The campaign run by Fine Gael is coming in for some criticism, some of it justified, some
of it not, some of it just barking. It was always going to be necessary for an incumbent government party to run a a campaign referencing their period in Government but as they say eaten bread is quickly forgotten and people tend to vote more for the future and not based on the past. Fine Gael was quite clear in 2011 that the job they wanted to do was a multi-term effort, unlike their partners in government they were emphatic that it could not be done without causing pain and would most certainly take more than one term to deliver on the changes the were advocating.
So my thinking was that the campaign should be one that references the 1st term s a foundation period, one that acknowledged that it had involved a lot of unpleasant, unpopular, dirty and disruptive work. It was messy and brutal and hard for many, many people but also we’re through that point now. Yet it was work that needed to be completed quickly, by getting a roof on our economic problems and sealing the national house from the elements, while the economic weather held. This is the obvious Stability element.
You would call out those opposed to the actions of the first term by a twin track of highlighting those who kept saying there were fairer alternatives to the actions taken for their failure to present those magical fairer options in detail beyond catch phrases and indeed to implement them while in government and those who said that the approach of what was once term fiscal rectitude or living within your means would never, never work, for the fact that clear it has worked. Even if the effects, much like the early days of the Celtic Tiger, aren’t yet being felt everywhere.
The 2nd term would naturally be very different in focus, as it built on the foundations but concentrated on the next phase, the work of fitting out the house when you decide what to do with the rooms and what to put in them and how much you can afford to spend on different items and where you have to prioritise your spending.
The 2nd term would be where you removed emergency measures such the USC and where previous public spending capacity was restored but with a greater focus on service delivery, rather than simply increased pay for doing existing work, and where newer services could be rolled out, given the broadening of the tax base that has taken place. This is the first Plus, and it’s the Vision element that was in captured in a previous manifesto entitled Vision with Purpose.
Then you highlight the fact that despite being called in 3/4 times in the last 50 years to stablise the state after the actions of FF led governments, that the people had never tried the option of seeing just what a FG lead 2nd term might offer. Indeed you could say that it would be frankly bizarre that anyone would give credence to putting the folks who burnt the last house down in charge of the next stage when they did so much damage and then claimed some bad boys (the Lehman gang) did it and ran away. Or that we’d look at putting in charge those folks from next door who’ve never seemed to be able to get on with the others in their house and who’ve demolished their own residence multiple times over and had to ask us and others to fund their reconstruction again and again. That for me is the 2nd Plus.
The people clearly want, and indeed I would say need, a different style of government from this point on, and let’s face it that’s what’s on offer from everyone next week. Yet it’s also true that the previous 5 years could only have delivered us the progress we’ve made with a government of the type we’ve just had. There was no other realistic, sensible alternative on offer.
The question then when you could to vote is do you go with the option of trusting those who’ve previously landed us in the messes of the past, or those who want to dig up the foundations and start all over again (SF, AAA-PBP, SP,WP etc), or take the option, never taken before, of seeing what the 2nd term of the current coalition might actually look like – in reality and not inside of the minds of those who claim without any evidence that Fine Gael are unduly wedded to the Right. Good governance isn’t about showtime or spectaculars; it’s typically mundane, dull, even prosaic. There’s still time to ante up on the PlusPlus side of things.
*I had intended writing this up back in October but a of lack of time and a combination of a presumption that surely someone else with more influence has thought of this already and an awareness that next to no one was likely to take it on-board given its source meant it never got done.
** There’s a rather lazy C++ joke in the title. Please forgive me.