Fianna Fail to blame Labour for Social Partnership
Although we’re still in the phoney war stage of the election campaign, it seems that the basic FF strategy is to throw a bunch of, er, stuff, at the wall and see what sticks. In that regard, we got today in the Senate an interesting and tendentious exchange between Sen. Alex White (Lab.) and Minister Brian Lenihan, who was in the Senate to handle the Senate’s recommended changes to the Finance Bill.
The meaty part of the exchange is below the fold, but in essence Lenihan claimed that Labour party proposals on the mixture of the tax increases and spending cuts had been presented by the unions in social partnership discussions over the last two years, and since the unions and Labour are “symbiotically linked”, Labour was thus effectively in social partnership. Lenihan added the extra dig of mentioning that he could see “Kim Il Sung type pictures” of Eamon Gilmore on Liberty Hall. Which is a bit of laugh if you consider that had the crash not happened when it did, Liberty Hall would by now be renamed Ahern Hall.
In a separate part of the discussion, Lenihan makes clear his bitterness at the Greens at their November announcement putting a lifespan on the government without actually withdrawing from it.
Deputy Brian Lenihan: …. That said, as a result of Government decisions and budgets adopted in recent years, marginal tax rates have slipped up beyond the 50% level. I have always believed that marginal tax rates should not exceed 50%. I have fought with might and main against it, but did so against a torrent of opposition, especially from the Labour Party and, of course, even more so from Sinn Féin which seems to believe there is a limitless pot of taxation and that taxation can be introduced and extended to 55%, 60%, 65% and 70%.
Senator Alex White: Nonsense.
Deputy Brian Lenihan: This was raised with me in social partnership.
Senator Alex White: Read the manifesto next week and see it.
Deputy Brian Lenihan: This issue was raised by me with social partners in social partnership negotiations—–
Senator Alex White: The Minister is making it up now.
Deputy Brian Lenihan: —–who objected to pay cuts and who turned around and asked why I would not bring in a 65% income tax rate.
Senator Alex White: Was the Labour Party in social partnership? I do not remember that.
Deputy Brian Lenihan: These persons are all symbiotically linked.
Senator Alex White: That must be new. That is new to me, that nobody is invited to social partnership.
Deputy Brian Lenihan: I have the honour of representing a north-side Dublin constituency and when I pass Liberty Hall I see Kim Il-sung-type pictures of Deputy Gilmore on the building.
Senator Alex White: It was former Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, who invited them all in.
Deputy Brian Lenihan: Please stop pretending to me that you are not symbiotically linked with all these people.
Senator Alex White: Do not offend Senator Harris now.
Deputy Brian Lenihan: I look forward seeing the Labour Party’s manifesto.
Senator Alex White: The Minister will see it quickly. I wonder has Fianna Fáil one at all and who will write it.
An Cathaoirleach: Has Senator Alex White a point of order?
Deputy Brian Lenihan: I have the honour of having written the manifesto for the next four years for this country—–
Senator Alex White: Agreed.
Deputy Brian Lenihan: —–and Senator Alex White will depart from it at his peril. That is all I can tell him.
Senator Alex White: That is classic hubris. That is classic Fianna Fáil narrative.
Deputy Brian Lenihan: There is no question of hubris. There are modifications that can be introduced, but the broad direction of that manifesto in the national recovery plan is that two thirds of the adjustment must take place on the expenditure and one third on the taxation side. Although Fine Gael is maintaining that it can make an even bigger adjustment on the expenditure side, it will find it will be difficult to do that in office. On the other hand, the Labour Party is saying that half of the adjustment must take place on the taxation side and Sinn Féin is maintaining that two thirds of it can be done on the taxation side, which is an impossibility. It is a politically attractive impossibility—–
Senator Alex White: The Minister has increased taxes considerably.
Deputy Brian Lenihan: —–because it allows them engage in this endless politics of begrudgery—–
Senator Alex White: We have never had such tax increases as we have had from the Minister.
Deputy Brian Lenihan: —–that there is someone else who has to pay.
An Cathaoirleach: The Minister is replying to the points raised. No interruption.
Senator Alex White: The Minister put the taxes up madly.
Deputy Brian Lenihan: There is always someone else who must pay.
Senator Alex White: Some €1.5 billion of tax increases.
Deputy Brian Lenihan: It allows Senator Alex White to go to the doorstep and state to the occupant that he or she is a poor man or woman who is being mercilessly treated by the last Government, that his party accepts all that it did and will not change the measures even though the party opposed them, but there is someone else who can pay in the future. There is not—–
Senator Alex White: Read the document. Read the manifesto.
Deputy Brian Lenihan: —–and that will not work as an economic policy for this country.
Senator Alex White: Will Fianna Fáil have a manifesto?