Sunday 11 December 2016

The Spin Zone: It's time for the gloves to come off or nobody will win

Published 09/02/2016 | 02:30

"When Micheál Martin unveiled that now infamous poster of Enda Kenny saying he wouldn't fix the hospital trolley crisis last month, there was a massive discussion around negative campaigning. Since then all sides have been very careful to keep the gloves on and fight clean" Photo: Collins

For anyone trying to keep tabs on all the promises, it's probably time to give up. Six days into the campaign and the main parties have promised us the sun, moon, stars and a few Milkybars for good measure.

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Maybe it's the media's fault. When Micheál Martin unveiled that now infamous poster of Enda Kenny saying he wouldn't fix the hospital trolley crisis last month, there was a massive discussion around negative campaigning.

Since then all sides have been very careful to keep the gloves on and fight clean. The campaign could almost be described as positive.

The parties are focused on their own policies and slipping in only the odd condemnation of their rivals.

The problem with that is that the vast majority of people don't really believe we're going to get 3,224 new teachers, 2,800 nurses, 1,800 gardaí and 500 social workers as Fine Gael outlined yesterday.

Neither do they trust that the Labour Party will make free GP care available to all and reduce class sizes to the smallest levels in the history of the State.

Voters don't think it's credible that Sinn Féin can transform the health service into some sort of utopia.

And the public are not convinced Fianna Fáil can deliver a fairer society for all.

In fact there are so many goodies on offer that it's hard to differentiate who is offering what.

It's a bit like a restaurant with a menu that goes on for 15 pages. If they just gave you an option of four main courses, life would be a lot easier.

Over the coming days each of the parties are set to launch their manifestos, which is when the analysts should really be able to start asking the hard questions.

The weekend opinion polls suggested we are heading for a hung Dáil - and that's a reality nobody wants.

The politicians, the journalists and certainly the public don't want to have to go through another campaign in a month's time.

In fact I've heard senior people in some of the main parties admit that many of their candidates would rather a comfortable seat on the Opposition benches over a second election.

With that in mind, perhaps it's time for a bit of old-fashioned Punch and Judy politics to liven up this race.

Fine Gael's original plan was to exploit people's fear by warning of a return to the days of boom and bust.

Somewhere along the way they decided 'keep the recovery going' sent out a more positive vibe - except that telling us better days are ahead suggested we were heading for a boom and we all know how they end.

Fianna Fáil has largely stayed out of the firing line, in a strategy you could argue has worked. But that can't last until February 26.

The Labour Party needs to disappear Alan Kelly for a few days. And Sinn Féin is lost in the mirage that is Gerry Adams land.

If this keeps up, nobody will win this election.

Irish Independent

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