The global parish pump and benchmarking by-elections.

After days and days of posturing and throwing shapes in Dublin, none of the principle actors have changed chairs and all that has been issued is a four year plan that might have been written two years ago. For all the unachieved drama, all that seems to have actually happened is that whatever sovereignty remained to the Republic of Ireland has been outsourced to anyone with a cheque book (and deep pockets). Ironically, with no money in the budget to allow them to buy off the electorate, the Republic’s parish pump practitioners have been trumped by the ultimate practitioners in private sector banks who have much deeper reach into global fiscal policy (in case they sue, I’m not going to link to Deutsche Bank).

As the story inevitably moves on to bigger targets on the Mediterranean, the dreary chapels of Donegal and Laois-Offaly come back in to focus (although border area retailers will still be watching the euro/sterling exchange rate intently as it creeps up when everyone else’s gaze has passed on).

Today, voters are at the polls in Donegal South-West (Mick has posted up a more detailed review of the campaigns). In the grand scheme of things, the result is almost irrelevant as, presumably, a full general election will follow within a few months. In the interim, I was trying to work out a benchmark for the by-election. Obviously, anyone wanting to see how a form of alternative vote would play out could do worse than check in on the counts since it doesn’t seem likely that any candidate will achieve a quota on the first count (and there is only one seat being filled by single transferable vote).

Another thing that will be interesting to see is how far the results of the last RedC poll play out. In 2007, the overall FF first preference in the Republic was 41.6%, with Red C now reporting it as 17% (with the usual waivers and error margins). This is a drop to 40.9% of its 2007 take – if that drop follows through to Donegal SW, FF will poll in the region of 20.7% (i.e. 40.9% of its first preference in the constituency in 2007).

Making the same rough calculations for the other parties, FG should come in at around 27.8%, Labour at 7.5% and SF at 33.8%. The error margin for this [ropey methodology] is that the total adds up to around 89%, although there are also Independents in the field (who may collect that remaining 11%). I’m going to suggest that, after tomorrow’s count, this might be a yardstick for the performance of the parties to be benchmarked against the Red C poll. By-elections are notoriously poor for making larger scale predictions, but for the parties to be hitting the marks suggested by RedC (and as a barometric test), I’d guess Labour need to get more than 7.5%, SF more than 33.8%, FG more than 27.8% and FF need to drop to 20.7%.

Local factors and the quality of the candidates will obviously come into play, but then I did leave out that 11% surplus to distribute…

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