This is the first edition of the new A Bit Left and A Bit Lost weekly review. While articles will continue to be the main medium of idea exchange on the site, I’m also starting to give brief thoughts on the week that passed. Initially, I’m going to try and focus by region based on my own political bias but the format will be tinkered with…
It was quite the week in Irish politics. There was the political fallout within Fianna Fail from Micheal Martin coming out in the Dail last week and announcing he is for Repealing the Eight Amendment. He went even further when he said he believes it should be replaced with abortion on demand for the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. Given that his party had voted to campaign to keep the Eight Amendment in their Ard Fheis last October it was a very decisive, albeit risky move. He has certainly exposed his flank for attack from the more ambitious and vocal potential challengers, of whom Michael McGrath and Dara Calleary both openly voiced their disagreement with their leader’s position.
If it was tough going for Michael Martin, Leo Varadkar can look back on a good week where his party performed very strongly in two opinion polls. Ipsos and Red C gave Fine Gael 9 and 6 point leads respectively. He did have a bit of bother over his comments in the Dail on Tuesday where he claimed people can save for mortgages by “getting money from their parents” or “going abroad”. Varadkar can come across as a bit out of touch at times and he’ll probably try and avoid off the cuff comments after the relative backlash he received.
The main story for me was the open criticism of Tory leadership and their Brexit negotiations by Jacob Rees Mogg. Mogg is a colourful character who is an arch Brexiteer and has become more and more vocal in his criticism of how Brexit is taking shape. He took aim this week at the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, over comments he made at Davos;
“Instead of doing what we’re normally doing in the trade negotiations – taking two divergent economies with low levels of trade and trying to bring them closer together to enhance that trade, we are taking two completely interconnected and aligned economies with high levels of trade between them, and selectively moving them, hopefully very modestly, apart,”
This sounds quite reasonable but Theresa May quickly checked her Chancellor who clarified his comments on Twitter. However, this came too late for Mogg who accused David Davis and the government of becoming a “vassal state”.
The talk of a leadership challenge against May has certainly increased in the last week, as well as that of a second Brexit referendum. As January draws to a close, it feels like the British public and media have finally woken their post-Christmas nap and remembered that Brexit wasn’t just a turkey-induced nightmare. The pace of change and potential for major events in British politics is growing daily.
Davos was a major talking point this week. The key event was Donald Trump’s speech. The man loves attention and this event was built for that. His speech was like the headline band finishing off a four-day festival in the snow. I watched it and thought the actual sopeech was quite decent. He didn’t diverge from his major positions but he delivered his message in a calm but confident tone. It was well removed from some of his more notorious addresses in recent
It did get a little off-kilter in the Q&A section. He boasted about how under his leadership the stockmarket is up 50% but would have been down 50% if Hillary Clinton had been elected. He also drew hisses from the crowd when he claimed he had not known how “nasty, how mean, how vicious and how fake the media can be”.
Unfortunately, comments like this have become so common as to barely register with many members of the public anymore. It is a sorry state of affairs for US politics but not something that can be changed in the short term..