Tuesday 12 December 2017

Why June election can't be ruled out

With the coalition crippled, going to the polls is likely. FF's chances are slim but they might escape a hiding, writes Marc Coleman

If you want to spring a surprise, spring is the time to do it. Economists hope an election won't happen until the public finances are put right, and that will take at least until 2012. But if an election is held before then, and if this happens because the Government wants it to, next June is the likely month. It could, of course, collapse without wanting to and as we saw last week, that event could happen any time. But that is precisely why, from the Government's point of view, a June election -- an election whose timing it can control -- cannot be ruled out.

As the slog of government gets harder, the coalition's cohesion is likely to continue fraying around the edges, increasing the chances of an unplanned and possibly chaotic election. But this is only one reason why we might be voting in June. Before elaborating on others, let me outline a speech I heard a respected backbench TD give recently. I cannot mention him or exactly what he said, because the speech was off the record.

The gist of it was this: Government, he said, is about hard slog. It is unglamorous, tough and no-nonsense; not for faint hearts or me-feiners. George Lee's resignation, he went on, revealed an Opposition obsessed with quick-fix celebrity politics and without the substance to govern. Given Richard Bruton's stoic pursuit of public interest over three decades, this particular remark was unfair. But his next point wasn't: The Opposition, he said, had been indecisive about what it wanted. The Government, he argued, was decisive and also determined to do the right thing. Fine Gael's flip-flopping on public pay gives him a point here. But the really important point about this speech was the impression I got that the Government has reached -- and successfully overcome -- a pain threshold. These guys have just been through the mill and it's toughened them up. There are several reasons why a "Feel the fear and do it anyway" general election could be called in the next few months.

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