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The second poll of Autumn… September 28, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.

Let’s start with the by now characteristic mess that is the Dáil pairings row.

To Fine Gael’s decision that

[they] [would enforce] stricter pairing arrangements and put… renewed pressure on the Government to hold outstanding byelections.

A decision which resulted in:

Minister for Education and Skills Mary Coughlan… [cancelling] her participation in an Enterprise Ireland “education mission” to the United States because Fine Gael refused to provide cover for her absence in votes, according to a Government spokesman.

Labour responded with this rather less heated suggestion.

Ruairí Quinn has said he would be prepared to provide a Dáil pairing arrangement with Fianna Fáil to facilitate an official trip, provided his party was satisfied it was a proper mission.

Forget the actuality, it’s the optics. Screwing up visits like Coughlan’s to the US looks awful. Just dismal. It’s a bit reminiscent of the proposal to abolish the Seanad. There’s a tendency, it would appear, in FG to push the thermonuclear button when more measured options remain available. Anyhow, that’s their problem, and perhaps one of the reasons that as seen below their poll ratings continue to dip (or perhaps this latest piece of political theater was a response to dipping ratings).

Meanwhile, dear oh dear, now it’s Mattie McGrath who puts down a marker.

In another blow to the Government’s fragile majority, South Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath said he would not support the Coalition on the planned removal of acute services at a local hospital in his constituency.
The proposal concerning South Tipperary General Hospital in Clonmel is part of the reconfiguration of services in the southeast.
Mr McGrath, who lost the Fianna Fáil whip in the summer after opposing the stag hunting bill, said he was angry that doctors, nurses and the public were being kept in the dark about what was going on.

I’m still a tad cynical about all this. Is it posturing, or genuine (in the sense that they’ll feel no choice but to vote agin the government when push comes to shove)? We’ll see.

Note the wriggle room…

“I’m a member of the Oireachtas and I haven’t a clue what’s going on on this either,” he said.
“If the process isn’t reined in and there isn’t an open, honest interaction with all parties concerned then the Government will not have my support on this issue.”

Meanwhile we have the Sunday Business Post poll (and AK of the IELB is drafting up a post on the polls which will go into greater detail, but here are my initial thoughts for what they’re worth). This is a poll that indicates some slippage for the opposition and no real change for Fianna Fáil.

Rejoice ladies and gentlemen! We have dug deep, deeper than ever before and now, it appears that we have found the core FF vote (granted it was 21% in May last year, but…).

But, given the dismal news for FF across the Summer, both in terms of policies determined earlier in the crisis, the current fetish for progressing them and the appalling public presentation by them, well, in a way this is a surprisingly robust figure. 24%, and no change? Cooler heads amongst them might well be talking up their prospects in the near future, and why not? Last weeks poll is presumably what initiated the wobbles with Grealish and McGrath. This week? Well, not exactly great news, but a little better.

They can do better, I’m certain of that. I’d think they’ll add a fair few percentage points as time moves on.

The threat to the Coalition comes as new Sunday Business Post /Red C poll put support for Fine Gael on 31 per cent, down two points from June, with  Labour, who led in a separate poll on Thursday, down four points to 23 per cent.
The survey, carried out before an unexpected fall in second quarter GDP on Thursday, but following a controversy over a radio interview Mr Cowen conducted after partying late with colleagues, had support for Fianna Fáil steady at 24 per cent.
Only 19 per cent of those questioned said they had confidence in Mr Cowen as Taoiseach.
“While the Fianna Fáil vote is stable, the party is on course for by far the worst electoral result in its history, with perhaps 30 seats in danger,” the Sunday Business Post  said.

It’s interesting that the identity of those who would be pleased by this poll switches markedly from the previous poll. For TV3 it was Labour, for this one it has to be Sinn Féin. 10% and a good performance, no doubt about – one wonders if they have benefitted from some former LP voters. And the Green Party might be a little happier after the shock last week from the TV3 poll. 3% is a bit healthier than 2% (and they received 2% in the last SBP poll). Actually, for them it’s a lot healthier and might mean the difference between no seats at all and one or two. For Fine Gael there’s at least the comfort of not having their numbers go beneath 30%.

Bu Labour must wonder about the volatility of polls which place them 12 points apart. In truth, at this point, they may be somewhere in the middle. That’s mathematically convenient, but. Polls .. you know.

I have to say, and this is entirely unscientific and subjective, this tallies closer to my own sense on the ground as to where votes would go. The idea that more than 1 in 3 would vote for the LP just doesn’t seem right. 1 in 5. Well now, that’s a different matter. That feels more likely. That said, it’s still an excellent result for Labour and perhaps the TV3 poll will result in a certain steadying of their position at the higher end of the range. And yet, given that in 2007 their vote was 10% and now it is consistently double and more of that…as noted previously, on a good 20% plus one could envisage 30 plus seats.

