Johnny Fallon

Irish Political Commentator

Archive for the tag “politics”

The flat-pack political campaign

No matter where they take place or who is running, political campaigns seem to follow the same basic patterns the world over.

  1. You are a living saint

Ok, well we know opponents make you out to be the devil so perhaps it’s natural that your own campaign makes you out to be so amazing. But a bit of humanity would not go amiss from time to time. Listening to the endorsements and speeches about what an amazing honourable wonderful person you are really just reminds us all that if it were entirely true you wouldn’t be in politics.

  1. Social media divides obsessively until it is an echo chamber

It is kind of funny to watch a campaign on social media. The supporters of a person or an opinion waste hours of their lives valiantly arguing why the person on their side is amazing. The only people that pay them any heed are their direct opponents. They eventually spend more hours arguing and insulting each other. Then they block each other until there are only people of the same view in their timeline. After that they tell you everyone agrees with them and they haven’t heard anyone who will vote the other way. The rest of us just ignore them all and sigh as they get on their hobby horse and bang out yet another tweet about how their candidate was so amazing tonight.

  1. People with serious questions

Various debates will show people asking questions. Sometimes people will ask a question in the street. More questions will come from a focus group. There is not much value in any of them. People usually ask the best questions, and give the most telling insights, when they are alone with you. In larger media led campaigns this means it can be very difficult to ever get to the truth. Put a few people in a room and all you are going to get is a lot of chin stroking and people asking and saying what they think will sound intelligent to everyone else. Or get them a clap. One or the other. People love clapping. Don’t ask me why. The only genuine views will come from people who have a long ago made up their mind before they ever asked the question in the first place.

  1. There will be abuse

Sorry folks this one just goes with the territory. There will be abuse and lots of it. Just remember nobody has the high moral ground on this one. Nobody thinks that what they say is abusive and everyone thinks the other side are worse at it. The problem is once you start to slag off your opponent personally, you can be sure your supporters are going one step further. Of course the other side will always engage in lots of whataboutery and hurl abuse at you suggesting it’s ok because someone once said something to them.

  1. There will be a media conspiracy

Ah bless. The old media chestnut. There is not a party, campaign or grouping that doesn’t think there is a media bias against them. The questions asked of their leaders are always tougher than the questions asked of other leaders. The media is always populated by your opponents or their family and they are trying to scupper you. It truly is amazing to watch every political grouping have the exact same gripe at the exact same time but with totally opposing points of view. Of course this ‘conspiracy’ is necessary. It’s how you dismiss bad PR and errors. It is how you keep your flock together by telling them everyone else is against us. All questions dismissed, if a doubt should creep in tell everyone that is ‘what the media want you to think’ and they will dismiss the doubt soon enough. The media meanwhile are off having a few drinks and couldn’t care less what any of them think.

  1. Options are in fact limited

Despite all the talk of ideology and focus on policies the voter’s options are quite limited. The candidate is either:

a) Somebody allied to a view you could never agree with

b) Someone willing to agree with any view anyone wants them to

c) Someone you voted for before and got burned

d)Somebody who just might be crazy

7. Politics is an open relationship

When you start out you gather lots of like minded people around you. You serve these people. They work hard for you and they believe in you. Great. The problem is that this becomes a committed relationship. They expect you to always be there for them and do what they want. Unfortunately to be really successful in politics you need to woo other voters. Politics requires your supporters to accept an open relationship. You cannot always do as they want you must appeal to others. You spend your time winking and smiling at others while your arm is around your own voters. In time you must convince them that an open relationship is good for all or you hit a ceiling that you cannot grow beyond.

  1. Tell them what they want to hear

In fairness it might not be pretty but if you want to win a campaign it is a good way to go. A comforting lie is more appealing than an inconvenient truth. People have things they want to believe and will find any reason to believe them. Everyone wants it to be simple. So why do politicians have focus groups and opinion polls and research? Well to find out exactly what the public want so they can pretend to be that. Like the Taxi driver who always has the answer to everything, the politician always knows what to do until they are in government. Tell people what they want to hear and they will love you, but be prepared that if you end up in power you will then break loads of promises. But then that’s the problem with comforting people: it’s all fine until reality kicks in.

