#LE14: Rising tide of populism likely to damage Fine Gael and reward Sinn Fein…

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Former Fianna Fail spad Gerald Howlin’s take on the Red C Poll is worth reading in the Examiner today (if only for some useful historical context):

A new seismic shift is under way. It is far greater than any that is gone before and it is far from over.

It is still unclear if the general election of 2011 was the main shock or its precursor. Fianna Fáil’s once vast stock of political capital is irretrievably scattered. Labour’s is in the pawn shop and unlikely to be redeemed. Shatter has crystallised public discontent into an unwelcome negative focus on Fine Gael. Seven weeks out from elections, the timing could not be worse. Worse than courting political controversy, he has become a political inconvenience.

If in a political landscape already deeply disconcerted, Sinn Féin elects a significantly enhanced national network of councillors, its further advance can be virtually assured. For a Fine Gael minister for justice, a successor to Kevin O’Higgins, to provide that opportunity out of willful obduracy is truly an appalling vista. Tonight in the Dáil, Fine Gael TDs will surround and support Shatter and they will win. Fianna Fáil’s motion of no confidence will be defeated. It will be a victory that contains within it the seed of its own ultimate defeat.

LAST week, as the full force of the current crisis struck the Government, it put its biggest gun, Michael Noonan, on RTÉ’s Prime Time. A politician who, in his second coming, has successfully specialised in offering reassurance at moments of crisis, he failed to offer any reassurance at all. Sent out to save Shatter, but increasingly irritable on air, he sacrificed some of his own credibility instead.

He also notes:

Not only has Labour plummeted in a long line of opinion polls, Fine Gael is now suffering serious setbacks. Critically, Sinn Féin is for the first time positioned to become the dominant party of the Irish left.

The confirmed rise of Sinn Fein in the south will be a major achievement. But so too is the corollaries of that, which is the reduction of Labour to a rump party and the humbling of the currently might Fine Gael.

Accoding to the polls there are now four roughly equal blocks in the south: Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Independents and Sinn Fein, with Labour now relegated to the former status of the Greens.

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  • Nordie Northsider

    Interesting article, although I can’t help but feel that people are writing off the Labour Party a little too easily. It’s worth remembering that they’ve been this low before, actually getting about 6.5% of the vote in the 1987 general election.
    They were slugging it out with the Workers Party then and it might be tempting to compare that to their current duel with Sinn Féin. But it’s different and SF are a more formidable rival, with a wider base than the WP. The WP never took root outside of the big towns and cities, whereas SF is doing well in the border counties and in the population centres.
    Still, the Labour Party has some consolations. Firstly it is the official political expression of the Irish Labour movement (deserved or not). Jack O’Connor of SIPTU said in an interview recently that SF are for him basically a nationalist movement with some leftist trappings. So it looks as if the unions will stick to Labour no matter what. For that reason alone comparisons with the Greens don’t hold up – Labour is an institution, not a collection of like-minded activists.
    It’s second saving grace it its ability to win reasonable numbers of seats even on a low vote. I’m wary of those seat-loss projections based on opinion polls – Labour is always harder to nail down. And if the numbers fall right, my guess is that both FF and FG would sooner do a deal with Labour than with SF.

  • Mick Fealty

    Excellent analysis NN. That link with the Labour movement might be one of its saving graces in the end.

    There’s also a committed middle class core that will find it hard to swallow any other party.

    There’s some fortune to be gained from the cleansing fire of the electorate’s ire, not least the burning off of old timber.

    I keep thinking Pasok, but in a way because Labour has never been that big or influential it doesn’t have as far to fall.

    Getting Howlin (one of the most capable of the Labour front bench) to administer (and take the blame for) cuts was a move I am not sure FF at its most cynical would have pulled.

  • redhugh78

    Strange choice of wording for the title of this post as when one reads the actual article referenced it makes no mention of ‘populism’ either directly or indirectly.

  • megatron

    When you agree with people you call it democracy when you disagree you call it populism.

    If you sit back and actually think about what the established parties have done/are doing to people it is amazing they still pick up a combined 50-60% of the vote.

    As a SF voter myself I definitely recognise that a significant part of the 20% SF are getting is there by default – lost by the rest rather than won by SF. Equally there is a huge part of the 50%-60% remaining that are desperate for someone they can be comfortable voting for (i.e. no media scare stories).

    The big unknown is what happens when everyone knows a SF voter or rep all of a sudden – then the fear of voting SF might recede and a really “appaling vista” might arrive.