FF’s Sean Fleming quickly adds up the damage

6 Dec

My review of Minister Brendan Howlin’s day 1 budget speech. http://www.herald.ie/news/ffs-fleming-quickly-adds-up-the-damage-2954736.html

This is the first budget since Ruairi Quinn’s 1996 one where Fianna Fail have been in the position of having to respond as an opposition.

Only a handful of the remaining Fianna Fail TDs have any experience of replying to a budget statement on the hoof, like this.

Back then they had both the numbers in the chamber and in their research office to be able to respond robustly. Back then, they were also not hampered by seeng their economic strategy being implemented by the government.

In these circumstances, the party’s spokesperson, Sean Fleming, did reasonably well. His accountancy background enabled him to focus in on some of the finer and more damaging points that appeared in the tables, but somehow managed not to make it into the Minister’s script.

Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald gave one of her best Dail performances to date. Whereas Fleming stuck with the detail, she concentrated on the politics, excoriating and needling Fine Gael and Labour backbenchers for reneging on their election promises.

Over recent years we have been moving from the traditional westminster model of budgets where the finance minister goes into a self imposed silence or purdah in advance of the statement, to a european one where large elements emerge into the public arena in advance.

While recent budgets have seen their share of advance kite flying, this one brought the craft to new and dizzying heights. 

It is all about the management of expectations. It’s an old trick. Get your people spinning that medical cards might be hit, and then hope the public will break out the champagne, or possibly the Babycham given our straightened times, when they are not.
So the theory goes. In this case the audience was not so much the people at home, but the massed ranks of backbench government TDs who would like to be two term Deputies not one termers.
This may account for the very muted applause after Minister Howlin resumed his seat. Though this may just as much been due to how inappropriate and ill judged the loud cheers and fulsome applause the Fianna Fail deputies gave to their recent budgets seems now.

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