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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: September 30, 2010 @ 8:50 am

    The Figures

    Harry McGee

    The Figures are mind-boggling.  Hard to take in. Ginormous. The increase spiralling so high that it is hard for a mere human being to comprehend them, to take it all in.

    Yes, I am of course talking about Fianna Fail’s recovery in this morning’s Irish Times Ipsos mrbi poll.

    Ok, the slightly smart alecky intro is a reference to the other set of figures that will dominate today’s news agenda – the horrific cost of Anglo Irish Bank’s bailout.

    The Government will cling to the hope that analysts, commentators, markets and citizens will focus on the €29.4 billion figure as a final cost for making good (in relative terms) of Anglo.

    But human nature being what it is – and with the benefit of the bleak hindsight of two years of hell – it is likely that the vast majority of people will plump for the ‘worse case scenario’  figure that is northwards of €34 billion – indeed uncomfortably close to the figure that Standard & Poor’s came up with earlier this year, against which the Government cavilled vigorously.

    And could it be worse than €34 billion? The worser than worst case scenario? The former banker Peter Matthews was on Vincent Browne’s show last night claiming that the bill could eventually be in the region of €42 billion – in other words more or less the size of the entire domestic economy for a year. To me, that sounds a little much.

    But I was trawling through the archives yesterday looking at what the media said about Anglo during 2007. David Drumm of Anglo did an interview with one of the Sundays back then talking about the bank being safe as houses (we will have to reevaluate that phrase in the light of our experience won’t we!) with €56 billion in deposits sitting in the bank. Where did all that lovely capital go? There were precious few pensioners going into Stephen’s Green every week to throw a couple of bob into their savings account. Those deposits were money market deposits that were about as tied down as a feather in a tropical typhoon.

    That all said, we now have a final definite figure. It will give some certainty… for now at least.

    And now to the other figures. What’s important to note is that Ipsos mrbi have removed the adjustments that it has been using for the past decade. During the good times – for some inexplicable reason – some people who were polled said they were going to vote for Fianna Fail even though those votes were never going to materialise. The pollsters accordingly did an adjustment that was accurate during the Champagne Charlie and Loadsamoney Bertie years.

    But when Fianna Fail’s fortunes started to plummet, not only did its core supporters desert the party. So did the ghost voters who said they were voting Fianna Fail but who didn’t at the heel of the hunt. Indeed, there was some evidence that a portion of Fianna Fail voters regarded themselves as something akin to the persecuted Christians during the Roman empire – they kept their allegiances to themselves when polled. In other words, Fianna Fail support may be understated.

    This morning’s poll is – in my view – a more accurate read on the state of play that the previously adjusted result. In reaching its finals figures it uses the more straightforward method of excluding the ‘don’t knows’.

    And on that basis, the figures are brilliant for Labour (Woverhamptom Wandererers at the top of the Premiership); very good for Fianna Fail (in the context of a year of opinion poll hell) and dismal – scratch that, disastrous – for Fine Gael.

    I’ve been away for the past couple of weeks and one of the things that has been preying on my mind is that politics in Ireland is very close to  a policy-free phenomenon. It’s a theme to which I will return. Suffice to say for the moment a that Eamon Gilmore is the closest thing we have to Obama. He has projected the right image, struck the right chord; come out with the type of messages (let’s give that dead horse another flogging today) that have captured the public imagination. He may bellyflop when he gets into Government but he’s the most effective operator in opposition – by a country mile.

    It’s worse than bad for Fine Gael. Enda Kenny will be lucky to survive on these figures, notwithstanding his victory in the leadership squabble last June.

    He’s not cutting it with the electors and will need a  miraculous makeover… and fast!

    Seeing what happened in June, I can’t see another nasty bout of internecine warfare breaking out.  If it’s happening this time, it will be by leaving rather than by heaving.

    Richard Bruton is the only realistic option. The party needs a Dublin leader. Brian Hayes – the only other alternative – is very bright but despite being one of the nicest guys in Leinster House he still annoys too many people who see him as being too visibly smart for his boots. But Bruton won’t be willing to serve unless it is handed to him on a plate.

    Cowen’s leadership should also be coming under scrutiny. But he will survive because he wants to keep the job more than others want him out of it. Besides, none of the contenders really wants to take on the poisoned chalice at this moment in time (though strangely, it would be better now than after the election).

    The Dail session is only one day old. It’s going to be an eventful journey through the autumn and the winter. Brace yourselves!

    • robespierre says:

      Kenny will soon be in the Dáil 37 years by my reckoning. It is remarkable that he has left so few fingerprints. Like a cat burgler he will come and go like tide on a tranquil day.

