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Schlock, Horror: Fine Gael may not lead next Government!

by Frank Schnittger Sun Dec 5th, 2010 at 07:01:39 AM EST

In an extraordinary sensationalist attempt to influence the outcome of the impending General Election, The Sunday Independent, the largest selling and Fine Gael leaning Irish newspaper, has today published a front page headline story based on the same analysis of the recent Red C opinion poll which I referenced in Ruling Party Melt-down and the End of the EU project in Ireland

SF swing can make Gilmore Taoiseach - National News, Frontpage - Independent.ie

THE spectre of a Labour and Sinn Fein-led government, with the support of independent socialist TDs, is now uncomfortably close to reality, according to the latest analysis of voting intentions.

The formation of such a left/hard-left government -- which is now predicted to win up to 87 seats -- is emerging from a deepening sense of anger, frustration and alienation among the electorate, particularly since the EU-IMF bailout deal.

Until now, the prevailing assumption was that Fine Gael and Labour would form a new government after the General Election.

So just what is this "latest analysis", and how robust are its findings?  First, let's give the Independent some more rope...

SF swing can make Gilmore Taoiseach - National News, Frontpage - Independent.ie

Now, detailed analysis of an opinion poll published during the week, and seen by the Sunday Independent, has highlighted the distinct possibility that Labour and Sinn Fein could form a new government with the support of a majority -- but not necessarily all -- of up to 15 independent TDs.

According to the Red C poll in the Irish Sun, Labour (24 per cent), Sinn Fein (16 per cent), and independents (11 per cent), were on a combined total of 51 per cent.

An analysis by the Political Studies Association of Ireland (PSAI) translates those percentages into Dail seats as follows: Labour 48, Sinn Fein 24, independents 15.

Its analysis points out that the independent TDs are likely to include prominent left-wing candidates, such as Joe Higgins of the Socialist Party and Richard Boyd Barrett of People Before Profit, as well as several others on the hard left.

If all of the independents were to back a Labour-Sinn Fein coalition, then a clear majority of up to 87 seats would be in place, comfortably more than the 83 required to form a government..

Firstly, the analysis was not by the PSAI, but by Adrian Kavanagh, a poster (not an editor) on their website which explicitly states that the views of their contributors are their own and should not be attributed to the PSAI. Since when are mere bloggers worthy of front page attention?

Secondly, it was anything but a detailed analysis, but simply applied the average national party vote swing percentages in the Red C poll to the actual vote patterns in the 2007 election in each of the 43 constituencies which actually elect TDs (member's of the Irish Parliament.

As I pointed out at considerable length in Ruling Party Melt-down and the End of the EU project in Ireland, this ignores all sorts of regional variations, local factors, and the intricacies of the Irish multi-seat single transferable vote system of election.  It is simply not possible to add up the aggregate votes received by Labour, Sinn Fein, and a wide assortment of Independents at a National level (24+16+11=51%) and conclude form this that they must win an overall majority of seats.  

Ireland does not operate a list system, voters vote for candidates, not parties, and their lower preference votes (not measured by this opinion poll) generally determine the destination of at least the last seat in a constituency.

I went into such considerable detail in my last story precisely to pre-empt people from coming to such a simplistic conclusion. Perhaps the Sunday Independent political correspondent, Jody Corcoran, should have read my piece first.  

On the other hand, perhaps, not.  He knows those intricacies well enough but chose to ignore them because he has other fish to fry...  So what is his, and the Independent's agenda? Some more rope please...

SF swing can make Gilmore Taoiseach - National News, Frontpage - Independent.ie

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore has ruled out coalition with Sinn Fein, but the party's finance spokeswoman Joan Burton has been somewhat more equivocal.

However, the prospect of Mr Gilmore as Taoiseach may prove a huge incentive for Labour to enter government with Sinn Fein.

It is now clear that the arrival of the EU-IMF last month -- and the perceived dilution of national sovereignty resulting from that -- is fuelling a radical rethink among the electorate.

Labour and Sinn Fein have been most strident in their opposition to the terms of the €85bn 'bailout' arrangement negotiated by representatives of the Government.

In the Dail last week, Mr Gilmore declared that his party would not be bound by the EU-IMF deal and would seek to renegotiate it.

Labour opposes the entire premise of the agreement that there must be €6bn in cuts and savings next year.

Sinn Fein, meanwhile, has been even more critical and has said that it would default on part or all of the debt.

This stance is supported by the hard left.

Let us ignore, for the moment, that many people do not regard the Labour Party as being particularly leftist (unless you are on the hard core right of Fine Gael...) Let us also ignore, for the moment, that very few Independents, apart from Joe Higgins of the Socialist Party and Richard Boyd Barrett, could be regarded as even approaching left, never mind hard left, and thus unlikely to support the Sinn Fein proposal.

