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Election 2007: Poll results and Progressive Votes

9.13.2005

On Sunday we had one of the first polls to emerge from the red mist of rip off outrage. The Sunday Business Post's Red C poll (articles 1, 2, 3) held good news for many, bad news for some and for the likes of myself and other observers little news at all.
In the wake of the whole rip off republic outrage that swept this country with a fervour unseen for many years, there was bound to be an inevitable backlash to the current incumbents, those who have unarguably presided over 8 years of growth and cost of living increases. The backlash seemed there in the results of the RedC poll, just look at the Fianna Fail numbers; the projected vote share down by 5% to 32%, a low if ever there was one to be had, and popularity of the current coalition well down to 50%.
Should the alternatives feel buoyed by this slump in fortunes inflicted by a Corkman and his calculator? Perhaps, yet politics in Ireland is little about snapshots in time that are polls. The landscape will be much changed over the coming months. The increasing popularity of Fine Gael seems due less to their extensive and engaging critique of the government rather being first in line to pick up Hobbs trail. They are rightly claiming that the whole Rip-Off thing is their baby, yet they did little running with the topic. I wonder if the situation would be much different were the current opposition in a position of power.
The boost in FG support toward the 25%-29% range is to be somewhat expected. The FG vote suffered substantially at the last election from a number of unfortunate (for them) conflations of issues such as good economic conditions and some limp campaigning against a professionally run Fianna Fail outfit. Yet traditional analysis of the charts and graphs suggests that there is a 'natural' vote share of 24%-29% out there to be solidified and extended, these are levels that act as support for a fall and often as ceilings for a rise. Thus the Fine Gael return toward the high twenties can be argued as a normalising of the balance.
The point is that it is not necessarily occurring in anything more than stronger media presence by Enda Kenny and better presentation of him as a taoiseach in waiting. Of course I accept that point is not globally true and some may genuinely be converting to FG and finding their positions gel with the attitudes at large in a greater manner. I doubt it. I think that what is happening here is similar to what may occur in the UK when the Tories get their act together. Those who left FG to support a party more dynamic and moderately sympathetic to their position(PDs and possibly Fianna Fail/Independent candidates) may now return to the natural political home and appear to boost the vote.
So the whole thing can be reduced to numbers causes and effects and little in terms of political grit, policy, debate and ideology. Well that's a tad disingenuous of me if I leave it as such, my main argument is that the current FG support rests on the return of a natural level of support rather than a breakthrough with the public at large. Enda Kenny appeals first and foremost to natural FG supporters. That was his first task and he is successfully presenting himself as a Statesman with big talk, big shoulders and a lot of Bushesque bluster.
The FG policy machine did cooperate with Labour in presenting a joint position of Ssocial partnership which I have yet to read but may do so tonight.
I believe that Simon over at Dossingtimes puts across a very good point regarding the nature of the fracture in Fianna Fail support. Its obvious we don't like them much at the moment, but commonly enough we do not like Fianna Fail most of the time they are in government, yet we still vote for them. So if the vote share projected on Sunday is likely to materialise someone somewhere must gain right? Not quite.
As Simon points out, the greens have a concentrated six percent of the vote in the Urban Dublin area, this looks likely to deliver proportionately more seats than perhaps they deserve but it is precisely such swings and roundabouts that allow Fianna Fail to nearly take an overall majority on one of its lowest vote shares in the last election. Simon points to the obvious conflict between the left parties in Dublin which will divide votes and secure seats for center parties.
I am certainly looking to see more fervour on the part of the progressive and left parties in Ireland, for far too long the issues which are important in this society have not been aired, divisions of power and the inequality of our current adaptation of various economic and political systems.
The destruction of voice and of dignity within Irish society, failure to promote a genuine vision of Irish values, coherent approaches to social disintegration stemming from inequality and postmodern capitalist morality. Heady stuff but for a political party it should be fodder for policy. Much of Hobbs critique points to the shallow manner in which politics occurs and sees itself.
Political actors see strategy and long term projects as secondary to band aid solutions to the latest independent 'expose', or travesty of justice in the 'Star'.
So the failure by Labour to interact on a serious level with these goals, whether out of consideration for the necessary concessions which come with partnership with FG or because of the direction Rabbitte sees the party as heading in, presents a dilemma for a voter motivated by Hobbs critique, suspicious of FG and of Sinn Fein, yet without a genuine progressive or Green candidate in their area.
The poll reflects the old dilemma of our stunted party system, the parties feel the need to move to the center to be electable. The center is dominated by Fianna Fail and they pretty much dictate the orthodoxy. Thus when a voter desires radical reform or even an inkling of purpose, direction and motivated consideration for their interests and the integration of individual need with the common good, they are left with the SWP, Greens (on the Left) or PDs (on the right).
The problem then is that a voter is stuck at the center, and if the center is dominated by FF why go with a pretender or impersonater and just stick with the proven FF?
The choice is stunted at birth due to stifling media climates and hostile conservative elements. The power in the hands of the progressive parties is to harness current disillusion and dismay with the manner in which our politics is conducted and channel that aggression toward achievable goals of inclusion, improvement of living standards, costs of living and promoting alternative spheres of life. The opening up of Irish borders has not met with opening up of Irish society and politics to new ideas and better options.
Labours opting for the tried and tested FG coalition may blow up in their face. No change at 13% represents less than a ringing endorsement for a party that never looked unified behind the blueshirts and a leader that looks a tad shifty.
Hobbes showed that the public are not simply the negative entity of apathetic individualists the media like to casually term them, the 800,000 odd viewers who made an effort to listen to Hobbs proved that the Irish are imaginative and receptive to discussion, it doesn't suit current or potential incumbents to have debates like that held by Hobbs. Talking truth to power is not in their game plan.
Yet if our democracy is to stand up to the challenge of apathy, to stand up to the relentless assault of social inequality and issues of living on this island, to stand up to a changing face of demographics, new ideas are required.
The results of this poll show that Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are ready to fight the old fight, their natural levels of support are there yet without much floating support. New parties such as Sinn Fein, Green even the PDs are looking at dividing up the voters who are not naturally FF or FG. So Labour is stuck in the middle by attaching itself to FG. Its as many feared if it is true, yet on the day Labour may pull off a masterstroke by ensuring the coalition promotes both parties and ensures a better oxygen for their ideas. Perhaps but perhaps not.
As a progressive I feel that our current situation as a society is unsustainable, Hobbs highlights issues affecting our governance, issues affecting our corporate culture, issues of vested interests and dodgy business practice. His scattergun approach caught a lot of innocents aswell but all is not well in our little state.
New ideas are being asked for, the poll shows exactly where the electorate see them as being located. At the periphery of our interest and knowledge in small parties and indepedents. Unless the left get organised and cooperate we may well be heading back to the past in 2007.
RR

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