Johnny Fallon

Irish Political Commentator

The nonsense of parties ruling parties out

You know politicians minds are turning towards elections when they start ruling stuff out. We have begun the latest round of parties ruling out other parties for the purposes of forming a government. The fact is the people will vote for the party they like in each case and after that it’s a matter of where the cards fall. There is a major difficulty with the way our parties currently rule each other out. That is because it is not really based on any kind of solid argument.

Right now there is a rush to rule out Sinn Fein. Now that would be fine if a party stated why?. They don’t. They just rule them out under any circumstances…. ever. That’s that. Inevitably though things can change. It would be fine if a party were to say, ‘We cannot coalesce with SF unless they were to give up their policy on raising tax rates, or they agreed to our policy on area X’. That might make some sense. There are a whole raft of policy areas that SF are highly unlikely to move on and would make it impossible for parties to form a coalition. You can rule them out based on real and actual policy, but you don’t rule them out should SF change those policies or agree to yours. Why would you? That would be silly.

The problem is parties are afraid to say this. They are afraid because they think that people want them to just rule out SF completely. That is of course a nonsense. Now you might think SF being new are all different. The problem is that every time SF gets itself into the heat of battle it starts to act like every other political party. Sure enough they are only too happy to rule out working with FF or other parties, ever. It’s as if a party name makes the difference rather than policy. The argument should be honest and reasonable so that people know where they stand. If two parties cannot work together then you must lay out the reasons why. Politicians fear this, because they are scared that the other party might actually change and then they would have to go into power with them. The real reason they are ruling them out then is simply because they don’t like them personally and hope to gain some seats from them. They don’t want anyone treating the party as a normal or real party.

You rule out SF to make them pariahs. Don’t discuss policy just make out there is something murky there without saying what it is. In the past parties rushed to rule out FF, because of their ‘dominance’ etc, a silly argument. Now FF are ruled out because of their past. FF then rule out others they see as a threat. FG and FF rule each other out. What parties are really doing is trying to limit the electorates choice, polarise things and force them into particular choices that they want. They don’t want the electorate forcing them into new thinking or awkward personal relationships. But it’s not the electorates job to make life easy for the politicians.

Labour has now ruled out SF too. Again they did so without stating exactly what policies they had an issue with and what would happen if SF were open to discussion on those policies. Labour still professes to be a left wing party. Just think about what they are saying here. ‘ We can enter government with the most right wing party in the state and we think we can form a good government getting some of our policies through, however there is no way we could work with another party that professes a left wing ideology.’ It’s a madhouse!

It is the best example yet of a party ruling out another because it wants to attack them and fight for votes so it doesn’t want them to appear at all reasonable. Labour do it to SF, SF do it to FF, FF do it to FG, FG do it to SF, FF do it to SF, SF do it to FG. We are living in a playground.

Politicians promises will be broken. It happens because they promise us things from a world where they get their way all the time. None of us live in such a world. We all have to do what others want and politicians have to make do with what the electorate want. FF had to accept that in 1989. Politics changes, people change. The only thing you can be responsible for is yourself. You can lay out your policies and be strict as you like about your red line issues. In all likelihood you will automatically make coalition impossible with certain partners as a result, but it’s not personal. If a day comes when someone agrees with your policy then nothing can be ruled out. Next time you hear a politician definitively rule out working with anyone else, ask them to lay out exactly why, to lay out the issues they see and ask them what if those issues were addressed. That is the test of a true democrat.

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