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More on that latest Red C Poll… January 31, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
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IELB has already covered it here so just some musings here buildings on his thoughts. It’s early days yet, but am I wrong in beginning to see a stability reenter the system? Thought that stability may only be a across the lifetime of this government, or some portion thereof.

But look at the figures. Fianna Fáíl remains becalmed on 18 per cent. This is less than a per cent better than their election result and well within the margin of error. Fine Gael continue their slow decline and have dropped two per cent to 30. There’s a psychological barrier there and once they breach it and descend into the 20s they’re in a somewhat different game. I can’t see any hint of a serious tilt against Enda Kenny, not yet anyhow. But if their poll numbers dropped significantly more and stayed there then he might well begin to feel some heat.

Independents are up 1 to 21 per cent. This again is a marginal increase and well within the margin of error but it does seem to point at a consolidation of the Independent vote in the last year. This includes the SP on 1 per cent and the GP on 3 per cent. The latter is probably more indicative of a chance of gains at the local elections, and perhaps some of the FG vote is trickling [or is it dribbling?] to them. Either way the Independents are doing remarkably, historically, unprecedentedly [in the modern era] well.

Labour is on 14 and gains one per cent. Again another well within the margin of error gain. But precious little to show for the ‘tough rhetoric’ [which you’d wonder whether it was designed to try to keep some middle class votes on board] and achieving the Presidency – no halo effect there.

Labour should be worried. We know that historically their usual figures were in or around 10 per cent, at least during the previous three decades. They’re not quite back there yet, but they soon could be. And that would be in no small part due to their suffering a pincer attack from their left flank from SF and Independents while their right flank sees support more likely to drift to FG. If the idea was that the LP would feast upon the carcass of FF, the reality, at least in the wake of the election is that SF has apparently pried away much of that support which was gifted provisionally to the LP for the election vote.

Which brings us to SF, up to 17 per cent and granted that’s a 2 per cent increase and therefore within the margin of error, but still of a piece with other polling data in recent times. It is SF who paradoxically look as if they had the better Presidential election campaign, at least in terms of general political outcomes. And it is they who are consolidating as the ‘opposition’, more so even than Independents who level peg them if one removes the GP and SP vote from that generic 21 per cent.

This then is the new stability. A significantly larger SF. A large bloc of Independents. A Fianna Fáil that is unable to make significant headway from its election result. A Fine Gael and Labour who have declined substantially from their election results.

Returning briefly to Labour, for years I remember the argument I had with members was which party it should attempt to take out, whether FG or FF. My natural inclination was FG, I always thought their vote was ‘soggier’ and it would be easier for the LP to mount a challenge deep into their middle class [such as it is] territory. Of course history threw a different path in their way, with the collapse of Fianna Fáil. But what we’ve seen is that that collapse has hit a base line, albeit there’s also been no recovery for that party. And that base line is still higher than the LP base line. For the LP the immediate problem has been that while the opportunity to take out one of the larger parties came about, unfortunately it came about during a period when it had much stronger rivals on the left of centre than hitherto. Though that shouldn’t be overstated. It’s barely 12 months ago that Sinn Féin had a parliamentary representation of 5 TDs, and hardly before that that it had only 4 TDs. But then again that party had been sitting on a general national support slightly lower than 10 per cent, something that at some time failing dismal bad luck for them was going to be activated to some extent.

And in a way this reminds me of the Green Party, and like smiffy before me, I’m now reading the pretty light Mary Minihan book on their history in government. There’s a time to go into government and a time to stand back. On the current political context perhaps the LP would have been better to pass just as the Green Party before them would have been best to do likewise.

But given the constituent make up of the LP, an ageing leadership knowing that it had one last shot at this with any certainty, any delay was unfeasible [though one can counter-factualise a situation where either an FG/FF or FG/Indo coalition would both have been equally unstable].

Still, looking on the bright side that FG vote share isn’t that healthy. Moving back to more usual operating territory, or so it seems to me. It would be a brave person indeed who would argue that an FG overall majority was on the cards next time out. And as those numbers descend, as noted above, the pressure on Kenny will ratchet upwards. .

So, what are we looking at? Instead of the 2 and a half party system that was extant up to the 1990s we seem to have a 1 and three halves party system. Or thereabouts. And the seeming monolithic victory and majority that FG/LP offered a year ago begins to seem a little more fragile. With more budgets to come.

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1. rockroots - January 31, 2012

Some commentator – I can’t remember who – remarked during the last election count that Fianna Fail would only return to government in the future in coalition with Fine Gael. That assertion seemed a little premature on election night, but a year on, and based on these stable figures, it probably looks more plausable. Depending on how this government ends – if there’s a falling out between the parties – and on how the numbers stack up next time around, the mythical end of civil war politics might happen. Not really a huge cause for celebration, but it would help reshape the landscape for future generations.

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