I’ve heard two angles on the issue of the over neglected issue of political reform… One, Brendan Keenan on Marian Finucane this morning suggested that since Fine Gael shows little appetite for anything other than rescuing the country from economic doom, Fianna Fail might use a rejuvenated reform agenda as a powerful ticket back to power and influence (if not actual government)…
Noel Whelan thinks Fine Gael themselves need to pick up the reform ticket before it is too late to consolidate themselves in power. But, he argues, Kenny and Cameron both share a certain laissez fair still of leadership which, in the taoiseach’s case is not helpful in bringing in timely results:
There is a notion among some Fine Gael politicians and strategists that somehow the Fianna Fáil collapse in 2010 and early 2011 resulted from a cunning and brilliant Fine Gael plan. The reality is otherwise. Fine Gael didn’t destroy the Fianna Fáil support base; Fianna Fáil self-destructed.
Kenny and his team deserve considerable credit for saving their party from extinction after 2002 and for bringing about sufficient recovery in the 2007 election to enable it to be the primary (although not sole) beneficiary of Fianna Fáil’s collapse. The 2011 election, as Brian Hayes inelegantly but accurately put it, was about the other parties fighting over the Fianna Fáil carcass. In that fight Fine Gael proved the better carnivore.
In February 2011, Fine Gael not only mopped up former Progressive Democrats votes but got about half of voters deserting Fianna Fáil. These switchers are not wedded to Fine Gael, however.
The presidential election and Dublin West byelection results suggest that Irish politics remains volatile and there exists a vacuum at the centre of our party system where Fianna Fáil once stood tall.
Fine Gael’s 2011 gains are vulnerable to either a Fianna Fáil resurgence, which looks unlikely at the moment, or a new entrant or entrants who may yet emerge in the Irish political marketplace.
Real reform and an appreciable economic recovery may enable Fine Gael to hold its dominant position in the next general election. Ministers will need to deliver more and more quickly to achieve this.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty