So the Millward Brown/Sunday Independent poll probably gives the most excitable readings of all the polls, so this one should be read with some caution. Just two weeks ago, though unreported here on Slugger (I plead boredom, for not having jumped) it showed SF in a sudden drop, now they have a severe bump:
Sinn Fein 26% (up 5%%), Fine Gael 25% (+3%), Independents and Others 23% (down 9%), Fianna Fail 19% (up 1%), Labour Party 6% (up 1%).
Sinn Fein most popular party in the state? Well, at one percentage difference with Fine Gael, you’d be chancing your arm to say that even on this strong showing. My own guess is that FG are stronger than current showing, and SF weaker.
But it was handily enough for both to spin it as good news. [Isn’t everything from the Sindo on SF’s Presidential Index? – Ed]. Er, no, only when the news is bad, or they’re pretending they’re not trying to block the naming of a Dublin flyover after a Sindo journo.
But what we can say more positively is that as we get closer to an election (this year or next) faith in opposition to the status quo appears to be splintering from the independents and the far left, and is currently heading for Sinn Fein’s front door.
At a guess, I’d suggest that the anti water tax antics of Paul Murphy and others may have backfired (though without a regional breakdown of voter sentiment, this is just a guess) as impractical gesture politics. As World by Storm notes, there’s been:
…nonsense and confusion over potential alliances that have yet to seriously manifest themselves and it could be that that ‘brand’ – a word I hate but not entirely inappropriate – is being negatively impacted.
More specifically it’s likely to be the absence of brand and, just as importantly, story that’s now pulling back the Independents appeal.
If this pattern is repeated in other following polls, then it is very much game on for Sinn Fein. Adrian Kavanagh, with his just for fun seat projections, demonstrates just how on that game might be, when he projects the following seat distributions:
Fianna Fail 34, Fine Gael 46, Sinn Fein 45, Labour Party 1, Independents and Others 33.
Brian Feeney remarked a few years ago that Sinn Fein was providing the most consistent offering of any party on the island. I’ll admit that I didn’t quite understand what he meant by it at the time since much of my own preoccupation was with the party’s non performance in government.
But the truth is that having a story matters almost more than anything else in politics. It may not be a good one, or even a credible one. But it will beat hands down those parties that don’t have one to call their own.
Fine Gael’s Frank Flannery posited a few years back that where politics should go was towards a Fine Gael Fianna Fail partnership government. Something that most FFers I’ve spoken to earnestly suggest is not on.
It was clever framing by Flannery, who has always been a canny admirer of old style Fianna Fail populism. At 19%, Fianna Fail’s support appears to have stabilized at just above its 2011 base across a broad range of polling.
But what should worry them is that they no longer seem to figure in the thoughts of anyone else as a credible alternative to either Fine Gael, or Sinn Fein. That, to put it at its plainest and simplest, is because they no longer appear to have a story to put in front of the people.
But SF’s record in Northern Ireland government is poor, but since they remain electorally unrivaled in northern nationalism, that’s of than no interest to their southern voters.
If Tspiras and Greece get anything useful from the EU over austerity measures, it may yet clear a path for them to over take Fianna Fail as the lead party of opposition in the Republic
…incumbent centre-right governments across Europe know that facilitating a positive outcome for the Greek government will not assist their own prospects of re-election.
Having implemented various types of what they see as successful austerity programmes in their own countries they’ll be damned if they are going to let the Greeks give credence to the suggestion that there was or is an alternative way.
Could be a bumpy ride ahead. In meantime, it will suit Fine Gael and Sinn Fein to belly it out as a unique struggle between left and right. Fianna Fail needs to get its story telling hat on to avoid a major squeeze with an election possible anytime from this summer through to next.
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