Re-emergence of FF is not inevitable
Fine Gael is now five points lower than the vote it got at the last election. Labour has lost more than a third of the vote share it won then. In February 2011, Eamonn Gilmore’s party was at 19 per cent whereas in this week’s poll it is back to about 12 per cent.
Other aspects of the poll results should give the Government parties cause for concern. Just one in five voters is satisfied with the Government’s performance. The two parties are in Government at a time of unprecedented economic crisis. They were, however, elected just 18 months ago with a historically large mandate and expressing a determination to tidy up the economic mess and reform the political system and the public sector. It is remarkable that a Government which is so new and which has been so cautious is already so unpopular.
It is too early for voter fatigue with this Government to set in but there are signs of widespread voter frustration.
That frustration arises from the economic circumstances but it is directed at the Government because Fine Gael and Labour both overstated their capacity to bring economic relief.
The stagnant international economic environment and low domestic consumer confidence have meant that the hoped-for small measure of economic growth has not happened. It may be attracting generous plaudits from abroad but the political difficulty for the Government is that there has been no appreciable easing of the economic pressures at home.
Overextended households or otherwise depressed householders can see no improvement in their position. Instead they fear they will face additional bills after the budget.
Voter frustration also stems from the fact that the Government has been slow to tackle the big-ticket budgetary items. Child benefit is an obvious case in point. This poll shows that more than two-thirds of the electorate favour targeting child benefit at those who need it most. This is a step which the Government should have taken in the last budget. The Government will add to the frustration factor if it flunks big decisions like this again in December’s budget.
The other significant issue on which the two Government parties over-promised before the election was their capacity to renegotiate the deal with the troika or at least to negotiate down the bank portion of our national debt. Angela Merkel’s “out, out, out” style press conference after yesterday’s summit comes as a further blow to the Government.
Whatever comfort this week’s poll figures brought Enda Kenny has been greatly disturbed by the German chancellor’s comments in Brussels.