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Sneaky Poll Numbers


The only reason to buy the Post yesterday was its tracking poll, it happily decided most readers will have no interest in the riots. Im sure the Editors were rewarded with the circulation figures for yesterday. Anyway the latest installment of the SBP tracker poll series, from now till election day, showed little news.

Two up for Fine Gael, two down for Fianna Fail and the smaller parties trading single point gains and losses. Pat Leahey breaks down some of the numbers but I have a number of thoughts myself.

It should be clear to all that at this point in time and rather long into the relationship the Fine Gael and Labour romance has not grabbed the public imagination. While FG continue to post gains on their 2002 all time lows, I feel this is little more than the return of their 'natural vote' to the fray. Heaven knows the myriad of reasons they moved off in 2002 but the natural level for FG support is around 25%-29% in recent times. Its breaking beyond that level that will do the business if the opposition are to get bums on seats in the cabinet office.

Labour similarly have been flying static for so long now you must wonder what they are going to do to increase support. Well simply put, it seems that the Labour TDs have had to adopt a common strategy of underlining government failings rather than engaging in some positive principle positioning. As McDowell noted yesterday, Joe Costelloe has a default setting on his typewriter which starts all press releases with Michael McDowell should resign. Its clearly not a working strategy and creates a standard of policy debate which is abysmally low. There is clearly little to be won by the infantile "decapitation stragegy" especially with a real campaign so far off. Instead of creating nice soundbites which will perhaps entice the electorate to consider the opposition as a prospect they are peddling the likes of Burton, Costelloe and others to hammer home a point the electorate dont want to hear "government bad...were good".

While its an argument many might agree with, its being made in the wrong way. All controversies seem to end in the same dialectical slagging match. Bad for politics and bad for prospects.

I dont buy the serious policy argument, Labour and Fine Gael are right to keep powder dry.
Observe what Hobbs did in September last year. He took cases and made his point, he may have taken the mikey out of government but he never had to make explicit the association between bad government and the way things are, something an inept FG and Labour are constantly resorting to.

The government seem to be equally as issue-laden from the numbers, Bertie's recent come and get me plea to labour suggests that there is a great deal of internal number crunching going on which suggests that this incarnation of FF government may be at an end. Thats not to say he wont get his three in a row.

McDowells own recent intervention which intimated a readiness to cast nets far afield following this election seems to certify the numbers that the leaders are getting. They are not and may not be good enough to form a third lasting marriage. All is still undoubtedly to play for, it is clearly Fianna Fail who have come back to the pack since the pack has hardly upped its game to any real or serious standard.

It may looks like two teams slugging it out now, but come the final results I wouldnt be surprised to see some crossing over and switching of loyalties. Half of labour find being in bed with the dead hand of FG to be too much, too stifling and perhaps a vote-loser.

If anything this poll underlines how parties are not in fact gearing up for an early election but conducting business as usual bereft of imagination and choc full of name calling and silly claims.

On SF, their one point gain is much of a much ness, over the next four or five months we will se the serious results of IRA decomissioning, political moderation, social activism and the inevitable backlash against all hues of republican over Saturdays riots. I am thinking that SF still have a lot of support left to gain, those chumps from Saturday rarely cast a vote, yet now they have a party moderately able to represent some ideology close to their own, if it can be called that. This moblising of 'fresh voters' is what will, if it happens, drive Sinn Fein into the mid-teens. From there it's anybodies guess.

I dont think small parties and independents will hold the same sway as before, the lack of big numbers for the big two suggests that it may be a good mid-teen result that will gift the balance of power to Labour or Sinn Fein (or the PDs if Tom Parlon is to be believed).

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