  1. Believing the hype

With all the razzmatazz of a campaign it is easy to get swept along. There are a few steady heads who know that it is all show for the most part. They don’t believe it all and keep themselves grounded. They are rare though. It is far more common to either have a candidate who thinks they are amazing, with an ego the size of an alternate universe or they get utterly crushed by it all and sound beaten before they start. If a candidate believes they are as good as the hype says then a disaster will not be far away. As an advisor if you pause for a moment and feel you have to ease the blow of telling them an interview was bad, then you have a crushed egg right there, start sending out your CV.

  1. I’m just like you

It is a fairly simple rule but when all is boiled down that is the essence of any campaign. The trick is simply to convince voters ‘I’m just like you’. In reality I’m nothing like you but that’s not the point. Once a candidate can show they identify with you, understand you; think like you, feel like you, then it’s like voting for yourself. Why wouldn’t you trust them? The candidate who wins is always the candidate who convinces the most people of this. It is all one massive piece of theatre designed to prove just how much like a normal person I am. But of course I’m not. You will be disappointed in time.

  1. Denial

It doesn’t take long for whoever wins an election to become unpopular. This is usually because they have said what people want to hear and tried to prove they are normal. Suddenly you can’t find anyone that admits to voting for whoever it was that won. ‘Who voted for this? Not me!’

  1. The circle of life

In the end every dog will have its day. Ups and downs may come but if you hang around long enough eventually the wheel of fortune stops on you. Politicians grip this moment and squeeze it for all it is worth. It will eventually be taken from them and all end in disaster and abuse. Not long after it is over they will wonder why they did it and why they clung on for so long. It is at this moment they actually do become a normal person, look back and think ‘What the hell did I do…’

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Lessons for Office Politics

Many young people find it difficult to negotiate the hard world of office politics. Some of the brightest and best young graduates fail to reach their true potential due to getting swamped in a murky world of friendships, favouritism and preferences.

The problem is that there is nothing to prepare you for this. There is no course or discussion to assist you. This is because we don’t really like admitting it exists. We tend to like the idea of everything being a complete meritocracy in our company or profession. However, human nature is such that our relationships play just as big a role in our career as our talents.

There are some lessons that national politics can teach us to help in this endeavour though. The study of this can help a person to understand just why such a system exists and to deal with the grim realities. There are many lessons to learn. Here I am condensing them down to 6 simple rules.

1. Hard work is only a start.
OK all your life you have been told that hard work is what gets you what you want. Hard work will answer anything. The truth is hard work is vitally important and necessary but it is only a start. You cannot rely on hard work to see you through. There have been many hard working politicians who never got anywhere in politics. If a politician were to simply sit at their desk preparing legislation, and helping constituents, towing the party line and putting in hard yards we all know they would be respected but probably not progress. If they want to get to the top they must also use the media, build relationships, and communicate well. Hard work is a great thing, but others will steal your thunder. Others will criticise you just to stop your progress. Hard work is a start but it needs to be defended, marketed and protected.

2. What others think matters
Once again you have probably always been told not to care what people think. To get on with your work and give others no heed. I am sorry but it just won’t work out that way. It does matter what others think. A politician must gain trust. They must get respect in media and their colleagues must be willing to follow them. Other people’s opinions of you matter because it frames all your future career chances. This is how you are seen and you must pay attention to shaping and moulding that in the most favourable light. You can be as great as you like but if people don’t like you then you are going nowhere. Think of it like a house. The inside may be beautiful but only friends and family see that. The outside of the house is what everyone else sees and there are far more of them.

3. Play the Game.
Politics, whether national or in an office, is a game. Different people play it to different levels. You should never let the game suck you in and become an obsession. Bertie Ahern could be accused of letting that happen. However, an even greater error is trying to deny the game exists or steadfastly refuse to play. If you want to be successful then you have to understand it and play it. A quick look at political parties across countries down through the years will show you that while many start out as renegades outside the box, in order to be successful they eventually play the game and learn to play it well. You need friends and allies. You must seek them out and work with them. There are compromises to be made and certain things you will have to go along with in order to achieve or get support for a bigger aim. Don’t lose yourself but don’t stand on the sidelines. It has to be done.

4. You must Lead.
If you want success then you have to show at least some leadership qualities. A meek backbencher in national politics will always remain no more than that. What is it that allows some others stand out? Confidence. Decisiveness. Belief. Charisma. These are all qualities that can and must be developed. People gravitate toward those who form opinions rather than those who follow them. Going into a meeting are you one of those that is a key player yet to be convinced or are you one of those that they can safely assume will follow if we get the main players on board?