      In my active days I attended many blueshirt rallies, events, conventions and was in the Greenhill hotel the night Kenny first spoke to the faithful after his elevation to leader. He has done too little of substance for the country as a politician to be taken seriously.

      There are plenty of people who are talented at running organisations and turning them around. Kenny is good with people and is seasoned at the country TD schtick but he simply doesn’t know enough to convince people that he is ever going to be leadership material. It is all anecdotes here and nods there. Very little substance – bar agriculture and fisheries which he has some kind of a grasp on.

      The alternatives including Richard are defintely more Brian than the Messiah but at this stage a bloodless coup is the only way forward for the only party that will fight for the wealth creators in the economy. That includes me in private sector, the writers of the Irish Times staff and all the other little people funding public services.

      If Labour get in to run the country I actually, truly fear for us all. Don’t believe me? Look at the labour policy on housing and weep – straight out of Das Kapital.

    • Liam says:

      This all could have been dealt with at the time , instigate a “bank holiday” , break up the banks and give the banks “assets” to the bond holders and only protect individual depositors. A generational scam has been committed by the gov. all in an effort to protect foreign banks , pension funds etc. The gov. have made a choice to defend foreign and domestic special interest groups over the interests of the average punter. At this stage my “loyalty” to the state is near 0 and if interest rates on bonds here move over 10% I’ll be moving my money abroad or will convert my savings to cash and buy gold if I have to.
      We need more people with Cement trucks ;-)

      FF have a great track record of burning this country to the ground, Dev did it in the civil war, Lynch tried in the 70’s and now the latest shower are going for the triple! Voters here must suffer from a form of Stockholm syndrome

    • minXie says:

      Yes, was watching it last night. Poor Vincent B (he does the hangdog look brilliantly) ‘celebrating’ the second anniversary of his Gloomsday/Doomsday (29th September, Vincent’s 9/29) last night. Couldn’t take my eyes off Sarah McInerney’s beautiful hair. That girl should be on a Greek Island launching ships – in her spare time, that is. Fionnan wasn’t taking any highfalutin nonsense from Mr McWilliams, though. I think Fionnan was right about that dangerous toxic truck incident. Ridiculous carry on. Thankfully the Garda on duty wasn’t hurt but it really annoys me that the entrance gate to one of our most historic buildings was even slightly damaged. Anyway the media is turning politics into just a numbers game. There are other departments besides the Department of Finance. Please please please let’s give the figures a rest. I think Labour should disband and divide themselves up between FF and FG and Siberia.

    • “I’ve been away for the past couple of weeks and one of the things that has been preying on my mind is that politics in Ireland is very close to a policy-free phenomenon.”

      This is the key to understanding where we are, how we got here and what we must do to escape.

      No Irish election is fought on policy. Historically it hasn’t happened and it won’t happen this time out because policy on the banks is the key here and most people really don’t understand it. I certainly don’t.

      So the election will be fought on the local turf wars on which elections here are also fought. Nothing will change because the parish will remain more important than the state.

      Garret Fitzgerald has written in the Irish Times before about how badly the country has been served by multi-seat PRSTV. Who’s going to make a change to the electoral system a keystone of their policy next time out?

      Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

    • paul m says:

      Hey Harry,

      I’ll be reading this book to my child for years to come.

      Hans Christian Andersen for the grossly indebted generation

    • An Mailleach says:

      For how these translate into seats see http://politicalreform.ie/

    • Bob W says:

      FG must see that the electorate do not want Enda Kenny as the leader of our country. The electorate have been saying this for years but the FG party don’t see to care about that. How can we be expected to vote for a man who just a few months ago was rejected by the vast majority of his front bench as incompetent and not good enough to lead FG let alone the country. FG have one option and only one option… a new leader and fast.

    • Sue d O'Nym says:

      Cripes!…Irish Bank crisis all over the UK meeja today…pretty tame questions from the press pack…
      Why the truck protestor was detained in custody for what appears to be at worst an alleged traffic offence with minor damage to paintwork to gates says it all really…
      Surely the bankers are the ones who should be locked up…

    • James R says:

      Kenny has to go, but replacing him with Bruton would be disaster. Bruton showed in June that he couldn’t even organise a leadership heave. It took him a couple of days to realise that he had even started a leadership heave! How could such a dozy idiot not realise that he started a leadership heave. Bruton couldn’t run a tap, never mind a government.

