – note that the figures on this issue in October 2008 were 20 per cent, so not much change since then, but remarkably the figures from the previous month of that year were 39 per cent. That is when it all went south.

Not that the figures provide much solace for the Opposition, albeit this is an unvariegated terms for the sake of this poll. Confidence in their abilities hovers at about 25 per cent. Hardly a ringing endorsement, and perhaps indicative of the problems facing an opposition divided between two larger formations and on smaller one. Richard Colwell of RedC is even more optimistic, or perhaps less darkly pessimistic, about the Government’s future in light of this. He argues that:

The danger for the opposition is what will happen if the economy begins to improve in 2010, and how this may affect the current government’s popularity. Even now 38 per cent do not direct blame the government for the crisis. Given this lack of credibility on the economy among the opposition how quickly might voters be persuaded that Fianna Fáil is again a safer option?

That such a statement is possible is indicative of how simply surviving has been no small achievement. But even if one agrees, as I do entirely, with Pat Leahy’s analysis in the Sunday Business Post that the chances of this government surviving past the Budget are now incomparably higher than they were three months ago I’m dubious that survival alone means anything. Well, obviously for those surviving it has its perks, but in terms of repositioning the government to achieve a ‘political recovery’ some time in the next two and a half years appears unreasonably optimistic. Again, think about that extra Senator for the Green Party. Nice to have, but essentially meaningless at this point in the electoral cycle.

Because there is that Budget. And Leahy notes that we are looking at ‘a historically unpopular government which the electorate holds responsible for the worst recession in living memory will introduce a set of budgetary measures to which the public is firmly opposed’.

How opposed? Firmly… for the public remains stubbornly attached to ‘higher taxes for middle/high income earners (over 100k household income)’.  Only 5 per cent would avoid them, 47 per cent believe they’re the first measure that should be taken with 29 per cent believing that they’re a part of the mix but not necessarily first priority. Next up? Public sector pay cuts. 11 per cent don’t want to see them at all, 29 per cent believe they should be first up with 27 per cent seeing them as a part of the mix. Cuts in unemployment benefit are much less popular as a measure with only 9 per cent arguing they should be first priority, 21 per cent seeing them as a potential measure and a significant 25 per cent arguing that they should be avoided. Higher taxes for all aren’t popular, at al. Only 6 per cent want to see them, 21 per cent are agin and so on. And cuts in health and education spending are hugely unpopular with 44 per cent against them and only 20 per cent expressing approval of immediate or possible cuts in those areas. Cuts in child benefits and pensions are even more unpopular with 48 per cent against them.

This data is genuinely fascinating. Even now, a year into the recession, a near blanket uniformity in the media as to the ‘necessary’ policies and in particular an increasing and often hysterical concentration on the public sector and its workers and still the electorate points to increased taxation for higher earners as the way that they believe is most suitable for the budget. It’s quite a remarkable statistic given all else and perhaps slightly heartening as an indication that the public hasn’t turned its face to all progressive measures.

By contrast Pat Leahy argues that:

The government has repeatedly set its face against higher taxes, not for ideological reasons but because it is afraid that higher tax rates would quickly mean lower tax receipts. Statistics from the Revenue, showing how the income tax take is dangerously dependent on relatively few higher earners, are trotted out by ministers with great frequency. But the public isn’t buying this economic argument, or it doesn’t care.

Well, some of us would argue that such a position was intrinsically ideological in nature. And Colwell suggests that the figures demonstrate an ‘inherent desire for fairness is evident in those actions that voters would rather not implement at all’.

I’ve felt recently that we’re living through a reactionary moment, which is both ironic in that some have long argued that it would be times like this which would offer up revolutionary moments and perhaps depressingly inevitable in a polity like this where the left remains almost entirely marginalised. That we must depend on a rather nebulous ‘inherent desire for fairness’ to stay or diminish the actions of a government in terms of economic policies that the left finds reprehensible tells its own story. But… if that, as with the union actions in recent weeks, sets down markers as to what is acceptable by the Irish electorate and Irish workers then small victories, or lesser defeats, may be salvaged from the wreckage. It’s not much to hope for, but at this point, trapped in an electoral cycle too far from an election and in a society which is ill equipped to explore progressive alternatives, it may be the best we can do.

The following two tabs change content below.
 

