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Sunday Times Poll: The Labour mud-guard on the Fine Gael led government? September 6, 2011

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

Sunday Times Poll
Fine Gael 44%
Fianna Fail 15%
Sinn Fein 13%
Labour 12%
Greens 2%
IND/others 12%

What an interesting poll the Sunday Times brought us this weekend. A poll which decisively points to Fine Gael dominance, potentially for quite some time to come. Isn’t it a sign of how things have changed that polls now come but rarely and that in some respects we have much less sense of the temperature of the polity than even six months ago. And that too is – perhaps a sign of FG dominance.

Most intriguing aspects? A Labour Party which has crashed not just below Fianna Fáil but also Sinn Féin.

I should stop right here and say this is but a single poll and it doesn’t appear to have a continuity with previous ones taken earlier in the Summer, but we can only work with what we get.

The last poll of any substance was the July 2011 Ispos-MRBI poll in the Irish Times which as Adrian Kavanagh notes on Political Reform.ie saw the party strengths as follows:

Fine Gael 38% (up 1% relative to the last Ispos-MRBI poll on 18th February 2011), Labour 18% (down 1%), Fianna Fail 18% (up 2%), Sinn Fein 10% (down 1%), Green Party 2% (as was), Independents and Others 14% (down 1%).

It’s possible, admittedly only by squinting at those figures, to see some signs of the most recent ones – even if one notes that these were not carried out by the same company. An LP beginning to flag. FF, varying too. An Independents figure there or there abbots. But look at the divergences. FG up 6 per cent. Labour down 6 per cent. Fianna Fáil down 3 per cent and Sinn Féin up 3 per cent.

So granted this could be a rogue, and yet there are reasons that any consideration of the political environment as it now is suggests for a weakening of Labour Party support.

Think about the most high-profile issues other than the relationship with the IMF/EU, the subsidiary ones. JLCs, welfare cuts and so on. Hardly the stuff of dreams for a Labour Party which even still must look to its left flanks in order to shore up its support.

This site has argued long and hard that there’s a terrible misconception at the heart of much of political activity in this state, a misconception willfully or otherwise generated in part by the media. It’s the idea that if ‘hard’ decisions taken, a shaken but eventually grateful electorate will ‘reward’ those taking them.

There’s not much to support this viewpoint. Quite the opposite in fact. One can critique the Rainbow Coalition of the mid-1990s for many things, not least its less then full-blooded enthusiasm for the peace process [and strange how antique that term suddenly sounds] but in matters economic it was, compared and contrasted with its successor both moderately progressive and fiscally cautious. Yet for all that stability it takes but a second to remember the ‘It’s payback time…’ headlines in the Independent. No great reward there. No great reward for Fianna Fáil or the Green Party following their implementation of the ‘hard’ decisions, even if some of that lack of reward was due to the sense that there was no end to the ‘hard’ decisions. Two political formations that had solid histories in this state both in the contemporary period and longer, much longer in the case of FF, broken and broken badly by impact with the electorate. So where is this chimerical reward?

Well, I suspect the Stephen Collins’ of the world mistake the initial flush of enthusiasm for the Progressive Democrats as being evidence that ‘tough’ talk and ‘hard’ decisions will be rewarded. But that is to forget that the PDs lost eight of their fourteen seats at the 1989 election, before they went into government. Their increase back up to 10 at the 1992 election wasn’t so much indicative of reward for being in coalition with FF as a profound weakness in the latter party, riven as it was by internecine conflict.

So the evidence is thin, at best.

And talking of the Green Party?

What’s interesting also is that we’re seeing, and it’s early days yet so all usual cautions apply, a reverse of the situation that was extant with the FF/GP government where the latter party retained its support for quite some time into the life of that administration. On the other hand it might be fair to note that it wasn’t exactly promoted as an FF/GP government initially, but more as an inter-party government where the PDs and Independent support were significant components, so perhaps it was easier for the GP to remain somewhat out of the spotlight – at least until the economy began to implode – and added to that was the early and tenacious approach of the GP that they were concentrating on the areas they had direct control of, ie the Departments their Ministers were in charge of.

No such luck for the Labour Party, which almost incredibly, took on a number of high profile Departments that would inevitably come into view in respect of cuts. These were Departments that of their nature cannot be activist, with even a fig leaf of job creation extant, but can in some ways be defined as passive. Hardly great since there are no job creation measures likely to come out of Education or …

But add to that a bizarre tendency on the part of the LP Ministers to wade into conflicted territory across a range of issues, again welfare springs most readily to mind, with views that are – at least as enunciated – firmly to the right of centre. It’s as if they simply don’t realize that they only have so much political capital and what they have is diminishing rapidly.