    • Richard says:

      For the life of me, I will never understand why newspapers pay to have polls taken. The last week should tell them that. Labour were on 23% last Sunday and now they are on 33%. The only significant thing that happened in the week was the pairing arrangement. Are we seriously suggesting that the equivalent of about 150,000 (7% of the electorate) changed from Fine Gael to Labour as a result and that another 80,000 or so jumped from other parties to Labour and Fianna Fail equally. And if they did, well, aren’t we a fickle lot.
      While I’m writing I have to say that Harry gilded the lily when he suggested that the adjustments previously carried out by the Irsih Times poll was due to people saying they would vote Fianna Fail and then didn’t do so. What really happens is that people who say they will vote, don’t bother. Since I presume they are asked if they will be voting before they are accepted on the panel, it further reinforces the argument against polls. Since they are not honest about voting, why would they be honest about voting intention. And if we are so fickle, sure the colour of Enda’s tie probably result in Fine Gael gaining so many seats that last time. Watch out Mr. Kinnock, oops sorry, Gilmore.

    • Harry McGee says:

      I agree to a certain extent Richard. Polls are crude instruments particularly in mid-term when people’s minds are not focused as much on politics and preferences as they would be if an election was coming down the tracks. So, yes, it is an artifice. It gives an indication. What fascinates me is that people always dwell on the figure as if its accurate and ignore the margin of error of plus or minus three which is very significant! H.

    • minXie says:

      @8 — well if someone used a truck to, for example, block the entrance into construction work on the new Anglo-Irish Bank headquarters I might have some sympathy but not the gates of Leinster House, please. Goddammit don’t mess with our historic buildings. Appalling, unspeakable, atrocious behaviour.

    • Bob W says:

      James R, I think you are being a bit harsh on Bruton. Bruton had the support of I think 11 of the front bench of FG. Normally that would have been sufficient to cause any normal leader to resign. Kenny is not normal though and through selffish arrogance he cut deals with the lesser lights to win the vote. Yes, Bruton made a misscalculation here and that was clearly his failing. Its time that Kenny put FG first and Ireland first and resign else FF will recover and FG face another term in opposition…….

    • paul m says:

      @11 Harry

      “What fascinates me is that people always dwell on the figure as if its accurate and ignore the margin of error of plus or minus three which is very significant! ”

      pretty much sums up the political parties approach to not just voting stats but figures for bank debt. a lot of margins for error have been ignored the last few years

    • James McCann says:

      Ah come on!! Don’t compare Wolves with the Labour party…its only one up from the socailists. If Wolves slip into that category we’ll definetly face relegation this season. At least there some substance with Wolves…

    • Peter Barrins says:

      The problem here is the ongoing economic situation underlying the banking issue. No growth, unemployment, wage cuts, welfare cuts – yet we have a GDP/deficit ratio of 32% (whopping), bond spreads at 6.5% and an ongoing structural deficit (€20bn or so). Where does the answer lie? As far as I can see there are two possibilities – (i) we hang in and hope that exports grow significantly thereby stimulating economic activity, reducing unemployment and increasing tax revenues or (ii) we avail of the EU bail out fund and by implication the IMF’s expertise! One thing is certain Ireland cannot continue as it is – the numbers just do not add up. ISurely the suspension of bond auctions is risky? Investors will get jumpy and pull away from Ireland Inc, or it may allow time for the bad news to perculate and increase their comfort level.

      I think Enda Kenny has little option but to step aside – the writing is very definitely on the wall! In terms of a successor I think James Reilly may be a good option. FF need to go, but a viable and convincing alternative is required and urgently. Irrespective of who is in Government, the financial situation, in terms of bald numbers, won’t alter – unfortunately.

    • Sue d O'Nym says:

      Have you actually read Das Kapital or any Marx …? If so you would probably know that the current financial crisis was predicted by Marx as part of the Capitalist dynamic what he refers to as the ‘Contradictions of Capitalism’….whereby the same processes that drive Capitalism forward simultaneously undermine it pitching it into crisis…So yes read it and weep…
      I suppose it was a banned text in Ireland…

    • Sue d O'Nym says:

      @11 I guess he was making the point that ‘The truck stops here’
      The government has got off lightly and judging by the BBC news the worst is yet to come…People should be storming the barricades…
      It is also outrageous that one TD referred to the incident as an ‘appalling vista’ the term Denning used to exonerate the police in the Irish ‘miscarriages of justice’ cases…
      I think far more damage to historic buildings was wreaked by Agents of the State than a lone protestor…who knows what damage this financial crisis has wreaked on that person’s life…

    • JimDavis says:

      I propose the following law.
      I call it – The 3 degrees of separation Bank Supertax rule.

