Calling the Result of the Election
Deaglán de Bréadún
We’re having a sweepstake among the political journalists. You pay the grand total of five euro to join, then have to list your predictions for the election result. Just a bit of fun, but interesting in its way.
From a cursory examination of the entries so far, most of us seem to expect FG to be in the low Eighties. My own prediction, for what it is worth, can be considered fairly typical. It carries the health warning that the voters are the sole arbiters and that it is based primarily on my gut instincts, but here it is anyway:
FG- 82; Lab -35; FF – 25 (including Ceann Comhairle); SF – 12; GP – O; Independent/Others: 12. NB: Outgoing Ceann Comhairle is automatically re-elected to the Dail.
I should point out that nobody is giving FG as many seats as in my prediction but there are several at 81 seats. I’m sorry to “zilch” the Greens – call it “tough love”.
It should also be mentioned that a few colleagues are putting FG rather lower, one gives them 67 seats, another 74, with FF in the 30′s in each case.
My prediction about two months ago was roughly as follows: FG 65; FF 45; Lab 35; SF 11; Ind/Others 10.
That’s how it looked at the time but, as I keep saying, campaigns do matter. Labour needed to ditch the “Gilmore for Taoiseach” and “We’re going to be the biggest party in the Dail” lines much sooner. They were doing no great damage until the election was called but you have to strike a note of realism as polling day approaches.
Had Brian Cowen resigned as party leader on November 22nd, when the Greens made their declaration of intent to withdraw from government in the New Year, then Micheál Martin could have taken over and would have had a much longer lead-in time.
Martin is a formidable debater and has done a good job of trying to puncture the windier pronouncements of his opponents, but he hasn’t had enough time for his message to sink in.
Also, his proposal for appointing ministers from outside the Dail and bringing-in a system of substitutes for TDs who were appointed to Cabinet was too radical for such a short campaign. It raises a lot of questions that need more time to tease out.
Based on my projections above, it looks as if FG will not need Labour to form a government. There should be plenty of like-minded or at least biddable Independents around. It is just conceivable that FG would invite Labour in anyway, as part of semi-national government. That would probably mean giving the smaller party six senior and six junior ministries which would otherwise go to FG people. How likely is that? Would FF do it in similar circumstances - no bloody way!
Ironically, it looks at the moment as if Labour is going to get its highest-ever number of seats and still not get into government. Rather sad for those very able and experienced front-benchers who are, shall we say, “chronologically endowed”, but that’s politics.
Labour as the lead party in opposition would be an interesting phenomenon. There would inevitably be alliances on certain issues with FF and Sinn Fein and you could end up with a political re-alignment and left-right politics of a sort in Ireland. FF was originally a left-populist party until it began to make friends in the business/developer community. Kevin Boland has a story somewhere about the day the first contribution cheque arrived from that quarter … has anyone got the reference?
So there: I’ve put my cards on the table. What’s your forecast?