So, the latest poll in the south. Just four things worth considering:
33% of those asked do not have a clear preference. This is an indication of the wider state of mind of the electorate. It probably poses the greatest challenge to Fianna Fail since it represents a large tranche of voters who appear to have turned their back on politics in Ireland since the party’s defenestration in February 2011.
Independents have dropped five percentage points. This is an downturn for a block that seems to have been benefitting most consistently from dissatisfaction with government. And it seems to be the government that has benefitted most from their loss. It should be noted that the independent block is now augmented with a bunch of ex government TDs, so the maverick individual brand may be as pristine in the public mind as it was before.
Fine Gael is up four points. The lead government party have come through a sticky time for them in the run up to the budget, and serial problems with costs in the HSE. The current controversy over top up payments has probably benefitted them more than any other parliamentary grouping. They will hope the going home of the Troika (in a few days time) marks a decisive break with the lost sovereignty narrative so long as the US recovery continues to filter in and the EU continues to ‘stumble forward’.
Labour’s recovery is not a recovery as such. The last Irish Times survey had the Labour Party at a meagre 6%, which has to be treated as something of an outlier. Despite the lift to Fine Gael they are losing the battle for the working class with Sinn Fein, and to some extent even Fianna Fail. If the recovery continues even at the moderate pace, it’s hard to see what Labour can do to rise above the tidy managerialism of the Fine Gael big ship. Horrendously rising debt is the country’s biggest ongoing problem. Some kind of deal on residual debt with the ECB might just release some cash for a functional stimulus. Short of that, it’s hard to see where their room for manoeuvre is.
Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein remain pretty much as they were…