Monday, January 19, 2015

A left alliance to counter the political right

Some commentators argue that left/right politics is redundant. That such terms are outdated and are a relic of the past. They are described as 'old fashioned' and as having no place in our modern political system. Of course it is absolute nonsense. Maybe a section of the electorate do not associate with such terminology or there is a need to change the language - but the ideological battle is the same. It's Labour vs Capital, small Government and light touch regulation vs public services and a managed economy, it's progressive vs regressive taxation, it's the power of the collective and community vs individualism and a race to the bottom. Or put simply it's the reverse of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.

This is important as we approach important elections North and South. In recent times right wing parties in the North rolled over and were prepared to accept budget cuts and welfare cuts while Sinn Fein stood in isolation defending the most vulnerable. The party fought with others to hold the line, take a stand for increased funding and reject vicious British Tory cuts supported by a conservative Dublin Government. Considering the balance of forces tremendous credit is due to the Sinn Fein negotiating team for the outcome. Left/right politics was far from redundant in these recent talks.

In the South the policies of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are conservative, regressive, unfair and create social and economic inequality. It's about reducing the public sector, gutting public services, building an economy on low pay and tax cuts and pay increases which favour the top earners and the wealthy. The ESRI have described each and every budget from this Fine Gael/Labour Government as regressive and favouring the top 40% earners as opposed to the remaining 60%. In simple terms - low and lower middle income earners benefit least. What is needed is a reversal of this trend.

A broad, sustainable and politically mature left alternative is required. This must involve those serious about Government and making change. Now is not the time for sniping from the sidelines or hurlers in the ditch. We need real leadership and a solid, progressive, realistic and deliverable left alternative. It must involve Sinn Fein, progressive left Independents, trade unions, NGO's, progressive economists and those on the left from the world of business, enterprise, sport, arts and culture.

Any serious left alternative must avoid engaging in auction politics. It must argue for taxation but taxes that are fair, progressive and necessary to invest in and provide first class public services. It must challenge the right wing election rhetoric of unsustainable and unrealistic tax cuts and wage increases. Reforming our tax system to move away from regressive stealth taxes to more progressive and direct taxation based on income must be front and centre. It must avoid the temptation to join in the auction politics. It is not only possible but necessary. The electorate are wary of false promises and poor leadership. They require honesty, fairness and strong political leadership. And this will come from the left - with Sinn Fein in the driving seat.