Friday, May 25, 2012

What's the Irish left got against the EU?

It would seem that a large part of the left wing in Ireland is really, when all is said and done, against the idea of Ireland belonging to the European Union. 

Last week I took the left leaning members of the opposition to task for not making a lot more of the proposals that have been put forward by the Germans and the French for a Tobin tax. My point, which I do not seem to have done enough to get across, was that it was preferable to work with the EU on measures to raise revenue for economic stimulation instead of simply opposing fiscal discipline, as they have been doing. After all, a transaction tax on stocks and bond dealing should be close to the heart of any Socialist, and money borrowed, even for spending in the hope (and it would be a hope – borrowing and spending are not of themselves a guarantee of success) of generating growth, has to be paid back. In any event borrowing, as we know to our costs since the onset of the Great Financial Crisis, is dodgy under any circumstances.

Now I read in the Irish Times that Sinn Fein, in particular, has campaigned against every EU treaty that has been agreed to by Ireland over the last 25 years. Joe Higgins has always given the strong impression of a man that only agreed to become a member of the European Parliament so that he could work to undermine it from within. A new survey has also found that even a large percentage of traditional Labour party voters, 41%, intends to vote against the treaty, despite the strong endorsement of it from all Labour ministers in the current coalition government.

So what’s with the Irish left and the EU? In the UK, it’s the Conservatives who have the most Euro sceptic members, and the Labour Party is the one that is committed to taking a full part in Europe. In France, the newly elected President, Francois Hollande, a Socialist, might have used rhetoric in his election that will cause him to look for growth measures to go with the Fiscal Pact, but a Euro sceptic he most certainly is not. And Angela Merkel and her party, while supporting balanced budgets, are not afraid to put forward measures that will arouse the ire of capitalism (and should therefore expect to be embraced by Socialism), a good example being the aforementioned Tobin tax.

Perhaps opposition to Europe is a means our Socialists have decided on in order to differentiate themselves from other parties. This might have its attractions in providing a quick fix to gain electoral support in a deep recession, when voters are casting around for anything and everything that represents the status quo so that it can be punished, but it is not in the best interest of the country, nor, I would propose, even in the long term electoral best interests of the politicians concerned.

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