Skies darkening over Bertie…

If the sun shines on Bertie Ahern in Westminster this morning it’s decidedly drizzly in Dublin. The extent of his electoral misery is hard to gauge since any potential losses are likely to come well down the card. But the effect of a lacklustre campaign in which the opposition has made most of the running, is compounded by a string of polling results that give Fianna Fail little comfort. The latest has Labour and Fine Gael pull ahead by one point.The Irish Independent leads today with an eye-catching FF in nosedive headline:

Fianna Fail has dropped three points, to 35pc, since April, while support for Fine Gael has jumped by the same amount to 26pc during this three-week period. Labour is up one to 13pc; the PDs are down one to 3pc while the Greens are down 1pc (to 5pc) and Sinn Fein are up 2pc to 10pc. Independents and others remain on 8pc.

The poll also shows a Fine Gael-Labour coalition is becoming increasingly popular as a preferred government after the election. Support for Fine Gael-Labour has increased from 35pc to 39pc, while Fianna Fail/PD has dropped from 42pc to 38pc.

The poll also reveals, for the first time, that the payments controversy is damaging trust in the Taoiseach. Some 47pc of those surveyed said they had less trust in Mr Ahern as a result of the revelations about the money he received in the early 1990s. Just 7pc said they trusted him more and 41pc said it did not change their view.

By this poll’s standards (which tend to favour FF) that is a drop from 42pc last October. It goes on to note:

The last time Fianna Fail hit 35pc was in March 2004, just weeks before the party took a hammering in the local and European elections. If Fianna Fail drops to 35pc on polling day, the party faces losses of 20 seats or even more and simply wouldn’t have the numbers to get back into government.

With just nine days to go to polling day, Mr Ahern is fast running out of time to stage a recovery.

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

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