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Poll Reaction Hasnt got my mouth watering

6.11.2005

Belatedly posting on the hot topic for today, the poll in the IT. It seems to be wonderfully positive for the opposition and hopelessly miserable for the opposition. However seems and possiblys are things which are but ephemeral in this political culture and rarely do short term anxieties stick. The government has long ago framed the debate for the forthcoming general election, by setting up the SSIAs and allowing budgetary policies which ensure a two year bonanza (or better still a one-off bumper crop of goodies). Whatever we may say about recent FG/Lab momentum the election will hardly be won today or tomorrow.
There are a huge number of variable which those outside of the chattocracy are more than willing to sit and wait on. There are many issues on which this government has failed miserably but for their core vote it is a simple issue of dollars and cents. There is no logic to many pro-government voters other than the benefit to their bottom line and the crackdown on law and order issues. This thinking will only have been affected by the Airport debacle and recent social issues like nursing homes, HSE executives, Travers reports and the Morris tribunal will weigh only temporarily on the grand conscience of the Celtic tiger. While there is a groundswell of opinion and much fact unveiled of crass government mismanagement and devious state behaviour it affects us only temporarily. No sooner have these issues come up than they will be buried by an acquiescent mass media. It stinks of cleaning out the closet in enough time to be clean for the voters.
None of this is to take away from the giant progress made by the “alternative government”, they, and particularly Labour, have done a lot of running on issues of major social importance. It seems to me that many in the Labour hierarchy have the choreography for the next two years down pat. There are a larger number of genuinely big players on the Labour front bench than currently in FG's. It is easer for a McManus to grab media time than a Twomey. The same applies across much of the spokespeople. This is playing to Labours early advantage, they can become associated with a large number of opposition campaign issues early and get major value out of this position by taking a leading role in the issues when in government. Surely it is a gamble and some in FG will resist once it becomes more aggressive, for the time being it is snatching voters away from the FF/PD axis and moving them toward an arguably more natural affiliation with Lab/FG.
If that is the case and many are happy to see a coherent Lab/FG front then one thing is clear. The current trend will continue for a while. There is a great degree of slack in the poll showings of Lab/FG compared to traditional trends. FG looks like it could gain nearly 4%-5% more before traditional levels of support need to be breached. Labour has even more before it regains its trend of 20%-odd. This means that right now the parties merely need to continue making political hay and capitalising on government ineptitude. This should bring traditional voters back easily enough when a viable alternative is presented. However the big ask is breaking past traditional support barriers. This requires a large amount of genuine thought, originality and effort. I have no doubt that had labour decided to go it alone a vibrant third party could make a serious move to rebalance our party system. As it stands we could fall into the same old routine of claim and counter claim. The whole Celtic tiger culture and ideology need to be challenged, I wonder if there is enough common ground between Labour and FG to secure it.
Overall it is a rewarding poll for those of us that hope to see major change come the next election, however we need to be aware that much of the current support already existed and had changed parties momentarily, the real test is moving on from traditional levels of support once the levels have been attained. To do this I argue we should all take social justice and democratic renewal to the people as our message. Forging a progressive consensus on child poverty, fairer health and education and an equal state of opportunities is what I hope to see. The alternative government is gaining momentum, now Labour must take the lead in forging and alternative Politics.
Much of the headlines have been grabbed by these findings, it’s too early to break out the bubbly, or to know if the alternative is any better than what it replaces. I am again unsure on the potential success of a Lab/FG government. As well as this many in the SF and Green camps will be rubbing their hand in glee at the prospect of becoming powerborokers for any prospective government in the next Dáil. Their gains are solid and for SF make very comforting reading after a particularly uncomfortable six months.
The point to be proved by both the boost for SF and for Adams is that the Irish electorate have goldfish-ly short memories. The alternative government will do well to remember this as FF look like they are cleaning out their closet in time for the big showdown.
Red Rover

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