5. Respect all.
While nobody likes to admit to it one of the greatest failings we possess is a lack of respect. At first it sounds easy enough. Respect those ahead of you. Bosses, leaders, superiors. You don’t have to defer to them all the time but you do need to respect them and their experience. Do not dismiss anyone. A person may not be as well educated, they may not appear all that bright but they got to a position somehow and until you respect how they did that you are not going to find a way around them. Nobody likes a sycophant but we all do like to be appreciated and our experience noted. The bigger problem is of course those you disagree strongly with. Opponents or competitors. We have a tendency to always dismiss these and show them no respect. Politics contains a lot of this. They are ‘fools’ or ‘incompetents’. We like to name call and have a good snigger behind their back. That happens. Do not let it make you think you are correct though. More than anything else you must understand an opponent or competitor. You must know what makes them tick and what their next move will be. Therefore you need to learn about them, and from them, and to do that you need to respect them. If they really were so useless then you would not be competing or thinking about them would you? Whatever it is they have, its causing a block to you and if you are as talented as you believe then clearly this opponent has ability.

6. Communication is key
It doesn’t matter what walk of life you are in Communication is the key to success. Great Doctors fail because of a poor bedside manner. The knowledge of a teacher is useless unless they can get it across. A politician that can’t communicate won’t last long. In any job you need to be able to communicate with those around you and with customers. You need to develop it so that others see you as an important part of the team. If the customers like you then you are on to a winner. If you communicate well to your colleagues they are far more likely to want to be an ally. if you communicate well to your superiors then they will appreciate your talents far more.

There is much more to learn as you go. Just remember that its always going to be there and there’s not much you can do but use it to your advantage. May the Force be with you!

Striking a balance on political interference

We have a habit of complaining about political interference. That is understandable really. Politicians often make a mess of things and abuse situations when they interfere. The Cahill plan to save Aer Lingus in the early nineties worked because it made the politicians back off and leave the running of the company to the people in the industry. We have had situations of phone tapping, we had a Minister for Justice and Communications that was determined to try and destroy RTE as he perceived them as biased. We had health boards that were run at the behest of politicians. We still have grave doubts over the locations of primary care centres after alleged political interference last year. One only has to mention the word ‘planning’ to make the whole nation heave a sigh and shake their head ruefully. The list of examples is and endless stream which helps convince us that political interference is never a good thing.

Is that really the case though? I am convinced that there is a balance to be struck. The problem is that a bad politician will act in their own self interest and abuse a situation. At the same time we will suffer if good politicians become convinced that they should always steer clear. In the late ’90s it became fashionable to set up ‘independent bodies’. No matter where you looked there was another independent body springing up. The purpose of these was to create distance. Ministers were not to be held accountable and blamed for decisions, strikes, problems and activities. The Minister would simply become a conduit to ‘raise the matter’ with the appropriate people. The best example of this was the HSE, particularly under the stewardship of Minister Harney. It all seemed a good way to do business. I often thought it was the perfect example of the Bertie Ahern leadership style, where compromise and distance replaced decisiveness and speed. Procedures became more important than results.

Now, the next step was of course the appointment of people to the boards. In an ideal world the idea of a minister making such appointments makes a lot of sense. The Minister should have a voice they can trust at the table. A person who will help to ensure that the elected governments views and objectives are always kept in mind. The reality was different. Instead of it being a job it became a reward. People were not appointed to one board they were appointed to several. No longer did these individuals see their role as somehow bringing something to the board or aiding in government plans, it was instead their reward for previous work done. Therefore getting something out of it was the main objective rather than seeing it as a new role where they had to prove themselves. On the other hand, Ministers gave out these roles and then quite happily distanced themselves from everything. If decisions were taken they did not want to know. After all you can’t be blamed for something you were never told about.

We certainly do not know all the story as regards the banking crisis. However, all the evidence so far points in one direction. It was what I call the ‘golf club syndrome’. All the lads knew each other. Each one thought the other was a great guy. It allowed for groupthink to penetrate. If we all keep saying it it must be true. If there’s a rumour of an issue in a bank then we don’t haul them in or look for information. Instead, the Minister asked the Department Secretary over lunch, to talk to the Central Bank. The Central Bank has a chat with the Regulator when he pops in. The Regulator picks up the phone to the Banks CEO and asks if everything is OK. The CEO says it is. The message is relayed back and everyone is happy. Next item will be the banks invitation to a golf classic or a conference. Take them at their word. Don’t interfere; these guys know what they are doing.