16 Responses

  1. Michael Taft

    November 30, 2009 11:27 am

    WBS – a very useful analysis and, as you say, somewhat depressing. The failure of the Left to articulate a progressive, common-sense, economic alternative (and I don’t include all the Left in this broad generalisation – there are notable exceptions) ensures that the debate takes place in a very narrow space. The debate accepts a deflationary logic; therefore, the argument is reduced to the most efficint and, or, fairest way to implement this logic. This is more than just a political capitulation; at times, political retreat or acquiesence reflects the balance of forces at any particular moment. This is far worse: it represents an intellectual capitulation. If I could get a sense that the Left is saying ‘We know this is bad, we know this is wrong, if things were different we’d argue a different, better course’ – well, one could live with that. The issue would become tactical. The problem is that I get no sense of, at least, that. Therefore, you are probably correct, WBS, small victories, lesser defeats may be all that we can hope for. Pity, though; we could have hoped and worked for something a lot better.

  2. B. Randle

    November 30, 2009 2:31 pm

    Fine Gael’s electoral strategy is to let FF take the heaps of public abuse (much deserved) while proposing nothing different for resusticating the stricken economy. In many ways FG has been economically a more conservative party than FF. The traditional white collar, business and strong farmer supporters of FG don’t want their incomes and profits substantially altered by selective taxation and other measures. FF because of its popular all-class base has periodically thrown money at targeted sectors, often recklessly, thus buying votes. cf. How Haughey did that deal with Gregory when there was a hung Dail and bought himself 6 months of power. It is obscene how the fake opposition between FF and FG still holds sway in the minds of about 75% of the Irish electorate, and how Labour after elections declines to shatter that fake pattern by deliberately opting out of government in order to drive FF and FG into each other’s arms. The parliamentary culture of Ireland is a pathetic joke, and so is the media consensus that plays ball with it, and fails to reflect opposing ideas about national economy. Something has gotta give some day.

  3. Robin Hanan

    November 30, 2009 2:56 pm

    Yes, but where are those “small victories” leading to?. Are they leading to a stronger left or to a cycle of growth and collapse as parties enter coalitions with conservative parties (greens collapse in 2012, Labour in 2017, SF in 2022 etc.)

    Over the next decade or two, the left has opportunities which it has never had before if it really wants to grab them. The main historic obstacles to its growth have gone: the political power of the church; the dominance of the ‘national question’; the power of the farming lobby and even the Cold War. There is also a disillusion with ‘clinic politics’ and a demand for broader thinking, though this still doesn’t stop people using the system for now.

    This could be our “1945 moment” – 1945 set the mold of left-right politics in most of Western Europe but by-passed us at the time time.

    On a larger scale, with resource depletion and climate change, the world is facing much starker choices between concentration of resources and re-distribution; between global planning and de-regulation; between uncontrolled growth (and disaster) or a concentration on life quality and equality etc.

    Currently, change is held back by the gap between people’s anger with the system and their actual voting for local ‘hard-working’ FF and FG candidates. The endless and dis-empowering media message of ‘they’re all the same’ reflects the reality of the alternation of conservative-led coalitions with similar policies led by the Department of Finance.

    However, the main obstacle to left-right debate is not just conservative-led coalitions but the insistence on Westminster-style ‘collective responsibility’. If the Green Party defends every twist and turn of FF policy now, and Labour does the same for FG in the next Government, we will never have serious debate about political choices or even convince the electorate that these questions matter more than localism and clientalism.

    The ideal solution is for the left to stand outside Government and do a ‘mega-Gregory-deal’ with whichever of the conservative parties will do business, or even force FF and FG into a conservative coalition. (Remember that debate? Interestingly, most of the prominent figures on the Labour front bench have advocated this in the past, either as part of Labour Left or WP/DL.)

    Failing this, the Labour Party and/or Green Party could insist on the most radical change in Irish political culture yet – honesty. In many continental European countries, coalition parties are quite frank about their differences and bargain openly for compromises issue by issue. This shows respect for the people who elected them. Many also have strong parliamentary committees whereby issues are thrashed out by all politicians across the ideological spectrum, as they are in the European Parliament, and compromises reached based on actual electoral strength. This would flush out the ‘non-political’ backbenchers in FF and FG who get away with never having to think through a political decision or take a policy position in their lives. Combined with a network of information centres/ CICs and legal restrictions on TDs pretending to interfere in administrative decisions, which I believe would be very popular, we might begin to get serious politics in Ireland.

  4. WorldbyStorm

    November 30, 2009 8:22 pm

    Can I thank you all for responding?

