Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics
 

How Fianna Fail could win the next election.

Posted by Jason O on Jan 19, 2010 in Irish Politics |

fianna-failThere is a conventional wisdom going about the place that it is inevitable that FF will lose the next election. On balance, it makes sense. But what would FF have to do to get back into contention?

1. Get cash into small and medium sized business. The banks are not helping viable but cash-strapped businesses, and this will lead to an unnecessary spike in unemployment, a spike which is avoidable.

2. Someone needs to go to jail for Anglo Irish. If this doesn’t happen, it means that FF are, in the eyes of the electorate, either corrupt or incompetent.

3. Stop putting off decisions that effect high level political/civil service ranks (as happened with culling the junior ministers or cutting high level pay) which then make the decisions look as if they were not as much courageous as dragged kicking and screaming out of Government Buildings.

4. Elevate Labour to Taoiseach provider status, and demand that Eamonn Gilmore participate in one-on-one debates with both Enda Kenny and the leader of Fianna Fail. FF should also concede a willingness to serve under a Labour Taoiseach. Mischief making? Definitely. It’ll have Labour and FG at each other’s throats, which is always good for a laugh. But it will also force them to debate each other, and have Miriam O’Callaghan push them, in front of each other, to address their policy differences, which is in the voter interest.

5. Go on the attack over FG/Labour’s running of the county councils. Nearly all local services are now run by FG/ Labour. FF should set up a unit to assist its candidates in making this point locally, and attaching every unpopular local decision to FG/Labour candidates. FF is giving a free pass to the opposition and their policies (like Labour’s magical pain free cutbacks), and needs to highlight it. FF should create a spokesperson, media operation and media friendly website to track and disseminate every FG/Labour councillor and TD’s spending promises, and translate that into the extra taxes it will cost to fund it. Governments shouldn’t get free passes. Neither should alternative governments.

6. Hold out as long as possible. The economy will recover, and FF can claim the credit for it.

7. Propose running new, non-FF candidates. The public know that the most talented Irish people are not in politics. Why not? FF should run a slew of new faces who have achieved things outside of politics, and pledge, through the senate, to bring new people into government. There’s a committment in the programme for government to look at electoral reform: FF shouldn’t regard this as a pisstake (as they do now) but as something that could actually help them reinvent themselves as a party. There are a lot of talented people out there who could play a part in a new reinvigorated FF but don’t want to be a member of Leitrim County Council first. 

7. The leadership issue needs to be addressed. I’m a Brian Cowan fan, but I, like many, am wondering the same thing: Where is the alien pod that they are holding the real Brian Cowan in, or is it that this is the real Brian Cowan and the impressive one in the past was an alien who’s been recaptured? They need to fix this (the leadership issue, not whether the Taoiseach is/was an extraterrestial. Although that would be worth knowing too.) and the ultimate sanction has to be on the table.

I write all this, by the way, not as an FF supporter, but someone who is so underwhelmed by the opposition as to be wondering whether FF might be the better choice. And seriously, if you knew me, that’s really saying something!

13 Comments

Diane
Jan 19, 2010 at 12:24 pm

You’re not alone. I think there is a HUGE proportion of the electorate who want to believe Labour or FG can form part of a credible government, there are people almost pleading with FG to give them a reason to earn their support – but it’s not happening. FF could and should cash in on this.

A year ago it seemed inevitable that FF would lose the next election. Not so much now.


 
Jason O
Jan 21, 2010 at 7:45 am

I get irritated at the idea that 18 months into an FG/Labour govt, nothing will have changed, and FG in particular will be so delighted to be in that they’ll go into the political version of a sugar coma. I have yet to meet a passionate FGer who can talk about FG without mentioning Fianna Fail like a girl they asked out but said no.


 
James Lawless
Jan 21, 2010 at 11:27 am

4 is very clever and as you say a little mischevious. Goes slightly against the grain to recognise the enemy but there are good tactical reasons as you set out.

5 is spot on. Because FF are in national government and have been for a long time, the assumption amongst the wider public is that they are responsible for every ill. Everything that goes wrong is laid at the FF door. However in reality, many of the missteps from the Celtic Tiger era were made by local councils the vast majority of which have been controlled by FG / Lab since 2004 if not longer. The party (FF) does not highlight this half as much as it should. Gormely is actually better at this, he quite correctly called the bluff of a huffing and puffing Labour Councillor on RTÉ during the cold snap pointing out that he (the Cllr) was actually the one in charge!

Having said that I have noticed that it doesn’t always play well. Speaking to some ‘civilians’ after some of Gormley’s performances there was a sense that he was passing the buck all the time (even if he was technically correct in doing so). A lot of the time the public don’t want political squabbles they just want progress and positive engagement. Still there has to be a balance.


