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Back to the future? Brian Cowen may well be haunted by the shade of Michael Noonan. March 29, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
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A very welcome guest post from AK of Irish Election Literature Blog.

If the polls are to be believed, the next election has all the indications of a bloodbath for Fianna Fail. Recent mutterings may also indicate an election being closer than we think. How much of a bloodbath remains to be seen but Its starting to look as if we could be in Noonan territory. Could Fianna Fáil’s performance be 2002 Noonan-led Fine Gael like?

Fianna Fáil should get more than 31 seats but there will be unexpected names and numbers falling all over the place.
In 2002 Fine Gael won 31 seats on 22.5% of the votes, a loss of 23 seats. In 1997 they won 54 seats on 27.95% of the vote. So a drop of 5.4% cost them 23 seats. Their Losses included Jim Mitchell, Alan Dukes, Austin Currie, Brian Hayes, Frances Fitzgerald, Alan Shatter, Michael Joe Cosgrave, Paul Bradford, Deirdre Clune and of course Nora Owen. (Labour won 21 seats on 10% of the vote)

Why?

Well less first preferences did damage and nationally hovering around 23% is dangerous in 3 seaters and should win you only one seat in a four or a five seater.

The damage though was exacerbated by other factors.

An unpopular leader tainted by scandal (Hep C)…. Tick!

Cowen’s not exactly top of the popularity stakes and the list of scandals is too long to mention. Having a popular leader tends to drive transfers your way.

Unpopular policy ...Tick!

Whilst not in the same league as NAMA etc promises to compensate Eircom shareholders and Taxi plate holders were seen as plain silly by the electorate. So yet more possible transfers were alienated.

Bad candidate strategy…Tick!

They ran too many candidates in some areas such as Dun Laoghaire. Now we don’t quite know Fianna Fails candidate strategy yet, but you would have to assume sitting TDs will run and at 24% that’s too many.
HQ will be adding a few names too.That’s even more too many! There will be pressure too as I suspect we may have a raft of gene-pool FF Independents ready to go if they don’t get the party nomination.

The other thing that has come to light this week is party discipline. We’ve had various TD’s call for Cowens head without censure. If you can call for Cowen to go and get away with it what’s stopping you campaigning in areas assigned to another party candidate.

The fine art of vote management goes out the window. That is where real damage can be done, especially outside Dublin.
Its likely to be dog eat dog between Fianna Fáil candidates and as Fianna Fáil in the mid 20% bracket is new territory, the name of the game will be survival. There will be few if any ‘safe’ FF seats.

In 2002 Fine Gael lost 9 of their 12 Dublin seats (3 out of the available 47 in Dublin). In Dublin they got just 14.4% of the vote. Fianna Fáil won 19 seats in Dublin in 2007. In the 2009 European Elections Fianna Fail got 18.3% in Dublin and around 17% in the Locals.

They got a smaller % of transfers in the European and Local Elections than Fine Gael did in 2002. So a further fall of 2 or 3 % points in Dublin should cause Fianna Fáil to lose at the least half of their seats in Dublin.

There is an impact too in the demise of the PDs. It works both ways though in that they were the one party that transferred well to FF but at the same time a party that could take seats at FFs expense.

So in certain constituencies FF should actually need a higher first preference to win a seat than previously as there will be no PD transfers to get them over the line. Yet in others (Dublin South East for example) the lack of PD candidate should help them hold on to their seat.

So if the FF vote collapses where do the seats go? If the current trend continues and Fine Gael get 39% then (as wbs wrote about before) we are possibly looking at a government without Labour.

TBC….

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Comments»

1. WorldbyStorm - March 29, 2010

The point that strikes me is that the dynamic you suggest of dog eat dog at the lower figures means that as much effort will be expended between FF candidates as much as against their opponents in other parties. Okay, it’s always been like that to some extent. But what you’re pointing to is a much much more extreme example. That could seriously screw them. Interesting too to consider the implications of the attrition at the locals last time out and how that impacts on numbers prepared to support TDs etc. And finally, what of the people willing to jump ship and fly under flags of convenience, Independent and Independent FF. Strange times.

