Election Rule #2: Don’t get backed into a corner

After a quick break (a broken Metatarsal to be exact) it is time to continue with the Election Rules series. This week the lesson is to never get backed into a corner.

Anyone who has ever done a bit of boxing knows that you cannot afford to get trapped in the corner. It’s worse than being on the ropes because there is no escape without walking straight into a heavy punch in order to get out. In politics it is no different.

Politicians don’t like giving straight answers because it often ties them down to a particular course of action. Circumstances can change and what you wanted to do may not be feasible in the future. As a result evading the question seems the best course of action.

That is the bit we all know. However, a lesser known fact is that politicians often create this situation themselves. Rather than saying exactly what they are thinking they hide things. They float ideas. Fly kites.

The best example in recent weeks was the whole debacle about the timing of the next general election.

Everybody was happy that it would occur in 2016. That was until government backbenchers and even some in more senior positions kept talking about an early election. This chatter was ignored for too long. It reached a fever pitch entirely made within the halls of Leinster House.

The Taoiseach finally felt he had to say something and then went all out to dismiss it. He was unequivocal that the election would not happen until the Spring. Did he really need to do that though? If he had spoken earlier and more openly he could have kept his options open.

Recent polls show FG is climbing. That is good news for the Taoiseach but there will be a niggling doubt at the back of his mind. What if this is the moment? What if the mojo is there now? The danger is the mojo gets lost. A bit like sex, the mood goes off us.

A wrong word, a simple mention of putting the bins out and the chance is lost. Enda Kenny has to hope that FG can continue and sustain its climb beyond the end of January. It’s now a long way until Spring and there is a danger that if people are giving credit for the budget now, it will be but a memory in the new year.

I am not saying the government should hold the election now but it is no longer an option. The Taoiseach has been backed into a corner on this one.

There are lots of examples in politics of this rule. Politicians find themselves forced to take a course of action and then can regret it later. It happens on policy, resignations, constituency matters and a multitude of other items.

The key thing is to always keep some options open. Know your route out of any mess but don’t limit yourself to one route alone.