IT'S very important for human beings to accept our sheer irrationality. We get things wrong in every aspect of life, but nowhere more so than in politics.
Look at poor Labour. Did they bail out the banks? They’re the only party to have voted against the bank guarantee.
Will the electorate blame them anyway for the price we’re still paying for that decision? Yep.
Is it an Irish problem? Not at all. Working class people in England will vote UKIP instead of Labour, and in America the working poor will vote Republican, the party against affordable health insurance.
Your humble writer is guilty too. It’s a good thing I’ve a sense of humour as this failing was exposed when I tried out the EuandI voting “app” on the Newstalk and independent.ie websites.
Then you click the little button and it compares your personal policies with those of the political parties and TA-DA! It scientifically calculates the one for which you should vote.
I knew what would happen. The ranking put the Greens top, followed by Fianna Fail, then Labour and even the Socialists got a look in before the party I actually will vote for; the one affectionately or pejoratively, depending on your baggage, referred to as being represented by a vibrant shade of azure.
Will I change my vote? No. Because I don’t vote according to specific policies. Why would I? Policy is an unsound basis for voting, because parties change their policies, depending on whether they’re in power or opposition.
That’s why I can’t understand people who get angry when a party, say, cuts children’s allowance, when they said during the election that they wouldn’t. Sure, who’d believe that promise?
Furthermore, I don’t care what the app says. The fact is that most parties in Ireland hover around the centre and there really isn’t that much difference between them.
It’s not like the UK or the US where there’s a real difference between Labour and Conservative, or Republicans and Democrats. It’s very rare that in Ireland a change of government results in a significant change in a crucial policy.
For example, nearly everyone supports the 12.5pc corporation tax. It doesn’t matter who gets in, Intel won’t be up and leaving tomorrow because a new government moves it to 25pc.
This fact is often produced as all that’s wrong with Irish politics, but I think it’s quite helpful. It means Intel doesn’t have to worry about elections. It’s useful in other areas too, like education. The UK is a mess because every time a government changes they start messing around with the schools, with the result that they’re much lower down the various league tables than boring Sure-They’re-All-The-Same Ireland.
What’s left is one’s psychological baggage, history, pragmatism and personal connections.
All my life I’ve been driven by a family history of abject horror at the reality of Fianna Fail government, which in fairness has been vindicated by their once-a-generation capacity to wreck the country.
Voting for Labour and the Greens has in turn become impossible since each has been an enabler of Fianna Fail. Sinn Fein, even if you leave aside their repugnant terrorist history, would do the same too. In that scenario, Fine Gael, the official cleaner-uppers of the resulting mess, is all one has left.
Who do you trust not to screw things up? Who do you think is basically honest and culturally competent?
Others will have different answers to me, but those are the questions that people ask themselves. That’s why manifestos are only read after the election, by politicians seeking to embarrass each other, not voters trying to make a rational decision. It’s not scientific; it’s just gut instinct. There’s no app for that.