Sunday 25 September 2016

The Yates anthology: Brace yourself for big election upsets

Published 20/02/2016 | 02:30

"The much-hyped television debates failed to deliver decisive winners." Photo: FusionShooters

Election 2016 has made a few things abundantly clear:

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1. Turning the General Election into a referendum on recovery was a poor bet.

Voters, not parties, always determine agendas. "Stability" and "fairness" formed the basis for the respective government and opposition pitches.

Opinion polls demonstrate that 56pc of the electorate haven't directly felt the benefits of recovery in their pockets.

This mirrors 63pc who have opted for change of government.

Many of the 140,000 extra jobs are low-paid at €12 per hour. Swathes of the country continue to have empty shop units, with low disposable incomes, and high levels of unemployment.

The wisdom of ministers extolling the good times has to be questioned.

For those on the up (about one third), tax cuts are what they want most. Those lagging behind (36pc) demand improved public services. So this polling day represents judgment day for attitudes on how the economic recovery has impacted on you and your family.

2. Affordable housing is a priority issue. On the doorsteps, the single biggest problem raised is access to affordable accommodation.

Take the Wexford constituency - there are currently 3,700 applicants for social housing with Wexford County Council. Yet, they built no houses last year.

Young families live in damp mobile homes, substandard flats or overcrowded homes owned by relatives. Alongside 100,000 awaiting social housing, workers see any income gains completely wiped out by rent rises. The cost of an average two-bedroom apartment in Dublin leaped from €906 per month to €1,364 per month over the lifetime of this government (2011-16).Up to €100 per week in extra rent negates all the benefits in net pay hikes. And the party manifestos contain no silver bullets to procure the necessary 25,000 houses per year.

3. Independents have emerged as a formidable political presence.

One consistent pre-election prediction was that the opinion poll trends since 2012 of 25pc support for non-established parties would evaporate in the context of a national election of government, as opposed to local council or European elections. This hasn't materialised.

The market share for smaller, newer parties and all shades of Independent TDs has actually increased to 29pc at the expense of the larger parties.

Quality candidates have emerged thanks to botched party selection conventions. These will be more than a match for the official standard bearers.

The most hard-working public representatives in communities are invariably independents.

Anti-establishment sentiment often gravitates towards these local personalities. Backbenchers can sometimes be perceived as mere lobby fodder steered by the party whip system.

Old-fashioned notions about Independents being mad-cap loonies do not stack up.

Don't be surprised if next Friday is Independents Day in many constituencies.

4. What might have been… Perhaps Enda Kenny will come to recognise that his biggest blunder in a long career was his change of mind about calling an early election on November 30.

In all constituencies, the mood on the canvass is distinctly sour and surly, according to all party troops. Nasty, negative sentiment is being registered by all politicians.

Old hands on the hustings are relaying stories of an unprecedented hostility and cynicism towards the entire political class.

Leveraging some feel-good factors would've been easier heading into Christmas holidays. Timing is everything in politics. Enda should have turned a deaf ear to Labour's pleas for more time. A low turnout is now feared.

5. Boredom has reigned. The much-hyped television debates failed to deliver decisive winners. Perhaps that's because the formats don't allow any contender to go for the kill.

The party leaders seem over-prepared, polished and bland. If it's blood sport you want, it's a turn-off.

But brace yourself for some big-name casualties, shocking upsets and lots of new faces in next Dáil.

Tipp are my top tip for hurling league

At a recent Fighting Blindness fundraiser, I encountered the hurling legend Nicky English (pictured). I was unaware that he's back as bainisteoir at UCD. This Premier County superstar of yesteryear told me to watch out for the newly reinvigorated Tipperary team - a hot betting tip to win the National Allianz Hurling League, rather than the Championship.

The great mystery of the senior hurling championship of 2015 was how Tipp managed to get beaten in the semi-final by Galway.

If you knew Seamus Callanan would score 3-9 on his own and Tipp wouldn't concede a goal; it would be inconceivable that they could be defeated.

They've under-achieved since being crowned All-Ireland champs in 2010, despite coming agonisingly close with Hawkeye in 2014.

Eamon O'Shea was replaced by his assistant Michael Ryan. Lar Corbett, Shane McGrath, Conor O'Mahony and James Woodlock retired. New blood has been infused with Daire Quinn and Dan McCormick.

Now Ryan has hyped up his squad to go all out for a league victory, as in 2008.

A 14-point demolition of Dublin started their campaign perfectly at Semple Stadium last weekend.

Tomorrow they take on Kilkenny at Nowlan Park. The Cats' main goals lie ahead, later in the year, and they now look a little undercooked. I fancy Tipp to win at 11/8 odds and they are value to win Division 1A at 9/4 (in from 10/3).

Irish Independent

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