Again this site has argued that rhetoric matters, that one of the main causes of the degradation of Fianna Fáil support was a near-unhinged campaign against the public sector, unhinged not merely in terms of the discourse adopted but in terms of its blindness to the nature of the cross class coalition which had sustained FF previously. That support isn’t, taking this poll as evidence, streaming back to that party even in the face of a disenchantment with Labour. Indeed what is striking is that SF is up somewhat on recent polls as are the Independents. So too, of course, is Fine Gael, consolidating itself nicely. But that too should be no surprise. Why support a rhetorically right of centre LP when the real deal is out there biding its time?

All this could be silly season stuff. It could be a blip. But… if the Labour Party has actually seen its support fall to the low teens or lower, then who could be optimistic about its prospects once Michael Noonan tells us of his plans for the next three years, and worse again when the final shape of Budget 2012 comes into sharp focus. And as this poll also tells us there’s plenty of competitors to left and right waiting to mop up the support Labour loses. It’s only fair to say that FG cannot expect in the long term that attention is focused on the LP indefinitely, but FG is so large it can suffer considerable attrition. Though a thought. Carry this in part through to the next election, and yes – this is near pointless given the length of time to that event, but it’s entertaining nonetheless. How does a weaker LP, a more or less similar number of Independents, an FF with the same or slightly more TDS, an FG also weaker but perhaps with reasonably good numbers and a stronger SF leave us in terms of government formation? Minority governments here we come!

Adrian Kavanagh argues that ‘the Gilmore Gale’ has ‘well and truly blown itself out’. True. But not unexpected. What’s more interesting is that he also posits if an election were held today it might herald FG one party government – possible, but politically so unlikely as to be near pointless to discuss [an FG that went for broke would, I’d suspect, be seen as deceitful and self-regarding in such a way as to immediately chop significant percentiles off of its support, though… though, if they could manipulate an LP departure 😉 ]. And more interesting again that Sinn Féin, quietly but assiduously working away largely in the background is gaining support. And as is always worth noting, there are small parties that have lived and died in this state on the percentiles that SF is currently gaining. That perhaps is all one needs to know about how successful the consolidation of its support across the last five years has actually been.

Happy days for Fine Gael, content that they are to some extent protected by their ‘partner’ in government. Happier still for Sinn Féin about to field their own candidate in an election they know they will not win, but can contest unlike our former governing party. Happy too for Independents and others whose vote share remains strong.

A good summer for all of them. And grim news for both Labour and Fianna Fáil. A week before the Dáil returns they must hope that there will be a Red C poll in the Sunday Business Post this weekend that will bring better tidings.

One final thought for now. Why on earth are the Green Party represented here? A party with no national and minimal local representation being represented while political parties with national representation such as the SP and People Before Profit are not seems almost perverse.


1. sonofstan - September 6, 2011

And as is always worth noting, there are small parties that have lived and died in this state on the percentiles that SF is currently gaining. That perhaps is all one needs to know about how successful the consolidation of its support across the last five years has actually been.

Maybe I need more coffee, but I’m not sure i get the point you’re making here?

Shocking poll for Labour .


2. WorldbyStorm - September 6, 2011

Sorry, I should have been clearer. SF has gone up three per cent, about equivalent to the GP vote across much of it’s life and people often forget WP used to regularly poll in or around 4 per cent. My pout being that SF is now something different to the smaller parties and closer to… Perhaps the sort of mid sized party like the LP has been and on these figures will soon be again.


sonofstan - September 6, 2011

Conversely, the PDs were polling at that level – and had an equivalent number of TDs – for some of their lifespan. So, in itself, it’s no guarantee of permanence. The difference being that SF have built over 20 years to this level.

Something that ought to be mentioned, and is depressing: add theigures for the other three *medium* parties together (FF, LAB and SF) and you get a figure lower than FG’s 44%. It is almost impossible to imagine a govt. anytime over the next decade – at least – that won’t be at least FG led. The really are – by default – now the natural party of government


WorldbyStorm - September 6, 2011

True re PDs, but one hopes the rise of SF indicates a more sustainable level Of representation.

Re FG and government formation I think unfortunately you’re right.


3. DublinDilettante - September 6, 2011

One final thought for now. Why on earth are the Green Party represented here? A party with no national and minimal local representation being represented while political parties with national representation such as the SP and People Before Profit are not seems almost perverse.
Well in fairness, the left didn’t feature in this analysis until the last sentence either…


WorldbyStorm - September 6, 2011

The further left? That’s true, but in my defence it’s kind of the point. We simply can’t know how they’re doing because they’re folded into the Indo vote. Anything I said would be a total guess other than saying they’re probably doing fine and support hasn’t slipped.

