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Things did get worse for Fianna Fáil. Much worse. That latest opinion poll… October 25, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
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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 precipitously… down ten points to 26.

Meanwhile Fine Gael are up to 33%. A seven point lead over Fianna Fáil. Impressive enough and if it were sustained… well perhaps Enda Kenny might just have a political future after the locals.

And the oddities?

I’d linked the Green Party’s fortunes to FF, but…they only lost a point and now stand at 6%, Sinn Féin have gone up by one to 10%. I’m sort of surprised that the Green Party has held the line. But I imagine when it came to it that rather than being the mudguard to Fianna Fáil, Fianna Fáil has been the mudguard to them… which is interesting since they have no clear philosophical divergence from the process initiated by Fianna Fáil in relation to the Medical Cards issue.

The Independents, for all that their profile was raised during the week by the addition of another to their ranks are at a relatively healthy 8. No change there then.

The other big winner is the Labour Party. Eamon Gilmore is having a particularly good run with this and their poll rating has gone up to 15%, a remarkable rise of 6%. Which is intriguing since they have gained a point more than Fine Gael (accepting all the vagaries built into such polling data). Not sure what to make of this. It could be that we’re seeing some sort of dynamic relating to Cowen’s leadership which is playing out amongst the urban working class – since clear a fair chunk of their newfound support has shifted from Fianna Fáil. It is frustrating at this remove not to have a geographical breakdown of the polling data, the Dublin/urban figures might be revealing.

That the larger party is gaining slightly less in real terms and considerably less proportionately may indicate that Fianna Fáil voters see Labour as a more congenial port of call for their votes (or at least, in this poll, their opinion). That’s quite a gift to hand to Labour in the run up to a local election, odd though that Sinn Féin aren’t doing better. My own read, for what its worth, is that Sinn Féin is still regarded as somewhat beyond the pale by many of those whose vote is shifting (and again notable that they’d plump for Labour first). On the other hand 10% is also a good base to be working from.

But all told this has to cap what has already been a grim week for Fianna Fáil. They can console themselves with the thought that the next election is nominally three and three quarter years away. However I wouldn’t be complacent if I were they. If – as we continue to hear – the situation is so awful that ‘tougher’ decisions are ‘needed’, it’s not impossible to see FF itself fracturing somewhat further. That would be a while away, but worth thinking about. And in the meantime? Roll on the campaign to halt the measures taken in some areas of education. What an interesting Dáil this is turning out to be…

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1. Damian O'Broin - October 25, 2008

Now there’s a set of polling numbers I don’t think I’ve ever seen the like of. FF down – good. FG up – very bad. Lab up – good. But as you say, we’re a long way away from an election. I still can’t see the votes falling like that, even if the greens were to walk away tomorrow and we were following the americans to the polls in November.

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2. Paddy Matthews - October 25, 2008

FF down – good. FG up – very bad. Lab up – good.

The degree of collapse is a bit of a surprise, though whether it’ll remain at that level or go even further down, is another question…

Meanwhile, over at Crank Central (a.k.a. p.ie), the young Blueshirts are having a [word deleted for reasons of taste and decorum] over suddenly being the largest party and the proles’ belated recognition of Fine Gael’s intellectual, moral, social and genetic superiority. This will not end well. For anyone.

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3. WorldbyStorm - October 25, 2008

I doubt the Green Party will walk. Not this side of Christmas anyhow, and if they won’t now, they won’t after. I’d agree with both of you, mixed results in this poll. An opening for the parliamentary left?

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4. sonofstan - October 26, 2008

An opening for the parliamentary left?

Taking Labour, SF and the Greens as ‘left’ votes (and that’s two camels through the eye of the needle for some of us), this poll gives a combined total of 31%, 2 short of FG and 5 ahead of FF

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5. ejh - October 26, 2008

Sinn Féin is still regarded as somewhat beyond the pale

Curious expression to use in the circumstances.

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6. WorldbyStorm - October 26, 2008

That’s a good way of looking at it, sonofstan… that’s mighty good.

