Who’s up for a game of Silly Buggers?

The Dublin mayoral campaign lurched into life today as the People Before Profit Alliance announced Cllr. Bríd Smith as its candidate for the forthcoming election. I say “forthcoming”, but no date has yet been formally fixed. In fact, so precipitate was the PBPA announcement that, had Bríd not been quoted in the article, one might have been justified in wondering whether she herself had been consulted before her name was thrust forward.

Cllr. Smith, like all her PBPA colleagues and despite sniping from some quarters, has performed her duties admirably since her election. However, competence in the council chamber cuts little ice in personality contests, and PBPA’s decision to run a candidate at all (and not, moreover, RBB, who might have made some waves) is a bit of a head-scratcher.

I think Mark P has hit the nail on the head over on CLR. In nominating Smith so unwontedly far in advance of the election, PBPA have neatly pre-empted any negotiations on a left-unity candidate. Failure on the part of other left forces to support her candidacy could daub them with the sectarian brush. As a political manoeuvre, it’s both bold and unscrupulous, and doesn’t deserve to work. Which isn’t to say that it won’t.

The impact of this stunt upon the broader proposal for a united left slate at the general election is unlikely to be helpful. Those who accuse the SWP of opportunism and unilateralism have been pretty resoundingly vindicated. Since the Socialist Party’s negotiating strategy tends to consist of giving the SWP enough rope and then sticking on Joy Division, it’s probably no longer reasonable to hope that one party’s bad faith will negate the other’s.

The mayoral election itself, whenever it takes place, promises to be a spectacular freak show even by the exacting standards of Irish politics. Labour’s Dermot Lacey is being touted as an early front-runner in some quarters, but his chances of gaining his party’s endorsement are slender, especially given that his tenure as Lord Mayor was marked by a rush of statesmanship to the head which saw him deploy his casting vote to force through the 2003 budget contrary to party instructions. If his mayoral ambitions are frustrated by the leadership, it would not be out of character for Dermo to go William Webb Ellis on their asses.

Elsewhere, the election promises to be one long cavalcade of grostequerie. Once the tin marked Power, Profile & Privilege is rattled, who knows what will come scurrying out? I fully expect Royston Brady to make an appearance, and to seem like a paragon of plausibility beside some of his competitors.

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11 Responses to “Who’s up for a game of Silly Buggers?”

  1. irishelectionliterature Says:

    Is there anything here to read into the preferred PBP candidate in the next GE in Dublin South Central?
    After the Mayoral campaign Brid Smith will have a far higher profile than Joan Collins, no doubt giving her an advantage over Collins on polling day.
    Given that both Collins and Smith polled well in the local Elections, PBP must see Dublin SC as a target seat.

  2. dublindilettante Says:

    Mark was speculating to that effect over on CLR, there may well be something in it. Between them, Collins and Smith garnered over 4,000 votes at the last GE, and there must be a fair wedge of O’Snodaigh’s ~5,000 first preferences up for grabs if the campaign is run right.

    A profile booster for Smith ahead of an unencumbered run at the GE is certainly a preferable scenario to a quid-pro-quo whereby Smith gets a futile tilt at the mayoralty and Collins the GE candidature. The nightmare scenario would be one of them taking umbrage and going on a solo run…

  3. Mark P Says:

    Collins is in an awkward position, as the most prominent non-SWP person in an SWP controlled organisation. The SWP aren’t exactly renowned for their ability to hold together long term working relationships with others.

  4. dublindilettante Says:

    One could equally argue that she’s in a strong position as their main claim to plausibility (by virtue of being non-aligned.)

    This is all assuming she and Smith aren’t perfectly happy with whatever arrangement they’ve struck, and I’ve no reason to suppose they aren’t. Fighting the good fight together on DCC may have engendered a certain solidarity, although I know Collins has had issues with party discipline in the past…

  5. Mark P Says:

    There may well be an arrangement in place – perhaps Smith is getting the run at Mayoralty in return for getting out of the way in the GE. Or perhaps Collins is being shafted by an SWP determined to raise Smith’s profile above hers. Either is entirely plausible.

    I meant more that Collins, and the small number of other unaffiliated old hands in the PBPA, are necessarily in a precarious situation. The SWP needs them at the moment, but the SWP is an inherently unreliable partner and if it sees an advantage in shafting them, on past form, shaft them it will. That’s why the little group of PBPA independents are so keen for Seamas Healy’s crew, or Declan Bree or just about anybody else non-SWP to join. They want to balance the numbers a bit.

  6. dublindilettante Says:

    I think your analysis is a little bit coloured by your (understandably) jaundiced view of the SWP. The primary purpose of the PBPA contrivance is to make their candidates electable in SoCoDub. It is in the SWP’s interests to have as many non-aligned members on board as possible, as it makes PBPA appear like less of a front than it is. As long as they still control the decision-making process, it’s win-win for them. I don’t think they’re looking to shaft anyone at this stage.

  7. Mark P Says:

    Broadly I’d agree with you. It’s not in their medium or long term interests to undermine the PBPA by shafting Collins.

    But there remains a conundrum. The PBPA think, probably correctly, that they might be in with a shot of a seat in a constituency. There are two candidates with a reasonable claim on the opportunity. One is an SWP leader and one is independent of them. The temptation to use every available means to give their own member the edge has to be there. And the SWP have never been very good at resisting temptation., even when someone who takes a longer view would say that it’s in their own interests to do so.

    If Smith stands for the GE, after the whole PBPA has been mobilised to increase her profile in this election, well let’s just say that it would send a certain message about the nature of the PBPA. That may or may not happen. The SWP have already shown some surprising and generally out of character behaviour in building the PBPA – an attention span longer than that of a hyperactive terrier for instance. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they’ve cut a deal that has Smith standing aside in the GE. But I also wouldn’t be surprised if they haven’t.

    You are correct about the main purpose of the PBPA, and practically that has been its main effect. But to be fair, I do think that they sincerely believe their whole “time is now”, “incredible opportunity” argument, even if I suspect that they can’t actually believe their dire warnings about how it’s either the left or the far right (what far right?) in the near future.

    If the Healy group do join in Tipperary and/or O’Leary in Cork and/or Bree in Sligo it will be interesting to see how the PBPA works in slightly changed conditions. As it is the PBPA apparently has five functioning (ie meeting once a month) branches, all in South Dublin and all, bar perhaps the Crumlin one, with a strong SWP influence.

  8. D_D Says:

    The functioning PBPA Branches that I know of are Dun Laoghaire, Crumlin, Ballyfermot, Artane, Dublin Central [both North Dublin!], Rialto and now Derry.

  9. People Get Ready « Circumlimina Says:

    […] alliance’s candidate in Dublin South Central at the next general election. There had been, as you may recall, some speculation that Bríd Smith’s nomination as mayoral candidate might have indicated […]

  10. John O'Neill Says:

    Marks point on the nomination is probably correct but I seem to recall the message from the SP about the nomination of a left candidate in the Euro Elections in Dublin was – you can support him if you want but you’re not getting an input as the decision has been made that Joe is the candidate. Whats the difference?

  11. DublinDilettante Says:

    John, I would have thought the obvious difference was that Joe was the only left candidate with a realistic hope of taking the seat. The same cannot be said for Bríd. Additionally, the SP was pretty much at the end of its tether with the SWP’s antics at the time and not actively seeking formal co-operation. PBPA, on the other hand, are continually calling for electoral coalitions. If their own candidacy were to undermine that, it would cast doubt on their sincerity.

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