John Gormley’s lessons from Governments past…

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
― Mark Twain

John Gormley, late of the Green Party leadership, wrote a prescient article in the Village magazine around this time last year. In it, he listed some rules and lessons he’d learned the hard way during the Green Party’s term in government that led to their drubbing at the polls. It was passed around twitter yesterday, perhaps Labour should have consulted before stepping into office with Fine Gael, but then, as Kissinger said, “We won’t repeat their mistakes, we’ll make new ones all of our own”. Kissinger was probably being tongue-in-cheek, but his quip points to a certain hubris. Maybe we all believe we are different, that somehow Labour thought they wouldn’t fall prey to the same forces that almost vanquished the Greens. John lists nine ‘Rules’ that pretty much sum up the perhaps inevitable fate of a junior party in any government that is making decisions that cause hardship.

“More fundamentally, however, there is a real problem for those on the left in the Labour party, those who genuinely care about social justice. The problem is this: despite all the talk of preserving fairness and social-welfare rates etc, all of the FG/Labour budgets so far have been regressive. In other words, they have hit the poor harder than the wealthy. Contrast that with the record of the previous hated administration where every single budget was actually progressive, despite the severe cutbacks. This was due in no small part to the Green back-room team who went through every budget line to ensure as much fairness as possible. Is that really beyond the capability of the Labour advisors?

Gilmore has yet a few cards to play before he throws in his hand. The one ace up the sleeve, according to some in the Labour parliamentary party, is the renegotiation of the Programme for Government. Take it from someone with experience: this won’t work. Again, look at the precedent of the Greens. The junior party insisted on renegotiation and actually got practically everything they wanted. Did the electorate care? No. As for the media, they were just disappointed and angry when the Green Party members voted to continue in government.

Labour will bear the brunt of that disappointment, and Gilmore as leader will be sacrificed.”

“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach.”
― Aldous Huxley, Collected Essays