Some people are better than others at getting their way. They know the buttons to press, where to expend charm, and when to wield a stick rather than offer a carrot.
In a democracy, some people are really good at getting their way at the expense of the common good.
These are known as vested interests, and the week gone by gave a glimpse of how some operate, and what they cost the rest of us.
Last weekend, a video clip featuring Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty went viral around cyberspace. It was taken from a hearing of the Public Accounts Committee at which Doherty sizzled the heads of three insurance companies.
Doherty forensically questioned the insurance industry people about their contention that fraudulent claims were rampant and directly responsible for ballooning premiums.
FBD’s claims manager, Jackie McMahon, was the first up.
His company had alleged that around 20% of claims are fraudulent.
This would amount to somewherebetween 10,000 and 15,000 fraudulent claims per annum.
Turns out that between last October and March of this year FBD reported just 19 cases to the gardaí as suspected fraud.
“What I’m suggesting is that the industry here is completely exaggerating the issue of fraudulent claims in a way to try and justify the type of premiums that youse are charging,” Doherty said.
No arguing with that.
Two cheers for exposure in the public square of a vested interest feeding off the masses.
Only problem was the other vested interest in this story immediately cried vindication.
A procession of legal people took to the social media, the airwaves and print to proclaim Pearse Doherty to be the second only to Jesus Christ in his efforts to save mankind.
These included no less than Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan on Twitter: “I don’t often agree with Sinn Fein but I’m 100% with Pearse Doherty on fraudulent insurance claims. Insurance industry must do more to reduce costs.”
He tweeted the video clip.
Coincidentally, Charlie is a solicitor by training.
The reality is that there’s a pair of them in it as far as a compensation culture is concerned.
The insurance industry hides behind the prevailing culture to ramp up premiums.
And, for the legal business, personal injuries are high-quality jam, an easilydigestible staple in the feast of fattened wallets.
Each of these interests attempts to take lumps out of the other in order to lessen their own culpability. Meanwhile, the public takes the hit.
Legal coughs were softened by the end of the week when Judge Jacqueline Linnane hit out at solicitors who take on fraudulent claims.
She was speaking after she dismissed five insurance claims of €60,000 each in relation to alleged whiplash injuries.
“Maybe fuller inquiries should be made by solicitors before they take on these cases but I will leave it to RSA (the insurance company involved) whether they wish to instruct their legal representatives to bring it to the attention of the law society.”
If there are solicitors knowingly acting for fraudsters they are in a small minority.
The real problem is the structure of the legal business in which costs are so punitive that insurance companies settle for inflated awards rather than add further to their costs by going to court.
Another vested interest well equipped in getting their way is farmers.
Collectively, they give the impression of perpetually living on the edge of want.
This week, the beef farmers came to the Dáil to throw a few wellies over the proposed Mercosur trade deal.
This deal with four South American countries will lower or abolish tariffs on a range of goods and services. Included in the terms is room to import 90,000 tonnes of beef from the Mercosur countries.
This represents 1.26% of the beef produced in the EU.
Irish beef farmers are up in arms.More than 1,000 protested outside the Dáil on Wednesday. Inside, Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil organised a vote condemning the deal and telling the Governmentto oppose it.
Imagine if homeless people had the kind of influence that meant when they cracked a whip outside Leinster House, the body politic got cracking inside?
Farmers are a vested interest with an inflated though waning influence in politics.
Mercosur may be bad for farmers, but it may also be very good for the rest of the country, enhancing exports and jobs numbers and lowering prices.
We don’t know yet. But once the farmers demanded that their concerns get priority, the body politic nodded and bowed.
Beef farmers are having a tough time of it in other respects right now, but that does not entitle them to dictate national policy at the expense of large chunks of society and the economy.
Then we have the vested interest of the week — the 160,000 members of the Conservative party in Britain.
This fairly old, very white group iseffectively shaping the future for the46m electorate in the UK.
They want out of the EU now at virtually any cost.
And they are in the process of electing the next British prime minister on the basis of who is most likely to get them out of the EU at virtually any cost.
That person is Boris Johnson, who would make a far better circus clown than prime minister.
Boris and the blue-rinse brigade of Tories is a marriage made in la-la land. The former is willing to say anything to get his way, the latter will believe absolutely anything that will allow them to imagine that Britannia will rule the waves once again.
All of which would be great fun if it didn’t impact on us. This week we were told by Simon Coveney and PaschalDonohoe that 55,000 jobs could be at risk in a no-deal Brexit, along with the possibility of a deep recession.
The fascinating — and disturbing —aspect to this vested interest ruling the roost is that unlike all other vested interests they are not attempting to fatten their own wallets.
They just want to go back to a future where they have won the Second World War all over again but this time they also win the subsequent peace. This time the “exceptionalism” of England — not the UK — ensures that they don’t have to deal on an equal basis with the likes of Germany and France and various other Johnny Foreigners. And when you think about it, who better to lead them on this voyage of fantasy than a man who has a rec-ord of having great difficulty with the truth?
As vested interests go, the Conservative party members certainly are exceptional, both in terms of their views and their capacity to wreak havoc.