This was a good week for those like myself who would like to see a Corbyn led Labour Government in the UK and the softest possible Brexit while Michael McGrath’s star is rising…
I’ll start in the UK this week. Last Monday, many in the media reported that Jeremy Corbyn was threatening to sue Ben Bradley, the Conservative MP, over a libellous tweet which included the wholly false claim;
‘Corbyn sold British secrets to communist spies.
While there have been many claims and attacks on Corbyn from the Conservative Party (as well as from within his own ranks) since he became Labour leader, this was very easy to counterattack especially after the Czech government came out and stated this was simply not true.
It resulted in Ben Bradley posting a comprehensive apology to Jeremy Corbyn as well as a “substantial donation” to a homeless charity at the behest of the Labour leader. A major embarrassment for Bradly and the Government. However, politics moves quickly and this story will shortly be forgotten
What won’t be are the two respective speeches next week that Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn will give on their respective aims for Brexit. I’ll cover this separately in an article tomorrow but they could have a real impact on May’s premiership…
Fianna Fail landed some good punches on Fine Gael over potential sales of mortgage books from Permanent TSB to vulture funds. While this mantle was initially carried by Sinn Fein and Pearse Doherty, Fianna Fail shrewdly decided this was an issue to differentiate themselves from Fine Gael over and act like a true opposition by tabling their own motions.
This is an approach we have already seen work for Fianna Fail in the Maurice McCabe/Frances Fitzgerald drama late last year. Sinn Fein will need to come up with a strategy to prevent Fianna Fail simply cherry picking the issues that make good headlines while tacitly working with the government on others that do not offer as much political capital to oppose.
This approach by Fianna Fail seems to have worked well again as a poll published today by the Sunday Business Post put them at 29%, just 3% points behind Fine Gael as opposed to 8% and 11% in two polls published last week.
I have two thoughts on this this though. Firstly, any poll in isolation has limited value, especially when comparing against different polling agencies. If the upwards trend continues over the next couple of weeks then I may start to re-assess my current view that if a Dail election was called tomorrow, Fine Gael’s seat lead over Fianna Fail would substantially increase.
Secondly, Michael McGrath, as Fianna Fail spokesperson for finance, took the lead on this issue and his star continues to rise. He has opened some political distance between himself and Micheal Martin over the 8th Amendment issue and I do think he may consider a leadership challenge if a window of opportunity presents itself. He is currently 13/8 in betting terms and at 41 he may see this as the ideal time for him to take the next step, given the younger profile of new party leaders emerging across Europe…
My attention was spread thin over the week and please comment below if I’ve missed anything major…
The talks to form a new assembly in the North collapsed early last week. There had been major optimism this time last week that an agreement would be reached. I have written my take on it here so I won’t dwell on it. An agreement over the next while which still included an Irish Language Act would be a major boost for Sinn Fein as it appears the DUP are quite happy to fall back on their position as kingmaker in Westminster.
Project Ireland 2040 was launched on Friday in Sligo with much ado and has been heavily pushed by Govt. Time will tell whether this is met with scepticism or appreciation by the electorate.
The week finished very strongly for Fine Gael with two polls from Millward Brown and Behaviour and Attitudes/Sunday Times putting them on 36%, with an 8% and 11% lead over Fianna Fail respectively.
Unfortunately, there was another major shooting in the US. This time seventeen people were killed at a high school in Florida on Wednesday. The political system and gun culture means it will be quite difficult for things to really change in the short term but hopefully one day, America will also ban guns to a similar extant as many of its peers.
On Sunday, it emerged that former Trump aide, Robert Gates, has agreed to plead guilty and is willing to testify against Trump’s previous campaign manager, Paul Manafort. Robert Mueller’s web is widening, much to the chagrin of Trump but so far he seems pretty safe legally…
Boris Johnson stole the headlines earlier in the week with a speech on Brexit aimed at people who still believe remaining in the EU is possible. The most scathing criticism may have come from within his own party via Anna Soubry, the pro-European Conservative MP;
'I'm afraid to say that Boris has confirmed my very worst fears about him. I don't think he's a very good Foreign Secretary…….'It was actually a pitiful speech and I think a lot of people found it really rather embarrassing.'
Boris’ star has really waned in his current role and it does seem as if his time as a potential future Prime Minister has almost come to a close, my political punt on him back in September remains my worst one to date….
Theresa May did make a speech about future security co-operation in Munich but it was a more niche speech that hasn’t altered moved the needle on her overall Brexit performance.
Jacob Zuma resigned as President of South Africa on Wednesday, drawing a close to almost a decade of rule. Unfortunately, in the last few years corruption scandals cast a long shadow over the seventy-five-year old’s legacy and rule. It remains to be seen what direction South Africa will now move in…
February 11th, 2018; Mary Lou McDonald takes over and Barnier calls out the British Brexit stance...
An interesting week but one that will be quickly overshadowed by major events over the next couple of days...
Mary Lou McDonald took over as President of Sinn Fein from Gerry Adams. It was the worst kept secret in Irish politics for quite some time. I will write something on what I believe her focus and strategy should be soon so for now all I'll mention that her speech received quite a lot of praise.
Furthermore, it will be interesting to see her approval ratings in the next few polls. She may even get a good boost this week a new power-sharing agreement in Northern Ireland is confirmed.
There has been a lot of speculation recently about what the actual Brexit aims of the British government are. Stories involving internal Tory clashes have been omnipresent almost since the day after the Brexit referendum back in June 2016.
It seems the EU has finally run out of patience with the lack of clarity and this week, at a press conference in London, Michel Barnier called for the British to lay out their aims ahead of the next round of negotiations;
"time has now come to make a choice"
Theresa May has announced that there will be a lot of speeches and meeting over the next few weeks where the British position will become clearer.
Let’s hope this is the case for the sake of the British people, though further clarity could possibly spark a Conservative leadership contest.
It seemed like a quieter week than the previous seven days so quite a short entry today….
In Ireland there was some reporting from the O’Higgins Commission but so far it has failed to deliver any serious blows to the government. The tribunal will continue but there may already be media fatigue and it would take something truly explosive to bring it may to the front pages and impacting polls.
Simon Coveney, the Tanaiste (deputy Prime Minister) came out in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment but publicly announced that he believes that abortion on demand available for the first 12 weeks is a step too far. This could put him at odds with the rest of his cabinet or could equally be seen as a hedge to appease the more conservative voters in the party.
I wrote last week that “the pace of change and potential for major events in British politics is growing daily” after comments by Jacob Rees-Mogg and other members of the Conservative Party.
At this moment, nothing has fundamentally changed. All the same divisions and challenges are still there and a leadership challenge has not been triggered.
The memo that the President authorised did contain some details that Trump could use to disparage the FBI and their investigation. However, the fact that he released it at all has been used by the Democrats to claim he puts himself above national security.
The memo itself was quite difficult to decipher for someone like myself and I’ll leave the deeper analysis to others.