Ireland – Labour’s Double Opportunity

The Irish economy is in a mess. I’ve seen little mention of how effective the Irish Labour Party has been in holding the ruling Fianna Fail government to account. Thire talent and ability comes as no surprise to me working alongside Irish Labour MEPs Nessa Childers, Alan Kelly and Proinsas de Rossa. People in Ireland are turning to the Labour Party and it is riding consistently high in the opinion polls. At times for the first time ever it is the most popular party.

Irish people are rejecting the financial policies of Fianna Fail which George Osborne has praised. A great opportunity for the Irish Labour Party and I hope they make substantial gains and form part of the government after the forthcoming general election.

There’s also an opportunity here for the British Labour Party. The coalition government have been successful in starting to establish a political narrative which says that the British economic problems are a result of Labour government. It’s not true, any economic literate person knows that it was the “banks wot caused it”, but you can’t blame them for trying, especially as so many of the Conservatives have close links with bankers.

Philip Stephens writing in the Financial Times on Tuesday about the Irish bail out said:-

“As it happens, Ireland’s property-boom-turned-banking bust had little to do with its membership of the single currency. Ireland is not Greece. The closer parallels are with Iceland and dare one say it, Britain. Gordon Brown got precious few things right as prime minister, but Gordon Brown’s bank rescue package probably saved Britain from Ireland’s fate.”

Indeed you do dare say it Stephen, and I think there’s no doubt about it, Gordon Brown may not have saved the world, but he did save Britain. Labour should be proudly stating this.

Labour should also be posing the question if Labour/Gordon Brown is responsible for the current economic problems, why is Greece in such a mess? Why has Ireland just been bailed out? What happened in Iceland? Why is Portugal nervously considering the possibility of a future bailou,t with Spain being talked of as the biggest country to face similar problems. Or put another way, how did Gordon Brown create such a mess in the Greek, Irish, Icelandic, Portuguese and Spanish economies? And of course the answer is obvious even to the economically illiterate, he didn’t.

Are all these crises unrelated? Of course not. Was it some international political conspiracy, or was it international bankers? British Labour needs to achieve some of the political confidence of Irish Labour to loudly proclaim the dangers of economic austerity packages rooted in ideology not practicality. I’m grateful to Proinsas De Rossa for the link to this explantion by Mark Blyth Professor of International Political Economy, Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University. It’s well worth a view, or maybe even two!

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