What Jody Corcoran is worried about, is that such "leftist" policies may actually be gaining popular support:  More rope please...

The view of several policymakers and economic commentators that the EU-IMF deal has placed an unsustainable debt burden on Irish citizens seems to be persuading voters to look again at an alternative left-wing government, including Sinn Fein.

According to a Sunday Independent/Quantum Res-earch poll today, 61 per cent majority believe the EU-IMF deal is not a good one for the country; that 71 per cent believe the Dail should be given an opportunity to vote on it and that 54 per cent do not believe the next Government should be bound by it.

It has also found that a 58 per cent majority believe the Government should default on all or part of the debt.

So Fine Gael is in huge danger of being outflanked not just on the left but by mainstream public sentiment.  This shift in mainstream sentiment is being fuelled by all sorts of abuses by the elite which are not going unnoticed by the great unwashed...

Reports last week that the Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern, 55, was to receive a 'golden handshake' of €325,000 and an annual pension of more than €100,000 have added to an already huge sense of anger and frustration among the public.

Furthermore, reports that Allied Irish Bank paid out almost €60m on bonuses over the past two years, including €3.4m to key staff this year, are deepening a general sense of injustice.

In a populist move, Mr Gilmore has promised in Labour's pre-budget submission to cap the salary of the Taoiseach at €190,000 and to reduce ministerial salaries by 17 per cent.

However, there are major differences between the pre-budget submissions of Fine Gael and Labour.

Fine Gael has accepted the need for the €6bn adjustment, as agreed with the EU and the IMF, with €15bn to be found mostly in reduced spending over four years.

By contrast, Labour wants an adjustment of just €4.5bn, with the savings made up equally between cuts and taxes.

It has pledged to renegotiate the terms of the EU-IMF rescue package.

Since the 1940's, Fine Gael has almost always been able to rely on Labour to prop up Fine Gael Governments which have never been able to achieve majorities on their own.  Now, for the first time, it looks like a credible alternative for Labour may be emerging: no longer must Labour act as the junior partner in a Fine Gael led Coalition, it actually has some prospect of ruling as the lead party in coalition with Sinn Fein and Independents.

So why highlight this possibility when it is exactly what you don't want to see happen? I suspect the Independent Editorial Strategy is to scare the electorate into going back into the familiar arms of Fine Gael by raising the spectre of a Labour alliance with Sinn fein - for so long the bogey men of Irish - and particularly Fine Gael - mainstream politics.

Nothing will bring the Fine Gael vote out more than the prospect of defeating Fianna Fail, and even more so the prospect of heading off the possibility of a Labour/Sinn Fein alliance.  Labour has to be brought to heal, and fast.  Already there are dangerous divergences between Fine Gael and Labour budgetary strategies which could make cooperation during the campaign and negotiation of a coalition agreement difficult.

The Independent (Fine Gael) tactic appears to be:

  1. To raise the "red scare" amongst the electorate, and particularly amongst conservative or centrist voters who might still have been shy about turning out for Fine Gael

  2. Drive a wedge between Labour and Sinn Fein, to make it impossible for them to agree a common programme.

  3. Alert the electorate to the dangers of voting Independent - even if many of the independents are local activists with not much of a national agenda or ideological bent.

What has been remarkable, over the past few years, is the failure of Fine Gael, as the main opposition party, to benefit from from the travails of an increasingly unpopular Government.  Until now much of that failure has been put down to having a weak leader, Ends Kenny, who fails to inspire confidence as an alternative Taoiseach.

However what the Independent appears to have realised is that there is now a sea change in public attitudes, which means that the tweedle dum and tweedle dee conservative policies of rival Fianna Fail and Fine Gael led Governments may no longer satisfy public anger and demands for change.

A Labour led Government is their greatest nightmare which must be headed off at all costs.  Fine Gael has no prospect of forming a Government without Labour as a Junior partner. (Fine Gael has nowhere near enough votes to form a Government on its own, and Fianna Fail is simply too toxic for anyone to coalesce with right now).  Thus if a Labour led Government comes to be seen as a credible possibility, a vote for Fine Gael becomes somewhat redundant.

Take a bow, Adrian Kavanagh. Your back of an envelope first cut mechanical analysis of the likely impact of current voting intentions on seat numbers - which never pretended to be anything else - has just been elevated to the status of Authoritative Prediction by an academic body on the front page of the Independent. It's time to scare the horses. Now I wonder if you wrote a follow up piece taking local and lower preference voting factors into account would your story receive similar prominence?