      Select a predefined period of the financial crisis – say Jan 2006 to Dec 2007.
      Identify anyone who worked directly during this time, within the top 3 management levels, in any bank which has relied on Irish Government support.
      Identify anyone who worked as a consultant this time, at the equivalent level of the top 3 management levels, in any bank which has relied on Irish Government support.
      Identify anyone who is related to these people within 3 degrees.
      Identify anyone who was/is married to a person identified above (including those related to Bank Management) since the start of the predefined period.
      Identify any business where a person identified above holds a directorship. Any such business will incur this tax during the period said person is a director.
      This tax will also cover people related to the bank management within 3 degrees who are born subsequent to the tax becoming law.
      The bank super tax to be charged to the above people and businesses is a charge of 50% on any net gains made.
      For the person it will be for the lesser of the term of their natural life and the period of time it takes the Irish government to recoup the losses in real terms.
      For the businesses it will be for whatever period any listed person is a director.
      This tax is to cover all earning and capital gains, including all overseas earnings and capital gains, and include earning and capital gains made by non Irish residents.
      I will vote for anyone who is willing to take this law to the next general election.

    • Howard Goodisson says:

      Opinion polls merely express the opinion of the public at one given time, however, if every poll is saying that Enda is not wanted, then he should have the balls to resign.

      unfortunately, if these polls where to transfer into votes, then the champagne socialists will have a great opportunity to exasperate the mess that Biffo and co have left us with

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      Harry how long are you in politics and how many times have you heard how ‘if only’ so and so was leader we’d be grand and funny enough when so and so does become leader they prove even worse than who they replaced.

      Fine Gael saw it happen Dukes, then Bruton, then Noonan & Mitchell and now again we hear how Bruton is the answer to everything. Whatever is wrong with Kenny, Bruton is not the answer because no sooner would Bruton be leader than we’d be hearing how remote he is, how bookish he is, not one of the lads, no common touch, full of himself etc etc and he makes jam as a hobby. Jam I ask you. Then, ‘oh if only he were a bit more like Enda’.

      Fine Gael have much deeper problems that relate to 80 years of being second best and all the self esteem issues that brings on. Then it gets to first place in polls, which is probably more shocking to the system than falling behind Labour. FG still hasn’t learnt how to deal with failure (which considering it has never won a general election is odd) and is still coming to terms with winning EU and local elections.

      The idea that FG will get more votes and more seats than FF blows their mind. Never mind the nerves about how Labour will do. I would assume FG is constantly doing its own private polling and comparing them so it will know the lay of the land on a more more micro level than any of these polls, even the ones that look good for FG.

      But FG also has to deal with the Stockholm Syndrome that grips the Irish people and its relationship with FF and also FG has to deal with the fact it is viewed as part of the establishment.

      It’s easy to see why people link FG and FF together as being part of the elite who caused this mess and find it so hard to take the mental leap of giving FG the benefit of the doubt.

      Then you have the issues FG does have control over which it refuses to do anything about. FG reps refuse to publish receipts for their expenses, FG refuses to publish proper audited accounts, FG refuse to ask certain former FG ministers to give up pensions. FG has nothing to say about the scale of reform needed in the body politic, ie setting out what exactly it will do to cut the pay of the Taoiseach and cabinet ministers and bring in whatever laws are needed to make those cuts and to pensions and to perks etc.

      There is nothing from FG that the public can take as a sign of its intent to push through the scale of reform needed – I would say it is a safe bet the public would cope pretty well with a bit of tough love and that FG has far less to fear about stating the range of cuts it would support, but only as long as it proves its intent by for example getting certain former FG ministers to stop claiming state pensions and if FG gets its reps, be they TD, Senator, Cllr or MEP to publish receipts and to proper accounts for how they fund elections etc. Do these things and people have a reason to trust FG, now they just have doubts.

      Policy wise there are also loads of areas FG could do far better in. For example there are about 130,000 SMEs in Ireland and if each of them could take on 2 new full time members of staff that is 260,000 jobs – how hard can it be to come up with a plan to do that. To even get it started.

      FG needs to sell the sunshine as well as the rain – both are needed and are complimentary. Communication is FG’s problem – always has been.

      Anyone who thinks Bruton is the answer for FG needs their head tested and not because there is anything wrong with him – there isn’t. He’s just not the answer to FG’s problem.

    • Vincent says:

      Im amazed that more people can’t see that the real problem is’nt the banks.The banks didn’t go off on some solo run. They were facilitated and encouraged by deregulation and the promotion of greed and self interest championed by Fianna Fail and the PD’s. Fine Gael would have done just about the same thing. Its capitalism folks!

