In the 1997 general election Labour lost half their seats, despite the fact that the economy was doing well and the government they were members of had delivered most of Labour’s specific manifesto promises. Yet Labour still got clobbered. Why? One argument is that people who vote for a party vote for many reasons, including local candidate, policies, party image but also because they have a gut instinct as to what they expect of a party. People in 1992 who voted Labour had not expected Labour to go in with Fianna Fail, nor to start appointing cronies to jobs within days of entering government. Nick Clegg’s Lib Dems are experiencing the same thing, despite their policy successes.
When the probable FG/Labour government seek reelection in 2016, what will be the gut achievements by which they will be judged on? I don’t mean their manifesto commitments, but the tone they ran for election on. For example, Listening to Joe Costello and James Reilly talk about trolleys in hospitals, it is not unreasonable to assume that by 2016 there will be hardly any patients on trolleys at all, and so that is a clear means of judging their success or failure.
As I see it, it looks something like this:
1. The Seanad will have been abolished.
2. The IMF deal will have been renegotiated in minor ways, with the exception that the 5.8% interest rate will be reduced.
3. Unemployment will be at least 25% less than it is today, in other words, less than 10%.
4. The number of people on trolleys in our hospitals will be in the dozens, rather than hundreds.
If the government can go to the Irish people having ticked all four of these, I think it stands a very good chance of being reelected.