I like January. While some get swallowed up in an air of post-Christmas depression, I have tended to welcome this much-maligned month and embrace the dawning of a new year with a sense of new life and optimism. I am far from alone too. All around me I hear people discussing their various resolutions, hopes, plans and dreams. That last one is particularly important because, as Del Boy once informed his younger sibling Rodney, if one lacks a dream then they will face a challenge when it comes to making a dream come true.
One person who has embraced the new year and outlined her dream for us is the former Fine Gael TD Lucinda Creighton. Her dream, she helpfully informed us last week, is one of an Ireland which is, and I quote, "a great place to innovate, to grow, to build and expand a small business, to employ people, to work and to be a consumer". Inspiring stuff I am sure you will agree.
Lucinda's banal blueprint for the future of the nation was given at a slightly puzzling press conference that seemed to act as an announcement about a forthcoming announcement. In case you missed the story, Creighton and a few pals, Eddie Hobbs being one, are planning to launch a new political party. At a press conference in Dublin a few days back we were not provided with a launch date, a name for the party nor exactly what the policies of the new party would be - all of which left me wondering why they had bothered at all with this bizarre media event. Wouldn't it have been better to just wait a few months until you actually have a party to launch?
Call me old fashioned but I get the feeling that the folk involved in this particular project have put the cart before the horse. It would have always been my view that political parties evolve out of ideas and philosophies held in common by groups of people who come together to organise a vehicle that can help see their aims and aspirations realised. Lucinda and friends seem to be appealing to people to rally around a hashtag. Yes, a catchy hashtag - #RebootIreland - but a hashtag nonetheless.
Remarkably this content-free political movement is brazenly calling on its website for new members, people interested in becoming election candidates and financial donations. Quite why anyone would want to do any one of these three things perplexes me but if you are one of those people who has joined, donated or plan to stand for this party/hashtag/thing then do drop me a line and help me understand the motivations behind such a move.
To be fair, there are some small indications of what this party is going to look like. Given that Lucinda Creighton is at the helm of this beast, none of the indications should come as a surprise. One line from their very brief description states that they want an economy that supports "entrepreneurs, employees and consumers". Another talks about the creation of "a political system that supports freedom of thought, difference and independence". Bland beyond belief so far.
A tad more intriguing are the comments about "making the public sector public" and fostering a "spirit of entrepreneurism in our public sector" - but only intriguing insofar as they spark one's interest and then do not elaborate any further on what they actually mean. Likewise with their muttering about a "fiscal and social policy with a targeted Minimum Lifestyle Standard". This was perhaps the most interesting point to arise out of the press conference and social media launch as the goal of a Minimum Lifestyle Standard generally isn't the sort of thing one would associate with the declaration of principles for a new (and I think it is probably safe to use this term for the unnamed creature) right-wing party.
Clearly we will have to wait another few weeks or months to pass a final judgement on this matter but it would appear that the Reboot Ireland brigade are seeking to fill the gap vacated in 2007 by the Progressive Democrats. However, the reason that gap was vacated by the PDs was because of the electoral annihilation they suffered that same year - and that was just before the economic crash. Given all that has happened in the years since then, can anyone seriously say that what the Republic needs now is a new organisation committed to free market economics but with a slightly less liberal stance on social issues? Evidently I am not going to think so, however I get a sense that very few voters will be attracted by such a prospect.
It would incredibly clichéd of me to roll out the old 'second time as farce' line, though it is difficult not to. Reboot Ireland is essentially the Progressive Democrats without the substance. They are the Progressive Democrats without any clear guiding philosophy or ideology. They are the Progressive Democrats without the political heavyweights like O'Malley, McDowell or Harney (unless you rank councillor John Leahy from Offaly as a big hitter). And the very presence of Eddie Hobbs in this whole palaver suggests to me a political project that is destined to end in tears.
In short, this all reminds me of another political movement from north of the border which was low on content with regard to policy and high on social media know-how. I am talking here about NI21. Like Reboot Ireland, it was a right-of-centre party marketing itself as something new and vibrant that would bring in fresh faces from outside the present political class in order to 'shake things up'. Within months, the electorate had identified NI21 for what it was - a shallow, opportunistic insult to the intelligence - and the failed fresh faces of Tina McKenzie and co, lacking any serious commitment to the organisation and bored following their lack of instant X-Factor-style success, drifted off back to their old lives.
Reboot Ireland might not fall to such a swift and spectacular crash-and-burn ending, though I would be surprised if it managed to make it all the way to contesting a second general election. That said, I have been wrong before on numerous occasions. Who knows? Perhaps Lucinda's grand vision of a land of happy consumers will be just too good for voters to resist.