Don’t outstay welcome in the corridors of power

Renewed rivalries...Enda Kenny and Micheal Martin during the TG4 leaders’ debate last time out.
Renewed rivalries...Enda Kenny and Micheal Martin during the TG4 leaders’ debate last time out.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

Lesson one from the world of modern democracy is this; if you are looking good for a third successive term in office, then engineer a scandal or a crisis – basically anything to collapse support for the government.

Because losing once is the key – if you don’t, people will just get tired of you being a tired government.  The net result will the same. Everything will come to a shuddering halt.

If Fianna Fáil had lost the 2007 election, the likelihood is that they would have returned to power in 2011 or 2012 and would be the outgoing government now.

They would have taken over when the economy was at its lowest ebb, succeeded in deflecting most of the blame onto hapless Fine Gael and Labour, and would now be presiding over a burgeoning economy and a second term in power.

Instead, the party stayed too long at the table, and took one bet too many. The party with the most chips went ‘all in’ and lost heavily and allowed Fine Gael cruise through and take over its mantel.

Now we have an extraordinary situation where Fine Gael is now seen as the natural party of Government and Fianna Fáil is struggling to remain relevant.

There’s still two months to go to the general election and it’s already shaping up to an election where Fine Gael will be out on its own with 25 to 35 seats to spare over its nearest rival, which will be Fianna Fáil.

At this moment on time, my guess is that Fine Gael could win 65 seats. Fianna Fail will be aiming for 40 on a good day but 35 may be a realistic aim.

Labour will go in to the election with over 30 seats and come back with half of that or less. I think the party will have done enough to win ten and may even win 15.

Sinn Féin is harder to guess. A few months ago I would have said 30. But the combination of things have pushed it back. There was Mairia Cahill’s one-woman campaign against the party. Other legacy issues also cropped up.

Its less-than-clever alliance with Syriza also pushed its ambitions back once the Greek party capitulated. It will get 20 seats easily and probably 25 – but getting 30 seats might now be a bit of a push.

So that brings us to about 135 and 140. My guess is that about 25 seats will go to Independents and non-aligned TDs, less than the one per constituency that once seemed possible.

I haven’t been too prescriptive. In all honesty, many of the final seats in the election will be decided by a sliver and you would need to have the combined powers of Nostradamus and Old Moore’s Almanac to divine how they are going to turn out.

Secondly, there is still two months to go and a lot can happen. Fine Gael might continue to gather momentum and come close to an overall majority. But then votes might get cold feet at the notion of that and vote tactically for another party.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.