As for the Independents, they’re on a healthy 10%. That’s not bad, even if there’s still the suspicion that in those percentages lurk the odd FFer. But they’d be disappointed if there weren’t half a dozen or more returned.

Vincent Browne suggests that Labour will be hard pushed to get 45 seats, indeed he says ‘realistically it will be less than that’. He suspects FF may fall back to 48 seats, but look at the FG poll rating. 31%, four points above where it was on election day in 2007. That doesn’t seem to me like a party likely to be getting 70 seats, or even 65. Indeed on those figures it might be lucky to get 10 extra seats. And that’s a most interesting Dáil, one where FF might be touching 50, the LP 40ish and FG in the early 60s. Not a lot of room there for others.

And politically, while all is gloom amongst the parties (it is – really), the danger to the government remains as it has been, the Budget. Mr. McGrath and Mr. Grealish have some time to position themselves before that. And so does the government.

As Mary Minihan noted in the Irish Times , the brute facts are as follows:

THE 30th Dáil has 166 seats. Three are vacant due to the retirement of Martin Cullen (FF) of Waterford; the election of Pat the Cope Gallagher (FF) from Donegal South West to the European Parliament and the death of Séamus Brennan (FF) of Dublin South (and resignation of his replacement George Lee).
THE GOVERNMENT can count on 79 votes: there are 70 Fianna Fáil deputies; two TDs who are without the FF whip but supportive of Government – Dr Jimmy Devins and Eamon Scanlon, both of Sligo-Leitrim; Independent Minister for Health Mary Harney, formerly of the Progressive Democrats; and six Green TDs.

And the rest?

THE OPPOSITION can count on 75 votes: 51 Fine Gael TDs; 20 Labour deputies and four Sinn Féin TDs.

And the spanners in the works?

OTHERS: It is more difficult to predict the future voting intentions of eight other TDs:

Two are more or less onside…

Independent Michael Lowry of Tipperary North is expected to continue supporting the Coalition for the present but has declared he will not vote for a new Fianna Fáil nominee for Taoiseach if Brian Cowen is removed from office.
Independent Jackie Healy-Rae of Kerry South shares Mr Lowry’s position.

Three are more or less not but look to me unlikely to bring down the Government short of the Budget:

Independent Joe Behan of Wicklow, who left Fianna Fáil over 2008 budget cuts, cannot be counted on by either side.
Independent Finian McGrath of Dublin North Central votes on issues as they arise. He voted against the Government when the Dáil debated a motion of confidence in Taoiseach Brian Cowen in June, but has supported animal welfare legislation and the Civil Partnership Bill.
Independent Maureen O’Sullivan of Dublin Central shares Mr McGrath’s position.

And three are engaged in the political equivalent of attempting to appear so volatile that the fear is they’ll do anything, anything at all…gulp.

Independent Noel Grealish, a former Progressive Democrats deputy of Galway West, announced on Friday he would not support the Coalition until such time as health budget cuts in the west were clarified.
Dr Jim McDaid of Donegal North West, without the Fianna Fáil whip since abstaining in a vote on the cervical cancer vaccination programme in 2008, has threatened to vote against the budget in December unless his local Letterkenny General Hospital is protected from cuts.
Mattie McGrath of Tipperary South lost the Fianna Fáil whip for voting against the law to ban stag- hunting in June. He said yesterday his support for the Government would depend on the retention of acute services at South Tipperary General Hospital in Clonmel.

So, more or less definitely 81 for the Government in the general way of things and Grealish at this point the least dependable, at least rhetorically, of the latter trio. Given that Behan et al vote with and against it doesn’t seem as if the government will stumble just yet.
Or as Pat Leahy puts it in the Sunday Business Post:

Privately, many government insiders believe that the best the government can hope for is to pass the budget -its fourth austerity package in just over two years -in December, to pass the Finance Bill early in the new year, and then prepare itself for a mid-year election.

Some way to go still.


1. Mark P - September 28, 2010

McGrath has a seat to hold in a constituency where competition will be fierce. It’s a three seater, where Seamus Healy is favourite to take one of the Fianna Fail seats and a big swing to Labour could put the other at risk.

Taking an independent line is the obvious thing for him to do.


WorldbyStorm - September 28, 2010

Yep, but how independent? 🙂


Mark P - September 28, 2010

As independent as he needs to be. Ideally he’d want to hold on to as much of the FF rump vote as he can, but from a purely electoral point of view, I suspect that the local hospital issue would have to take priority.


WorldbyStorm - September 28, 2010

Well, that would suggest he’d vote agin the Budget. You think he’d go that far?


sonofstan - September 28, 2010

Well, that would suggest he’d vote agin the Budget. You think he’d go that far?

