Fine Gael’s impending crisis of leadership…

For understandable reasons tomorrow’s news in Northern Ireland and Britain will be dominated by the long awaited arrival of Lord Saville’s long awaited (and stashed for politically motivated reasons) report on Bloody Sunday. We will no doubt be doing our best to  bring you the coverage. But the big events in Irish politics may be happening south of the border.

Part the first: the full meeting tomorrow morning of the Fine Gael parliamentary party who are thought to have been utterly freaked by the Irish Times poll at the weekend when they saw themselves being pipped for top slot by the Labour party. According to Stephen Collins and Mary Minihan, Enda Kenny’s long suffering and popular deputy Richard Bruton has been garnering support for a leadership bid.

Part the second: if there is anyone more freaked than the leading opposition party by the same poll, it is Fianna Fail, with Brian Cowen earning himself just gets a satisfaction rating of just 18 per cent, marginally better than his party’s rating of 17%. To complicate matters, the feverish, if largely sub rosa, speculation on the health of the most popular member of the cabinet Brian Lenihan, adds a ship of doom air to the whole affair.

Part the third: there are three outstanding by elections in the state, the anniversary of the most longstanding of which (caused by the co-option of Pat the Cope as the successful Fianna Fail candidate in Donegal South West) passed last week. There’s also former minister Martin Cullen’s old seat in Waterford and poor old George Lee’s hastily abandoned seat in Dublin South. Of these it is likely they should go 1 to Labour and 2 to Fine Gael, leaving FF dependent on a couple of independents rather than the five it currently has.

In this context, nerves are clearly being rattled on both sides. A vote of confidence in the government has been tabled tomorrow night, which will suit Labour and Sinn Fein and given the turmoil amongst Fine Gael, probably no one else. As the Irish Times piece notes:

A Fine Gael spokesman said last night that after taking 70 years to get ahead of Fianna Fáil for the last 25 polls, the party was not going to be distracted by “a panicked over-reaction by some to one poll, the authors of which have already stated that the polling methodology will be amended”.

The polling methodology has been the same since it was introduced in 1999, though I didn’t notice the party dissing it when they rose to an unpredecented lead last year. And as Stephen Collins notes, “Kenny has every incentive to fight to the finish and test the strength and courage of his opponents to the limit.”

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  • Wan

    Don’t think that Fine Gael will win 2 of the 3 seats. Alex White (Lab) will probably win Dublin South, Paudie Coffey (FG) will probably win Waterford and I’d give Pearse Doherty (SF) a good chance for Donegal South West.

  • Mick Fealty

    Fair comment. It’s hard to judge just how people will transfer across… Especially when you cannot accurately transpose national polls back onto constituencies… However, with that caveat firmly lodged, here’s one attempt to do so with the first May poll from Red C: http://url.ie/6ida

    FG 33.4% FF 33.2% Labour 7.9% Greens 2.3% SF 21.9% Others 1.4%

    I’m not sure how this was done, and FF blogger James Lawless asks the same thing in the comments zone. But, whilst these figures make look Doherty competitive (on an anomalous poll rating), it also shows the advantage FG might expect from a focus on Dublin (as opposed to Donegal) politics.

    SF needs a story as well as a highly regarded local and visible candidate, to wrest enough FF voters away from pluping for FG in a constituency where the Labour Party barely exists.

  • Wan

    That’s a very interesting link “http://url.ie/6ida”. It’s a good idea but doesn’t seem to translate that well in parts though as he has Labour to win 3 seats in Dublin South central (out of 5), which I would welcome, but don’t think is too likely.

    He’s working off the Red C poll as well and there is a more recent one. The IPSOS MRBI poll has the following:
    FF – 17%, FG – 28%, Lab – 32%, Gn – 3%, SF – 9%, Others – 11%.

    Ref: “http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2010/0611/breaking20.html”

    Trying to use his method to recalculate using the updated figures it might look something like this:
    FF – 20.2%, FG – 23.6%, Lab – 8.9%, Gn – 0.96% SF – 27.6%, Others – 1.18

    Plus in this election SF mightn’t even be the least transfer friendly party now that FF are reduced right down to the core vote. I think to the FF supporters spiting FG will be as important as putting up a good show in the by elections and will transfer away from FG. We saw this when FF supporters voted for the “Tony Gregory” candidate to make sure the FG candidate didn’t get in the by elections held during the last European Election.

  • Mick Fealty

    Could be, surely. There is some speculation though that we will never see any such a by election. That FF will brazen it out the next general election, which would be both extraordinary and most likely deemed unconstitutional if it ever came before the Supreme Court.

    In any case, none of the above will go back to the Government.