Tuesday 20 March 2018

Voters: talk to the hand and show us the money

The economy is in recovery but people want wage hikes and demand cuts to toxic Universal Social Charge, writes Jody Corcoran

Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Jody Corcoran

Jody Corcoran

The Government is in a race against time and it has about a year to win that race.

As the finishing line draws nearer, today’s Sunday Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll shows it has still a lot to do to win and no guarantee it will.

The spring statement, on April 28, will be a first staging post; the Budget in October a second.

The finishing line is the election, this time next year or sooner, whenever Enda Kenny feels the time opportune.

The poll shows the Government needs to put real money into the pockets of people if it is to have any hope of re-election.

In that regard, the Coalition is still a long way short of where it needs to be.

The political narrative since the start of the year is that the economy has turned.

More than that, the economy is said to be positively booming. And it is, relatively speaking.

Exchequer returns last week showed €545m more tax than anticipated had been collected in the last three months.

Unemployment has also fallen and will continue to fall from more than 15pc since the Coalition came to office to 10pc now, and by summer probably into single digits.

In fact, the returns show a €185m or a 6.2pc reduction in welfare spending in the last three months.

All of this is good news; great news, in fact, insofar as headline news goes.

So why isn’t the Coalition reaping the dividend? Well, it is all about the quality of recovery, not the quantity. The answer is simple: Show us the money.

Until today, the received wisdom was said to be reflected in the trajectory of the polls.

Fine Gael and Labour were said to be on the up, and to an extent that was true, compared to the dog days of austerity.

But today’s poll shows that the Coalition’s recovery has also stalled.

All week the spotlight has been on Fianna Fail, stuck in the high teens of popularity, no momentum, facing demise.

Fianna Fail (19pc) remains unchanged in our poll, but the Coalition has also stalled, and no amount of ‘spin’ is going to project it forward again.

The public has become too wise, or remains too disillusioned. In short, the message from this poll is: talk to the hand — and show us the money.

The Government wants to talk about the feel-good factor. Well, try this for feel good: just one-in-four is happy with the Coalition’s performance.

A massive 69pc remain dissatisfied, up one point in a month of this bright new dawn, at the same level as a year ago, in fact; and within the margin of error of its dissatisfaction rating two years ago.

In that same month, the recovery of Fine Gael (25pc) has stalled, despite a valiant attempt to keep the good news going, or at least the bad news at bay.

Admittedly, Labour (8pc) is up two points, a snatch from Sinn Fein (24pc), which hardly represents recovery while the Shinners wallow in a sewer of their own making.

The Independents/Others (20pc), including various far-Left entities, are also down three points, grabbed by the Greens (3pc) up two points. Ho Hum.

The political party leaders may point to their satisfaction ratings, all up (but within the margin of error).

Now have a look at the dissatisfaction: Enda Kenny (67pc) up three points; Joan Burton (65pc) up four; Micheal Martin (57pc) up eight points; Gerry Adams (56pc) up six points.

Only Lucinda Creighton (44pc), less unpopular than the rest, bucks the trend, but her satisfaction rating is just 20pc.

In a week where it emerged the banks are ripping off 300,000 variable rate mortgage holders, when the questionable practice of zero hour contracts is in the spotlight, today’s poll divines further answers.

Support for wage increases is up, particularly in the private sector (43pc), up five points, and the public sector (37pc), up six points, even though half of those polled say ‘No’ to public sector pay demands.

The demand for more money is not just confined to salaries, but is more evident is demands for cuts in taxation, particularly those measures introduced in the teeth of austerity.

Reduce water charges? Yes, says 61pc; but the dreaded Universal Social Charge is just as toxic — cut that instead say 60pc; reduce income tax say 54pc, property tax (47pc) and PRSI (38pc).

A third (29pc) believes targeting individual politicians is a legitimate form of protest, but a majority (52pc) say it is not.

These are the so-called squeezed middle, squeezed by the Government, the banks, in some cases by their employers.

Their message is loud and clear in this poll, and bleedin’ obvious in many respects: enough talk, spare us the spin, and show us the money.

Online Editors

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