 
John
Jan 21, 2010 at 5:42 pm

5. Go on the attack over FG/Labour’s running of the county councils.

If we had proper local government, with councillors setting local government taxes and exercising executive powers, then this point would be very successful. Sure, you can point out that X council is controlled by FG, Lab or whatever, but as long as people pay their taxes solely to central government – that is the place they will focus their attention on when they see service failures.


 
Jason O
Jan 22, 2010 at 10:38 am

John-Joe,

FG and Labour set commercial rates for nearly every business in the country. You control those taxes, and so should take responsibility for it.


 
John
Jan 22, 2010 at 3:01 pm

I don’t control any taxes!

Hey, if FF want to go after FG and Labour over commercial rates, then they should do so. I doubt it would have any success, but sure, they can fire ahead, they tried this before the local elections and I don’t remember that ploy being a major success.

Anyway, what argument can FF make on a national basis about commercial rates? That they should be frozen/reduced to support SMEs, which is what they argued before the Locals? Or that they should change tack and argue that rates they should be increased to provide more resources to Local Government? And how do they square all this with the issue of the Central Government Grant and the fact that they, the government, can take control in the final instance?

We don’t have any real local government in this country, and until we do, attacking FG and Labour over the county councils which they “control” won’t really fly.


 
Jason O
Jan 22, 2010 at 8:47 pm

So, what’s the point actually electing FG/Labour councillors, then?


 
John
Jan 24, 2010 at 9:58 pm

I don’t understand that point to be honest, presumably FG and Labour councillors are elected to provide democratic representation to their voters.

I’d be interested in knowing what argument you think FF should make on commercial rates.


 
Jason O
Jan 25, 2010 at 7:02 am

My point is that if you feel that councillors who control the council (FG and Labour) have no powers (which isn’t actually true. They set the budget) then what is the point actually having them? Democratic representation? If you believe that they have no power then you are accepting that they are costing us money for no benefit. Yet the FG councillors in my ward are constantly bombarding me with news of how their efforts have caused various actions to happen. What’s it to be? Are Maria Baker and Barry Ward, my FG councillors, actually responsible for the stuff they claim, or not?


 
John
Jan 25, 2010 at 8:52 am

I never said Councillors have no powers.

I said we don’t have real local government in any meaningful sense, that they don’t have the powers to set local taxes (rates aside – a power which is limited as they have no control over the level of each rate) nor do they have executive powers. You can talk about the powers of setting the budget, but that power is severely curtailed. A problem which was at the heart of Killian Forde’s decision.

To go from that, to argue that I have said councillors are powerless is over-egging the pudding just a tad. They have powers in terms of development plans, influencing local work plans, placing pressure on council officials to provide services in particular areas and so on. Maybe you think those are strong powers. Fair enough, however I’d classify myself in the broad swathe of people who consider the powers of elected representatives in local government to be weak.

But as I’ve pondered a few times now, I’d be interested in how you recommend FF play this on Commercial Rates.


 
Jason O
Jan 25, 2010 at 9:35 am

I’d have FF vote against the council budget (Including rates) in the same way FG/Labour vote against the budget in the Dail, and promise that it would all be different if they were in power! I’d also have FF councillors lobbying local businesses to point out that they voted against the commercial rates that FG/Labour are levying. It’s mickey mouse politics, I agree, but no less mickey mouse than FG/Labour’s approach to budgets nationally.

They could also campaign against the poor council services being delivered by the local work plans controlled by FG/Labour.

I agree that local government is pretty much meaningless, but FG and Labour in govt didn’t radically change local govt when they were in power either.


 
John
Jan 25, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Councils don’t work like central government. A good councillor will get stuff done through their Local Area Committee and onto works programmes even if they’re not part of the group which controls the council. By all means, encourage FF councilors to vote against budgets – the danger is of course, that the budget isn’t passed and it all reverts back to the Central Government.

I’d be delighted if FF want to spend their budget on attacking the councils which non-FF parties ‘control’. I think it would be spectacularly ineffective for the reasons I’ve outlined. People value what they pay for – they pay their taxes to central government, and that’s where they look when there is a failure of service delivery.

Your point about FG and Labour not doing anything radical on Local Government is weak. The Labour Party throw that line out in the UK, and despite the fact that the Tory party governed for the previous decade and a half, it doesn’t carry water. Saying that FG didn’t solve the problems of the world in the 2.5 years they were in government over the past two decades is a very weak point.

Out of curiosity what was ‘mickey mouse’ about FG’s budget response? They produced their own framework for a budget beforehand, and said what they would do. I don’t know what more they should do.


 
Jason O
Jan 25, 2010 at 1:18 pm

Labour attacked the cutbacks! And there’s no point saying FG can’t answer for Lab, because the alternative govt is not just FG. There is no such thing as just FG.
As you know, I’m not a Fianna Failer, and so what they do is their thing, but I’d go negative on every FG and Labour councillor if only to depress their own vote, and pointing out that they run the council is worth doing. I accept it’s never been tried before, but stuff like showing the total amount of FG and Labour expenses claimed as against FF expenses.


 

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