And they’re off (well, they’re under starters orders…)

Ballot BoxSo the 2011 Irish General Election (or #ge11) has just got closer as the Greens withdraw from the government; As Colm Tobin (the other one) puts it, it’s “the equivalent of Bin Laden sprinting towards the Twin Towers with a fire extinguisher.”

So instead of a March election, it’s starting to look like a date in February. And what do the bookies think about the outcome now?

The markets are unusually interesting for broad election outcomes as there are a number of areas where we appear to have entered terra incognita. Theres a fair bit of certainty around the big outcomes – for instance, Betfair’s markets show a 9/1 on racing certainty on a Fine Gael / Labour coalition while Paddy Power are offering 16/1 on (the same odds that they’re offering on Enda Kenny as next Taoiseach. But on the question of Fianna Fáil’s final number of seats, Paddy Power is offering only a slight hint that they’re favouring a number between 31 and 40 while Betfair’s markets are still adjusting at the time of writing.

The more interesting early markets include the (Betfair) total number of Sinn Féin seats (one showing some considerable uncertainty at this stage, but the interesting thing about Betfair is that Slugger’s readers could make the market fairly quickly) compared to Paddy Power’s equivalent that leans towards SF getting into the 11-16 seat range.

Either way, there are better readers of betting markets than me, but I’ve set up an affiliate account with Betfair and Slugger will get a few pennies towards the site’s not-inconsiderable hosting costs if you bet using any of the Betfair links in this post, so please feel free to go and make the markets on this one. For me, there are two talking points here:

  1. How reliable are the bookies instincts here given the unusual circumstances of this election?
  2. If the bookies are right, 30-40 Fianna Fáil TDs won’t be the end of the world for them, will it? And what will a poor showing for Sinn Féin in what really must be a now-or-never moment mean for the party?

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  • pippakin

    I have zero faith or respect for OPs but imo bookies seldom make mistakes.

  • Nunoftheabove

    pippakin

    Seldom, perhaps, but they do make mistakes and dependable early prices on politics isn’t their strong suit. I’ve skinned them on elections on a number of occasions and mercifully they were wrong by quite a margin each time. Think about it – what information do they have access to in the circumstances of right here, right now, that the rest of us don’t or couldn’t put our hand on ?

    There’s value out there, trust me.

  • Big Boss

    What will count as a bad election for SF? They are sure to makes gains in the next election… but what will be judged good or bad? 10-12 seats?

  • Nunoftheabove

    Big Boss

    Good question but if they don’t make a substantial breakthrough now and at least be in a position to make some noise in the opposition in whatever lean-to arrangement emerges from this election they would be almost forced to conclude that it’ll never happen for them for as far into the future as it’s possible to see. If they rehearse the failed strategy of trying to leverage too much from the Adams brand in this election I actually think that it will limit any chance they have perhaps quite significantly.

    I’ve said it before but with notable exceptions such as young Doherty they lack a sufficiently broad and deep enough talent pool to really make it – their economics are a mess and empty nationalism is just not going to cut it with a discerning and intelligent – if frightened and unpredictable – southern electorate.

  • What is interesting is the inability of any other party in the South to offer any real alternative to FF and this is reflected in the polls since the last election. While FF are well less than half of their 41.5% no one party has hugely benefited from that collapse. The Greens are at a stand-still (? but yes). FG up 8, Labour up 10/11, Sinn Fein up 7 and even others (discounting the PDs into FF) are up 6. All told an open election.

    As Paul says, FF may not perform as poorly everyone thinks – and in the end a new leader may (to a limited extent) be able to challenge the other parties to provide an alternative. At present it is FF to gain and all others to lose, unless anyone thinks the election is set in stone: in which case bet away.

  • madraj55

    Big Boss. I think SF would need more than 12 seats to satisy themselves they had made real impact. in seats. Either way, after this last week, political satire in Irish politics is struggling to keep up with the reality. It looks a bit like ‘Monty Cowen’s FFleeing circus down there more and more.

  • pippakin

    the dissenter

    I have always thought the FF poll rating was unrealistic. I think they will do relatively well, especially when you look at the alternatives.

    At the moment it appears Lab/FG are panting to put through the finance bill. Its worrying that Ireland appears to have no talent, definitely time for youth to breakthrough.

    I would take 35 seats if I were a betting person.

  • Coll Ciotach

    I also think FF will do better than the polls predict – but this is not a make or break for SF – they will be there for the long haul.

  • pippakin

    If Jean McConvilles daughter does choose to run for election in Louth, that may well effect the odds.

  • 241934 john brennan

    Pippakin is right. The Jean McConville affair could/should be a factor in this election. All election candidates should be asked their views –‘was Jean McConville’s murder a crime’?

    Democrats would do well to think long and hard before voting for anyone refusing to give a clear “Yes” to that question.

    Historically, a lot of democratic countries had bad experiences, after the electorate empowered politicians and political parties, which put their “cause” (or any cause) above moral and civil laws

  • Greenflag

    ’30-40 Fianna Fáil TDs won’t be the end of the world for them, will it? ‘

    No it would’nt . Closer to 40 would be better but less than 30 could be terminal and might prompt realignment .

    I’d prefer to see an FG majority government or Labour majority but given our PR system neither is possible although FG under a more (and I hate to say it ) more charismatic leader might have pulled it off under present once in a century circumstances . SF may not do as well as expected -ironically because FF has been so abysmal that the voters will be focusing on putting in an alternative government which is seen to be an FG/Labour coalition .

    People seem unusually unaware of the fact that there is NO ‘agreed ‘ program for the new government other than it won’t include FF or the Green Party. Nobody knows or seems to care what FG and Labour might cobble together -reason being that both will be just as much in thrall to the IMF and ECB for the next term of government .

