Monday 21 January 2019

Terry Prone: I'm bored of the paranoia, meddling and fear peddling

At this point, wouldn't you give your vote to any political party that would promise that general election campaigns will never last longer than a week in future? The current election seems to have been going on since the year before last, and it gets worse by the day.

The first week, they were all launching their policies and giving out about Enda Kenny snubbing Vincent Browne. The second week, they were all RE-launching their policies and giving out about each other.

Then there are the candidates who instruct you to read their manifestoes. You're busy, you're broke, you want Ireland fixed and you think an election is about appointing the people to fix it. You know WHAT has to be done. You assume if you pick the right people -- the WHO -- that they'll get the HOW right, so why should you have to read a boring set of promises that will be changed the minute the party making them goes into coalition with another party, anyway?

The really bad thing about the third week in a campaign is that the paranoia rises like a thermometer put against the skin of someone with a fever. Each party starts to portray every other party as evil, sanctimonious, hypocritical. Even the ones who may go into coalition with each other do it, in a kind of weird courting dance that involves beating the brains out of each other while promising to live happily ever after in coalition if that's what the people decide.

This mutual attack gets into weird territory. The Labour Party got livid with Fine Gael because the latter was going to put a euro on a bottle of wine. Now, admittedly, I'm teetotal, but I wouldn't have thought a euro on a bottle of plonk was stop-the-presses important. But, then, the Labour Party is also saying that it won't consider going to bed with Fine Gael unless changes to Child Benefit get taken off the quilt first.

The problem with that is two-fold. First of all, half the broadcasters asking questions of politicians about Child Benefit admit that they themselves really shouldn't be getting it because, compared to others, they're really well paid. Secondly, Fine Gael isn't planning to muck with Child Benefit this year or next year.

Surely the Labour Party has the confidence that by 2013 it would have been able to bring FG around to its way of thinking? I mean, most of us don't lay down a pre-nuptial agreement that our spouse must guarantee, right now, their behaviour on our third anniversary. It would be a bit previous, you know?

Because they have another few days before it's all over, they're like stirring sticks, meddling and peddling.

The leaders are meddling with each other's pension rights as teachers (even though neither of them has been a teacher in 30 years). They're peddling fear about single party government.

You terrified of single party government?

Me, neither.

I'm old enough to remember when it was the norm. It worked fine. When things got ropy, members of the Government party walked out and the Government fell. The way it has been, recently, coalition governments hung together, and nothing the Opposition could do would bring them down. So what's the great threat implicit in single party government? I think they're harking back to when a smaller party (the Progressive Democrats, bless their little right-wing socks) forced the bigger party (Fianna Fail, bless their little tricolour socks, holes and all) into axing Charlie Haughey because he'd illegally tapped people's phones.

But do we believe that, without a smaller party making like a police officer, a single party government would tap all phones or reduce us to peons?

Oh, that's right. We've already been reduced to peons. And by a coalition government, at that.

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