Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Sinn Féin… July 10, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
Pat Leahy makes an interesting point in the SBP at the weekend. Talking about the position of Fianna Fáil he notes that the largest chunk of their support went to Fine Gael. This is true. Then he continues:
Éamon Ó Cuív’s near-rebellion against Micheál Martin’s leadership was based, in part, on the fear in Fianna Fáil that Sinn Féin is eating Fianna Fáil’s lunch (or dinner in the middle of the day?). The rise of Sinn Féin is a threat to everyone, but not especially to Fianna Fáil. Look at it this way: Fianna Fáil lost 25 per cent of the electorate at the last election; Sinn Féin gained 3 per cent.
Well, that’s true to a degree. But of course the election was one thing and after the election quite another. Sinn Féin isn’t on 9 per cent any longer, as it was in early 2011. It’s now on almost double or more than double that, and that extra seven to whatever per cent has been drawn from both FF and the LP. In that respect SF remains a clear and present danger to FF. And the more so as it manages to pull off big ticket events like a certain meeting a week or so back.
Now in fairness FF has consolidated its remaining support on 17-18 per cent.
Not bad for a party that some thought might be wiped away entirely. But then again, there’s no sign of it increasing its support either. Leahy notes that:
ast week’s figures showed that support for Fianna Fáil is roughly evenly broken down between working and middle class, and between men and women. It’s slightly stronger among older voters, but not damagingly so. It is weakest in Dublin – at 13 per cent, the same as recent months, which is just about where it was at last year’s election.
That suggests that there is no prospect of a break out in Dublin, and it really needs some significant gains in Dublin (or realistically some representation full stop there). This isn’t due to an excessive Dublincentric view on my part, but simply that to contest nationally just as a party must have representation outside the capital it also needs it in the capital.
Leahy makes another useful point:
Perhaps this Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael transfer isn’t that surprising – it shows mostly centre-right votes stayed largely on the centre-right. This ideological compatibility has obvious implications for future coalition possibilities between the two parties. Voters may be far ahead of the parties when it comes to recognising the similarities between them.
There’s a lot of idle talk about how close the two parties are, but relatively little serious analysis of their prospects as future coalition partners. But if FF is becalmed across the lifetime of this Dáil on 17-18 per cent then it provides a large bloc but one which is self-constraining. Too small for state power, too big – at least in terms of its members and representatives – for prolonged opposition. And there may well be a tipping point, though it may take time to arrive at it, between the wish to regain the position it once had, or even something close to that where it would be the predominant party in a coalition, and the need to return to power even as a subsidiary partner in a coalition simply to establish its governing credentials again. As I say, that may be at least a term and a half away, but that must shape the views of those within FF.
All that said, there’s one enormous problem for FF. And that is that they are FF. Martin’s popularity runs ahead of his party by quite some distance, no small feat for a man who sat at the Cabinet table throughout the boom, and the bust. But as Leahy notes:
But at a more general level, Martin needs voters to forget – or at least forgive – his own party’s disasters. In truth, he still faces an uphill battle in that regard. Fianna Fáil’s biggest target may be Fine Gael, but its most potent opponent remains its own past.
This site has long noted the churn and instability in the electorate before, during and after the election. And perhaps one might argue that the churn is indicative of an anyone but Fianna Fáil attitude at large. But the point is that it continues to this day. Martin must hope that at some point people will forget why they split away from FF. The problem is that for those who went further right to FG why would they go back? FG is – for all the bizarre pronouncements of Marc Coleman on matters – still cleaving firmly to a right of centre approach. And going to continue to do so throughout. And for those who went to the Independents, well, while their star isn’t quite as bright as it was their vote share still holds up. And for those who went to the LP, well, those appear to have transitioned onwards to Independents or SF. Why should they return?
All in all not an entirely happy place for FF to be in.