    Michael… God yeah, when I read it back I realised it was very very pessimistic. But.. I think you’re right. There’s no vision at all. And it’s depressing to see how the economic debate just rides the reactionary rails. The path of least resistance and one that dovetails with all the pre-existing notions.

    B Randle, I’d entirely agree with your assessment of FG, albeit as with FF I know good people in both parties. I hope you’re correct about something giving but I’m 44 and I’ve been waiting a while.

    Robin… that’s a very good point re small victories. I think yoiu’re correct as well that we may simply be locked into what is essentially a cosmetic cycle where the facade of leftism/newness replaces the substance. That’s a very interesting thesis you make about those opportunities. You’re right, some of the major blocks to left power appear to have vanished, but what seems to have happened is that instead of that easing the way the economic aspects have come straight back into play so instead of a new social democratic compact (the minimum I personally would seek) we get what Conor McCabe on Dublin Opinion has argued is a restatement of the long extant status quo, a long existing capitalism with minimal social provision contingent on financial resources (as if that was in any sense progressive as distinct from a purely reactionary – in both sense of the term – approach to the population).

    I also think you’re right that more broadly in global terms now is a progressive moment. But not for us. We’re losing on all fronts. As it happens I’m probably one of the few on the left with any residual goodwill towards the Green Party and I think in their own muddled way they tried to hold the line on some of their key issues. But… that’s not feasible when dealing with hegemons like FF (or FG – Labour take note). And while I’m also one of the few who’ll accept they did achieve some goals I’m unconvinced that they’re sufficient, etc, etc. And your idea of a Gregory deal on steroids sounds very very intriguing. It would certainly move the debate beyond participation nonparticipation towards something slightly new… a shopping list which if not fulfilled would see the plug pulled. That would certainly recast the debate on our terms.

    Again, even the approaches you suggest in your last paragraph would represent such a seachange that I think they’d be a vast step forward even if in the context of broader plans they’re rather minimal. Which shows how our ambitions keep being beaten back.

    One problem is the dynamic whereby the right picks and chooses between left or leftish parties to combine with in govt. So, perhaps next time SF, or Labour or whoever (although on purely class based issues I’d sooner see either of those in govt. than not).

  5. Drighleóg

    December 1, 2009 7:23 am

    You point out that Sinn Féin, in percentage terms, is well ahead of the high point of support received by the Workers Party in its heyday. However where it matters, in terms of Dáil seats Sinn Féin peaked at 5 and now hold 4 seats. The WP’s high point of 1989 delivered them 7 Dáil seats and a Euro seat.

  6. Proposition Joe

    December 1, 2009 10:31 am

    the public remains stubbornly attached to ‘higher taxes for middle/high income earners (over 100k household income)’. Only 5 per cent would avoid them, 47 per cent believe they’re the first measure that should be taken with 29 per cent believing that they’re a part of the mix but not necessarily first priority…. Higher taxes for all aren’t popular, at all. Only 6 per cent want to see them, 21 per cent are agin and so on.

    This pretty much sums up all that is broken in our attitude to taxation … its something that other guy should pay to fund my lollipops.

    We’ve projected onto taxation a weird mixture of Victorian paternalism, Catholic notions of penance, and self-righteous me-féinery.

    So income tax becomes exclusively the richer man’s burden, a punitive measure for having “notions” above one’s station, a means of picking up the tab for lower and average and even middling-high earners.

    The more mature view of taxation, as a pooling of resources to pay for the services we all need, is completely divorced from the public discourse that revolves around “making the wealthy pay”. And pay they should, just not the entire bill. Otherwise as we’ve seen before, many will choose either not to pay or not to be wealthy.

    Designing a taxation system should be all about yields and sustainability, not at all like writing a morality play. A highly imbalanced tax burden is inherently unsustainable even if it warms the cockles of the class-warrior’s heart. Now if cockle-warming pure & simple were the goal, then there would be no problem. But the awkward reality is that we’ve some very expensive public services to fund, some of which are of low quality and/or patchy coverage and fixing this will take some serious tax yield.

  7. WorldbyStorm

    December 1, 2009 7:39 pm

    Drighleóg, no doubt about it that is a problem. Although as was seen with Democratic Left once the critical mass dipped below a certain point they started to lose the WP seats. I’d hope though that SF would return at least two more TDs and on a very good day more again. They need additional vote share in specific constituencies. I’m not sure how to square that circle. I’m also interested in where that 10% so comes from.

