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Government formation and that Red C poll. December 4, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.

Interesting, interesting. Adrian Kavanagh proposes that using his methodology the latest RedC poll would throw up the following result in the next Dáil – as noted in the previous post put up this afternoon.

Fine Gael 53, Labour 21, Fianna Fail 36, Sinn Fein 24, Green Party 1, United Left Alliance 4, Independents and Others 19. 

Usual caveats apply, but this is most useful in terms of allowing us a sense of where party support levels translate – roughly, or not – into seats. As Kavanagh notes it’s ‘grim reading’ for Fine Gael, and so it is.
There’s so much to think about here. Kavanagh suggests that SF would move from 14 to 25 seats. That’s an huge leap forward for them, perhaps on a par with their gains in 2011. Labour pushed back to 21 seats. Not an apocalypse, but more like their usual level across the last decade or so. Independents and Others, excluding the ULA would get 19. Another historic level of representation for that grouping. And this two years or so into a Dáil. It looks reasonably well bedded down. Fianna Fáil might expect to get 36 seats. The Green Party – remember them – would get 1 seat in Dublin Fingal. Got to be honest, this is where reality intrudes. I doubt that Trevor Sargent is running, and if he’s not running I strongly doubt any other candidate could win a seat there for the GP. That is the problem with mathematical projections which sit above the day to day grind of constituency politics.

And yet, to dismiss Kavanagh’s thoughts outright would be incorrect. While the detail may be incorrect the broad sweep would most likely be near enough correct.

But here’s where it gets particularly interesting. Look at the figures and try to work out governing combinations and some things come very sharply into view. A majority in a 158 seat Dáil Éireann requires 80 votes at least, excluding the CC.

Fine Gael 53, Labour 21 = 74
Fianna Fáil 36, Sinn Féın 24, Labour 21 = 81
Fine Gael 53, Fianna Fáil 36 = 89

And of those two which breach 80 seats which one looks most feasible? It’s not that FF/SF/LP couldn’t coalesce but given the mutual antagonisms I’d doubt it. Though, given three years who knows what the situation will be like?
Of course it is possible other combinations could be put together. FG, LP and some Independents. But the numbers suggest that the most stable combination would be FG and FF.

Now this is built on but a single poll. Yet who believes that FG or the LP are going to emerge unscathed from their time in government. Indeed FG’s sudden vulnerability is a sea change in the structural aspect of Irish politics in the past two years. So far they have sailed above the 30 per cent barrier, apparently beyond the reach of the issues that have hobbled the Labour Party. And worse again 36 might not be Fianna Fáil’s upper limit. Imagine for a moment if both FF and FG return TDs in the 40s. The historic realignment of Irish politics might be finally on! One which, unfortunately, was merely a slight realignment further yet to the right.

The point being that these sort of results, the sort of results all too likely in the wake of election 2015/6, push FG towards FF or an alternative scenario of dependency upon the LP and Independents who will be of dubious stability.
In a way the spanner in the works is an SF whose vote, at 17 per cent, is such that it can deliver significant numbers of TDs, albeit its options for government participation are limited. And it is possible that their vote may be higher. It seems to me that the political context is so ripe for further development for that party – even given the numbers of Independents and Others returned, that that would be towards the middle of the scale.
But what of the ULA. Kavanagh clearly hasn’t got the memo on the WUAG leaving the ULA, and therefore he has the new Tipperary constituency as a hold for them. But he also sees Boyd-Barrett losing DL. That seems to me to be almost inevitable, though it’s not going to be a case of for want of trying. But what sort of an ULA would it be with three TDs, two of whom were ex-SP and one SP TD? A diminished ULA – electorally – is an ULA which presents serious problems for its members and for its supporters and electorate. Moreover the levels of antipathy currently manifested and the rhetoric swirling around suggest that it may not even get to the next election.

Of course all this is an extrapolation of an extrapolation. Yet the figures support the contention that FG is likely to lose seats, in some numbers too, that the LP will do likewise and that all others will gain seats. And given the direction of the economy, and political developments, those trends look set to continue into the indefinite future. Could be that FG and LP will be sorry that an election isn’t called this week given the numbers Kavanagh suggests will be returned.


