Campaign Gist: FG splinters, SF
Day 20 of the Campaign. The last week looms, with suddenly a lot of novelty on the horizon.
Richard Bruton and Catherine Noone. Paschal Donohoe on his soapbox. Soft focus videos of Simon Coveney. Suddenly, as the poll results came home and the reality of approaching opposition sank in for FG, it is every man for himself. Gone is lofty talk of international affairs. Suddenly, individual ministers are putting out messaging of themselves, in their constituencies, their politics suddenly more retail than Henry Street and Grafton Street combined. Not every minister is going to get out of an election where the vote drops to 24% with their seat. Expect a local focus from the FG cabinet for the next week, and positioning for any leadership battle to come.
FF and FG, it now seems, are polling at significantly less than half the electorate’s first preferences combined. For the first time ever, there is talk of government being formed without either of them. It’s possible, though very difficult to imagine. But it isn’t possible if the various parties stick to their current positions. PBP don’t want to go into coalition, but might support a non FF/FG gov from outside. Labour, having said no, then yes, now says no again to coalition with SF- leaving their voters to just disbelieve them, or vote for a choice between opposition again or coalition with FF or FG.
At the same time, the real issue is trying to get elected- and as none of them have multi-candidate constituencies, that will mean some very clear requests to supporters to transfer all the way down to other potential left coalition parties.
Political analysis often seems to see politics as a brach of fluid dynamics. If a party goes up (or down) it must be because voters have been sluiced and blocked by the party to end up in it. But, in fact, though they hold no press conferences, call no photo opportunities and launch no manifestos, the electorate actually gets to decide what it wants.
At the moment, it has decided it wants change and is, for the first time, trying out using Sinn Fein to do it. This is going to result in lots of novelties, good and bad, in the weeks ahead. But let’s not imagine that this is as a result of anything SF have done since their bad Local and Euro elections. This is just what the voters have plumped for, and when the electorate decides it wants something, it has the last word.