Next time out it could be Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil coalition

One of our great national traits is the knowledge that we could all do the other fellow’s job so much better, be it politicians, teachers, referees, whatever, we all know better. Some of us keep this to ourselves but others have no difficulty letting the whole world know.

The Galway City Council chamber and the Dáil can be great places for this. Being an expert myself, that’s why Insider wanted to get in there. I knew I could solve problems and put things to right. No problem too big or small, solutions for all.

It came as a great surprise to me that the public found so many others more suitable, particularly now, when I hear the comments about our current group. It must be a very simple job, judging by the expert punter’s view.

I often wonder what have economists and long range weather forecasters got in common. If there is a postman in Donegal surely there is a punter in Paddy Powers who can predict the future of the euro and the winner of the next race in Fairyhouse.

Well, when Insider started out on the last campaign trail, a little nervously, the certainty of my success, as rammed home by my close supporters, really gave me the back-bone required. The public reception was unbelievable. Insider even began to have sympathy for my running mates and wondered would any of them be talking to their relatives by the time it was all over?

Ah, the nights after canvas, the tea, the pints, the sandwiches, the strategy meetings, the buzz. What energy, only the odd dog that growled, the odd punter with a gripe. Insider was new and I knew I was the man.

But it did not happen for Insider, and it has taken me 20 months to get over it, but now I can put pen to paper to see where things are likely to go, to look at the state of the parties and their prospects for the next election. Who knows, I might even have a go again myself. Insider thinks the electorate have learned their lesson, and I am a big enough man to forgive their stupidity.

The future for the parties?

Fine Gael: Fine Gael are holding up well in the polls, as Labour seem to be taking the brunt of public anger at unpopular Government decisions. Minister James Reilly’s recent difficulties seem to have passed for the moment, but Insider believes they will have more damaging consequences for Fine Gael than they now appreciate.

The circumstances in which the next election will be fought are impossible to predict from this remove, and if the Government lasts until 2016, then some crystal ball gazing is necessary. For Fine Gael, even if they lost a third of their seats, they would still end up with 50 seats, and this would leave them in pole position to be the leading party after the next election.

Locally FG is certain to hold at least one seat in Galway East and Galway West, but may struggle to hold two seats in either or both constituencies.

Labour: Even at this early stage, Labour look likely to suffer a fate similar to 1997, and may lose up to half their seats. Labour’s opinion poll ratings suggest the loss of a large number of seats, and this will present Eamon Gilmore with a dilemma as the next election approaches.

A significant number of high profile Labour TDs, including some in Mmnisterial ranks, will not be contesting the next election. A bold step for Gilmore would be to use a Cabinet reshuffle some time in 2013 to promote some of those who are certain to contest the next election, and demote those who have made the decision to retire.

This might mean the departure of such high profile TDs as ministers Rabbitte, Quinn and possibly a few others. The Tánaiste will have to weigh up the loss of these political heavyweights, with the potential benefits of a much higher profile guaranteed by holding ministerial office for some of the hungry Young Turks in the party. It will also present him with an opportunity to move the party to the left to confront head on the growing challenge which will be represented by Sinn Féin.

Both the Galway constituencies will present a challenge for the Labour party, and both seats may be vulnerable. It is also not a good idea to try to be in both Government and opposition at the same time, Galway East Labour please note.

Fianna Fáil: Insider has no doubt that Fianna Fáil will not recover the ground lost over the last few years while the class of 1997, 2002, and 2007 are still at the helm. It is very simple: no-one takes the present Fianna Fáil leadership seriously when they criticise the Government over any of the financial decisions it has to take. How could we take them seriously, as they will always be open to the charge that it was their incompetence which has led us to this sorry state.

With Micheál Martin, Willie O’Dea and others from the previous government still maintaining such a high profile, the public are far less likely to forget their contribution to our present dire position, never mind forgive.

Certain to hold one seat in each Galway constituency, but no chance of a second in either.

