Why Ge­orge Hook wants to run for the Dail

As Ge­orge Hook be­gins to doubt his beloved Fine Gael, he mulls over the idea of run­ning for elec­tion him­self

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - SHUTTERBUG -

It is com­mon knowl­edge that, since I was granted the fran­chise, I have faith­fully cast my vote for Fine Gael. For the first time, I am hav­ing doubts, and am not sure what will hap­pen when I en­ter the polling booth at the Gen­eral Elec­tion. I think it was Neil Blaney, but it could have been any dis­grun­tled politi­cian over the last 30 years, who said, “I did not leave the party, the party left me”. I am not a mem­ber of FG, but I feel like Blaney.

The big three po­lit­i­cal par­ties in Ire­land, in their rush to get elected, are united in a give-away elec­tion cam­paign. No doubt the suc­cess of Ber­tie Ah­ern and Brian Cowen in that re­gard has en­er­gised the Coali­tion into a be­lief that a Bud­get pan­der­ing to the peo­ple’s need for free­bies will guar­an­tee suc­cess.

Re­cently, while tak­ing a break from rugby-watch­ing on TV, I con­sid­ered the pos­si­bil­ity of stand­ing for the Dail. The Dun Laoghaire-Rath­down con­stituency is in­ter­est­ing this time around; it has been re­duced from a five-seater to a four-seater. The po­si­tion is fur­ther com­pli­cated be­cause the Ceann Comhairle, Sean Bar­rett, is au­to­mat­i­cally re-elected, so that leaves three. I am con­sid­er­ing stand­ing as a Michael Collins FG can­di­date, to ap­peal across the party-po­lit­i­cal di­vide to the mid­dle classes, who see their views and be­liefs are no longer rep­re­sented.

So what is Ge­orge Hook’s man­i­festo? The pri­or­ity is the home­less is­sue. It is a dis­grace that the fastest-grow­ing econ­omy in Europe can­not house its cit­i­zens. The Bri­tish re­ac­tion to 250,000 made home­less by the Blitz in World War II is in­struc­tive. I would de­mand the ap­point­ment of a TD with com­plete con­trol over the is­sue.

He would be granted ex­tra­or­di­nary pow­ers. Coun­cil em­ploy­ees would be re­quired to work a seven-days-aweek rota to get boarded-up, empty prop­er­ties back on the mar­ket. There would be an im­me­di­ate pur­chase of mod­u­lar hous­ing for ur­ban ar­eas to clear the back­log. If Bri­tain could clear a quar­ter-of-a-mil­lion back­log, surely we can do one of 700 fam­i­lies? At the same time, I would pro­pose that Ire­land refuse to take mi­grants from the Mid­dle East con­flict un­til the do­mes­tic hous­ing cri­sis is re­solved. Fur­ther­more, any new ar­rivals would be re­quired to go through the same process of in­ves­ti­ga­tion as those cur­rently in camps around the coun­try. I would de­mand that the gov­ern­ment give a com­mit­ment to the fi­nal fig­ure to be ac­cepted, rather than the in­terim fig­ures, which have steadily risen from 650 to 5,000.

Hook will cam­paign for no tax re­duc­tions un­til the coun­try is self-suf­fi­cient and not bor­row­ing to pay for its day-to-day run­ning. Con­trary to es­tab­lished wis­dom, rather than hav­ing fewer peo­ple pay tax, more peo­ple will pay it. The rea­son is sim­ple. The cit­i­zens should feel own­er­ship of the coun­try, and be­lieve that they are mak­ing a con­tri­bu­tion to its suc­cess.

On my watch, there will be no in­crease in wealth taxes. De­spite the bleat­ings of Paul Mur­phy and Sinn Fein, we al­ready have the high­est rates in the OECD. We also tax the trans­fer of wealth, mak­ing it al­most im­pos­si­ble for par­ents to leave the fam­ily home to their chil­dren. I would chal­lenge Michael Noo­nan to raise the in­her­i­tance tax to €500,000 per child.

I be­lieve all wel­fare ben­e­fits should be taxed and means-tested. The idea of uni­ver­sal­ity of so­cial wel­fare would be ended, and mil­lion­aire par­ents would no longer re­ceive child ben­e­fit.

There would be an ab­so­lute pre-elec­tion com­mit­ment by me to no coali­tion with mem­bers of the hard left or Sinn Fein. The prom­ise would be clear and un­equiv­o­cal. The gov­ern­ment sup­ported by Hook would, like my hero Win­ston Churchill, prom­ise “blood, toil, tears and sweat” un­til we take our place amongst the na­tions of the Earth, fear­less and free.

The news from China’s econ­omy bodes ill for the rest of the world. We are not yet out of the woods, and, on the doorsteps, I would tell peo­ple that the coun­try will be run like their house­holds. We will put money aside for the rainy day and be care­ful with what we have. We will try, like them, to “nei­ther a bor­rower nor a lender be”.

The opin­ion polls have in­di­cated an ap­petite for in­de­pen­dent can­di­dates. Why not me?

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