That said I already have a post written fOr tmrw on Dublin West.


DublinDilettante - September 6, 2011

Maybe it’s just me, but it does seem like the analysis on CLR has gone a wee bit macro since before the election, precisely at a time when the ebbs and flows between the amorphous main parties are of historically little relevance. Perhaps it’s an indictment of the ULA in that it hasn’t captured the imagination of the blogosphere. Left blogs in Ireland used to be awash with blazing left-unity threads when it was still an idea, one sees few enough these days.

As for the hard-decisions line, the commentariat have shown a lot more savvy in this regard than one would usually credit them with. They knew the FF/GP government was a finite resource out of which a limited amount of austerity could be squeezed, hence the swing behind the new coalition. The same will happen to them (or at least the Labour component) before the next election.


WorldbyStorm - September 6, 2011

That’s not an unfair point you make but two things strike me, firstly it’s the Summer, though I know first hand that various campaigns from ULA components continue in truth it’s been quieter politically, and in truth a bit of a struggle to write anything at all, why else does one find Five Years Ago on the CLR every week or two. Truth is Theres not a lot to write about RBB or JH or the ULA if one isn’t a member and perhaps even then. I’d love an ULA member or two to join our contributors and give a view from that perspective. this site is very supportive of the ULA so any info on mtngs etc is always welcome.

Secondly as with the above article from the ST, they don’t quite register at macro level. But again tmrws Dublin West piece asks questions that are central to your entirely valid critique.

+1 re point on ‘finite resource’, I never looked at it that way.


4. WorldbyStorm - September 6, 2011

I can pout but I mean ‘point’!


5. Fine Gael rises and Labour falls in latest Sunday Times poll… « Slugger O'Toole - September 6, 2011

[…] World by Storm (since I’m too tight to take out even a daily sub on the Sunday Times) that poll at the […]


6. Bartley - September 6, 2011

I hate to be the stats nazi, but it might be worth distinguishing clearly between percentage and percentile



WorldbyStorm - September 6, 2011

Nope, you’re dead right to point to that.


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[…] Cedar Lounge Revolution carries news on a Sunday Times poll that places Sinn Féin a percentage point ahead of the Labour Party (though, […]


8. The Green Party – A Dying Horse In Search Of A Bullet « An Sionnach Fionn - September 8, 2011

[…] dead in the water. In this part of the country the Greens still feature in the polls (though just about), but organisationally they are fracturing, with some members returning to environmental activism […]


9. An Sionnach Fionn - September 8, 2011

From Adrian Kavanagh on PoliticalReform:

“Based solely on assigning seats on the basis of the constituency support estimates (simply using a d’Hondt method to determine which party wins the seats), party seat levels would be estimated as follows: Fine Gael 96, Labour 15, Fianna Fail 20, Sinn Fein 19, Green Party 0, Others 16.

When the factors of vote transfers and vote splitting/management (based on vote transfer/management patterns oberved in the February 2011 election) are accounted for and constituency marginality levels at the February 2011 election taken account of, the party seat levels would more than likely be as follows: Fine Gael 93, Labour 18, Fianna Fail 18, Sinn Fein 21, Green Party 0, Others 16.”

Sinn Féin, the second largest party in Ireland? Is that possible, even as a theoretical exercise?



WorldbyStorm - September 8, 2011

I think it could be, but a lot depends… crucially they must consolidate their current vote support and also be able to take a couple of seats in constituencies where two was feasible – no retirement for G. Adams, so. And of course a few new ones as well. As well as fending off an FF that might – might – have seen some increase in support.

I’d have thought 18 or so was a more realistic option. BUt… look at it this way, for those folk who won’t go as far left as the ULA, aren’t keen on Indo’s [whose stock probably will fall] then SF is perhaps an increasingly attractive option given an LP that the gloss is coming off fast and an aversion to FG [and for more recent issues FF].


10. sonofstan - September 18, 2011

Millward Brown in today’s Sindo has:

FG 40%
Lab 20%
SF 11%
FF 10% (!)
ULA/ Inds 17% (Why not separate?)
Greens (why?) 2%


RosencrantzisDead - September 18, 2011

Sharp drop for FF. What might have triggered that?


sonofstan - September 18, 2011

Somebody claiming on P.ie that FF are down to 5% in Dublin – that’s got to be fifth place, behind the ULA


CMK - September 18, 2011

‘ULA/ Inds 17% (Why not separate?)
Greens (why?) 2%’

My reaction exactly. Why are an effectively defunct political party accorded polling status above parties which have decent Dáil representation. Clear bias on the part of Millward Brown and/or the Sindo.


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