    PJ, It seems to me you’re projecting just a little. But beyond that I’d suggest that you’re offering a remarkably partial reading of the situation given that we experienced a decade or more where the drumbeat was precisely geared towards lower taxation as the only possible approach in fiscal matters.

    My point is that given that the recognition that taxes have to rise and in particular for middle and higher earners is no small thing given that context and a world away from your assessment here…

    This pretty much sums up all that is broken in our attitude to taxation … its something that other guy should pay to fund my lollipops.
    We’ve projected onto taxation a weird mixture of Victorian paternalism, Catholic notions of penance, and self-righteous me-féinery.
    So income tax becomes exclusively the richer man’s burden, a punitive measure for having “notions” above one’s station, a means of picking up the tab for lower and average and even middling-high earners.

    I see nothing in what I wrote, which was clearly about the fact that even after all else people are willing to swim against the tide on taxation that has been flowing for the past decade, that would lead to such a pessimistic view of ‘our’ attitude…

    People on middle and higher incomes should be taxed more per definition under progressive taxation. I know some demur from that, but it’s a fairly reasonable principle.

    It’s also fairly well accepted that taxation and the tax burden in this state is low in comparison to other EU countries. We’ve seen taxes fall to ridiculously low levels at both standard and higher rate. The commission on taxation itself argued that it was working under the constraints of seeking to continue the ‘low tax economy’. If people want good services they’ll have to pay for them. No dispute.

    I also believe and have stated it numerous times that I believe all citizens on whatever income or indeed on social welfare should also be in the tax net because I believe part of citizenship is about the link between representation, duties and benefits being seen. This would mean in practice fairly minimal taxation for those on lowest incomes etc. But the link would be there both in symbolic and real terms.

    And given that I’m a middle income earner – finally after many many years as a result of working at two different jobs, and perhaps for not very long – I’m hardly asking of others something that I wouldn’t ask of myself.

    Got to say that your view is remarkably bleak about these matters and about others motivations. I think that at this point (and no doubt it will change because these things do) that most people would accept increased taxation for better provision of services. And let’s not forget that people have already had a tax increase in the past year. In my mature view such a result is heartening.

  8. shea

    December 2, 2009 5:02 pm

    if that opinion pole is right and people are holding on higher taxer for the wealthy against social welfare cuts etc and at the same time FG in the ones thats benifiting and as was pointed out this government looks alot safer now than a few months ago then maybe the left have to put FG into there fireing line as well as the government.
    heard the tail end of a proposal they have today on social welfare about cutting people of who don’t take up courses. ignores the problem with fás everyone was talking about last month that with exception of trades the courses were aul tosh. if we want a left right divide then we have to practice it now and refrain from falling into this everybody against the government attitude because Fg is winning from that.

  9. Proposition Joe

    December 2, 2009 5:19 pm

    @WbS

    My point is that given that the recognition that taxes have to rise and in particular for middle and higher earners is no small thing

    I think that at this point (and no doubt it will change because these things do) that most people would accept increased taxation for better provision of services.

    I see no evidence of such wide acceptance or even much discussion along those lines (with the exception of GarretFitz). Unless of course you really mean the 100k+ bracket by “middle earners”. In which case, our workforce would be partitioned as follows: 95% low/average earners versus 5% middle/high earners. Which of course is a complete nonsense.

    Instead the public discourse revolves around hitting those who “can best afford it” or “coined it during the Tiger period” or more generally “anyone slightly better-off than one’s self”.

    It’s also fairly well accepted that taxation and the tax burden in this state is low in comparison to other EU countries.

    Among the commentariat perhaps. But your man in the street generally thinks that (a) he’s heavily taxed and (b) his slightly richer neighbour is getting away with murder tax-wise. And of course he’s wrong on both counts. The gap between Irish tax effective rates and the EU average is widest in the low-to-average-to-slightly-above-average brackets. This gap then narrows significantly as you go up through the deciles.

    Of course then once you get into the stratosphere of 250k+, things start going funny with tax shelters. But we have a proven mechanism to deal with this anomaly in the shape of the minimum effective rate provisions, it would just be a case of the pushing up the alternative minimum floor to say 40%. However good that would be for the optics, it won’t on its own plug the hole that needs plugging.

    Which is where generalized tax increased come in. Requiring low earners to pay say an effective rate of 12.5%, average earners to pay 25% and higher earners to pay up to 50%, is the sort of territory we need to be looking at. The first two would be a political impossibility though as things stand.

