FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

War and Elections in Ireland and Britain

Dublin, Ireland

Newspapers and polls all tell their own stories about what “issues” dominate the elections to the British parliament due on May 5th. This week’s Sunday Times says Tony Blair’s Labour party has collapsed to a mere one-point lead because of concerns about asylum seekers; the same day’s Sunday Telegraph, armed with a different poll, says Labour has surged to a 10-point lead because of voter confidence in Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown and his handling of the economy.

None of the journals digress much into consideration of “margin of error”, because that would make it harder to sell newspapers on the basis of tiny shifts and statistically insignificant differences in poll figures. And few are prepared to contemplate how central the Iraq war is to this election, partly because its consequences for voters are so confusing. Omar Waraich has already written in CounterPunch about how hard it is to cast an anti-war vote. As one pundit said over the weekend, a significant number of voters are willing to do anything to punish Tony Blair ­ except to vote for the Conservatives, which is the only vote likely to toss him out of office.

The Conservative leader, Michael Howard, ensures Labour voters’ loyalty to Blair by running an unspeakably reactionary, demagogic campaign, in which vilifying asylum-seekers is only the tip of the racist iceberg. Forget the British version of the melting pot: Howard launched the election in the House of Commons by denouncing Blair’s alleged record of perfidy: “Taxes, up! Crime, up! Immigration, up!” Even the closure of the huge MG Rover auto plant near Birmingham, with the loss of more than 5,000 jobs courtesy of rapaciously Blairite “venture capitalists”, is unlikely to shift voters toward the Tories. On Iraq, Blair earnestly claims to prefer his principled opponents on the left to the opportunistic nitpicking of the pro-war Conservatives.

Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland (which elects its own MPs from a completely separate set of parties), Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein face the uncertain consequences of the apparently permanent end to that other war, the one fought by the military wing of their movement, the Provisional IRA. The speech to the IRA Adams gave earlier this month (also featured on Counterpunch) was, by any fair reading, a historic renunciation of the right to armed struggle under current political conditions in Ireland ­ i.e. with Sinn Fein making electoral gains. When Adams said he had “in the past” defended the IRA’s right to use force, it was clear he meant he could no longer do so.

Getting a fair reading for his speech has, however, proved difficult enough for Adams. With the Irish media on an anti-republican role in recent months, and continuing pressure from the McCartney sisters (who now claim they’re being harassed by republican supporters), it sometimes seems as though the longstanding peace process never happened. Sinn Fein’s main opposition among nationalist voters, the SDLP, is in disarray. But the Southern media, in particular, and politicians in the Republic have been lending a hand to the “moderate nationalist” party, with e.g. the Republic’s foreign minister, Dermot Ahern visiting the constituency of South Down, where Sinn Fein’s Caitriona Ruane, the human-rights campaigner who has been fighting for the Colombia Three for several years, is challenging the SDLP’s old stager, Eddie McGrady.

Despite the pressure, Sinn Fein’s vote is likely to rise again: over the last decade, the party’s unique positioning as both the (potentially) militant defender of nationalist communities and the party of peace has seen it make steady gains. It appears to be voluntarily withdrawing the first status, and its peace credentials have been challenged this year by the McCartneys and the fallout from the Northern Bank robbery. But it remains the obvious party to vote for either in support of the IRA and/or if you’d like to see its military role eclipsed by a non-violent political approach. The delicate balancing act was further displayed when Adams said the other day that the IRA would probably not respond in detail to his speech until after the election. (Some pretty good jokes have been made about Adams’s extended conversation with himself, but they’re not entirely fair: while he is almost certainly an IRA insider, and wouldn’t have addressed the IRA as he has without some confidence in its response, the IRA won’t stand down simply because he wishes it were so.)

In Britain, Tony Blair will benefit from the lack of a credible anti-war alternative. Among nationalist voters in Northern Ireland, Gerry Adams benefits from the lack of either an anti-war or pro-war alternative.

There’s a big difference, however. In Britain, the Conservatives had to drop their plans to run an ad campaign highlighting Blair’s likely resignation in the next term: the focus groups who saw the “Vote Blair, Get Brown?” posters were too enamoured of the prospect, which would make them more rather than less likely to vote Labour. In Ireland, even among those who don’t entirely trust Adams, a change in leadership of the republican movement is a much more worrying proposition.