1. CL - December 4, 2012

The lingering whiff of cordite may perhaps preclude cohabitation between F.G and S.F, but there is no ideological barrier preventing coalition between any of the four main parties. The ‘historical realignment’ when and if it comes will have little real significance.


2. shea - December 4, 2012

FF, FG and FF independents. think thats the most likely senario. SF could go in with FG, they have stormed over all their lines in the sand but at the same time given how cautious they are would they cash everything in on a formation that looked so unstable. possible but at this point unlikely.


3. Joe - December 4, 2012

Interesting. Which is more unpalatable to FG – FG/FF or FG/SF. I’d say FG/FF is just not on – it will never happen. FG/SF might indeed happen. Likewise, hard to see FF/SF ever happening.


sonofstan - December 4, 2012

I’d say FG/FF is just not on – it will never happen.

Maybe not next time, but in our lifetimes, Joe…..


RosencrantzisDead - December 4, 2012

Re FF/SF: Is it possible to have a coalition where both parties appear to directly steal votes from each other?

You could argue that Labour and FG might transfer, but there are not that many places where they are directly vying for first prefs.


4. John Palmer - December 4, 2012

Is there a precedent in the FG/Clann na Poblachta coalition for a FG/SF government?


que - December 4, 2012

cant see that being equivalent. In the 50s the FGers still had IRA men in their ranks, later free staters but still IRA men.

The self same FGs today have men who think the IRA 1916-22 was also an illegal enterprise and betrayers of John Redmond’s fine (cough) legacy.

as like as chalk and milk


5. Jolly Red Giant - December 4, 2012

Kavanagh’s ‘analysis’ is a mechanical straight-jacket approach that takes no account of shifting political sands and is based solely on opinion poll results.

The most likely post-election government will be some form of national unity government (Quinn already used the term yesterday) that will likely try and bring both FF and SF onboard.


sonofstan - December 4, 2012

Was gonna post that, and then had second thoughts – but you can see the attractions for each party: FF come in from the cold after quarantine and get to look ‘responsible’ accepting being a junior partner, SF get their feet under the table, Labour get to defer any realistic social democratic programme for a while longer, and FG get to keep the top job (who though?0


WorldbyStorm - December 4, 2012

JRG I’m interested in what other metric would you suggest to measure ‘shifting political sands’? I’m hard pressed to think of one which could be used which would move beyond the entirely subjective or can be mapped onto political outcomes. I’ve already noted in the original post that in the context of the local there’s problems with his analysis – I’m sure he’d say the same, but in the general it seems robust enough. Certainly pre-election 2011 polling predictions were reasonably close in terms of seat outcomes so I wouldn’t find any great fault in this.

As regards a national unity government. Perhaps but I think that underestimates the visceral antipathy between FG and SF, and indeed between LP and SF. A grand coalition of FG, FF and LP would be a much easier call.


sonofstan - December 4, 2012

Tactically tricky for both FF and Labour, since, with SF as the opposition they would both be extremely vulnerable. FG not so much, since very few voters pass from them to SF.


WorldbyStorm - December 4, 2012

Indeed. But I wonder how many appeals might be made for a national unity government that would go two terms, long enough to dole out goodies to buy back support at the eventual end of the recession and (they would hope) reset Irish politics back in the pre-existing mode? I’d bet that line of argument might convince a fair few FG and FFers to give it a lash.


Jolly Red Giant - December 5, 2012

1. there is no metric to measure anything – an opinion poll is a biased snapshot (based on the questions asked and the answers accepted) of one moment in time – the next moment in time is different. Furthermore Kavanagh plugs national poll figures into local situations where in many (even most) cases they do not apply. His musings make light reading and nothing more.

2. FF, FG and LP cannot afford to leave SF outside p*ssing in – it would be much more ‘stable’ to have them inside p*ssing out. There will be no grand coalition without SF and SF would knock everyone over in the stampede to get in.


WorldbyStorm - December 5, 2012

I get that you don’t like polls JRG, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. Polling prior to the 2011 election was pretty accurate, as was that in previous years before other elections, moreover it demonstrated clear trends across the years of that government. And most political parties take it extremely seriously too.

Of course it is a snapshot but it is one which when correlated with other polls across a period of time allows us a sense of party support. I’m not sure why you keep stressing the point about the local, no one has disputed that.

But you still haven offered an alternative.

