A full two and a half months before the Budget is announced on 15 October and the cynical pre-Budget posturing by government ministers is already in full swing.
This is becoming an increasingly tiresome ritual. Labour and Fine Gael ‘sources’ separately brief favoured political commentators about ‘serious tensions’ between the parties. Each side puts out a line that will appeal to that cohort of the population whose support they seek while decrying the opposing line of their coalition partners. Each knows full well that they will reach a shabby compromise far from their initial posture but, what odds, they will have been seen ‘to fight their corner.’
Over the past week, the Labour Party has been leading the way in this exercise and there is a reason for this. The Fine Gael/Labour Coalition has inflicted savage austerity on a wide swathe of working people over the last two years. Those least in a position to endure the associated burdens voted in large numbers for Labour following that party’s bluster during the General Election campaign that it would be ‘Labour’s way’ rather than Troika dictated cuts. It wasn’t of course and now Labour leaders seem to believe that if they generate enough headlines to the effect that they are in there battling hard, that will be enough to assuage the anger of those voters as another round of unjust cuts looms.
Social Protection Minister Joan Burton is one of the chief culprits in this cynical blame game. On a regular basis this Minister purports to be at odds with the policy of the government of which she is a member. Last April she garnered substantial headlines proclaiming that austerity ‘had reached its limits.’ Currently in the lead up to Budget day new headlines are appearing that this Minister is fighting hard to resist any cuts to the social welfare budget. From behind the scenes’ briefings by the Minister and her media agents, emerges a picture of a doughty Joan of Arc resisting dark forces who would oblige her to inflict savage cuts to various allowances in accordance with the Troika’s deficit limits. Never mind that the Minister herself and the Labour Party have signed up to the savage bail out/austerity agenda, that Labour Ministers and deputies are regularly voting for measures like the property tax, water charges and the slashing of the public service workforce by tens of thousands. That’s fine apparently as long as the Minister is seen to be verbally defending ‘core Labour values.’
Labour’s contortions in pretending to be a political party committed to ordinary working people and the poor while carrying out savage austerity dictated by the financial markets system resonate with the words of TS Eliot’s poem, The Hollow Men. ‘Our dried voices. ./ Are quiet and meaningless / As wind in dry grass / Or rat’s feet over broken glass / …Shape without form, shade without colour / Paralysed force, gesture without motion.’
Similarly Minister Burton’s recent exhortation that the government should be unrelenting in its focus on jobs and that ‘we should be setting a key economic target of near full employment over five years’ jar harshly with the fact that the policy of taking billions form the pockets of working people to bail out banks, sucks demand for goods and services from society thereby destroying thousands of jobs. The Minister’s pathetic ‘labour activation’ schemes called Jobsbridge and Jobs Plus should be seen as an embarrassment if mentioned in the same sentence as ‘full employment.’ The Hollow Men again, ‘Between the idea/ And the reality/Falls the shadow.’
The question needs to be asked why political correspondents and news editors of serious newspapers facilitate uncritically this kind of doublespeak without a rigorous interrogation. Surely a most basic question to be posed is why you continue to vote for, and implement, an austerity policy that you publicly proclaim to be destructive. Would the honest course not be to take an active stand against and to wage a serious campaign to change Labour policy of enacting the bailout/austerity agenda?
Our people are deeply resentful over the bailout and consequent austerity. They are enraged over the economic crimes of greed driven bankers and speculators, coruscating in their view of the political establishment that facilitated them and scathing toward a legal system that jails hard pressed individuals who steal a little but is hapless in face of those whose cheating and corruption blew up the property bubble and destroyed the aspirations of millions. The question is when people will go from anger to action and mobilisation? With another round of savage cuts promised in the October Budget that is now urgent. It is also the best response to cynical establishment politicians who think that their verbal denunciation of austerity in headlines will cover up their role in wielding the knife as they implement the very things they denounce.