Ruin A Country, Reap Rewards

"San Francisco Speculators", illustr...
Don't worry, it only looks like a racist caricature

Brendan Howlin has soberly explained that they looked at all the options and reached the conclusion that burning the senior bondholders would not be worth the consequent costs. This is sensible.

It is not however what they promised, and it’s not why we voted for them.

If not this way, then how are we going to punish the speculators, the people who drove house prices into the idiosphere and turned a healthy growing economy into molten radioactive waste? It seems we are not going to punish these people. We are in fact going to reward them.

So who will be to blame when they do it again?

Here Comes A Government, Just Like The Other One

It seems the election was just some sort of weird dream we had.

Ireland’s new government will stick to the fiscal targets laid down in an EU/IMF rescue package, a source familiar with the coalition deal agreed between the two main political parties said on Sunday. ~ Reuters

Taoiseach-in-waiting Enda Kenny has conceded that his government is unlikely to burn senior bondholders in the banks, despite Fine Gael’s pre-election promises. ~ Irish Examiner

So the parties decide to drop what most would consider the central planks of their campaigns, not only backing away from making the senior bondholders pay for their mistakes but agreeing to the original timetable rather than Labour’s (minor) blow-softening of an extra year. Two thirds of the fiscal adjustment will still come from cutbacks, rather than the 50/50 split with tax increases Labour wanted. Essentially, Labour are adopting FG’s manifesto – and Fine Gael are adopting Fianna Fáil’s.

Why, when it cannot work?

Because no plan can work – none at least that requires the exchequer to miraculously break even in just a few years. The only way we could make our income balance our expenditure that soon is by burning down the country for the insurance.

“the coalition agreement, clinched after midnight, seems designed to curry favor with the fiscally conservative Germans” ~ Reuters again

Ah. I get it. The CDU won our election.

So it’s a sort of masochism tactic. Look, we’re taking our medicine. Watch us whip ourselves bloody. They hope that by showing a snivelling level of victimhood they will eventually elicit the pity – and the funds – we need to stop the economy smashing into the landscape.

Bjørn Sigurdsøn, SCANPIX
Angela Merkel discusses Enda Kenny's Fiscal Rectitude with her girlfriends

TAOISEACH-in-waiting Enda Kenny has conceded that his government is unlikely to burn senior bondholders in the banks, despite Fine Gael’s pre-election promises.

The 360° Revolution

360 CartoonIt is finally, officially, over. And no more damning political verdict has ever been rendered in the history of this or many another country. Even the pro-union vote in 1918 was larger. It’s shocking that they got seventeen percent, that thousands were still ready to put their party before their country. This kind of unthinking loyalty is like a set of shackles on Irish politics. But perhaps it is broken now.

So I am torn between expressing relief at having thrown off the worse government we have ever had, and lamenting the fact that we have given a mandate to a party whose ideology and economic approach are so similar that it takes at least an hour to explain to interested foreigners why they are separate parties at all. It is a hell of an anticlimax, and frankly I am a little depressed. (Though the fact that I got about one night’s worth of sleep during the whole count probably isn’t helping there.) Was all that anger just for this, all that upheaval to deliver no change? Have we had a 360 degree revolution?

There is only one real advantage. The new administration will not have been busy sharing the good times with the rich and the powerful – well, not for fourteen years anyway. This will make them somewhat more disinterested and honest. But it’s not as if they’re chosen from a whole other class of innocent outsiders. Their interests are not the interests of the average person, and certainly not the interests of the poorer person. For Christ’s sake, the chairman of Anglo Irish is a former leader of Fine Gael. Didn’t anybody think that might be a bit of a bad sign?

But Kenny must get his one hundred days or whatever is the suitably polite interval, his chance to come up with a brilliant solution to escape the chains the last government left us in. Can he?

No. Sure he’s going to renegotiate the bailout deal. But by that he means begging for a slightly lower interest rate. That is not a negotiating position. A slightly lower interest rate on a debt we will never be able to pay back anyway, that is going to crush our economy back to 1940s levels? That is not an improvement of the situation. It’s an avoidance of reality.

