Fine Gael makes its pitch in simple terms: Stability or Chaos?

 Recovery: Enda Kenny addressing the Fine Gael National Conference 2015 in castlebar earlier this year

Recovery: Enda Kenny addressing the Fine Gael National Conference 2015 in castlebar earlier this year

For the political parties, 2016 won't be about the centenary of the Easter Rising. It won't be about the economy, stopping the growth of homelessness or ending the chaos in the hospitals.

For the political parties, 2016 will be about the coming General Election. And the task they've set themselves in the New Year is to make the election as politics-free as possible.

Politics is about power and reality, about what we produce and how we share it. The political game, on the other hand, is merely about the short-term fortunes of the parties and the ambitions of individual politicians.

Those in thrall to the political game still judge Bertie Ahern on his victories. He won three elections on the trot, they say, still agog at the scale of his triumphs. Those of us who view things politically see only the devastation his regime left behind.

There's far too little politics in Ireland; the political game dominates. Politicians compete like contestants in a TV game show, to win our affection and trust - and therefore our votes.

In the constituency, they use the pretence of having a personal role in getting us what we're entitled to. Nationally, using expensive secret polls, they thoroughly research what we want to hear, then they say it.

In elections, parties create a story. It has to be a simple story to be convincing. If you create a persuasive story you control the ground on which the political game is played.

The story that Fine Gael/Labour have created for the 2016 General Election is one of Stability or Chaos.

It goes like this.

Once upon a time, Fianna Fail collapsed the economy and in 2010 the Troika was forced to step in and bail us out. So, in 2011, the people threw out Fianna Fail and gratefully accepted the governance of St Enda and his chums.

And for five years, St Enda reluctantly but fairly applied a series of austerity measures and eventually turned the economy around.

Now, just in time for the election, he's found enough loose change down the back of the sofa to slightly ease austerity.

The story ends with a question for the voters: What'll it be? Stability, presided over by slightly gormless but well-intentioned St Enda? Or, Chaos, as represented by those mad lefties and Shinners who want to shout at you through megaphones and destroy the economy because that's the kind of people they are?

Those of us who view things politically might suggest an alternative story. It would start with the Fellowship of Greed - a cabal of bankers, builders and bondholders, reaping spectacular wealth by controlling the market for offices and homes.

The rightwing political parties competed to pander to their needs. Fianna Fail was best at it, but the others were just as obsequious. Anyone who questioned this was dismissed as a silly crank in a land of entrepreneurial genius.

When the bubble burst, the pandering continued. The parties in power didn't know how else to operate.

Troika money made up for the plunge in revenue following the property collapse. They also provided billions to bail out private European banks, to which the private Irish banks owed money.

We now have to pay our legitimate debts, with interest. We also have to pay the illegitimate banker debt which the politicians accepted in our name.

The political representatives of the Fellowship of Greed became the Axis of Austerity. As a sideline, they decided to privatise the water supply and made a mess of it, finally arousing ire in a mostly deferential citizenry.

Eight years on, it's election time, so they press the pause button on their austerity machine and ask us which we want - Stability or Chaos?

Which would you vote for? On the face of it, it should be a difficult sell for Fine Gael/Labour.

The current Taoiseach pledged to "end the scandal of patients on trolleys". He's had five years in office. Today, there aren't enough trolleys and patients are sleeping on floors. For such a man to claim he has brought stability takes some nerve.

Defending the Fellowship of Greed meant this Government had to vote in support of vulture capital at the United Nations. And to campaign against Apple paying its fair share of tax - even though that means campaigning against an outcome that could see Apple having to pay the Irish state €19bn.

The right has no answer to homelessness - interfering in the property market is against their deepest beliefs.

The right has no answer to the trolley crisis - Leo Varadkar is already threshing around, threatening the hospitals with even further cuts if they don't do his job for him.

The recovery is uneven, and the growth figures unreliable.

Even the Fiscal Council, true believers in austerity, appears shocked at the Government's cynical use of the Budget for electoral purposes. It questions government figures and suggests it's repeating the Fianna Fail mistakes of the past.

Few care about any of this. The big political event of 2016 will be free of such complexities as the causes and consequences of austerity. It will be fought on image.

People want an easy-to-accept view of the world. A good, simple story, convincingly told, allows voters to avert their eyes from reality and accept a carefully shaped image.

And Stability or Chaos is a good, simple story.


Source; Sunday Independent Nov 29, 2015