Fianna Fail are back, at least if today’s Irish Times opinion poll (here) is to be believed. I can’t claim to be surprised, because within mere weeks of Fine Gael and Labour taking power they started doing an poor impression of Fianna Fail anyway. It’s incredible when you think about it: here’s a party that actually had to beg foreigners to take over the wheel because they couldn’t hack it, and now we’re digging them up and declaring them lost treasure.
Yet Fine Gael and Labour can blame no one but themselves. Having failed to win an election together for 29 years, wouldn’t you think they’d have put some thought into how they were going to manage expectations, especially as 2011 was the Unlosable election?
Both parties have failed to learn the lessons of the 1994-97 Rainbow government, which went into the election with a competent economic record (Ruairi Quinn having been one of the best finance ministers we ever had) and yet still lost, primarily because Labour voters abandoned the party in droves. Why? Because, once again, Labour had failed to manage expectations, throwing every promise short of free liposuction at voters and then wondering why they were disappointed afterwards?
Does it mean people have forgiven Fianna Fail? Probably not. The party is just the handiest frying pan at hand to fling at the coalition. Ironically, Fianna Fail with a bit of courage and restraining its worst “say anything!” demons could probably soar ahead, but like the coalition, they’re building an electoral base on vague promises (hands up who can sum up FF’s costed alternative to the property tax, water tax and UHI? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?) and will sure enough disappoint when they return to government.
Sinn Fein are now where the Greens were pre-2007. Unsoiled by government and with a voter base that has never been disappointed by the realities of government. The difference with Sinn Fein is that they seem aware of the opportunity, by refusing to join a coalition as junior partner, to become at least the main opposition party in the republic, something Labour’s conscience used to wrestle with constantly before losing every time to the smack of warm Merc leather on Labour minister arse.
Finally, there’s the 20% “Feck yiz all” independent vote, with the Joe Higgins/People’s Front of Killiney vote thrown in. The fact that the Irish Left are still struggling to get any sort of significant electoral purchase tells us both a lot of about their inability, but also the reality that most Irish people are happy with how our society as its structured. Even a vote for Independents is less a vote for radical change and more a vote for the status quo but with more money taken from someone else and spent “in the parish.”
In Greece, when they want change they vote for Communists. We vote for fellas who were loyal members of Fianna Fail or Fine Gael just before the selection convention went sour.