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Things can only get worse… for Fianna Fáil and the Green Party. October 24, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
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So, what next? For both Fianna Fáil and the Green Party this has been a near-catastrophic Budget. Arguably more so for the former, but the latter are in no position to be content with their lot. The protests mid-week demonstrated a degree of anger that I haven’t seen in a generation. I happened to be close to that part of town during the protest and took a brief look at the marches. First can I applaud the Socialist Workers’ Party for attempting to convert the crowd, with – I suspect – mixed results. Secondly anyone there will have noticed the considerable number of Garda there. I thought it was excessive, particularly looking at all their vans lined up Kildare Street beyond Boswells Hotel. What on earth were they expecting. The impressions of some Green Party members in the crowd were gloomy. They’ve endured a year which saw many of the more peripheral, but still symbolic, elements of their project discarded. That met with strong, but localised, hostility. This is very different. It’s strong and generalised. I can admire their public reps attempting to make their case on Wednesday, but it wasn’t the day for it. And for them it may transpire that it’s never the day for it. Particularly if those transfers that saw many of their TDs home in May of last year fail to materialise in 2012. Or ever.

For Fianna Fáil the line has been held. Sure, they lost Behan who appears to be settling into Independent status more rapidly than some might have expected. But they won the vote and better still their back benchers know there is a long weekend. The volume of calls and emails has yet to decline but decline it will and they can tough it out. Business of government is their business, and all that. Still, it’s an unsettling situation for them to be so clearly in the doghouse. The last six months have been grim. The next six to eight hardly look as if they will be much better, and with local and European elections on the horizon their expectation is of poor returns. But, and I’ve heard this from a number of them, the belief is that this Budget was the taster, one of a series that would be equally ‘harsh’. One wonders how they can sell them, one wonders if anyone can.

Because this is an entirely new situation. Unlike the late 1980s when there was so little there was hardly anything to lose in the ‘hairshirt’ FF budgets, this has come after a time of plenty and during a period where peoples expectations – rightly – have increased. That makes this entirely unexplored political and psychological terrain and it is fascinating how inept the cheerleaders of the centre right have been in traversing it over the past couple of weeks. People, the electorate, now expect minimum levels of provision and service from this state. I think they’re right to. But the attitude in government and further abroad is that these are optional extras to be given and taken away as they see fit. The tussle between these two poles of opinion will – to no small degree – shape the future character of this state.

I genuinely hope the energy expressed during the week is sustained so that further attacks on healthcare are stymied. I hope even more that we see that energy applied to other areas, education, affordable housing and the levy which will have grievous impacts on many more people again.

So, how to take the temperature? I’m not certain if this weekend will bring a RedC Poll in the Sunday Business Post but if so the figures will be useful as a means of gauging how badly the Government has been hit. Let me refresh your memories as to the last Poll held in September towards the end of the financial crisis (remember that? Or Lisbon? Or indeed Ahern? It almost seems like years ago).

The state of the parties was as follows:

FF (-4) 36%

FG (+3) 28%

Lab (-1) 9%

Green (-) 7%

SF (-1) 9%

PD ( +1) 3%

I cannot see the figures for Fianna Fáil or the Green Party as being anything other than lower next time out. And this could be very problematic for the Government. If we cast our eyes across the Irish Sea we can see an example of a not so virtuous circle whereby poor polling figures for Gordon Brown and the Labour Party began to contribute to a sense that the British Government was a failing entity which further depressed the polling figures which further added to the sense that…and so on. Ironically the recent financial crisis has dug them out of that hole, at least in part. I can’t see recent events doing the same for Cowen and company. And therein lies the rub. Cowen has been remarkably, almost brutally, unlucky from Lisbon onwards. Fianna Fáil’s poll ratings in September had already seen them take a 4% hit. How much further can they go? And that sense of failure – infused by a bitter anger may well be their undoing. Particularly if it is true and the financial situation does see yet more ‘tough’ budgets introduced over the next while.

In the space of two weeks it is clear that Fianna Fáil has, through self-inflicted political wounds, made life considerably more difficult for itself (and its coalition partners) in a context where it was already struggling against unfavourable events. The tough talk has been replaced by conciliation on a number of fronts. The chatter of the media quashed by an unexpected pressure from the electorate. And all this in a situation where – according to themselves – it can only get worse. Quite some achievement – eh?

Comments»

1. Damian O'Broin - October 24, 2008

I think it’s also the case that people expect a degree of equity when it comes to taking the pain of a tough budget. And this budget was so manifestly not fair that, combined with the sickening rhetoric of ‘patriotism’, the whole thing stuck in the craw.

But my worry is where will the anger go? Will we have the people upset at FF, but still voting for their local man again?

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2. skidmarx - October 24, 2008

Erin Gone South

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3. Gaz B - October 24, 2008

“First can I applaud the Socialist Workers’ Party for attempting to convert the crowd”

DIT Students Union were handing out t-shirts to its members which contained the fist logo.

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4. WorldbyStorm - October 24, 2008

Very good. I was thinking though of the PB4P posters…

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5. Things did get worse for Fianna Fáil. Much worse. That latest opinion poll… « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - October 25, 2008

[…] in Irish Politics. trackback Well, there then. I’d thought the results would be poor for Fianna Fáil, but the latest RedC Poll – as reported on RTÉ has seen their vote dip […]

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