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Triangulation to ensure FG gets the angles right

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Together but separate... Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Joan Burton.

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

Triangulation – it sounds like something to do with the boy scouts or orienteering instead of what is now accepted as a standard political strategy.

The former US President Bill Clinton did not invent it but he perfected it. So did Tony Blair who used it expertly when creating the hybrid beast known as New Labour.

Now, in the Irish situation, there is clear evidence that Fine Gael’s strategists have decided to sprinkle it liberally over their concoction of policies.

So, how does the technique work? Well, firstly, it relies a lot on focus groups.

These are smallish groups of people selected by polling companies. They are representative of wider society so you get young, old, country, city, poor, rich, well-educated, poorly educated.

They are brought into a room and they talk about a range of issues, usually steered by a professional pollster. Those issues can range from immigration, to tax, to crime, to public services, to health. The name of the game is to tease out what the prevailing sentiment is on those key issues.

The second leg to the school is to scavenge your opponent’s policies. When the New Labour project was in full flow, the party essentially appropriated Tory Party policy on issues like, say immigration or crime. It would take the Tory policy, take on board what had been said by the focus groups, water it down a bit to make it more palatable to Labour supporters, and then sell it as New Labour.

New Labour was in many ways old Tory but with a nod to its own socialist background.

Thus its policies on crime (tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime etc) were almost indistinguishable from those of the Conservatives. As was its relatively hardline stance on immigration.

For Fine Gael in this context, it’s been a multi-pronged approach.

The first element is its relationship with Labour. The parties have been in coalition and both say they wish to go into government again. That said, they are not campaigning on a united front but as individual parties. So while they are partners they are also opponents in that sense.

And this is where you can see the triangulation and focus groups kicking in.

The funny thing is that both parties use almost exactly the same arguments when talking of the Opposition. Both present the choice as one of stability and continuing the recovery versus instability and chaos.

But each knows that they will be competing with each other too. Fine Gael has a sniff of an overall majority. People say it doesn’t have a hope of getting there. Perhaps that’s true.

Nonetheless, you have to factor in the following. The reality is that Enda Kenny is the only possible Taoiseach and Fine Gael is the only party big enough to bid for power. All other possible combinations just don’t seem to work (unless Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin do the unthinkable).

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Corporation Tax provides cash for Budget giveaway

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Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe: "the needs of the people are significant".

World of Politics with Harry McGee

I have seen some extraordinary budgets in my time. There were the giveaway budgets (Fianna Fáil 2001 and again in 2007) just before general elections.

There were the Covid budgets that allowed enough cash to pay everybody still in a job and pay everybody who was out of a job.

There were the hair shirt budgets (from 2008 to 2014) when the country was going down the tubes.

And there was Charlie McCreevy’s infamous decentralisation budget which was a great idea but a lousy way to go about it.

This week’s Budget fitted snugly into that category of out-of-the ordinary. In addition to a whopping €6.9 billion of additional funding in the Budget itself, there was an estimated €4.1bn extra in once-off spending in the cost-of-living package. So that’s €11 billion in spending altogether on Tuesday. It’s a big chunk of change in anybody’s language.

It was pure auction politics. First the Government said it would put an additional €1 billion in the once-off package, then it said it would put €2 billion into it, then we heard rumours of €3 billion and now it’s topped €4bn. Of course, the auction was joined into by the Opposition. They have all proposed packages that will involve considerably more spending than the Government’s Euromillions. Sinn Fein is at €13.5 billion. God knows what People Before Profit proposes to spend (it’s not easy to quantify) but its stratospheric. At least its message of spending everything we have got, nationalising everything we have got, is consistent.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Prodigal son Bertie could be set for return to the fold

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Bertie Ahern speaking at the announcement of the Good Friday Agreement.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

I’d actually forgotten that Bertie Ahern wasn’t a member of Fianna Fáil until the issue was brought up at the parliamentary party meeting of TDs and senators last week.

He was in Coventry or Purdah – or wherever politicians with a whiff of scandal around them are put – for a number of years but he’s been back at the centre of the political and public stage for so long now, you begin to forget that he was ever away.

And so last week, Donegal senator Niall Blaney stood up and addressed his colleagues right at the end of the meeting. He said 2023 would mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. The party needed to put its best foot forward to commemorate it.

Out of the blue, he then said that should include welcoming Bertie Ahern back into the party fold. He called on the party to act in “a spirit of inclusivity”.

It was one of those moments that Conamara people have a great expression for. ‘Tháinig sé Aniar Aduaidh orainn’ (it surprised us from the North West).

It had not been on the meeting agenda but now it was very much on the party’s agenda. Others piped up. Offaly TD Barry Cowen said that the time had come to readmit Ahern to Fianna Fáil. Over the next 24 hours colleagues joined in, saying a lot of water had flown under the bridge since a decade ago.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Connacht Tribune

Sinn Féin still to learn that populism comes at a price

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Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald meets up with US speaker Nancy Pelosi on her American tour last week.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The Dáil kicked off again yesterday with the usual circus of press conferences, tetchy exchanges in the chamber and protests outside the gate. The first private members motion was tabled by the main opposition party, Sinn Féin, putting forward its own measures to assist with household bills.

Its main suggestion is to boot out this government and put Mary Lou McDonald in.

The regional group is next in line with a private members motion on Thursday. Surprise, surprise, it’s about the security of electricity supply.

The usual pre-Dáil niceties have now been dispensed with. All the political parties held parliamentary away days – or think-ins as they have been dubbed. I’m sure policy and strategy is discussed at some of them but the name of the game is to get your name up in lights before the Oireachtas kicks off.

As night follows day, it will only be a matter of days before the first no-confidence motion is tabled against a Government Minister. Given the huge price hikes in electricity and gas bills, it could be Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan who finds himself in the crosshairs of the opposition parties.

Then there’s the legislative programme. At the start of each new term, the Government Chief Whip Jack Chambers releases a list of about 40 Bills that are earmarked for publication before the session comes to an end. Getting half of them published would represent an exceptionally good performance.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

 

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