Yeah, funny I thought that when I wrote it ejh…

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7. D.J.P. O'Kane - October 26, 2008

I suppose FG will be campaigning under the slogan ‘Health cuts hurt the old, the sick and the handicapped. There is a better way’.

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8. Niall - October 26, 2008

There is a particular problem for Fianna Fáil in relation to the next local elections as even a small number of losses will prevent them from controlling the Seanad after they win the next Dáil election. In the last Seanad “elections” Fine Gael messing presented them with gifts of two seats.

Reasonable increases for Labour & Sinn Féin would particularly move six or seven Seanad seats out of FF hands.

However, there is much worse to happen. I presume that they will now take the chance to amend the budget to bring it much closer to fiscal reality. The tax figures are at least €3,000M off and better get the additional cuts in now, rather than wait for March.

I await however FF & FG councillors to play the “foreigner” card. I certainly expect to hear plenty of comments between now and June next.

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9. Culture Vulture - October 26, 2008

Thanks for blogging.

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10. sonofstan - October 26, 2008

A thought…
Maybe the 2 and an half party system, inherited from the civil war and after, actually ended, or at least began to end, a while ago, but has been masked a bit by the Bertie effect – in other words, the core vote for each of the ‘main’ right wing parties is at about 20% FG and 25% FF, but because Bertie had consistently added a large wedge of the urban and ex-urban working class vote to this, the decline has been disguised – much as New Labour married the trad. Labour voter to the new ‘classless’ denizen of middle- England, a process, as it uncouples, will likely enough reveal the core labour constituency to be in even worse shape than it was in 1994.

I can remember elections where FF/FG got close enough to 90% – nest election they could fall below 60% – already, i would guess, the voter for the major parties is in a minority in most central, North and West Dublin constituencies.

With a non- Dublin leader, and, in fact no identifiably Dublin face on the front bench, FF could be in real trouble, even if they recover a bit from their current difficulties – FF, despite its rural republican image, has actually, Dev aside been most successfully led by Northsiders – Lemass, Haughey and Ahern.

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11. Andrew - October 26, 2008

An interesting footnote is how this will impact on coalition arrangements. The Greens are now needed numerically to maintain the government, but what also increase their power is that they would fear an election far less than FF.

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12. Jenny Muir - October 27, 2008

The poll is an understandable reaction to the budget but the long-term impact will depend on the other parties coming up with a better way to deal with the recession/ depression, which I don’t yet see. If the Left start to mobilise in a coherent way (don’t laugh) then the Greens’ decision to tough it out in the coalition could cause them long-term damage. I would still put money on the next government being FF led.

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13. Desmond O'Toole - October 27, 2008

The uneven distribution of FF supporters moving away from FF and towards Labour and Fine Gael is even more marked than your article suggests. There is a much more pronounced preference by FF voters to switch to Labour:

Switch away from government parties: FF -10, Green -1 and PD-1
Switch to opposition parties: Labour +6, FG +5, SF +1

The dynamics of inter-party transfers/switching is much more complex than the following analysis suggests, but in the space available I think these are still worthwhile observations.

It is reasonable to assume that the rise in SF support is most likely to have come from Green supporters given the vote transfer patterns between these two parties that we are all familiar with. Secondly, the PD slippage is more likely to go to FG than to Labour. This then suggests that the transfer in support from FF split 6 to 4 in Labour’s favour. That’s pretty remarkable, even allowing for margins of error, and may indicate that it is the FF vote that is more adressable for Labour, rather than the FG vote.

Part of what has held Labour back in the past is the association that the urban working class in particular has always had with Fianna Fáil. Are we seeing that traditional loyalty break down, led by older voters, and if so, what might this presage for the growth in Labour representation in Dublin, Cork and other urban centres?

If Labour can stabilise it’s electoral support at about 15% between now and the next General election, then Labour will be looking at a healthy 25 to 28 seats in the next Dáil.