Charities and boards go wild on payments, retirement packages and top ups but nobody sees a reason to mention it at the time. Worse, no politician sees a reason for them to be questioning such things as guardians of the tax payer. They don’t want to know. The less you know the less you can be blamed for.

Irish Water is the latest in this line with its raft of consultants and its laughing yoga. Minister Hogan told everyone that he doesn’t ‘micro mange’. Of course not. The best escape any minister can have is to ‘know nothing of this matter’ and to be ‘appalled when it was brought to my attention’. Not once did anyone think that in such a vital project that Ministers needed to interfere a bit by asking questions, demanding reports and ensuring satisfactory answers.

It is quite clear that there are politicians who abuse their power and that will never change. We must simply guard against it. Always question their motives and ask them for answers. It should not be a reason for politicians to back away from decisions and responsibility. When they do we can see that other people are equally capable of abusing a situation, and they carry on using public money with absolutely no concept of public accountability. Such people also lack any kind of judgment when it comes to public opinion and seem completely disconnected from the lives of everyday people. Perhaps before taking up any such role we should ask an individual to spend 6 months on the dole just to let them understand why value for money is important.

In any event we must strive for a balance. Where politicians abuse their power we must ensure it is reported and uncovered. We must also demand that politicians stop abdicating their responsibility as protectors of the public and start demanding answers and actions rather than throwing their hands in the air and sighing with the rest of us helpless sods.

Anglo Tapes – Ireland, Banks, Politics, Has anything really changed?

The summer break can’t come quick enough for many politicians. It has been another long year. No doubt some will point to progress but the public are unlikely to be too convinced. When Brian Lenihan set out his four year plan many people were fuming and quite understandably so. The Lenihan plan set out four years of hardship and sacrifice and even at the end of that 4 years we were only to be looking at things stabilising. As it turns out that’s exactly the picture that’s emerging.

Now, that is not necessarily praiseworthy. The Irish people have suffered immensely for years now and the EU has been paralysed in acting. The EU that does hold the answers and can fix the problem whenever it gets around to sorting out its own petty differences and growing up enough to actually face the problem. In the meantime hapless governments in bailed out states are just trying to bob along like victims of a sunken ship desperately scanning the horizon for a rescue boat.

The Anglo Tapes will increase the fury of even the most level headed citizen. The attitude displayed on the tapes is appalling. While you and I and so many families, fall behind in our mortgages, struggle to pay the food bill and continue to sacrifice we are reminded, by these tapes, that some guys thought it would be ok to fool the state and have them pick up the tab. We are paying the price for a society that at its top level believed lying was ok, that it’s normal and that sharp practice is a victimless crime so long as the victim is only an ordinary punter. We are paying the price for a system that lauded such disregard of people. Perhaps we should not be surprised. A casual glance at TV programmes like the Apprentice seemed to show us that an attitude of being an obnoxious asshole was a pre-requisite to work in business.

We are paying the price for a regulatory system that was run on the cheap and believed that the people who know best about a business are those who run it. Don’t interfere. We are paying the price for a culture where the ‘providing of jobs’ was paramount and an excuse to allow a business free rein to do as it pleased, to breach rules or avoid paying simply because …well…think of the jobs.

Finally, we are paying the price for a political system that lacked courage or conviction. A system that accepted any information it was fed, that failed to question for years before the crisis. Politicians and government ministers stood in awe of the great captains of industry. A fool’s trust was exercised on golf courses and dinner functions where if someone says it’s ok then it must be ok. As David McWilliams continually points out we were suffering from extreme groupthink and nobody wanted to appear the fool in front of the group.

