Election pact would serve FG and Labour well, Flannery says

Strategist says despite frequent alliances in coalition, parties don’t really like each other


Fine Gael and Labour’s best chance of re-election would be to contest the general election as a government and not as individual parties, political strategist Frank Flannery has said.

Speaking at the MacGill summer school in Glenties on Monday, Mr Flannery said if the two Coalition parties campaign separately, it would lead to a dilution of the Government’s strongest message - stability.

“If the two parties fight the election using the traditional model they will lose a lot of that essential brand quality of security and wisdom and foresight,” he said.

Mr Flannery, a long-time strategist for Fine Gael, was speaking at a session looking at the 2016 election, exploring if there would be stability or unstable governance, chaired by Donegal Democrat editor Michael Daly.

He said he doubted if the two parties would agree to such a joint strategy as history and their own political agendas were against it.

He said that despite their frequent alliances in coalition governments, Fine Gael and Labour did not really like each other.

“It has been like a bad marriage for 80 or 90 years but the fact is they have, and can, work very well together,” he said.

Arguing from the Fine Gael perspective, Mr Flannery asserted the parties of opposition will need to give a credible message to voters they will not throw away all that has been achieved.

He argued the economy remained fragile and a 2 per cent increase in interest rates on bonds could see the recovery disappear.

“We are not at a time in this country’s history that we would want a vast social experiment, to try a new form of politics,” he said. “We go with the Pied Paper or we stay with the tried and tested.”

Grand coalition

One other possibility floated by Mr Flannery was a grand coalition between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil as a “patriotic imperative”, if it were necessary.

However, another of the speakers on the panel, Dún Laoghaire Fianna Fáil councillor Mary Hanafin, said a short term stable government comprised of the two big parties might not be in the best national interest in the long term.

“What that will doe will allow a very strong extreme left opposition which will allow them to strengthen and present themselves as an alternative government.

“I do not think it would be in the best long-term interests of the country,” she said.

Addressing the question of stability, the barrister and political commentator Noel Whelan said people should not be afraid of a little bit of uncertainty or instability.

Mr Whelan pointed out that more than half the voters have been telling pollsters consistently for the past two years they will vote for somebody other than the traditional three parties.

“That [phenomenon]is already happening, “ he said.

The critical period would be the four weeks after the elections where a solution would be found in terms of workable numbers for government, he added.

Mr Whelan said his view was the election would take place in March and, when asked, said he thought Labour would win between seven and 10 seats.