This dull general election campaign only suits Fine Gael

Inside Politics: Playing the campaign as safely as possible helps portray stability

The lifespan of some political manifesto falls somewhere between a sickly green-fly and a bar mat. Can politicians believe in it? And why do its promises disintegrate so quickly?

 

We are a week into the general election campaign and the country is still blissfully unaware it is under way.

Despite the leaflets flowing through the letterboxes and the posters following you on your walk to work the nation is choosing to ignore the impending poll.

For the rest of us we are in the depths of the dullest campaign one can remember.

Daily press conferences tell us things we already know - enough to send even the most dedicated and devoted political correspondent into a coma.

Their venues are the only thing keeping us entertained. They include the plush headquarters of the Labour party overlooking the Aviva, the nightclub atmosphere in Fine Gael’s CHQ, the dull and dreary cupboard of Fianna Fail and the basement of Parnell Square for Sinn Fein.

And how are the candidates finding the campaign? “Warm reception”, “I know everyone says this but we are in with a chance” and the old classic “Really enjoyable canvass, very positive response”.

This election was never going to compare to the 2011 general election when the outgoing Fianna Fail Government faced a massacre at the ballot boxes.

But with the outcome far from certain and the battle still to be won, there surely should be a stronger campaign from all sides.

Fine Gael and Labour have had a jittery start. Attempting to portray a sense of cohesiveness and stability has not worked too well for them.

The two parties’ positions on the Universal Social Charge and the introduction of free GP care are two examples of them being completely at odds.

Fianna Fail has tiptoed its way into the campaign. It has not done anything wrong but it has not set the world alight either.

Sinn Fein’s campaign has been overshadowed by its position on the Special Criminal Court.

A seasoned political expert is telling me it has done nothing to dissuade their core vote but has concerned that middle ground that was considering a Sinn Fein vote.

All in all, it has been a pretty bleak campaign so far. Events elsewhere rightly overshadow the campaign.

As polling day gets nearer the parties must dig deeper to wake the nation up to the general election campaign.

Fine Gael is eager to play this campaign as safe as possible. They want to portray a picture of stability and responsibility. A dull campaign benefits them in particular.

Telly (debate) bingo

All eyes will be on TV3 tonight as Enda Kenny finally finds his way back to Ballymount.

The Taoiseach will go head to head with Tanaiste Joan Burton, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams and Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin for the first debate of the campaign.

Colette Fitzpatrick and Pat Kenny will host the programme.

While we know serious issues will be discussed, we at Digest Towers would like to play a live ‘Debate bingo’.

1: How many times will Enda Kenny say the word “recovery”? (We reckon 5,000)

2: How many times will the Tanaiste ask “can I just say?” (Unpredictable)

3: How many times will Micheal Martin say the words “fairness” and “fundamental”? (A reasonable guess: a few hundred times)

4: Will Gerry Adams go longer than a minute without mentioning 1916? (No)

5: Which party leader will go the longest without mentioning Fianna Fail’s role in the crash? Micheal doesn’t count.

6: At what point will Alan Kelly race in and declare he is in fact the boss of the Labour party?

7: While I am on that point, at what stage will Vincent Browne run in and grab the mic from Pat Kenny?

We would just love to see the Taoiseach’s response to that.