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14. WorldbyStorm - October 27, 2008

Very interesting thoughts. If this did mark an historic detaching of a good chunk of the urban working class from Fianna Fáil to Labour, well, then, the sky might be the limit. That said, remember, 15% for Labour is far from unheard of in the past. But… to echo all above, if the rest of the ‘left’ is also holding up with Green Party and Sinn Féin on healthy percentiles, well then…we might just as sonofstan suggests be moving into a 2 and 3/4s party era… Which would be a game changer…

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15. Pete - October 27, 2008

The breaking of the conservative stranglehold on Irish politics has been heralded before – but I think there are real possibilities now. Sonofstan is spot on about the Bertie effect – his faux I’m working class Dub, youth union involvement and even claims to socialism did have an appeal and a reality. The Ahern was, like his master before him, keenly aware of the need to keep the working class Dub on board by bullshit, in the main, but also maintaining an eye on producing policy, which had a superficial benefit to the working class. Fianna Fail will not see the likes of Ahern-Haughey again. The way Ahern went out, which no one should doubt was with a very much aflame pair of yellow trousers and the as yet fully uncovered extent of his corruption has damaged Fianna Fail’s connection with the apolitical working class voter even more than the post-leadership Haughey really was a cad situation.

On an even more damaging ideological front the Bertie’s enthusiastic signing up to the GFA has removed the ability of Fianna Fail to play up the warp the green flag round me shite. That Ahern is unashamed in his attempts to find acceptance but the Brit upper classes is just another nail in this ideological coffin. No Fianna Fail leader will be able again to play the nationalist card in the post conflict situation.

Then we have the reality of how long a basically self-serving ideological institution can survive in an inter-generational sense without basically half-wits and the uber arrogant coming to the fore. That the three key government figures are third generation politicians, in a party which has no ideological underpinnings (see both the loss of faux republicanism and the recent ditching of any concept of universal social solidarity) I think raises serious questions about the Fianna Fail gang’s ability to draw in people (not of a criminal intent from the start, see Ahern, Haughey, Royston Brady, Lawlor) to push on to a next generation.

And finally, and I think most importantly, the loss of the Ahern/Haughey criminal network as a fundraising arm for Fianna Fail will seriously damage it. Fianna fail has systemically outspend other political groups in this state since at least the 1960’s funded by a quite sophisticated corruption of property development. With the end of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ heralding the end of mass development in the Dublin area for some time that funding stream is gone. But beware the post PD continuation of privatising the health service and Dermot Ahern’s sudden interest in the Casino industry may point to new funding streams being developed by the gangsters – but on the positive side I don’t think they will be as fruitful as the 40 years of TACA.

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16. sonofstan - October 27, 2008

That the three key government figures are third generation politicians,

Cowen, Lenihan and……?

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17. NollaigO - October 28, 2008

Cowen, Lenihan and……?

Eamon O’Cuiv… ?

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18. sonofstan - October 28, 2008

Eamon O’Cuiv… ?

A key government figure? at Community, Rural Affairs and Gaeltacht?
or ‘Craggy’ as it appears to be universally known in the public service…..

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19. Dunne and Crescendo - October 28, 2008

Mary Coughlan?

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20. Pete - October 28, 2008

Yes to the best of my knowledge it has taken three generations to produce incompetrantus that is Miss Coughlan – and I’m afraid she is the seond in command of the current administration

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21. WorldbyStorm - October 28, 2008

Whatever about her status as one of the three she kept a low profile throughout the week. Clever.

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22. sonofstan - October 28, 2008

TBH, whatever her abilities, I would reckon Mary C. is there so that Brian Cowen didn’t have to choose one of Dermot Ahern/ Noel Dempsey/ Michael Mairtin as Tanaisté, and so FF could look like less of a boys’ club (when we we see the first female minister in this government not called Mary?)

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23. WorldbyStorm - October 28, 2008

They were mates for years… but no doubt the optics played a part…

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24. sonofstan - October 28, 2008

Bertie’s enthusiastic signing up to the GFA has removed the ability of Fianna Fail to play up the warp the green flag round me shite.

Only noticed this now – beautiful typo!

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25. WorldbyStorm - October 28, 2008

Hmm… but slipping dangerously things better left unsaid – eh? 😦

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