Do oppositions also have shelf lives?
It won’t be too long now before the opposition parties start firing off missive asking how long more do we have to put up with this (multiple choice) failed/knackered/tired/lacking in imagination/fatigued government? Granted, the present arrangement is only a year in office.
But Fine Gael, Labour, Sinn Fein etc want us to tap into a sense of exhaustion that has come from FF dominating government for 11 years… legs are becoming heavy and all those stalwarts of government can no longer handle the pace.
The message: the Government has been too long in power. It’s the same old same old. No new faces. No new ideas. No zip. No energy. Running on empty. You get the picture.
But if you flip that argument, could it also be said that the opposition has been – well -there for far too long as well.
If the innate nature and essence of Government has remained largely unchanged in the past eleven years, so has that of the opposition.
Sure there have been changes in personnel. And there are some differences in policy between Government and opposition- I suppose mainly in health – but none that really scream out at you. You suspect that for all the huffing and puffing you get from politicians in opposition, they automatically click into managerial mode when they go into government.
There are times when I have looked at the Enda Kenny/Eamon Gilmore axis (and the Kenny/Rabbitte one before) and wondered how different a country Ireland might be if they had been at the helm. Would it had been all that different? I just can’t see how it could have been. Sure, a couple of the bad, controversial and madcap ideas might have hit the floor of the editing room – private clinics; decentralisation and electronic voting . But when you came to core principles – would it have been any different? The low tax model became the orthodoxy for all parties before last year’s election – including the Greens.
I must admit that I still struggle to see a change of Government as much more than an ‘under new management’ event.
If the Government is jaded and lacks new ideas and ventures, where are they supposed to come from. The opposition? A little test: Name three good ideas the opposition has come up with in the past year? Not too easy, is it? An alternative team and a new energy is all very well… but what Blair, Clinton did (and what Cameron and Obama are arguably doing now) is offering a true alternative… a true departure involving new ideas and a clear break from the past.
That’s why I’m a little concerned that the great and the good from the three major parties are all going to the Democratic convention in Denver this week (Enda Kenny, Eamon Gilmore, Noel Dempsey and Mary Hanafin) and Leo Varadkar is the only one bothering to go to John McCain’s convention, as far as I can ascertain. Is that uniformity of approach and thinking desirable (and for a meaty piece from an influential Irish-American about the respective merits of Obama and McCain, see here)