Okay, it’s a trend… Labour on 22%, Fianna Fáil on 23% and… Sinn Féin on 11% in the latest RedC poll. February 28, 2009Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
Who would be Brian Cowen this evening? Who indeed? For as he put the final touches on his latest – or is it his first, in the sense of actually talking more or less directly to us – address to the nation at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis the news for him and his party approached the apocalyptic.
FG 30 -3
FF 23 -5
LAB 22 +8
GRN 6 -2
SF 11 +2
So, is this Armageddon for Fianna Fáil… well, probably not. That party is a resilient entity well able to claw back some percentage points. How many will provide a fascinating study in political tactics and strategy between now and the local and European elections. But that is not to dismiss the idea that psychologically this sort of body blow to its psyche, its sense of itself as the ‘national movement’, the ‘Republican party’ can be ignored. This is a profoundly serious process which is occurring here, one that is bleeding it of credibility and authority.
And growing is the sense that at the next election Fianna Fáil does not have a whisper of returning as a party with the sort of raw power that we saw last time out and the strength in the political context to determine the parameters within which governments would be formed. Now, counterintuitively, this may mean, if FF is seriously weakened that their place in government is actually strengthened, since a resurgent Labour would be more likely to plump for a government in which it had a greater number of Cabinet seats (and let’s remember that unless some smoking gun turns up as regards the banking crisis Fianna Fáil under Cowen, or perhaps a certain Mr. Martin, will remain a rather more palatable proposition than his illustrious predecessors).
What is most interesting is that Fine Gael are only a little ahead of their 2007 Election vote whereas Labour has essentially doubled. Glum news for Fine Gael. By any measure they should be doing better. Consider that in February 1982 under Garret FitzGerald they won 37.3% of votes. The November election of that year saw them win 39.2% of votes. The figure today is a long long way off that number. And why should we be surprised. Unlike the 1980s Fine Gael now has a host of competitors. But also, and again I’ve mentioned this, it is difficult to see how FG can offer a serious alternative to Fianna Fáil. The article by Enda Kenny in Friday’s Irish Times essentially offered much the same centre right prescription as that already being implemented by Fianna Fáil. Not quite the heady stuff a nation desperately keen for an alternative to the failed nostrums of the past decade and a half is looking for.
Finally we see some evidence that the Green Party is beginning to suffer with a dip of 2% from 8% to 6%. It’s not a huge dip, but it indicates at least some degree of upset at the current situation.
And most importantly the three most recent polls broadly agree that the political parties sit within bands of support. Granted the Irish Times had Labour ahead of Fianna Fáil, but in general terms the parties remain there or thereabouts.
Incidentally, whatever about putative political alliances the broad left vote (I include the GP) is now at 39%, while FG and FF are at 53%. Still some way to go then. But, a clearly articulated left position, even a mildly social democratic one would be crucial to government formation. It would be nice to think that precisely such a position might be seen to develop in the future. And part of that process might be some sort of conversation developing on the left, even between those who have been exceedingly antagonistic in the past. Because when push comes to shove we will be fortunate if our larger left parties do attempt to implement mildly social democratic policies in power and the more of them on board, or at least talking to one another perhaps allows for such a development.
I’ve noted it before, but it is clear that Fianna Fáil has seen a significant portion of its vote decamp to Labour. In a country like this where the media, economists and politicians have cleaved to a right of centre approach it must come as quite a shock to realise that a left of centre or at least public sector friendly vote exists and is strong enough to cause significant damage (or give assistance) to our leading political parties.