    SF will improve on their base vote but what they must hope for – if they are to have a major breakthrough to say a 20 seat haul is for a large number of disaffected FF voters to not stay at home and to come out and vote in numbers for SF . The other area where SF may pick up is from ‘traditional non voters ‘ in ROI – similar to how they picked up ‘new votes’ from this group in NI in the past to put distance between themselves and the SDLP.

    Although the election will end up in an FG/Lab coalition it will be the most unpredictable in terms of the number of seats which will go to each party -since Jack Lynch’s 1977 surprise 20 seat majority .

    Nobody in 1977 predicted a 20 seat majority for FF and nobody predicted that then Labour party would return to the Dail sharing the one taxi .

  • Hmm. I’m not sure that the family of Jean McConville will achieve much electorally. The nearest parallel (and it’s not *that* close by any means) that I can think of there is that of Reg Keys running against Tony Blair in Sedgefield:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reg_Keys

    He took votes from Labour, but also from Labour’s opponents and I’m not sure if he’d have taken *those* votes if they were perceived as anything other than a protest. Also, the 2005 was an election that was – at least in part – a verdict on the Iraq War from the electorate.

    Again, I’m not sure that many people see the 2011 Irish General Election as a verdict on the Provos actions during the 1970s-90s.

  • Greenflag

    For all those who are concerned /embarassed about how all of this political uncertainty is reflecting ‘badly ‘ on Ireland’s reputation I read that today Belgium has officially beat the ‘world record ‘ for not having a Government 224 days after their election . The previous record was held by Iraq -who may yet hold it again if the Flemings and Walloons manage to compromise in the near future .

    So far Belgium has avoided the ‘financial ‘ chaos which accompanied Ireland’s descent into political chaos -but then the Belgians are said to be next in line to Spain if the international bond market dominos takes off again .

    This thought just struck me – Was’nt Northern Ireland without a government for 24 years ( 1974 -1998) and for all practical purposes 34 years ( 1974-2008).

    Political purists will be technically correct in saying that NI always had a government during that period i.e Westminster . Still would Belgium still be a single state if the EU did not exist ? Would Iraq be a single state without the USA occupation ?

    Some states it seems are destined only to survive via ‘outside’ support -be it economic , political or military .

    Now where does this thinking leave our Republic in it’s present woes . ?

  • pippakin

    Paul Evans

    Agreed there would not be much chance of them winning but they might well remind waverers of a reason not to vote for SF, and that is probably all they want to do. I’m not convinced they would stand or need to.

    Reg Keys entered a first past the post race against a current PM and in a Labour stronghold, completely different.

  • McConville’s daughter would have precisely the same effect on the Adams vote as questioning Gilmore on other historical incidents such as Hugh O’Halloran or the Adlershot bombing i.e. next to none. To be honest it says more about the likes of the Sindo who have no qualms about manipulating the McKendrys for their own ends. Fake polls such as they printed yesterday is one thing, but this is a low in the gutter-scraping at which O’Reilly excels.

  • Greenflag

    ‘I’m not sure that many people see the 2011 Irish General Election as a verdict on the Provos actions during the 1970s-90s.’

    I’m absolutely sure . Anything to do with ‘up there’ whether it was 30 , 20 or 80 years ago will NOT be a factor in this election . This election is about the economic future of the Republic and it’s political stability . The Republic’s electorate will take the view that some 4,000 on all sides died during those wasted years and it’s long past time to ‘move on’ .

  • Greenflag,

    I broadly agree here. SF have other problems, not least that there’s an agenda behind whatever economic prescriptions they offer, and a general perceived lack of strength on those arguments. If their opponents can keep a conversation bubbling about the conduct in the troubles, it *could* highlight SF’s other shortcomings though. It’ll be interesting to see how much – if at all – McGuinness is a prominent part of the campaign – his DFM role will do them no harm I’d say.

  • John Ó Néill

    1. If the bookies odds, like the opinion polls, have any real value, it will probably be in the second last week before the election (remember that a lot of independents won’t declare until the campaign is up and running and they may have big impacts in individual consistuencies).

    2. I think that, at this distance out, below 12 would have to constitute a failure. Above 20 could be presented as a success. Within SF, between 12 and 20 depends on your attitude to Gerry Adams standing in Louth, etc.

  • 241934 john brennan

    Charity covers a multitude of sins. But for being classed as a ‘good’ republican there is unconditional absolution, without repentance, penalty or reparation, for all crimes from bank robbery to premeditated cold blooded murder – or any combination thereof.

    For ordinary decent politicians, the penalty is heads on plates, even for minor inadvertent politically incorrect remarks – never mind economic mismanagement

    Is this apparent distortion of fundamental values in society in general, indicative of a society that is presently in danger of slipping into totalitarianism?

  • John,

    I’ve often wondered whether a political culture that is only interested in seeing politicians’ receipts is one that’s ripe for being tipped into totalitarianism?

    The key issue, for me, is the quality of the representation. If you can do it well – deliberate well and not oppress minorities – and your voters have excused your past allegiances and activities – then I’d suggest you’ve not that much to worry about.

  • Greenflag

    They may be off as per starters orders but it looks like the finishing post has been brought forward to February 25th instead of March 11th – a full two weeks .

  • 241934 john brennan

    Yes. A country, or society, can sometimes sleep-walk to a point, where caught unawares it tips into totalitarianism.

    Freedom fighters, and those talking loudly about fighting for freedom, sometimes attract a measure of political support – and then failing to deliver as democrats, often revert to their repressive measures.

    Should such proven human rights abusers, particularly those abusing of most basic human right (another person’s right to live), ever again be trusted?

    No. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.