The problem is that I am not so sure that much has changed. The EU seems no closer to facing its issues, in fact the EU still seems to carry a candle of hope that the problems will go away themselves if the US and China sort it out and the bailed out states can eventually grow in their own time. The EU still does not want to lead and still procrastinates on any action while an option exists to stay put. The suffering of ordinary people does not matter, that is but a fleeting page in a history book that will instead focus on legacies and long term plans.
What about our banks? Have they learned? Definitely not. Their approach to their business remains the same as ever. Humility or regret is not part of their make up. The salaries at the top just prove that all believe that the world can and should continue as normal for them. This week thousands of mortgage holders are in distress. The banks have failed utterly and completely to engage, their plans for dealing with mortgage debt are hopelessly inadequate and the offer little or no real solutions that would allow the borrower to pay off arrears and get back on their feet. They are swamped in paperwork and hike up the interest and charges on the borrower while taking months to come to basic decisions on interest only payments etc which are in themselves pretty ineffective. Why is this? It’s because the banks want stronger rules on repossession and they are getting their way. That’s because it might take work to meet and discuss with mortgage holders and arrive at a solution. They don’t want that, they want a form filled in and put into a computer and rejected then move on. Mortgage holders are ordinary people, the banks are professionals, therefore when it comes to government policy, the banks get their way. Nothing has changed.

What about politics? Well I doubt anyone is shocked to find it’s the same old story. Fianna Fail took a hammering and we were told it was a sea change. It was a sea change for us political nerds. It was a sea change in terms of names of political movements. That was all. Brian Lenihan famously said ‘We all partied’, the quote, often taken out of context, was referring to all political parties whom he was accusing of making rash promises about the economy in order to get votes and he claimed all were guilty. All parties were. Fianna Fail were the ones at the wheel though and they must take the blame, they cannot look at the opposition or others and say ‘you made me do it’, they lacked courage to question, the lacked conviction and they were not brave enough to accept losing in order to do the right thing.

The current government must now accept its share of blame. It cannot continue saying ‘FF made us do it’. This government has also lacked conviction and belief, we know that there may not be much scope in terms of many policies, voters even accept that, but what has shocked them is the fact that the personality of the government is no different. In fact at times it has been even more arrogant, tied closer to business interests and displayed the same awe of those at the top as any of its predecessors. If politicians cannot look at the last government and see where that led what hope is there for us? Surely it’s now evident that long term governments are not naturally correct? That staying in power is not always the brave thing to do? That voting against what you believe does not automatically mean you are putting the country first?

According to the polls Labour will suffer most. It’s hardly surprising. What is surprising is that this party which showed such strength and conviction in opposition, being the only ones to vote against the bank guarantee, is now a party utterly lacking in belief or direction. No doubt some supporters will point to me of several things they are trying to achieve, the latest of which will be the ‘X’ legislation. I am unconvinced that the hard pressed voter will feel a labour capitulation on economic matters was worth it for ‘X’ legislation, but perhaps I’m wrong. It seems however that courage has deserted their ranks and instead they will await a good opportunity to change. No new leader will emerge to rock the boat until awkward elections are out of the way or difficult budgets are made. A strategy that’s nothing to do with what you actually think, nothing to do with bravery and nothing to do with the people, but everything to do with supposedly being politically smart. They should ring Bertie he might tell them where that leads.

Irish Politics, It’s like booking a holiday…

Ah yes, its summer. That time of year when we all start to head off on a holiday somewhere nice and sunny. Ireland is a country that’s badly in need of a holiday but if our political parties are the tour operators then that is where we start to have a problem.

You see we used to go on holiday with one tour operator for many years. This operator, Fianna Fail, gave us some very good holidays. They also gave us some bad experiences but in the main we were feeling ok, especially in recent times when we went to some lovely destinations. They normally partnered with a smaller local operator for tours and they often had to change these and told us that any problems were down to them. These smaller local operators (PDs and Greens) did not fill us with confidence but we went along with them as part of the package.

It was all fine until a few holidays ago. We wanted a real break and felt we deserved it. We decided to treat ourselves and go to Barbados. It wasn’t cheap but Fianna Fail told us it was well within our reach so what the hell? We work hard, now it was time to relax and enjoy it. The problem was when we got off the plane we were not in Barbados we were in….Bratislava. We quickly mentioned that there must be a mistake, but to our surprise, instead of sorting it out and finding us another flight out, the tour reps smiled and shrugged saying ‘We are where we are, you might as well try to enjoy it’. Well, we now felt like right tools walking around in our floral shirts and Bermuda shorts in Bratislava. There wasn’t even a pool. When we asked the local operator, the Greens, if there was anything for us to do or see here, they looked at us blankly and said ‘We never intended to end up here either’. It was the most miserable holiday of our lives and we swore never, ever again. Fianna Fail had broken our trust and no matter what went before, this was a disaster too far. On the flight home, FF ditched the guys who sold us the holiday and put up an ‘under new management’ sign, but it was too little too late. We marched into them and told them we were taking our business away for good. That felt great at the time, but it’s almost a little scary that as we plan this year’s holiday we are starting to feel like we may have no option but to go back to them. Why? Oh well that’s because of last years holiday.