The title should perhaps read 'Schlock, Horror:'

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Dec 5th, 2010 at 07:34:58 AM EST
Ok, change made.  Shlock/shoddy would perhaps best describe the journalism which misrepresents and uses a very simplistic analysis (which made no pretence to be otherwise) and claims it to be the authoritative prediction of an academic body - just to feed the writers agenda.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Dec 5th, 2010 at 07:47:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Erm - I keep pointing out that the Right has no problem with lying to gain or hold on to power, yet amazement and outrage continue to appear when it happens.

Of course it's a naked and utterly dishonest attempt to swing the election. What else would it be?

A more useful question is - what's the most effective way to respond? What media or other event would put FG back on the back foot?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Dec 5th, 2010 at 09:06:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fine Gael are forever on the back foot as evidenced by their dismal failure to take electoral advantage of Fianna Fail's catastrophic performance.  In some polls Labour have actually been ahead of them, which is quite something given that Labour have been the perennial 10% party.  Interestingly the Irish Times, which could be regarded as sympathetic to Labour has given the Red C poll almost no prominence - far from the screaming front page headline of the Independent.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Dec 5th, 2010 at 11:23:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Interestingly the Irish Times, which could be regarded as sympathetic to Labour has given the Red C poll almost no prominence - far from the screaming front page headline of the Independent.

It's interesting to me that you say that - I've always thought that the IT were a FG paper. However, the indo is as close to a tabloid as a broadsheet can get- I consider it the Sky News of newspapers...
Therefore I'm never surprised with the screaming headlines. Look at Google news (.ie) and be amused at the "shock" headlines from the Indo compared to more restrained versions in the IT...

Brace yourselves for Adams in the Aras (Indo)
Government wants to rush financial Bill (IT)

Back to the topic - I'm not sure that the polls represent reality. I'd suspect that there are a lot of FF supporters that are ashamed to admit it to a pollster and they are hiding in the Independents/SF column. We'll have to wait and see. Personally, I'm really looking forward to voting the B*stards out...

by piobar on Mon Dec 6th, 2010 at 03:44:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, dear, "a left/hard-left government is uncomfortably close to reality". LOL

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Dec 5th, 2010 at 08:03:41 AM EST
But of course it is, if you are coming from a right/hard right perspective...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Dec 5th, 2010 at 08:09:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Cowen faces FF meltdown in his own constituency - National News, Frontpage - Independent.ie
The meltdown in the Fianna Fail vote has now entered the very heartland of Mr Cowen's constituency.

Like Donegal, the constituency of Laois-Offaly is a Fianna Fail stronghold where, since 1977, the party has consistently won three out of the five seats.

But now, in what would be a stunning political realignment, a constituency poll suggests that such is the collapse in support for Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein's Brian Stanley and first-time Labour candidate John Whelan are poised to win seats.

Apparently too internal polls are showing FF to be in deep trouble in the Taoiseach's own constituency - as rural and conservative as you can get.  Constituency level polls are far more valuable in trying to predict seat outcomes than national polls because votes are counted and allocated to candidates at local level.

Although FF might still muster close to two quotas (33% in a 5 seat constituency), the fact that they are running three candidates all at war with each other for the second seat means they could even lose two seats here to Labour and Sinn Fein respectively.  

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Dec 5th, 2010 at 12:39:38 PM EST
Gormley leaves door open for FF to name third Taoiseach - National News, Frontpage - Independent.ie

Fianna Fail TD Mary O'Rourke is understood to have angered both Mr Cowen's supporters and critics with her advice that the Taoiseach's wife, Mary Cowen, should persuade him to resign.

"That went down like a bucket of sick," a Fianna Fail source said.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Dec 6th, 2010 at 06:13:43 AM EST
Let's not forget Cowen was finance minister until 2007 before he became Prime Minister.

He's presided over the entire disaster. He needs to go.

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Dec 6th, 2010 at 06:15:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No one disputes that - not even FFers.  However asking his wife to put pressure on him IS a bit sick - typical of O'Rourke's mumsy approach to politics.  She wants to run for President as a sort of Queen Mother, I think.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Dec 6th, 2010 at 06:18:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... and the end of civilisation is at hand!

In fact some factions on the left have put aside their differences to campaign as the United Left Alliance, but even their own most optimistic projections don't envisage getting more than about 8 seats.

The Sunday Independent really is a deeply silly rag, produced and read by silly people.

The ULA and the popularity of Sinn Féin's left wing may, with luck, indicate a change from the sleep of reason that has dominated Irish politics since the end of the Civil War.

by Pope Epopt on Mon Dec 6th, 2010 at 10:31:22 AM EST

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