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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: May 14, 2009 @ 10:56 pm

    The Irish Times poll

    Harry McGee

    The figures are dismal for Fianna Fáil. There is no gloss on it. The two byelections will be lost. They will lose at least one MEP in the European elections. They will realise that the nadir of the local elections in 2004 was not really a nadir. THIS is a nadir.

    For a year we have looked at this administration as it has floated further and further out from shore and said; they are possibly waving. Really we should have been saying they are probably drowning.

    If there is one little teensy bit of consolation for the Government it is this: its core vote is unchanged, suggesting a bottoming out.

    I’m no expert on adjustments. When Fianna Fail was on the pig’s back, it was found that more people told pollsters they supported Fianna Fail than the actuality. So the party was always subject to a larger adjustment.

    The adjustments include more than the exclusion of ‘don’t knows’. Fianna Fail’s core vote is 20 while its adjusted figure is 21, an increase of one point.. Fine Gael’s core figure is 29 and it gets a boundce of 9 points to 38, while Labour goes from 15 (core) to 20 (adjusted).

    Fianna Fail strategists take issue with the adjustment, saying its actual vote will be higher than is being reflected in the poll.

    As Charles Haughey was wont to say, we will learn for sure in the ‘real’ opinon poll on June 5.

    Another couple of startling statistics:

    Satisfaction rating with Government: 10 per cent. Astoundingly low.

    Satisfaction rating with Brian Cowen: 18 per cent. Abysmal.

    Enda Kenny just isn’t doing it with Joe Public. A 33 per cent satisfaction rating for Kenny when his party is riding high is not impressive. Compare it with Eamon Gilmore who is at 51 and seemingly can do no wrong at the moment.

    Fianna Fail will need to replace its leader. And the more the crisis deepens, the more it becomes obvious that it will be before the next General Election, whenever that is.

    Cowen always seems to be on the back foot and defensive. He exudes passion about twice a year. When he does it, he is very impressive. But for the rest of the time, he is incredibly uninspirational.

    He gave a stannd-up interview to reporters on his first day onthe hustings in Dundrum on Monday.  He  parried away questions about George Lee, about his leadership, about everything else. The interview lasted for ten minutes and he said nothing worth quoting. It was as dull as ditchwater.

    I’m not saying that he needs to do a song and dance routine. But contrast his performance with the adroit way that David Cameron handled the moat and wisteria crisis over MPs’ expenses in the UK.

    I was down on the campaign trail in Cork today and wasn’t there for Fianna Fail’s euro launch. Cowen apparently came out fighting. He needs to do a lot more of that. Every day. Every interview. Evey appearance. The people badly need leadership and he badly needs to display that leadership to the peole.

    • John says:

      On the leadership question – is there any evidence (solid, political science stuff) that satisfaction ratings for party leaders has much of an impact on voters?

      Furthermore, is the question even relevant? It relates to satisfaction with a person’s performance. You can be satisfied or dissatisfied with everyone, you are not forced to make a choice between one person or another, and are not asked who would make the best Taoiseach.

      It seems to me that the question is asked in opinion polls, and therefore journalists write about it, and the political classes then talk about it.

    • Niall says:

      I feel sorry for Kenny. It seems to be his personality more than anything else that annoys people.

    • Brian Boru says:

      What are the regional breakdowns of this poll? Also are you doing a separate one on the euro elections? My interpretation of the poll is that traditional FF-voters are looking for an alternative govt that doesn’t include the Labour party. On these figures, a FG-led govt without Labour could be within reach, with the help of Greens and Independents.

    • Hugh says:

      This really is not an era for the ‘technocrat’ politician. Whether you believe Cowen to be one or not (I’m undecided, but leaning more and more towards ‘No’), someone who is evidently competent in economic issues, Gordon Brown, is also struggling and is likely to be vacating No. 10 in the not-too-distant future. As this blog suggests, the electorates, both here and abroad, are crying out for charismatic leadership in these troubled times. As evidence, witness the election of Obama and the probable election of Cameron. The problem Ireland faces is that no such figure is emerging from the opposition.

    • Harry says:

      I agree completely Hugh. The FF politburu looks stale but Labour and a lot of the prominent FG front-benchers have been around for a long time too. Labour’s solution to the deep economic crisis doesn’t seem to reflect reality. Fine Gael’s problem is that the public don’t seem to buy into Enda as a sufficintly authoritative leader. To Brian Boru: regional breakdown will be available in the full poll results in this morning’s newspaper.

    • Marks says:

      Polls are dangerous as a guide to what is actually happening. The difference between what they predict and what actually happens can be huge.
      It depends on how FF mobilises to get its people out. The hard core, i would vote even if they sold my mammy into slavery, ones will be there.

