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Fine Gael: Themselves Alone… maybe, perhaps… never know… and what then of Labour? February 18, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.

That Daily Star poll seems well within the bounds of the predictable and the possible – though with the caveat that it was conducted by a company named OI. They’re knew so perhaps the findings should be considered as being margin of error stuff.

Fianna Fail 17%, Fine Gael 39%, Labour 18%, Green Party 2%, Sinn Fein 10%, Others 14%

Fine Gael slightly up. Tipping towards 40. Hmmm… Labour on 18 and now sliding under 20 per cent. Fianna Fáil on 17 per cent. Interesting, is this the evidence so many have been waiting of if not a revival then at the evidence of a consolidation of its vote. If so remarkably SF remain at 10 per cent where they’ve been locked for the past week and tellingly the Independents also remain at 14 per cent.

Or are we reading this wrong. Adrian Kavanagh makes the point that when FF does better that suppresses the FG seat return marginally. And marginally when the projections are of 77-78 seats is no small thing [Kavanagh projects the following: Fianna Fail 31, Fine Gael 77, Labour 31, Green Party 0, Sinn Fein 8, Others 18].

Though consider that at the last election Fianna Fáil won… that’s right, 77 seats!

Of course the exchanges between Labour and Fine Gael are getting more heated. FG sees an opportunity to pull away entirely from the LP. The LP sees that prospect happening.

If Fine Gael does go it alone or in tandem with small numbers of Independents, not merely will this be the first non FF party to govern alone or as the overwhelmingly largest constituent element of a coalition, but it will also, and more importantly, mark for the Labour Party 14 years out of power, and potentially 19 years out of power. That’s a very long time, even for a party that might have 40 plus seats in the next Dáil.

Whether that’s enough time, or too much, for Labour to consolidate as the primary opposition party – a not unlikely outcome given the polling figures we’re currently seeing that suggest FF on sub 15 per cent – is another matter.

One thing that must be taken into account is this. The blow of a bad election can be very difficult for a party to sustain. One need only look at the problems SF faced post 2007 when rather than bringing in the 8 or 10 or in some instances 15 TDs they were predicted they fell back to 4 TDs. It wasn’t so much that this was disastrous – it wasn’t, even though it wasn’t great – but rather the sense that so much more had been promised.

For them the local elections were in a way worse. Despite retaining their local representation the fact that they hadn’t increased it was in part responsible for the departure of councillors to points various.

And of course, while we’re talking about SF, if they don’t get 7 or more TDs they will naturally be disappointed and there will be much talk in the media about how they have ‘failed’. But that is to underestimate just how difficult it is to build parties and how – relatively – successful they have been, not least in seeing Pearse Doherty through to victory, certainly the decision to see him to the Seanad was strategically brilliant. For them it is crucial to build numbers, but anything including or over 7 will be a good days work one way or another [though it will be interesting to see if the new government, whatever its colour, will rework Dáil procedures in a manner to marginalise them].

For Labour though it’s a little different. They could potentially get their largest number of TDs ever and be left sitting on the opposition benches yet again. For many of them that will be a bitter pill to swallow since this is quite literally their last chance at government.

So don’t expect any great shift to the left, or appetite to eschew coalition. That is most unlikely to happen, one way or another. Quite the opposite. Instead I suspect we’ll see an enormous enthusiasm to join the government on the part of the LP.

Indeed Gilmore’s thoughts in an interview on Raidió na Gaeltachta are instructive.

“I don’t think the people of this country are prepared to give complete power to any particular party, and that people want a coalition.
“Certainly, people are looking for a coalition that would be strong and lasting, and would tackle the major problems of the country.
“In a way, Labour and Fine Gael are agreed on a good deal of issues, eg reforms in the health service and some of the political and public sector reforms. “There are differences over the budget and how to put the economy back on its feet.”

And even if he sounded cautious, well…he’s also trotting out the one-party FG line, much like the Green Party, who I’ll look at in closer detail over the next while:

He added: “In my opinion, the choice at present is between a single-party Fine Gael government or a coalition in which Labour would be a strong or even majority partner.”

Does that work in quite the way that one-party FF did for the PDs? I don’t know that it does.

More pertinent is the question as to whether there will be a place for them?


1. DC - February 18, 2011

No chance Kenny will want to go it alone. FG are all very united now they are on the cusp of government, but it has as much been in spite of Enda as because of him. Enda would want Labour in the Cabinet to increase the risks of a heave for his internal rivals. In any event the kind od deals that would have to be done to get independent support would look terrible in an age of austerity…


Pope Epopt - February 18, 2011

That makes a fair bit of sense DC. An Labour after some huffing and puffing will come on board. They are desperate for some role in government, whatever it takes – hence all the emollient ‘sure it’s only the rough and tumble of an election’ between the two this morning.


Joe - February 18, 2011

I don’t agree DC. I’d say Enda would love an overall majority. Wouldn’t any leader of any party? Shouldn’t any leader of any party? They’re in the business to win surely. And if he gets it, there won’t be no heave ever – he’ll be, in their eyes, the greatest Stater since Collins.
On another hand, the probable outcome is an FG/Lab coalition with 100 plus seats. Which creates its own problems with govt backbenchers much more likely to kick up a fuss (from “left” or right) over different issues – knowing that they can vote against, get a name for themselves but not spark a general election.
The ideal for Kenny is either a single party FG govt with a slim majority or FG plus right independents (Shane Ross for starters) with a slim majority – the latter he’d have to manage similarly to how Ahern and then Cowen managed Healy Rae and yer man from Tipp.


DC - February 18, 2011

Joe: I assumed FG would fall short of an overall majority by a small margin, which is what the polls are suggesting-if they won an actual OM of course it would really be uncharted territory.


2. Mark - February 18, 2011

I get the impression that these polling companies are trying to outdo each other with headline grabbing results.

No poll is going to predict the last seat lottery in this election.


3. EM - February 24, 2011

Giving FG max of 77 seats – boy, wont that figure resonate with Fianna Fail in historic terms…right back to when FG (Cumann na Gaedhael) first had a Dail a Dail majority.

Im giving this Government max of three years – the dynamic of all Labour/FG line-ups is that Labour ‘contrive’ a budgetary issue to make their escape.

The Presidential election will be first referendum-of-sorts on incoming Government. In 1973 the incoming Coalition with its 14-point pre-election agreed plan got a shock when it lost a Presidency within three months.

And, hey, the notion of ‘No Heave’ against Enda. Forget it. Jack Lynch had 77+7 = 84 seats in 1977 and he was given his march orders within two years.


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