Thursday, March 09, 2006

Political Marriage

Joe Higgins is a very impressive Dail performer on social issues, but his Marxist economic policy is a proven failure worldwide. Mary Harney is a principled champion of free-market economics, but her PDs seem overly biased in favour of those who are already able to help themselves.
I’ve often thought that a political coupling of Joe and Mary might produce a very interesting policy baby, so imagine my excitement when, at Leader’s Questions in the Dail yesterday, Mary Harney, standing in for the Taoiseach, told Deputy Higgins that he would “make a very tasty meat sandwich”.

I'd favour a Left/Right administration as a way of seeking to achieve the right balance between economic and social policy, so perhaps an alternative coalition line-up of FG, Labour & PDs might be ideal way to make up the necessary numbers.

Naturally it would require all the parties (and personalities) involved to have the political will, and mutual respect, to make the compromises required. You'd almost have to keep them all away from the media, who'd be more than happy to speculate on all the political and policy fault lines - real, imagined and potential.

Two of the most important functions of Government are (a) how it raises money and (b) how it prioritises the spending of that money.

In my hypothetical administration, the PDs would have the Finance and Industry & Employment briefs, charged with taking the lead on economic and competitiveness policy. Labour would hold the high-spending social departments - Health, Education and Welfare (and prhaps one other cabinet post) and would be responsibile for taking the lead on formulation and implementation of social policy.
FG would have most of the rest, but Enda Kenny’s main role would be to act as a strong executive chairman of the cabinet, needing to be both glue and grease in order to hold the disparate team together and keep it moving forward. John Bruton surprised many observers in his term as Taoiseach of the rainbow coalition, could Enda Kenny pull off the same trick?

Political coalitions are inherently unstable, but I suggest they’re preferable to the polarising administrations you risk getting in “winner takes all” elections/systems e.g. Bush in the US and Thatcher in the UK.

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