  10. WorldbyStorms

    December 2, 2009 6:07 pm

    PJ I think you’re missing the point big time… if the man in the street believes he or she is highly taxed then where did that idea come from? Certainly not the left. Could it be, and this is entirely rhetorical, that the media and the political right argued continually across that fifteen years for low tax, etc as the only way to grow the economy, that tax rates had to come down as of a right, that they were too high, etc… that it argued and saw imkplemented what Michael Taft has called a bonfire of taxes apart from a much narrower set. And after all this you argue that somehow the fact people think they’re overtaxed is somehow indicative of their own selfishness.

    Got to say I think that’s pushing the envelope of your argument past ripping point.

    And I’m not sure you read the parts of my comment in response to yours where I argued there should be taxation for all. The figures are open to debate, the principle, for me at least is not. As for ‘political impossibility’, last week on the CLR you were adamant that the unions would not make any gesture as regards the floods.

  11. Proposition Joe

    December 2, 2009 8:12 pm

    @WbS

    “if the man in the street believes he or she is highly taxed then where did that idea come from? Certainly not the left.”

    Can’t really agree with you that the left can be absolved from this. Lets review a little recent history …

    • Tax cuts for the low-to-average earners were pushed by the unions from the start of the partnership process

    • The taking of large sections of the workforce “out of the tax net” was lauded by elements in the left-leaning commentariat as being a good thing in a waffly-social-justicey sortta way

    • Labour pushed the boat out in the last election campaign, promising a further 2% cut in the standard rate along with substantial increases in credits

    • The unions have recently constantly pushed the mantra that the wealthy have contributed nothing to the adjustment, despite an 8.5% tax rise staring them in the face.

    The point is that the Left have been complicit in the destruction of the tax base, both by pushing for actual tax cuts but also by promoting the illusion that most of the tax burden can be levied on somebody else.

    Now you mention earlier that a progressive tax system is a laudable goal. And so it is, but there’s an optimal progressivity gradient beyond which the tax model becomes highly unstable. Pushing it to its logical conclusion, if progressivity is always a good thing, then the best system would be to levy all the tax on the richest individual. Obviously that’s not going to work, as the yield is bounded by that single individual’s earnings and prone to crashes if that one person is hit by a bus or fecks off to Malta. So the next best thing is to concentrate most on the liability on a small group at the top. This is where we’re headed, but it suffers from many of the same reliability problems.

    Only a broadly based and progressive tax model, Gladstone’s ‘colossal engine of finance’, has the potential to produce consistently high yields.

  12. WorldbyStorms

    December 2, 2009 9:01 pm

    Again I think you’re looking at this in a very partial way.

    I think there were good reasons to lower taxes for lower and some average to middle income earners, particularly during the boom. That that process went too far is unquestionable, but to blame the unions for that, given that this was part of a quid pro quo to allow within partnership companies not to have to impose too great wage rises etc seems a further stretch.

    I criticised the Labour bid at the last election for populism but I think it would be a travesty of the truth to suggest that that piece of Rabbitte inspired madness was indicative of their policy prior to that. In fact it simply bears out what I’ve been saying. After a decade or more of a low tax consensus/agenda even Labour began to backslide.

    The push to take people out of the tax net may have been lauded by some, again not myself, but that was after the fact.

    Again I’d suspect that that was making a virtue of necessity. The orthodoxy sought tax cuts and got them. Some on the left as in 07 played catch up. More fool them, but again hardly representative of either left thinking on this matter or policies across the period.

    As for the unions comments more recently… there’s no question in my mind (and indeed others) that tax rates for those on middle and higher incomes are historically low and should rise. I think the unions have been correct to raise this matter.

    To propose that all this means that the Left is complicit in the destruction of the tax base is a curious reading of the actual historical course of events across this period.

  13. donagh

    December 7, 2009 10:30 am

    Well, it seems that Grealish might be using that as a negotiating tactic:
    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2009/1207/1224260242255.html

    Mr Carey told The Irish Times yesterday that Mr Grealish had sent him a letter last week, for the attention of Taoiseach Brian Cowen, listing a number of projects that he would like addressed in his Galway West constituency.

    They related mainly to roads and schools and, in the short-term, assistance for flood victims.

    Mr Carey said that he had discussed the issues with the Taoiseach’s officials.

    He added that there no “serious preconditions” being set by Mr Grealish.