What would I say to a meeting of Eurozone heads of state? What would you say?

“We cannot afford to borrow money to pay debts unjustly created for us by a previous, corrupt government. Indeed we cannot afford to borrow enough money for even the minimum necessary level of public expenditure, at this or any interest rate. Therefore we will pay ourselves in our own currency. In other words, we’re leaving the euro. This will be painful for us, what with soaring import prices, but the euro will almost certainly collapse so it will be even more painful for you. Sorry, but it’s that or we sacrifice the health, future, lives of our people in order to reward the selfish and greedy actions of a ludicrously wealthy banking industry.”

That is a negotiating position.

*Sleeps*

As I guess anyone reading this already knows, Election 2011 is finally over. Seán Kyne of FG won the seat by, oddly enough, the same margin of 17 as before the recount. Though if anyone thinks that that is evidence of accuracy I can assure you quite categorically it was not. As I said late last night, while there are many merits to our system, the introduction of an element of chance means that when it comes to such small margins of difference they might as well be playing roulette.

There will be plenty congrats for 5 new TDs. Mine go to communications student Jackie Fox (@Foxkehs) for ‘citizen’ results coverage via Twitter that beat the professional media, to Rónán Mistéil for aggregating those results into charts at amazing speed, and to Andrew Gallagher for fast and fascinating volunteer psephology.

Now, how would you like your new government this morning?

Our Voting System Failed Tonight

I had to cry off there and head home. I’ve a big day tomorrow, and the late election nights have worn me down to an interesting frazzle shape. It’s all right for the politicians, they’re stoked to the eyeballs with purest triple-distilled adrenalin. I can only barely bring myself to care who is in the next government.

Now it isn’t Fianna Fáil.

So I’m missing some serious election fun… Guess what’s happened? They found errors in the errors they found before, so this recount has actually changed the quota slightly. That of course means every transfer, every surplus, has to be recomputed.

Healy Eames may yet be in with a chance.

On the sidelines, under the aegis of the Galway West Twitter hashtag (#gyw), we naturally fell to discussing the pros and cons of the Single Transferable Vote model of PR.

It was a good night for the cons.

One of the most interesting points though, made here by blogger andrewgdotcom, was not about STV in general but rather the method we use to do it. You remember a couple of days ago I said that there was an element of random sampling involved in the counting system we use, but “it’s precise enough with large numbers“? Well he demonstrates that when we get down to tiny differences in the total vote like they’re currently fighting over, it is not precise enough. Such small numbers are well within the margin of error. In other words, they’re random.

In other other words, instead of holding a recount they might as well toss a coin.

Every Thirteenth Counts

“Look at the Guard,” a mother says to her child in Irish, perhaps to impress upon him the importance of good behaviour. For we are at the crucial thirteenth count in the Galway West Dáil constituency, and this time…

They’re starting over from scratch. Again.

I have not the words to describe how boring this is. A few people are counting things. A lot more people are watching them count. That. Is. It. As if life had grown more serious in all the years since Sesame Street, but no more complicated.

There is drama here, but so deeply encoded that it’s a closed book to outsiders. Like a poem in Braille, or the heated debate dogs carry on via lamp post. There’s the Fine Gael candidate, looking tired, talking to the man who used to (almost completely fail to) teach me history in school. His brother used to be a Fine Gael TD back in the 80s. Insiders. Connolly’s cadre are the more numerous and the younger. (Unless you  count children; I think the Fine Gael people have brought more.) FG coterie generally looks better off and better dressed. Though if the guy with the huge bunch of keys dangling beneath his huger beer gut is one of theirs, he’s really letting the side down. At one corner a veritable flock of men in dark pinstripe suits. Though they are without their gowns, I’d swear in court that they’re barristers. (Not baristas thank you, spell check.) Connolly crowd not exactly badly dressed, but somehow visibly socialist. This really is the ties versus the jeans.

Glad I came in combats.