Sinn Féin: A similar dilemma to that facing Fianna Fáil faces Sinn Féin. If SF believe the legitimate questions being asked of Gerry Adams and others will go away while they hold prominent leadership positions in the party, then they need a check up from the neck up. If they learned anything from the Martin McGuinness presidential campaign, it must be that these questions will not go away as long as the party leadership is dominated by people who are associated with the IRA campaign.

Shortly after McGuinness announced his campaign for the presidency, his poll ratings were in the low 20s. By the time the election was held, his support had dropped to a little over half this. Insider predicts a similar trajectory for the party, unless there is a radical overhaul of the leadership.

Also, the relentless SF opposition to all that the Government is doing is reminiscent of the worst days of Fianna Fáil in opposition. This may seem as if it is reaping dividends now, but under the campaign spotlight, their support will decrease considerably in Insider’s view.

The one type of politician Insider cannot abide is the one who says something very different when the microphone is turned off to what s/he has been saying on air. The Irish people will also see through this eventually.

There is still a significant opening for SF to exploit, but only with a few new faces gaining more prominence and the development of some policies that may actually stand up to scrutiny. Hovering around the six per cent mark in the last election, the party will need to see a dramatic improvement in fortunes to challenge for a seat in Galway, but do not rule it out fully.

Independents: Unfortunately, in Insider’s view, as the public become more disillusioned with the main parties, support for Independent candidates will continue to increase. There is no solution to the country’s problems here, but a significant number of voters, perhaps as high as 20 per cent, will turn to the candidates of no party. You just have to look at the bunch in the present Dáil to have serious reservations about adding to their numbers.

Yet, Independent TD Noel Grealish has defied the odds before, and may do so again. He could be joined by a second Independent in Galway West, while the Independents will also be challenging strongly in Galway East.

The outcome: Either way, Insider only sees two possible outcomes to the next election, a return of the present coalition with a much reduced majority or a Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil coalition. In 2016, Insider believes Sinn Féin will still be a step too far for Fine Gael, while a left alliance consisting of Sinn Féin/Labour/ULA and Independents is most unlikely to have the numbers.

As usual, after the next election, it will be a numbers game. If Fine Gael and Labour have a majority, they will form the next government (unless the present partnership breaks up in total acrimony ). If Fine Gael and Labour do not have the numbers, but Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil do, then Insider has no doubt those parties will coalesce to form the next government.

The media in all of this

There is a lazy, cliché ridden, take on politics expounded by a large section of the media. This takes the form of constant sniping about long holidays, large expenses and salaries, politicians only being concerned with their own self preservation, employing people they know well or are related to, etc.

This biased form of reporting on politics and those who are engaged in public life is tiresome for politicians and has always been so. It is also far removed from the reality of public service for the vast majority of politicians.

Insider has always considered that the musings of some so called political pundits goes with the territory and we should have thick enough skins to shrug it off. In recent times, however, this low standard of political reporting is becoming more prevalent, and does cause Insider some concerns.

Insider suspects it is the proliferation of media in recent years which has led to a significant dumbing down in our political discourse. Not just in social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and a litany of online blogs, etc, but also in local radio and newspapers and some of the national titles and broadcasters.

For a country that had two and a half national newspapers, one TV station, and one radio station when Insider first took an interest in the noble art of politics, the growth has been nothing short of extraordinary.

Now with up to six national radio stations, four TV stations, dozens of regional and local stations, and a plethora of foreign owned media clogging up our lives, maybe it is no surprise people are now setting an agenda in public discourse who would not have been trusted to put the kettle on in the canteen when Insider started out.

Where a reporter’s job was primarily to report on stories in the past, they have now become so fond of the sound of their own voices, that they see themselves as being part of the story. Truly, there are some clowns out there commentating on current affairs. Insider believes this incompetence, with a few notable exceptions, in public discourse on our political situation is something for which we may eventually pay a heavy price.

If everything politicians do is portrayed as wrong and against the public interest, how will we know when something really is wrong? You'll just have to keep reading Insider, I suppose! And don’t forget me the next time, like you promised you wouldn’t the last time.

 

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