Sunday, April 15, 2007

Who Decides the Issues?

So talk radio, political commentary and in particular The Independent seem to have decided that Stamp Duty is the issue of this election and how it is dealt with by the canvassing parties and how they propose to reform this duty could be instrumental in winning over voters.

Where is the beginning point though in deciding what are the issues? House prices and the costs associated with investing in property are nothing new, they have been a central tenet of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ and surely could have been an issue at the last election or any of 10 years of budgets.

Yet this time around it is agreement on how to structure any reduction of the duty (as part of the FG, Labour joint manifesto), the impact it will have on house buyers and the effect on the housing market which is dominating the anticipation surrounding the release of manifesto carrots.

Despite the fact that events are obviously ongoing in the area of health, employment and crime the fact is these issues could be a bit stale and troubling for the political parties on both sides as focusing on them could be a Phyrric victory.

What can the opposition really say that would convince us that they could do a better job than the coalition with regard to these quagmires of issues. There is a difference of 50 seats to make back and the problem of a leader, whose face is conspicuously absent from campaign posters. They certainly have thrown promises at us but largely in the form of strong white font on a black background with little tangible evidence to support their achievability. There was a world of mismanagement last time out to lever the government out of power with, yet they failed miserably. In the lead up to this election the leader of the main party in power received payments in means as questionable as others who have been dragged through the Tribunals. What sort of lunkheads are we dealing with that Bertie Ahern can still be front and centre to their re-election campaign, with candidates running under the banner of ‘Berties Team’, and they have failed to build up a front bench anyway endeared to the public that they could put one of their faces on the national campaign? Tactic: launch a half-assed partnership with Labour, who know they don’t want Bertie in power but are also not so sure about Enda, and have Stamp Duty negotiations be the only issue leaked.

As for those in power they know only too well that we’ve been here before when it came to big promises. So while certainly debates will require them to play the positive on many of these issues, yet again we find they are once more focusing on potential than what has been done to date. Asking us to take the next steps together isn’t really that big a departure from telling us there is a lot done and more to do. Nevertheless there is the hypocritical lambasting of the opposition for entering into auction politics when they do the very same at the first opportunity. Is this a panicked reply to the promises of the other parties, feeling they need to match such aspirations, in the fear that there will be a universal rolling of eyes if they have the audacity to fall back on their past record, telling us they’ve done good.

So I am interested to see will Stamp Duty be turned into the water charges of this election, will FF respond with a commitment on the duty or merely criticise the tactics of the opposition. They seem all too ready to resort to promises. So has there been a brain storming session in some quiet room in the Dail that Stamp Duty is the chess board of choice? Our opposition can’t put across a convincing argument that they can take on our woes and those in place are too afraid to open up a can of worms on their performance. Get ourselves a red herring to distract the masses and God forbid there be any element of ideals or vision to our campaigns.

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