There 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!