The sweet caresses of the electorate
In politics, perception is reality. Those inclined to previously vote Green have decided that the Green Party has ‘taken soup’ and is no longer to be trusted. Bleat all you like but that is the reality.
I grant you that on the Green agenda in the two Departments we run, we haven’t put a foot wrong (apart from the lightbulbs). Energy innovation and grants, planning reform and (something else, I just can’t recall right now…….remind me someone, please) have been set in motion and in some cases delivered. But, in every other policy area, we have either been out of our depth or surrendered our sense of difference and separateness. Proportionately, we have suffered a heavier defeat than our FF partners, thus fulfilling the popular prediction that we would suffer the same fate as of FF’s minority partners.
You can’t have a ‘smart Green economy’ without having an economy in the first place. The electorate don’t care about the Green agenda – we can do what we like as long as they have food on their plates and don’t have to worry about the roof over their heads. But, if you want to start ‘moving their cheese’ you need to be able to say why and where you’ve put it.
Also, the electorate don’t like to be taken for fools. If we say we are a party of principle do not expect them to love us when they see us abandoning those principles. We started to slide, in their eyes, right from the beginning with the M4 debacle. I know what ‘precedent’ means and all that stuff. But precedents are there to be set.
What really alerted our supporters to the capture of the party’s soul by FF was the ‘volte-face’ over Lisbon. Having opposed the EU from the inception of the party, we were now suddenly in favour – after our very first ministerial trip to the ‘pork barrel’ that is Brussels. From a principles point of view, this was a disaster.
Not only was the mood of the country clearly unconvinced by the proposed treaty but opposing it would have put ‘clear blue’ water, forever, between ourselves and the minority devouring beast that is FF. This was an awful wasted opportunity for the Party. From a political point of view, the chance to take the high ground on the debate over the future path of Europe was lost forever.
The final straw for the supporters of the Greens must have been the sight of the Green party TD’s hand-wringing exculpation of FF cuts of the social welfare and education budgets while FF were throwing billions down the drain to protect the ‘Golden Circle’.
Once again, Irish people have shown their inability to learn from the experience of others. I refer to the Irish Greens, who, having watched their European brethren get badly hurt in each of their first experiences in government in their respective states, seem unwilling to learn from anyone’s mistakes but their own.
There is double sting for the Party in its loss of support because the Green voter is supposed to be a scientific and rational person committed to the cause of changing the economy and the culture for the good of all current and future humanity and the planet. To be unceremoniously dumped by our core supporters is a severe shock to people who think they are above the common tribe of political scrummagers.
Does the Party have the stomach for further suffering as the Depression grinds on? Are we out of our depth and need to go back to ‘treehugging’? Is there anything to be gained from dumping FF into the arms of the vengeful electorate? Will the SuperSix and the TerribleTwo cope or crumble?
Which lessons will be learnt and in what surroundings remains to be seen.