HARRY BROWNE lectures in the school of media at Dublin Institute of Technology and writes for Village magazine. He can be contacted at harrybrowne@eircom.net.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Harry Browne lectures in Dublin Institute of Technology and is the author of The Frontman: Bono (In the Name of Power). Email:harry.browne@gmail.com, Twitter @harrybrowne

June 20, 2018
Henry Giroux
Trump’s War on Children is an act of State Terrorism
Bill Hackwell
Unprecedented Cruelty Against Immigrants and Their Children
Paul Atwood
“What? You Think We’re So Innocent?”
Nicola Perugini
The Palestinian Tipping Point
K.J. Noh
Destiny and Daring: South Korean President Moon Jae-In’s Impossible Journey Towards Peace
Gary Leupp
Jeff Sessions and St. Paul’s Clear and Wise Commands
M. G. Piety
On Speaking Small Truths to Power
Dave Lindorff
Some Straight Talk for Younger People on Social Security (and Medicare too)
George Wuerthner
The Public Value of Forests as Carbon Reserves
CJ Hopkins
Confession of a Putin-Nazi Denialist
David Schultz
Less Than Fundamental:  the Myth of Voting Rights in America
Rohullah Naderi
The West’s Over-Publicized Development Achievements in Afghanistan 
Dan Bacher
California Lacks Real Marine Protection as Offshore Drilling Expands in State Waters
Lori Hanson – Miguel Gomez
The Students of Nicaragua’s April Uprising
Russell Mokhiber
Are Corporations Behind Frivolous Lawsuits Against Corporations?
Michael Welton
Infusing Civil Society With Hope for a Better World
June 19, 2018
Ann Robertson - Bill Leumer
We Can Thank Top Union Officials for Trump
Lawrence Davidson
The Republican Party Falls Apart, the Democrats Get Stuck
Sheldon Richman
Trump, North Korea, and Iran
Richard Rubenstein
Trump the (Shakespearean) Fool: a New Look at the Dynamics of Trumpism
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Protect Immigrant Rights; End the Crises That Drive Migration
Gary Leupp
Norway: Just Withdraw From NATO
Kristine Mattis
Nerd Culture, Adultolescence, and the Abdication of Social Priorities
Mike Garrity
The Forest Service Should Not be Above the Law
Colin Todhunter
Pro-GMO Activism And Smears Masquerade As Journalism: From Seralini To Jairam Ramesh, Aruna Rodrigues Puts The Record Straight
Doug Rawlings
Does the Burns/Novick Vietnam Documentary Deserve an Emmy?
Kenneth Surin
2018 Electioneering in Appalachian Virginia
Nino Pagliccia
Chrystia Freeland Fails to See the Emerging Multipolar World
John Forte
Stuart Hall and Us
June 18, 2018
Paul Street
Denuclearize the United States? An Unthinkable Thought
John Pilger
Bring Julian Assange Home
Conn Hallinan
The Spanish Labyrinth
Patrick Cockburn
Attacking Hodeidah is a Deliberate Act of Cruelty by the Trump Administration
Gary Leupp
Trump Gives Bibi Whatever He Wants
Thomas Knapp
Child Abductions: A Conversation It’s Hard to Believe We’re Even Having
Robert Fisk
I Spoke to Palestinians Who Still Hold the Keys to Homes They Fled Decades Ago – Many are Still Determined to Return
Steve Early
Requiem for a Steelworker: Mon Valley Memories of Oil Can Eddie
Jim Scheff
Protect Our National Forests From an Increase in Logging
Adam Parsons
Reclaiming the UN’s Radical Vision of Global Economic Justice
Dean Baker
Manufacturing Production Falls in May and No One Notices
Laura Flanders
Bottom-Up Wins in Virginia’s Primaries
Binoy Kampmark
The Anguish for Lost Buildings: Embers and Death at the Victoria Park Hotel
Weekend Edition
June 15, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Dan Kovalik
The US & Nicaragua: a Case Study in Historical Amnesia & Blindness
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Yellow Journalism and the New Cold War
Charles Pierson
The Day the US Became an Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail