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.
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..