I would be astounded if FG and SF went into government together within the next decade or so. Just getting FF and FG together would be a huge ask, but SF? Do people not know any FGers or have contact with them? Short of utter social and political catastrophe, and even then…


dilettante - December 5, 2012


2. Greece? SYRIZA? Don’t be surprised what the establishment parties do when “advised” by their EU “partners”. And I don’t see Merkel and friends liking the idea SF into government too much.


doctorfive - December 5, 2012
6. doctorfive - December 4, 2012

Here’s further break down by gender

FG – M24% F31%,
Lab – M12% F16%
FF – M23% F17%,
SF M21% F15%,
Ind/Other M21% F21%,


7. que - December 4, 2012

The older Labour TDs are unlikely to keep on going.Are there enough Labour young uns to build personal votes to step into those seats? Can they actually realise the potential numbers into seats


Mark P - December 4, 2012

Yes, that’s just one of the problems with the methodology.

It essentially assumes that all other things are equal and then moves constituency scores up or down by the same amount as the national polls. It’s not useless, but it’s very limited and very rough (and I don’t think that AK claims otherwise).


WorldbyStorm - December 4, 2012

Absolutely, and I hope no-one thinks the methodology is watertight. I noted above it’s an hypothesis built on an hypothesis. But… it does suggest certain trends.

I could throw in a few other factors, it’s very possible that FF won’t gain any LE seats in a year or so’s time in Dublin. That will be problematic because Dublin is now hypercompetitive for them with challenges across the spectrum. that could depress the FF vote. FG and LP we know are cruising for a bruising. SF may falter, it may simply be unable to get above 25 or so seats. Not impossible by any means, particularly if it can’t convert support into seats, or the support ebbs away. Alternatively there may well be a sustained (strike that, make it ‘will be’) campaign against Independents, we saw a taste of that over the Summer, ‘reckless’ ‘no national interest’ etcetera and that may depress their vote. So yes, a multitude of factors can upset the applecart. But all that said at this point in time, and looking back across the last two years we can seethose certain trends…


que - December 4, 2012

as you say he aint claiming that. its a rough science but as solid a foudnation for some projecting as can be made i reckon.


8. littlemicky2012 - December 4, 2012

Why is the possibility of the ULA joining a “left led” government excluded here. The pre budget submission would find favour with Sinn Fein and a more chastened Labour party after an election surely? It doesn’t appear to me that this is an impossibility given the path the ULA has chosen.


WorldbyStorm - December 4, 2012

Inconceivable – as the guy says in the Princess Bride. A left led government would be insufficient, even were they to acquiesce to the idea of being in government with either LP or SF.


littlemicky2012 - December 4, 2012

Yes on the numbers maybe, but the numbers are contested. It is conceivable that after the budget an election could see a ‘left’ majority or nearly in the Dail. Would it not be likely then that the ULA would push for and be willing to join a left led government after all given that pre budget thing they came up with a deal might be possible.


Mark P - December 4, 2012

Not a chance. The numbers won’t add up. And if they did, there is absolutely zero prospect of those parties tolerating the ULA in government or the ULA volunteering to be in government with them.


littlemicky2012 - December 5, 2012

Sorry now but on several occasions during the last election we have heard the ULA talk about participation in a left lead government. I suspect that was sincere and given the the pre budget submission by the ULA would sit comfortably with Sinn Fein at least surely it opens this prospect up. Labour as we have seen will deal with anyone


Mark P - December 5, 2012

1) The numbers won’t add up. There’s nothing about it that’s worth really discussing after this. Even if you assume SF make big gains and the ULA make smaller gains, much of those gains have to come at the expense of Labour.

2) The ULA is further politically from Sinn Fein and Labour than those parties are from FF and FG. They don’t want anything to do with the ULA and the ULA don’t want anything to do with them.

3) If by some miracle the numbers worked (a zero percent chance) and SF and Labour were willing to go into government on the basis of a policy so left wing that it would satisfy some people in the ULA (a zero percent chance), others in the ULA would veto it.

This idea involves no less than three impossible things, which is two more than a Science Fiction writer is supposed to get per story.


9. Jack Jameson - December 4, 2012

FG/SF? Even if you thought SF could cross that ideological gap (which I think is more of a chasm), could you really see the Blueshirts and the Shinner foot soldiers wearing it?