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irishelectionliterature - March 29, 2010

Notice how when John McGuinness came out against Cowen, his constituency colleague MJ Nolan uttered possibly his first words in public since the 2007 election. Next of all another stranger Bobby Alyward was on the news too with his few words warning about rural issues. Of course all three were less than thrilled at the elevation of constituency colleague Mary White.
The theme though is they didn’t want to give a party rival any advantage.

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EWI - March 29, 2010

Next of all another stranger Bobby Alyward was on the news too with his few words warning about rural issues.

And *ahem* “planning”, and “donations”.

Someone really ought to let him know that the Eighties are gone, and that even LL has shuffled off to the Conways in the sky.

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2. que - March 29, 2010

Look at the carlow-kilkenny constituency. That will be like watching 300 except there will be more blood.

the point about Cowen’s weak leadership is key. There will be no discipline.

Fianna Fail civil war anyone? Candidates hewing themselves to either pro Brian Lenihan, pro Aherne etc pro Michael Martin and just watch the whole thing disintegrate. Could be some fierce srambling.

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EWI - March 29, 2010

Fianna Fail civil war anyone? Candidates hewing themselves to either pro Brian Lenihan, pro Aherne etc pro Michael Martin and just watch the whole thing disintegrate. Could be some fierce srambling.

I doubt it. You’d see (worst case) a tiny splinter like the PDs, but more likely a couple of defections, independents and retirees.

This has happened once before – the Lynch years, with Haughey, Colley and O’Malley sparring to succeed the Corkman – and I’d say that history would likely follow the same course again.

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3. WorldbyStorm - March 29, 2010

I like that, 300 except more blood. If AK is even close to accurate, and I think he is, that sure sounds like it.

But the Carlow-Kilkenny constituency points it up perfectly. They’re terrified of any advantage as AK says.

And discipline is now a thing of the past.

I can’t help but think Ahern (Bertie) is partially to blame there. That coalition was too big, too diffuse. Almost from day one people were drifting off. And once that happened what was to stop FF TDs doing likewise?

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4. Andrew - March 29, 2010

One of the big incentives to ‘behave’ during election times was the prospect of ministerial office if you brought your running mate in. If there is zero (or close to zero) chance of FF forming the next Government then that incentive is gone. It’s not so much ‘no stick’ as ‘no carrot’.

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WorldbyStorm - March 29, 2010

I’ve half wondered if there are a bunch of people making that political calculation and thinking about how they can drift across to FG/Labour. Obviously not FF TDs but more broadly.

One other thought. Potentially this puts the rhetoric of ‘There is No Alternative’ on the economic front in a different political light as a means of being a stick. Once there’s no stick…

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EWI - March 29, 2010

Obviously not FF TDs but more broadly.

I can well see McGuinness jumping, and soon. He’s a whole different animal that most of the rest in FF, and it’s no surprise to me to see him being advised by one of McGuirk’s old pals from the FI and Libertas.

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WorldbyStorm - March 29, 2010

To FG? Or to the Independents…

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EWI - March 29, 2010

To FG? Or to the Independents…

Definitely Fine Gael, following a manufactured row and ‘principled’ walk-out?).

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WorldbyStorm - March 29, 2010

I think that might be a game changer in terms of the lifespan of the current government?

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EWI - March 29, 2010

I think that might be a game changer in terms of the lifespan of the current government?

I can’t believe that McGuinness seriously thinks that he’ll ever be a Minister now, given his public disloyalty (unless he’s done a sweetheart deal with someone to act as stalking-horse, in which case I’d imagine that something juicy has been promised). And that’s before his obvious cleverness, something that believe me gets FF backs up (the Lenihan men – Fredo aside – are intelligent but good at hiding it). What are his other options?

So, now that we know what the Greens were promised, I see the instability increasing. I can’t imagine it holding together much longer – it was widely expected within FF to fall apart at the seams last year. There’s a number of obvious icebergs ahead before they reach the safety of the lead-in to Christmas (even before the wild swings of fortune that seem to afflict Irish politics right now). Will they make it? I can’t see how.

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5. EWI - March 29, 2010

In 2002 Fine Gael won 31 seats on 22.5% of the votes, a loss of 23 seats. In 1997 they won 54 seats on 27.95% of the vote. So a drop of 5.4% cost them 23 seats [...] Why?

