That latest Sunday Independent poll… March 22, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left, Uncategorized.
I’d mentioned a while back that there are too many polls. It’s true. There are. And the most recent poll from the Sunday Independent underlines this and is important only in one regard. And before getting to that let’s note that the individual figures while of interest aren’t that meaningful. Sure, Labour sub-10 per cent has a political effect, although in the context of the current Labour Party it is difficult to know what that might be. Will they tilt rhetorically leftwards or will they try to stick it out? As to the rest the FF rise continues unabated. And the Fine Gael decline halted marginally. That latter is often under reflected upon, but if the LP isn’t having a good war let’s not forget that in the relatively recent past Fine Gael had open warfare within its ranks. One doubts that that cauldron of ambition has settled and the profusion of polling data is no doubt making some very antsy indeed.
Sinn Féin would have to be happy to have polling figures as high as they currently are for them. Independents and Others might wonder if the LMF controversy is causing them collateral damage. But even still as a chunk of the electorate in the mid teens (and higher, much higher according to other polls) they’re still far from down and out. But all of these are contingent and to some degree unknowable. As always it is the dynamics which are more important and those are only apparent when contextualised with other polls and even then are not entirely useful.
However there’s only one major point to take away from this. And that is that political volatility is now the most obvious feature of the political system in this state, that the electorate is shifting one way and another and have been doing so now for over five years. Indeed one could argue that it was in 2008 – if one looks at the Irish Times polls when that volatility really entered the equation with Fianna Fáil recording 47 per cent across the first part of that year and Fine Gael dropping as low as 20 per cent. Of course FF never went so high again. By November of that year it had dipped to 32 per cent and by November of the following year it was itself at 20 per cent. But that year, 2008, was the last year when anything approaching ‘normal’ at least as was understood at that time was experienced.
Ever since voters have streamed one way or another. The core votes of parties have been proven to be vastly more malleable – and even the current renaissance of sorts in the FF vote doesn’t contradict that.
And what does that mean, this volatility?
It suggests that the electorate is still open to persuasion if strong cases are put before it. The strength of Sinn Féin is a case in point. Being semi-detached from the orthodoxy is doing no harm at all to them. And that’s despite the intrinsic problems of having divergent approaches in both parts of the island. In fact one could say that it is remarkable that an SF with Gerry Adams at its helm is doing quite so well given the nature of the preceding conflict. And yet it is.
But the lesson for the left of Labour is clear, coherence and unity of message are vital if it is to retain its current representation let alone make gains in 2015/16. And those years are speeding towards us. Obviously there is an hierarchy of challenges ahead. The various campaigns, the local elections and then the General Election.
Of course it could be that seats will be retained come what may, that the current volatility is not going to settle down. But for gains to be made something new will have to be shaped. And that has to be soon because as was noted in comments here one major problem is the lack of viable choice. Part of the reason SF is doing so well is because it has a network of candidates who can present an opposition to Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour in various parts of the country. But the left of Labour is often missing in action in considerable swathes of the state, or are unable to mount effective challenges. It is this intrinsic inertia in the system that stymies advance for the left time and again simply because no choice is presented to people.
This volatility is an opportunity, perhaps an historic opportunity, and it is not unreasonable to suggest that at some point it will damp down. Previous instances, 1948, 1987 and so on suggest that that is the usual pattern. But there’s no reason to believe that it has to of advantage to the usual suspects.