He might, if a) there was no danger of bringing down the government, or b) The government was going to fall anyway.

He won’t do it if his vote was actually going to decide anything.


WorldbyStorm - September 28, 2010

Cynical, but compelling, that line of argument…


2. dmfod - September 28, 2010

Mattie was never favoured amongst the FF hierarchy anyway so he is probably not that worried about upsetting them – playing the local card works extra well in Tipp and I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up as an independent in the Michael Lowry mould especially as FF are going down the tubes. Head office didn’t want him on the ticket last time because they wanted to make sure Martin Mansergh (who is pretty much the polar end of the FF gene pool as an intellectual, political insider type rather than a jumped up gombeen yahoo) got in and they were none too pleased when Mattie got so many votes Mansergh only barely scraped it.



WorldbyStorm - September 28, 2010

A Lowry like existence post the election makes sense, particularly if he can get in.


Mark P - September 28, 2010

That profile is hilarious. It doesn’t even mention his calls for the sacking of a Minister from his own party for talking about lowering the drink driving limit, but it more than makes up for it with other little details.

McGrath is one of my favourite TDs. A walking indictment of Irish politics.


3. dmfod - September 28, 2010
4. Clive Sullish - September 29, 2010

Q: Well, that would suggest he’d vote agin the Budget. You think he’d go that far?

A: He might, if a) there was no danger of bringing down the government, or b) The government was going to fall anyway.

Observation: The argument that Mattie will always vote in Mattie’s own best interest is very plausible. However, the sheep story linked by dmfod, above, suggests that Mattie cannot always be depended upon to recognise Mattie’s best interests


5. Dr. X - September 29, 2010

Here we go, more culchie-bashing from the Dublincentric hard left.


6. dmfod - September 29, 2010

I’m from Tipperary!


sonofstan - September 29, 2010

As was my mother.


7. sonofstan - September 29, 2010

Mattie doesn’t expect the govt. to survive the budget – nevertheless, he just voted with them against the FG motion to move the writ for the By-elections. Does Mattie even know what Mattie thinks?


8. sonofstan - September 29, 2010

IT poll tomorrow reported to be as follows: FF and fg both 24%, Lab 33% (!) SF 8% – WTF is going on?


WorldbyStorm - September 29, 2010

Now that’s what I call… unexpected…

Disaster for Kenny. Calls for head? Very bad for the Greens, etc. Mind you, isn’t this under a different methodology to previous ones?


sonofstan - September 29, 2010

But wasn’t the change because they thought they might be overstating the Labour vote? so if they’ve corrected that and they’re on 33%?!

FG are screwed on this: if they stick with Enda, they could even lose seats, but unless-or even if?- he goes quietly, they won’t have time to bed in a new leader – they could end up with Noonan or Phil Hogan or someone in the sort of caretaker role Michael Howard assumed for the Tories after the disaster that was IDS. Either way his hopes of being next Taoiseach are vanishing like the Roadrunner ahead of the (not so) Wily Coyote…


WorldbyStorm - September 29, 2010

Actually I think you’re right, that they had previously overstated the FF vote but now they were trying to compensate.

That’s a fascinating thought that FG could lose seats. Certainly not in the game plan…


irishelectionliterature - September 29, 2010

Supposedly The MRBI core figures are: FF 19(+3) FG 20(-1) LAB 27(+5), SF 6(-2), GP 2 (-1), OTH 8 (+1) and Undecided 18 (-5).
Kennys goose cooked? Yes but who do you put in. I think the time is passed for Bruton mainly because the whole disastrous framework is already in place. Bruton was the man a year or two back when we were deciding how to cope with the economic crisis.
Great result again for Labour and the fall in undecided voters indicates people are making up their minds.


WorldbyStorm - September 29, 2010

V. true about the core… but as you say, Bruton is a diminished figure today…

Phil Hogan though, gawd.


9. Dotski - September 29, 2010

Interestingly, if it was a GE on these figures, you’d be looking at something like

LP 66
FG 45
FF 40
SF 7
GP 0

What odds FG/FF?


10. WorldbyStorm - September 30, 2010



sonofstan - September 30, 2010

I don’t think so. FG seem to have a talent for making precisely the wrong decision, and jumping the gun, with Enda making up policy on the hoof, but even they must know that it’s a non-runner. People will be voting against FF and any votes they pick up outside their core – not many on this poll – will desert them, just as much as they would Labour in the same circumstances.


Pope Epopt - September 30, 2010

FG/FF is a marriage made in heaven, ideologically and culturally, but they both must surely realise that would be the end of their raison d’etre, and they would both loose longer term support.

Lab/FF really concerns me, because it would be the saving of FF, and I’m not sure that the Labour leadership would refuse it. That spectre is going to make a lot of potential Labour support wary of it.


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