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!