Thursday 20 October 2016

Labour on the edge of political abyss


Published 17/03/2013 | 05:00

When the Irish economy first began to cough in 2007, that wise commentator Brendan Keenan warned that the one danger Ireland had to avoid at all costs was becoming separated from the European herd.

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When the Irish economy first began to cough in 2007, that wise commentator Brendan Keenan warned that the one danger Ireland had to avoid at all costs was becoming separated from the European herd.

He was correct, for Ireland did become separated from the herd and from that an entire train of disasters cascaded on to each other.

The most politically chilling feature for the Government in this week's Sunday Independent/Millward Brown poll is that, in political terms at least, Labour has become dangerously detached from the political herd.

Slipping below the 10 per cent mark means Labour is now staring at the gargoyle of a Green-style nightmare where the reward for doing 'the right thing' is a trip to the edge of the political abyss.

Such a prospect will not enhance the frayed stability of the Government or the uneasy internal Labour truce between Eamon Gilmore and Ms A N Other since the departure of Colm Keaveney.

The problem for Labour is that its political position is as wretched as our poor German friends in Stalingrad who were doomed whether they advanced, retreated or stayed where they were. And the even worse news for the party is that it is not merely detached from the herd in terms of party support. Mr Kenny's satisfaction rating of 26 per cent is hardly ripping up any trees but the 17 per cent rating of Labour's Mr Gilmore is positively BIFFO-esque.

Meanwhile, the Michael Noonan doctrine, where FG was assured of a permanent place in power if it became more like FF than FF themselves, is under serious pressure. The electorate have recalled the political promissory note they lent to FG and Not-So-Cute Old Phil Hogan in 2011 and are returning to the time-share salesmen of Fianna Fail.

Such an unexpected development where, after just over two years, that most unlikely set of prodigal sons, FG and Labour, have squandered a fifth of the vote they received, means that Enda Kenny's status as the Great Comeback Kid of Irish politics is certainly under threat.

It is hard to know whether one should be alarmed or simply despair that Micheal Martin, simply by following the apologetic, travelling political troubadour template set out by Mr Kenny, has brought Fianna Fail back to the edge of its former dominant position.

However, given the political tar-pit from where he began, the FF leader has certainly, temporarily at least, usurped Enda's crown.

The voters have taken a turn against the Government that will be hard to reverse.

Nothing epitomises this more than the astonishing figure where, despite the fact that 34 per cent of the voters still support the coalition parties, only 12 per cent of the electorate would, if an election were called tomorrow, have a FG/Labour coalition as their preferred choice.

But their minds are not made up, for there is no great enthusiasm for options such as FF/Labour (7 per cent) or FF and SF at 10 per cent.

In fact, given that just under half the voters, intriguingly, want a new party and half are also unenthused by the various FF/FG/SF/Labour Independent Chimpanzee's Tea Party options, the voters appear to only be enthusiastic for change and very little else.

The Sinn Fein rise, having reached the heady heights of 21 per cent, has stalled.

The jagged nature of the Fianna Fail recovery in the last three polls, meanwhile, allied to the still-high level of dissatisfaction with Mr Martin at 45 per cent, suggests the Fianna Fail position of strength is ambivalent.

In that regard, the Meath East by-election, which is occurring in a traditional FF stronghold, may, despite the unique circumstances of this contest, tell a tale.

The bad news for all election junkies is that the most likely consequence of this poll is to convince the suffering FG and Labour candidates of the virtues of a 2016 election.

Even this lot are not so dumb as to fail to realise if they are going to hang, be it together or separately, the execution should be delayed for as long as possible.

Irish Independent

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