    • footiefan says:

      @17 The Capitalist free market economy decrees that the market will decide the gains and losses…you pays your money and you takes your choice… you win some you lose some..etc etc etc….
      Ergo when it all went **** up the Banks should have sucked it up..but NO when they played the markets and LOST they didn’t want to play by the market rules anymore and the Government i.e. the TAXPAYER… you and me…have to pick up the tab…whilst the *merchant bankers* swan off with their perks pensions and no doubt a great big wad of moola to their tax break properties…SO Yes it is Capitalism… but not as we know it…WAKEY WAKEY….

    • robespierre says:

      Yes Su. I have also read the works of Plato and Aristotle, Aquinus, Kierkegaard, Mills, Engels, Marx, Mao, Smith, Kant, Burke, Hegel….

      Marx also spoke about capping the free market which is a core point of Labour’s current housing policy. I consider myself to be a Libertarian and believe despite the current travails that free trade has brought about greater good than any political experiment be those of the extreme left or right has ever managed.

      I would go down this route if I were you – you don’t strike me as somebody with the reading to get there.

    • Barbzzzzzzzzz says:

      eh robespierre……….read this instead


    • robin deHood says:

      Ireland’s 300 richest are worth around Euro50bn – couldn’t they do a whip-round and scrape Euro3bn together to donate to the exchequer as a patriotic/charitable gesture to reduce the budget deficit this year and give the country a bit of breathing space…why not? Voluntary tax to unburden oneself of excess wealth…

    • minXie says:

      …….So if I don’t like the editorial line in the Irish Times, I’m going to drive a JCB into the front facade of the Irish Times Offices on Tara Street?? — OH HAW HAW HAW

      Bloody irresponsible to extol any such anarchical ‘joy-riding’

    • tony says:

      The brain deads here want a snake oil celebrity sales man as Taoiseach. We already had him. Hence the country is broke. Someone who might do something for the people who elect them is not acceptable.

    • Sue d O'Nym says:

      How very patronising…I never thought I’d have to ‘Trot’ out my cv on a blog but since you ask…
      I read Philosophy and Social Theory as an Undergraduate…I was awarded a first for my dissertation which involved reading marxists neo marxists revisionists etc etc extensively…including Louis Althusser and Henri Lefebvre in French…
      Prof Michael Mann who was asked to read it by my supervisor was so impressed he was generous enough to say that I had raised a point in relation to one of his texts that he had not considered…
      I have more academic and professional qualifications/experince than is decent…
      I have taught postgraduates in my chosen professional subject…I also read extensively…Need I go on…?
      I had enough of Kant carrying testosterone fuelled pseudo intellectuals like you at university and don’t intend to repeat that here…I have moved on…
      However in common with comrade Karl I despise the petit bourgeosie which I believe you represent…
      Moderator I may have submitted a version of this earlier if so please disregard this replaces it…

    • Sue d O'Nym says:

      So you’ve read Aquinas have you robespierre…pity you don’t know how to spell it…!

    • robespierre says:

      @25 What is your point? The quote is a fake. Marx favoured moderation on systems of trade to alter the outcomes of the factors of production in favour of the poor working masses rather than the huge concentration of the benefit going to land owners and capitalists.

    • Sue d O'Nym says:

      @21 And what may I ask is wrong with making jam…? Haven’t you heard of jam tomorrow…? You really need to get in touch with your feminine side…!

    • Sue d O'Nym says:

      Actually Des that should have been you need to get in touch with your feminist side…!

    • Sue d O'Nym says:

      ‘Anyone who knows anything about history knows that great social changes are impossible without feminine upheaval…
      Social progress can be measured exactly by the social position of the fair sex (!)…the ugly ones included…’!
      Even Komrade Karl was a bit politically incorrect on the position of women…so there’s still hope for you Des!

    • Vladlena says:

      Des – So passionate! You are perhaps visiting Centra on Dame Street? No? Don’t worry, this is not a problem……….but please to tell your friend Bruton I am very much liking man who makes jam. In Minsk we minxes have saying you know – “Make Jam Not War”

    • Sue d O'Nym says:

      @25 So Barbzzzz/minxie/barbera et al what is your point…?
      Surely you’re not going to pass up the opportunity to parade your knowledge of ‘everything under the sun’…
      After all it must be far fresher in your mind since you were so recently at tcd…class of 2006 wasn’t it…?
      Was that the year of entry or when you left…? So how old did that make you when you began the course…?

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