Anton Savage: There's no messiah, but parties play the Monty Python card
One of the most famous Monty Python sketches features four retired Yorkshiremen sharing stories about their youth, each trying to outdo the other about how tough they had it as kids.
By the end of the sketch, one of them claims to have been reared in a shoebox by parents who thrashed him to sleep with a broken bottle, while another gasps, "Shoe-box?! You were lucky, we had to live in a lake!"
Our political leaders have taken the 'four Yorkshiremen' approach to political reform.
It began with Fine Gael, "when we get in we'll abolish the Senate and put the lot of them out of work".
Fianna Fail was not to be outdone -- "Abolish the Senate? Pshaw, that's nothing. We'll abolish the Senate, only better. And when we've got it bulldozed, we'll change the rules so even random un-elected civilians can be in the Cabinet."
Labour, being fast on its feet, decided to top the lot: "We'll toss out the entire Constitution. The whole thing. And start from scratch with a new shiny one."
FG and FF felt their clothes being nicked and sprung into further action. Between them, so far, they've announced they'll let hobos be ministers, but if enough hobos aren't available, TDs will still be allowed do the jobs, except they can't be TDs anymore (FF say they'll stop ministers doing Dail work).
They'll fire a third of the TDs, cut the salaries of those who remain, take away their pensions, take away severance packages, introduce the list system (you're right, no one has a breeze what that is) make the Dail bar serve only Harp and the restaurant serve only buckets of cold fish heads, and they'll ensure that once a week, a random TD will be publicly flogged and then shot for the entertainment of the press gallery (okay those last bits have yet to be announced, but give them time).
For the electorate, it's like asking a mechanic to provide an estimate to fix your car, only to have him outline costs for fitting a jet engine, Jacuzzi and cocktail bar. We just want things managed properly, there's no need to exhume Dev and burn down the Aras. But while all of the talk of reform has been going on, most of the commentators seem to have missed how forgetful the parties have become.
Fianna Fail forgot that its last attempt at political reform was designed to ensure their permanent residence in Government and so are claiming credit for it nonetheless (they tried to move to first-past-the-post, which would have ensured total FF electoral domination for ever and ever).
Fine Gael forgot that it launched its political reform plan more than a year ago, clearly believing that its virginity has grown back. The Greens forgot they were recently in government and launched a plan to end corporate donations.
And Labour forgot to remind us that Gilmore will be Taoiseach, presumably because they've been distracted by defending themselves against Sinn Fein, who've forgotten they used to be the IRA.