My money is on FG/FF – either would sell their granny for a ministerial pension and they could sit easily with each other on the austerity train.


gabbagabbahey - December 5, 2012

if FF go into coalition with FG, what is the former’s reason for existing as a separate party? Even given different social bases (that could be and are catered for within populist parties as a whole), with no ideological differences the only selling point for FF is that they’re an opposite to FG. It’d be asking Tweedledee to give up his ‘dee’. Nothing really to do with the Civil War at this stage, just as a fact of the political landscape.

I don’t know if that’s necessarily an argument against such a coalition happening, pragmatism being a powerful force. Perhaps in the context of a ‘national government’ as mentioned above it would provide the cover to ‘put political differences aside’ while actually hiding the fact, for now, that no such differences really exist – beyond the current binary codependence/competition.


10. CMK - December 4, 2012

My heart sinks every time I read these poll results. Because they signify something hugely problematic and they provide considerable grounds for pessimism.

Indeed, I think many who are possibly hanging in here might decide that it’s best to get out soon as these polls are evidence that nothing will really change here. On the poll above the three long established mainstream parties here will retain 110 seats out of 158 in 2016, where they currently hold 133 out of 166.

This implies that people here are generally happy with the stream of economic disasters that these parties have inflicted over the past few years. And endorse the destructive responses to the events of 2008-2011. Or, that the economic crisis, and responses to it, are divorced completely from voting intentions and the latter are completely unaffected by dramatic changes in economic conditions.

That the benefits of incumbency, established structures, a history etc can equip right-wing and centrist parties, at least in Ireland, with the ability to withstand any economic catastrophe bar one which leads to mass starvation. It would appear, on the basis of polls like above, that the economic and political orthodoxy here is built on a mass popular base and that NAMA, the bailouts, mass unemployment, mass emigration, austerity budgets without end etc have mass legitimacy and will be endorsed electorally without question.

And that all of the protests, campaigns and dissent being expressed is confined to a very small minority In this state and has very limited electoral significance. There is a perpetual right-wing/centrist axis in this state that cannot be moved and that regardless of the austerity that we know is still to come that that right-wing/centrist axis will be only marginally weakened at the end of it all.


CL - December 5, 2012

“When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”–Jacob Riis


WorldbyStorm - December 5, 2012

I think you’re both right tbh, yes we live in a centre/centre right polity where there is mass acceptance of the legitimacy of State and government, even one composed of parties which reneged on their election promises like this one. Yes the left, defined broadly or narrowly is a minority. And it’s influence is minimal.

But that said attitudes change, as evidenced by abortion, and even seemingly small enough efforts can lead to positive outcomes across time.


makedoanmend - December 5, 2012

Hunger may indeed become a very real and persistent issue in the not too distant future in some Western economies. Nutrition is already a huge problem – and one that is starting to affect the middlestat.

Consider also that KMPG, a leading capitalist “accounting” agency, has publicly declared that c. 20% of the UK working population are now deemed working poor where income cannot meet basic survival needs any longer. Add in the unemployed and those no longer counted as unemployed but not in paid labour and you have a growing cohort of people who are starting to wake up to 30+ years of neo-liberal capitalism.

Despite appearances, there are plenty of pressure points seeking address against capitalism. One of capitalism’s current pet projects, which is to ensure that no worker enjoys any type of security, social or otherwise, will probably have more effect on a larger percentage of the population than pockets of hunger in the long term. Desperation comes in many forms.

The trick that socialists have to learn is that socio-economic change in declining economies requires different strategies and tactics than those employed in growing economies. Subtract the usury growth of our economies, as well as negating the much of the service GDP which is only a means of transfer payments, and we’d find very little productive capacity that produce direct or even tangental wealth like that from public projects such as motorways, trams and the like.


11. steve white - December 5, 2012

i do find theses things utterly pointless no correlation to the reality of election campaign, i find the obsession over them here utterly pointless too


12. Ivorthorne - December 11, 2012

Just took a Red C poll.

I was on the phone for 20 minutes before they asked the questions about politics.

Only a certain kind of personality is going to be willing to sit through 20 minutes of boring questions about pensions without hanging up, It’s possible these polls can be affected by this..


WorldbyStorm - December 11, 2012

Interesting. I’ve had a not dissimilar experience in the past.


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