So why is FG sprinting? No individual FF TD can do what Jim Kemmy did almost 30 years ago so the prospect of the ultimate government own goal is low. So the only benefit for FG is that they achieve what Fine Gael always wanted and that was to take the PD votes. And they have. FG in today’s poll effectively hoovered up the PD votes. To nail these voters down Richard Bruton and Leo Varadaker have played a good cop bad cop routine, Leo has pushed the right wing line while Richard has portrayed the trusty uncle, the sort you’d trust with your confirmation money.
This double act has successfully brought the PD voter’s home and as an operation it’s worked. A certain amount of arrogance is needed to charm PD voters and there’s a few FG TD’s hoping to make their name as poacher in chief of PD votes. But the reality is that they’re not going to get to implement their policy because Cowen is not going to oblige with an election until it suits him. I’m sure Bruton & Varadker understand this but they’re running a big risk. And it’s this, Labour doesn’t agree with their analysis of our economic problems nor with many of their proposed solutions. Labour doesn’t agree with their approach to the bank bail out. Labour doesn’t share their view on a pay freeze for the public sector nor the plan to bring in a graduate tax to pay for 3rd level education, that’s unworkable, You’ll see Irish graduates seeking jobs outside the state and graduates coming into this jurisdiction who aren’t liable for their proposed tax. What next? A tax on those who were in hospital to pay for their care retrospectively?
Labour is being taken for granted. Enda Kenny has been outshone by Eamon Gilmore’s outstanding performance in the Dail. It’s hurting so the result is to ignore Labour. A questionable strategy based on the assumption that Labour will come good on the day and provide the numbers to deliver power for Enda Kenny. There’s nothing more certain to drive Labour people nuts than taking Labour for granted. John Bruton found this out in 1992 and Albert Reynolds & Bertie Ahern discovered in 1994. Labour will not be pushed around.
Labour is doing better now than at any time since the mid 90’s. A growing confidence will see extra seats won when the next General Election is called. It suits Labour to have a General Election later rather than sooner. Labour may well benefit more from preferences over FG.
FG is making a mistake now. Labour will not go along with their views on reducing numbers in the public service. Labour will not support FG’s view that there should be a pay freeze in the public service. Labour opposes FG’s view that teacher’s pay should be cut. I believe much of Labour’s extra support is from teacher’s and public servants and their families scared at the implications of FG for their jobs and working conditions. That’s the feed back to me from teachers. What no one has mentioned so far is that FG’s policies will spell disaster for the public service. Enda Kenny says the state should buy shares in the banks and give them to the citizens. I’ve a notion of a young unemployed couple on the housing list being given a piece of paper saying they own a tiny proportion of a bank. FG are going back to the Thatcherite view of the shareholding democracy at the wrong time in an economic cycle.
However once FG have annexed the PD vote watch how they’ll ease up on the right wing rhetoric and as they do, Labour support may drop in the polls as public servants perceive their jobs are safe. What should Labour’s response be to FG’s move to the right? Labour has always indulged FG’s fascination with law and order. Is it that Labour has not been credited for this?
Should Labour ignore FG’s Varadker? Does responding to Varadker give him a credibility he doesn’t deserve? What about some of the new TD’s who see themselves as being on the right as opposed to the old liberal FG tradition? I’m slowly coming to the view that what happens in FG may be more important to Labour than what happens in FF. Watch this space, the more FG take off in the polls the less likely Labour will do a deal. So in fact if you want change, a vote for FG is wasted, they’re going nowhere without and unless Labour’s say so.