Various friends in political circles (And Fine Gael! Ah that’s mean!) across the spectrum have been speculating on a Green walkout of government in the new year, and a snap election.
I have my doubts about that. The numbers aren’t in the Dail for an alternative government that doesn’t include Sinn Fein, which means that an election would be likely. But would it?
Fianna Fail, given their poor poll ratings of late, would not be enamoured of going to the park. What’s to stop Cowen announcing that he will lead a minority government, as we have had in the past under Haughey and Lemass, where the government negotiates with the Dail on issues?
You know, the way the Constitution says things are supposed to happen? It is only in recent times that we have become obsessed with the British “Spank me matron!” approach to “strong” government, that is, a government that can ride roughshod over the legislature.
Cowen could actually say that he has no intention calling an “unnecessary” election, and puts it up to the opposition to call it themselves by voting no confidence.
That raises its own questions.
Do Fine Gael and Labour really want to take over now, and take the blame for making the tough decisions that are heading down the river, or have they decided that the Cowen administration has reached its John Major moment of being unreelectable, and so should let it ride until then, forcing FF to make the hard decisions as they march towards elecoral defeat?
Of course, all that assumes that Fine Gael has a strategic overview, which is a hell of an assumption.
Secondly, one can never underestimate the propensity of Irish politicans to sleepwalk into situations. Just look at Albert in 1994.
Finally, a politically astute friend of mine made a very salient point to me recently. How the hell would the parties pay for their election campaigns? The days of the easy donation are gone, and that may steady the more giddy enthusiasts for a snap election.