We Need to Talk About Leo

Business people marionette

When you play chess, there is a type of player you meet who is aggressive, but not terribly good. They fling everything at you early on and make moves that are disrespectful, taking you for a mug. Usually you win, but occasionally their unconventional moves throw you and you sometimes lose, your concentration broken through weariness and irritation.

I bring this up because it occurred to me listening to Leo Varadkar that this is the type of game he is playing. Like the poor chess player, he just wants to win, simple, and he can’t be bothered with being artful because he thinks the opponent is too stupid and unworthy of his consideration or time.

He says of people, welfare recipients, that they expect to receive without contributing. Yet his party gives people no opportunity to contribute. Up in Sligo they have qualified teachers sitting in JobPath, looking into computers, under supervision by private company jailers, basically being bullied into job-searching, the underlying prejudicial premise being that the reason there are no jobs is because qualified teachers, artists, scientists and master graduates have been too lazy to look for them, and now they have to be supervised, like children, to make sure they’re doing it, like kids being made to tidy their rooms, in a crying waste of learning and experience.

This deceitful reading of the employment situation sums up precisely what Varadkar and Fine Gael are about. Like JobPath, that false front that purports to be about job creation but is really about labour exploitation and the privatizing the welfare system, Varadkar’s talk of contributing is all false front too. That’s what Fine Gael create instead of jobs; false fronts, false figures, false arguments, false accusations; always looking for somewhere to park the blame for their own failure. Because ultimately it is Fine Gael that have failed in their promise to deliver jobs. When 150,000 people emigrate out of desperation, honest people would not claim this as a reduction in the live register due to job creation. But Fine Gael would and did.

They have created a system in JobPath based on the assumption that the way to create employment is to bully the unemployed. And having put this travesty of a scheme into place they sat back on their ministerial arses, in high judgement of the poor, and gave themselves a raise and a bonus for a job well done, when it’s clear that all they’ve done is pass the responsibility for employment creation onto the jobless, threatening them with immiseration for failure. Now that, where I come from, is cheating.

But the most disturbing thing about Leo Varadkar, apart from the fact that he is on the cusp of unelected power, is that his arguments are often based more on prejudice than on reason. He says. for instance:

“if you want to have a good society, if you want to have good public services, well then we all need to contribute to them, we all need to work hard if we can and pay into the system.”

This is so disingenuous. The very party that’s privatizing everything is now saying that we all have to work if we want services, implying that the reason we don’t have services is that, once again, we’re too lazy to work for them. There was no bank collapse, no unjust bailout agreement, no political ineptitude, the whole thing was because the Irish people are lazy. I see. So presumably then, our laziness justifies Fine Gael privatizing everything, because, presumably, we don’t deserve any better, because, presumably, we haven’t gotten up early enough in the morning. It’s a circular self-serving nonsense argument worthy of Lewis Carrol.

But I do agree when Varadkar says that everyone should pay into the system. Let’s start with Apple and work down. But Varadkar is representing interests that appear to see the majority of Irish people as being something of a hassle to investment. All these messy welfare, health care, pension and union considerations. Really? Do we need it? Why not just tell the sick, the old, the poor, the superfluous and underpaid to simply eff off? That’s who Varadkar represents. He does really appear to believe that the reason Ireland is falling apart is due to some kind of moral flaw in the Irish people.

On the RTE news the other evening he warned that the Left are getting louder now, like as if opposition is some kind of danger to, rather than a feature of, a healthy democracy. But Varadkar sees opposition as a growing threat, apparently not realizing that the opposition is expanding in direct proportion to his madly right-wing moves; moves like talking about restricting the unions right to strike, and inciting hatred against a social group held up as a scapegoat for the troubles of the country. It falls to Fianna Fail, wouldn’t you know it, to pull the plug on his bid for power. But will they?

All Leo Varadkar’s arguments appear to depend in the end on believing that some group or other is to blame for our troubles, except the bankers, the politicians, the corporate billionaires and so on. His arguments don’t roll naturally either, like arguments would coming from a person with a sound worldview, arrived at through careful thought. This is perhaps why he resorts so easily to smearing and incitement to hatred. It’s because he doesn’t have a genuine argument or vision, only a deep-seated middle-class prejudice against people not like himself. More worryingly though, he often sounds like a well-coached parrot, with no depth to his pronouncements, like he is just another Fine Gael false front. This time a right-wing marionette.