You see we decided to get away from FF and went to another company we had holidayed with the odd time FG/Labour. Now we had some bad experiences with them 30 years ago but it was all changed now, they had proven themselves fairly solid. We also remembered the some good holidays we had spent in their company. At least they never had the utter disaster we experienced with the whole Bratislava business. FG/Labour were very eager for our business. That felt good too. They had special health insurance, a 5 point plan for a good holiday, handy checklists, and they told us we could start paying into a holiday fund month by month and then choose our destination when the time came. It was perfect. If we saved hard we could be on our way to Barbados soon. Finally after much saving in the holiday fund, they sent out the brochure with this years options. It was a rather flimsy affair. We had saved all our money with them and now they tell us there is only one destination this year…..Bratislava. We were very angry. We went into the office and demanded an explanation as to why they had told us so much was possible. They just smiled broadly and said ‘Oh but it is, its all still possible…just not yet….new destinations will be coming on stream in the next 5 to 10 years just stick with us’. We tried pointing out that they didn’t tell us this at the time but it was no use. We ask if at least the new health insurance is on offer……they smile ‘Oh it will be..it will be…eventually’. We point out that everything in the Bratislava holiday is exactly what FF had given us the last time but the soothe us as they walk us dejectedly out of the office by saying ‘Ah but yes, the difference is this time you are not travelling with FF, the last time you thought you were going to Barbados, at least this time we told you before you got on the plane? Isn’t that so much better?’

Perhaps we were being harsh. Maybe Bratislava would be fun. But it wasn’t, it was the same old thing as the year before and we felt even more cheated. We went to the local operator, Labour, to see if they had at least got some exciting day trips, only they told us no, apparently FG had not accounted for any of their things in the price and that they were not allowed bring us anywhere, it was a matter to take up with FG. Bloody marvellous. The only difference this year was we had a jumper on and that was about as much comfort as we could take. We began to idly wonder if FF had learned a lesson, but we seriously doubted it.

So where to next? Well there’s a few people endlessly talking about setting up a new tour operator but they just don’t seem to be able to organise themselves. There is another sizeable company Sinn Fein. The problem with these guys is that they do the extreme holidays. They are the company we went with when we finished the Leaving Cert or after first year exams in college. They are great for the under 25s. They do all the radical stuff. The problem is we don’t really want that kind of holiday anymore. Sure it was all great fun at the time but now we like something a bit more relaxed and stable. We didn’t care at 18 but now we have bills and responsibilities and we were never quite convinced that the Insurance policy SF offered, should something go wrong, was really adequate. There were stories from years ago about people that never came back but at least they appeared to have sorted all that out now. Still though, we are a bit long in the tooth to going extreme snowboarding in Tibet. Now maybe if SF partnered with FG or FF and we got a more normal destinations and a bit more relaxing but with better service then we might consider it. However SF told us they don’t do partnerships so it’s off the agenda for now.

We had friends who went with some independent operators. These were fairly ok but the problem is it’s a lot of work. Its like booking from Dublin to London with one operator, then he gives you a number of a fella to ring when you get there and he can get you from London to Paris, then he has a number for a guy that might put you up for a few nights before another guy can get you a connecting flight to somewhere else. Its all a bit disorganised and you don’t really get looked after the way we want. It’s a bit like backpacking around the world on your own steam. Its grand and you manage it and end up with great stories to tell, but in reality at this stage of life we don’t have time for that craic and have long thrown out our rucksacks.

So maybe we should forget holidays and just stay at home until the operators sort themselves out. Maybe we should return to FF crossing our fingers that they have learned and are not going to laugh heartily as the drop us in outer Mongolia, maybe we should stick with the guys we have now, FG/Lab, see if they come good on their word eventually? Even if they are about as much excitement as a sleepover at Danas house. Or maybe we cud risk the SF or Independent route and relive our youth? Ah who are we kidding? They all have the same governing body, the troika, and their idea of a holiday for us is a two night midweek in Tubbercurry.

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