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An election in 2015? Chances are Enda doesn't know yet

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Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Enda Kenny does not look like Santa Claus. In recent days, however, the Taoiseach and his ministerial elves have been compiling a list of presents that well-behaved voters can soon expect if they tick the right box.

For some Leinster House insiders, there can only be one explanation - the Government is planning to catch its opponents on the hop by calling a snap election in early 2015.

On the face of it, this seems like a crazy idea. Fine Gael and Labour are miles behind in the polls, barely able to scrape together 30pc between them.

The economy, meanwhile, is gradually improving - which suggests that the Government would be much better off waiting until its five-year term expires in April 2016.

On the other hand, there are good reasons why Kenny (left) might at least want to keep his options open.

The threat of an early election makes it much less likely that any Fine Gael TD will challenge his leadership, even if some feel they would have a better chance with Leo Varadkar's face on their posters.

It also creates a major headache for Lucinda Creighton and Shane Ross, both gearing up to launch new political movements shortly after Christmas.

term

The Taoiseach certainly sounds like a man in election mode these days. Last Thursday he told the US Chamber of Commerce that if voters give him a second term, he will cut the marginal tax rate to 50pc.

This came after a series of announcements by his ministers, promising a new medical card scheme, an extra 35,000 social housing units and high-speed broadband by 2020.

Obviously, Fine Gael and Labour are trying to regain control of the political agenda that they bungled so badly in 2014.

However, the current flurry of activity in Government Buildings could mean something else as well.

As Bertie Ahern (still the most cunning of them all) pointed out yesterday, no Taoiseach would announce his tax policy 11 months ahead of a budget - unless he thought it might come in handy a lot sooner than that.

So will 2015 be an election year? The chances are that even Enda himself does not know yet.

The Taoiseach is putting his troops on high alert and trying out some arguments he can use whenever the time comes.

So far, this strategy seems to be working reasonably well. Both Kenny and Michael Noonan have described the next election as a stark choice between their own common sense policies and the loony left headed up by Sinn Fein.

They also received a nice little boost when Gerry Adams went on RTE radio yesterday and could only waffle in response to basic questions about his party's economic policies.

protest

December 10 is a key date. If the next Right2Water protest attracts another huge crowd outside Leinster House, then Kenny should forget about an early election and devote 2015 to winning back public trust.

If it turns out to be a damp squib, then the tide may finally have turned in his favour - but TDs might want to start drafting campaign leaflets just in case.

Ireland has had four Fine Gael Taoisigh before Enda Kenny. Every single one of them failed to win re-election.

Santa Enda may fail too - but it will certainly not be for the want of planning.


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