      In the end, Haughey’s comment is the only one that really counts, its when all votes are counted that we will know.

    • robespierre says:

      Harry, on 38% FG have a real problem in that (as a tallyman) you need to factor in the transfer effect. In 1987 and 2002 FG got a lesser share of seats than their vote demanded. Simarly in 1992 Labour got a bonus on the Spring tide.

      This only shows us the impact of 1st preferences not the impact of transfers. The key question for Fine Gael is whether it should have fielded a second candidate in Dublin and a stronger team in North West. There is a very real chance on 38% with transfers against the government that they could have taken up to 8 of the 12 seats. Six seats at this stage is more than possible if slightly less than probable.

      As to the councils, FG will find themselves in a very strong position but in the absence of a Mullingar accord, Labour are more likely to do a deal with FF locally than was the case in 2004. What impact would this have? The image from Ard Fheiseanna of 20+ Mayors sitting with chains of office at a FG conference was one of the images from the last 7 years that helped dispel the popular media representation of a dying party.

      The by-elections are also very much up for play but I would not take Dublin Central as a dead cert for FG. I could quite easily see this coming down to a straight shoot out between the Gregory camp and Bacik for last woman standing besides Donohue. At that stage depending on how Ahern’s transfers break – and they will hardly be going Pascal’s way, one or other candidate will almost certainly over take him. There is likely to be a 60%+ transfer rate between labour and the Gregory candidate. The last time there was a shoot-off was in 1997 when Gregory was elected off Costello’s transfers. The situation has not arisen since as they have both been returned.

      Lee has a very strong chance of being elected on the first count.

    • Tom Ennis says:

      Enda Kenny is neither charismatic nor a technocrat in fariness. I’ll be voting FG in any case but I have to say, every time I hear Enda carrying on I actually feel a little more like throwing a vote to FF. It’s really something when John Bruton (let alone Garrett or Dukes) seems like an intellectual high point in comparison to the current FG ‘leader’

    • Steve K says:

      I feel sorry for Kenny. It seems to be his personality more than anything else that annoys people.

      How can you feel sorry for a man who “inherited” his seat into politics?

    • An Fear Bolg says:

      While opinion polls are a dangerous guide, poll figures this low do really indicate trouble for FF.

      Dermot Ahern’s position on Morning Ireland this morning was laughable. I know he has to bat for the government but really, come on. Fine, any government would be unpopular in the current environment but to suggest that all the unpopularity is down to harsh but necessary measures?

      BTW, with the speculation over Cowen’s future gathering pace, why is the attention always on D.Ahern and M.Martin?

      Ahern increasingly reveals his conservative colours and bizarre priorities (resusicating the Privacy Bill just after Portraitgate and then trying on blasphemous libel).

      Martin can be quite snappy and consdescending when challenged and it is hard to see him as more than an Enda Kenny type chairman if he were taoiseach.

      Brian Lenihan, I think, is emerging as FF’s next leader. After a poor start in Finance he really is working hard for Ireland and making quiet progress – the report in today’s Times of his Paris outing is impressive. Ok, he’s FF, but wasn’t in any economic portfolio during the boom years and is convincing.

    • robespierre says:

      I think what is interesting is that the Flannery report in 2002, commissioned by Enda, stated “a bad(ly organised) party with a good leader can succeed whereas a good party with a poor leader cannot”.

      Enda would make a great General Secretary of the party, he has defied all odds to stand where he is now and that is why I always feel it is churlish to carp too much about his “failure to connect” with the great unwashed.

      One thing that is almost certain when in opposition is that complaining about a leader becomes a ritual source of fascination. This was the case with Dillon, Cosgrave, Dukes, Bruton and Noonan. For all the clamour for a new leader, there is no guarantee that an urban intellectual can excel outside of Dublin where FG still has more than 80% of its seats.

      The tories have their fourth leader since Major at the moment and Kenny is the fourth since “Garrett the Good”! Look at how divided the Republicans were in the 1990′s post Reagan. Look at them now.

      At some point in the future a change will in all likelihood need to be made but how, when and why will be key. At the moment Churchill’s putdown of Bevan comes to mind repeatedly “He is a modest little fellow with much to be modest about”.

