So how does an election candidate feel after a gruelling campaign followed by a twenty one hour count that goes on until the cold light of dawn brightens into the full light of day?
Like a garment that has been churned overlong in an industrial washing machine, with periodic bouts of intense spin drying, and after a final rinse and spin, comes to a shuddering halt in a drained and shrunken condition. And that is when one has emerged successfully!
It is a somewhat similar experience for others intimately involved – election directors, party workers and supporters who put so much into the effort, because they believe in it.
However, while any election campaign is made up of thousands of stories of the individual actors, what is most significant, of course, is what the outcome tells about where society stands in terms of politics and the future. And by any standards the outcome of the Local and Euro Elections last Friday was dramatic and highly significant.
Friday, June 5th, was a day of retribution. Fianna Fail, for the first time, stood in front of the Irish people utterly bereft of the various disguises behind which it had historically hidden its true nature as the political creature of the property speculators and quick buck merchants.
This time, the relentless economic hurricane unleashed by policies emerging from its crony relationship with the big developers, had ripped the disguises away, revealing a party whose only policy now is to slash and burn workers’ wages and public services in a desperate bid to rescue its floundering system.
Repelled by what they have seen of the reality of Fianna Fail, and angered by its blatant policy of salvaging crony capitalism and those whose greed brought down the economy, the victims of those policies have struck back and decimated the party in these elections. And there was extensive collateral damage to the Green Party. Hardly surprising. If you manoeuvre yourself into a position of being a stepping stone for Fianna Fail to power, and thereby facilitate its savage assault on living standards, you must not be surprised if those suffering the cuts tread on you with muddy boots as they step up to bang down the Fianna Fail door.
More significant than mere retribution, June 5th was also a day when people looked for alternatives. That search certainly benefitted Fine Gael and the labour Party. That is not surprising as these parties, with huge media coverage, have mounted a sustained verbal opposition to Government policies from the onset of the crisis. Unfortunately, however, any hope invested in the ability of those parties to resolve the current crisis will end in bitter disappointment.
The Fine Gael remedy is for cuts equal to or deeper than those being carried out by the current government. The Labour Party maintains its dishonest masquerade of standing in the next General Election as an ‘independent’ party. Dishonest, because it will be prepared to go into power with Fine Gael, post election ,without having told the people which of Fine Gael’s right wing policies it will be prepared to implement and which of its own policies it will ditch.
However, there was a very significant pointer to a future trend in Irish political life evident in the election outcome. Candidates of the Left received impressive support for an economic, social and political alternative to the establishment. We see here in outline form, the beginnings of a process that must be developed to redress the huge political vacuum that exists in Irish politics, and in European politics, where working people and the unemployed have no mass party with the political weight needed to provide an alternative to the right.
There is also a clearing of the undergrowth following the elections. In removing himself from the political scene, the founder of Libertas, Declan Ganley, ensures that the forthcoming debate on the rerunning of the Lisbon Treaty can concentrate on the substance of that Treaty as it affects crucial areas of the lives of ordinary people, including public services, EU militarisation plans and workers’ rights. The more time spent on highlighting these issues and the less on blatant red herrings, the more seriously voters will take the arguments of those opposed to Lisbon.
Mr Ganley showed extreme political naiveté and utter ignorance of the Irish political system when he declared that the Euro Election would be a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. And in gathering up a bedraggled collection of right wing organisations throughout the EU, supposedly as an alternative to the EU establishment, he merely gave that establishment the opportunity to caricature all those who reject Lisbon including those who highlight its neoliberal core which is inimical to the interests of European workers. No wonder the capitalist media elevated him massively over the Left opposition.