Fine Gael and Labour should prepare to serve ‘the national interest’…

When two Fianna Fail TDs resigned the party whip over the head of the decidedly local issue of hospital closures, you know it’s less a case of principle and more about crisis in which ‘the centre cannot hold’… They remain firmly in the ‘gene pool’ a beautifully Irish way of describing a TD who’s disaffected from the leadership of the party but will not be going anywhere else any time soon. Stephen Collins has good advice for Fine Gael and Labour:

One of the features of Irish political history is that a Fine Gael-led coalition has never won two consecutive terms in office. One of the reasons for that is that they have generally taken power in bad times and have been forced to adopt unpopular policies. Another reason, though, is that they have also raised the expectations of the electorate in the desperate struggle to beat Fianna Fáil.

Next time around the last thing Fine Gael needs to do is oversell itself. The voters are waiting for their day of vengeance with FF and power will almost inevitably pass to the main Opposition party. What Enda Kenny needs to do is prepare the public for further tough decisions allied to a programme of serious reform, particularly in the public service. He also needs to have an understanding with Labour that will enable the two parties to work successfully together in government, as they have done before.

Labour can afford to take a more populist line in the election campaign, but Eamon Gilmore too will need to be conscious of preparing for office and not simply winning votes. One of the reasons Labour managed to win an unprecedented three elections in a row in Britain is that in 1997 Tony Blair set his face against extravagant promises so that the electorate had a realistic expectation about what he would do in office.

He concludes:

For rational political debate to work, voters will have to reward politicians who act responsibly in the national interest rather than those who seek to plunder the public purse without regard to the consequences.

Yes, but first the deflationary policies of Fine Gael and the more reflationary minded Labour party need to find sufficient common ground to allow them to govern for more than a single term), without limiting their various appeals to two quite separate voter blocks…

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