    • JH says:

      Why do the people “badly need leadership” ? are we all children that we’ll feel better about our economy falling off a cliff just because we have someone displaying leadership ? we need to grow up. Why can’t we have some sensible, common sense approach to obvious problems and some strategy and planning instead of populism – that’s all you get with FF. Instead of using the boom to create something of value like better public services, better transport, better health system they buy off every potential problem until another day. You can argue it was the Bertie philosophy but who was in the second most important position – Biffo. It’s childish stuff, we don’t nned Biffo to come out fighting (presumably what you mean by leadership). We need to behave like adults when it comes to poliitics. Think about the problem, build a plan to solve it, implement it, stop pandering to every single interest group, jesus we must have more people offended / object to something than any other country in Europe. Actions have consequences. The corrupt, selfish, indolent, visionless model – as best emplified by FF – is bust. Time for something radically different.

      John, Dublin.

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      If your opinion on the core FF vote is true then who are these people? How can anyone of sane mind genuinely think FF is the answer to the problems we face and not understand the role of FF in creating the mess. I’d love to meet someone who claims they’ll vote FF and try understand why they would do such a thing to their children and grandchilren.

      Also, it beggars belief that anyone who votes for FF does not know in their heart of hearts that their vote is also a sign to FF that the voter condones the corruption which has rotted FF from the inside out – since the days of TACA in the 60s – and that that corruption islargley to blame for the mess we are now in.

      It is nearly 100 years since independence and we are still acting like we are a colony where if you pull a stroke and get one over then you’re great gas getting one over on the landlord when the reality is there are no absentee landlords and ripping off the ‘government’ is actually ripping ourselves off.

      The relationship between the public and FF is like an abusive marriage. For years the wife gets battered and God help anyone stupid enough to try point out the blakc eyes or broken ribs cos she loves him and ‘he’s not always like this’. But someday the penny drops and until then all you can do is let her know the spare room is ready and waiting anytime you decide you want it.

      Are we finally getting to the point were those who did vote FF have had enough black eyes and broken ribs and now the kids are grown fell able to walk away or will they walk away – ie vote FG in June – then feel guilty and go back to FF only to get beaten again.

      Given we freely choose to vote for these clowns it’s hard to feel any sympathy toward their suffering – only anger because of their weakness in voting for FF again and again the rest of us who don’t ever vote FF still suffer too.

      Regarding the transfers and Enda – Labour is haunted by what happened to it in 97 after it has put FF back in power and if Labour does that again it will be finished. Also, John Bruton got the same media treatment that Enda gets – if not worse and yet he was a fantastic Taoiseach so I don’t think anyone really believes Enda Kenny won’t rise to the occassion when he gets the actual job. People know the only way to get FF out is to vote for FG or L or Ind.

    • Garrett says:

      FG strategy has to be to drop Enda Kenny, promote Richard Bruton to leader and Goerge Lee to Finance (as he is assured of a seat in Dublin South). This is the dreamteam. Why is it that the only people who can’t see what a loser Kenny is are FG themselves…or maybe they do realise?

    • Kynos says:

      Oh they’ve been floating off-shore for quite some time now Harry. Along with the galactic-size transfers of wealth from the hands of the many to the hands of the few elitest of the crony-elites that has left the young generations with forty years of mortgage debt for jerry-built shoeboxes from Ardara to Ahillies that are already warping and rotting in the howling wastes of ribbon development bequeathed us by our corrupt planners. They ain’t waving mate. Look at their middle fingers. They ain’t waving.

    • Brian Boru says:

      I fail to understand the significance of leadership-satisfaction ratings. Surely it’s the vote the party gets that matters.

    • Maurice O'Leary says:

      EK at 33% is above the FG core vote of 29%.

      And anyone who says he is leaning towards voting FF because they don’t like EK has never voted for any party except FF in their lives.

    • Garrett says:

      The brass neck of Dermot Ahern to say the govt is ‘paying the price for tough decisions’. It’s paying the price for years of incompetent and corrupt government. I can’t wait for the 5th June. I smell blood!!

    • Tom Ennis says:

      Maurice, I could never actually bring myself to vote for the dark side, push come to shove. Enda Kenny just strikes me as being completely and utterly ineffectual. I look at him and think he’d be underqualified to be principal of the school he came from, whatever about Taoiseach. The next government will a be a coalition with a Labour party that is unlikely to be quiescent and Gilmore seems far more streetwise than Kenny.
      When my ballot hits the slot, it will have FG on it but my fingers will be crossed that he doesn’t make a hames of it and ruin the party for another generation

    • Ray D says:

      There is no doubt but that a massacre is coming for Fianna Fail and, since they and their PD cohorts systematically and deliberately wrecked the country with policies designed to benefit their constituency, they deserve it.

      I would hope though that the outcome would presage the complete destruction of the Fianna Fail and Fine Gael parties and lead to a fundamental left/right realignment but I don’t think so. The very existence of a party like Fine Gael means that Fianna Fail will survive and prosper again in the future.

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