Very, very expensive US consultants (we’re a long way from the days in the Eighties when FF would run five candidates in a five-seater! I was there, and I’ve seen the unimaginable change in professionalism that two decades brought).

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6. irishelectionliterature - March 29, 2010

As it stands FG have Phil Hogan and JP Phelan in Kilkenny and will run a Carlow based candidate too. So I cant see McGuinness going to FG, but stranger things have happened.
Being in the 20-30% range nationally will make it very difficult for candidate selection for FF.At 30% you have a good chance of two seats in a five seater and a possibility of two seats in a four seater. However at 20% it changes to one seat in both the four and five seaters. If you look at the locals in Dublin especially its plain that their candidate strategy was based on getting a far higher vote than they actually did.
Its starting to look as if a lot of FF TDs are waiting to see how Brian Lenihans health fares before trying to oust Cowen. Of the other contenders Michael Martin is the only one with National appeal.

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EWI - March 29, 2010

As it stands FG have Phil Hogan and JP Phelan in Kilkenny and will run a Carlow based candidate too. So I cant see McGuinness going to FG, but stranger things have happened.

If FG think that they might have the wind behind them with running McGuinness… well, as the Greens have been demonstrating, there are other prizes than the Dáil which can be handed out to disappointed would-be Deppities.

Being in the 20-30% range nationally will make it very difficult for candidate selection for FF.At 30% you have a good chance of two seats in a five seater and a possibility of two seats in a four seater. However at 20% it changes to one seat in both the four and five seaters. If you look at the locals in Dublin especially its plain that their candidate strategy was based on getting a far higher vote than they actually did.
Its starting to look as if a lot of FF TDs are waiting to see how Brian Lenihans health fares before trying to oust Cowen.

The Lenihans have a bad history with illness, so the impact of it cannot be underestimated I think. The rest of what you say are good points – as well, the psychological difficulty for the party in adjusting ‘down’ to a more realistic slate, not to mention the party discipline problems (i.e. solo runs) that such tactics would produce…

Of the other contenders Michael Martin is the only one with National appeal.

MM’s had an easy run so far. How he’d handle being the main focus of attention is an unknown quality, I’d say.

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sonofstan - March 30, 2010

If Lenihan was well, I’d say the push would already have started: as for MM – he’s presentable, moderately appealing to non-FFers, but, and its a big one, he has no real economic credentials, which, at the moment, is nearly the whole point of the job.

I think for Ff, the next few years will resemble the post Garret wilderness years for FG, with a fairly rapid turnover of leaders.

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Joe - March 30, 2010

“So I cant see McGuinness going to FG, but stranger things have happened.”

Ye wha? Stranger things have happened??? No they have not. FF TDs do not jump ship to FG, nor vice versa. Have they ever? Who? When?
What FF TDs do and probably a few will do over the next while, is go indipindint a la Jackie Healy Rae etc. They get the FF vote from FF voters who still couldn’t stomach voting for FG and they get the option of rejoining FF when it’s opportune to do so.

When FF TDs start leaving to join FG and vice versa, we will know that the end of the world is nigh.

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7. And speaking of that poll…and that agreement last night. « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - March 30, 2010

[...] decisions, been applauded by a right of centre press and now face – as AK has noted in his analysis, a Michael Noonan/Fine Gael 2002 like outcome. Small reward for such supposed economic [...]

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8. Overtakers to Overtaken: What awaits the Greens at the next General Election? « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - April 13, 2010

[...] The Left. trackback A guest analysis from AK of the Irish Election Literature Blog, one of a continuing series where he considers past and future voting and transfer patterns and how they potentially impact on [...]

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9. People Before Profit Alliance and the Workers’ Party – their electoral chances… « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - June 30, 2010

[...] People Before Profit Alliance and the Workers’ Party – their electoral chances… June 30, 2010 Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left. trackback Many thanks to AK of the Irish Election Literature Blog for the following analysis of some of the left wing parties prospects at the upcoming General Election. This is a part of a continuing series by AK. Other posts are here and here… [...]

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