There’s a famous old story told about George Bernard Shaw. He’s at dinner somewhere, sitting beside some old crusty Dowager and he says: “Lady Smythe-Bottom, would you sleep with me for a million pounds?”
And she says: “Do you know, Mr. Shaw, for that much money, I rather think I would.” And then he asks: “And would you sleep with me for ten shillings?” And she says: “Goodness me no, what kind of woman do think I am?” And he says: “We have already established what kind of woman you are, now we are haggling.”
And that’s what I feel right now about this election and the Irish electorate, i.e. the Irish people. From electing consecutive Fianna Fáil and Coalition Governments, we know what kind of people we are. The real question is: what is an acceptable price for our vote?
Is it €500 per annum per household? Or €250? Or are we expensive whores, and do we demand more – say not a penny less than €1,000? €5,000 anyone?
Because in every election that I remember, that’s what it seems to come down to. How political parties/politicians can buy our vote. And once upon a time the politicians had the money to do just that. Now they don’t, so they invent a new type of space, where we can live long and prosper: Fiscal Space. And we buy it.
And once upon a time, when investigated, it was found that politicians were taking corrupt payments for planning and other purposes in some regions. So did the current Government investigate further to find out who else was guilty and to what extent the corruption was widespread? Did they fuck. They shut it down. That’s This Government.
Now we can tut-tut at what the politicians do, the divils, sure aren’t they awful, but we’re the ones who elect them. Time after time. So this is the system we want. That’s been established. We could change it if we wanted, but somehow it suits us. We could vote based on what is best for the country as a whole, the poor, the sick, the needy, the voiceless. We could get rid of the parish pump politics. But no, we buy it, literally. We haggle.
So it appears to me that the politicians are now busy selling us an end to USC, more public spending, an end to water charges, more nurses, more guards, keeping the recovery going etc. etc. because that is what we want for our vote. We are for sale. And what’s most blatant is that parties like Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil and Labour (perhaps to a lesser degree) which are all pro-austerity, are now suddenly coming up with all this money to buy us with, just as an election is a few weeks away. And we buy it.
This Fiscal Space (FS) just appeared one night like Klingons Off the Starboard Bow. Wow! Great timing there Fiscal Space. What a coincidence. Lucky us. And we buy it.
So then a new Government (or the same one) gets into power and they dilute down the promises they made as much as they can get away with, or things happen and we whinge away for a while and then forget we were conned the last time and then they make more extravagant promises five years later and we fall for them again. We buy it.
As Mary Harney said: “The Irish Electorate has a short memory.” She should know. And it also appears that many people have forgotten what successive Fianna Fáil Governments did to the country. I fully expect them to be in a coalition with Fine Gael in a few weeks. We get the Governments we deserve. It’s called democracy.
The cat was well and truly out of the bag when Charlie McCreevy (him of the six figure pension) was pushed and pushed and pushed at the Banking Enquiry last year and was forced, finally, to admit that his decisions as finance minister were driven by political considerations. Not for the people. Not for the county. For themselves.
“We are politicians, don’t forget we like to get re-elected,” he said. And we accept that. We vote them back in. We buy it.
And that’s what’s happening again at this election. The main parties are not doing what they are doing for the good of the Irish people, or the future of the State. They are doing what they are doing solely for their own benefits, their pensions, their jobs, their families and their own futures. And still we elect them. We buy it.
Or more importantly, they buy us.
Now the old saying goes: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”
Shame on us.
Or will we do something different this time? Will we fuck.