Rumours whirl about that Pat Cox and Michael McDowell are pondering the creation of a new political party. Let’s ask ourselves a few questions:
Do we need a new party? That depends on what you want to achieve. Certainly, a party that openly puts the interests of private sector workers ahead of farmers, public sector workers and the Fianna Fail class would attract a certain level of interest. Possibly based on the German FDP.
Who would potentially vote for it? Small businesspeople. Professionals. Private sector workers. Fine Gael supporters unimpressed by Enda. Law and Order types. Social Liberals who don’t like the way Labour keeps eying their wallets. Political reformers who recognise that our current system just isn’t working.
Who would not vote for it? Public sector workers and their families. Farmers. Hardline catholics. Hardline nationalists. The permanently state funded (NGOs, etc).
Could it win any seats? Possibly, in Dublin South, South East, Dun Laoghaire, and Cork South Central.
Who would run for it? Colm McCarthy? Emily O’Reilly? Shane Ross? Niamh Brennan? What’s John McGuinness doing these days?
Possibilities or Pitfalls? Setting up a new party is very hard, very expensive, and would require an organisation. Secondly, the former PD flavour of it may automatically turn some people off. Thirdly, there would be a temptation to be populist (making promises they can’t keep) or even playing the anti EU or anti immigrant card, although both are unlikely under Cox and even under McDowell, who whilst being vaguely eurosceptic (although practically a federalist by British standards) takes a far tougher line on racism in private than many of his opponents would believe.
The party would have to be clear as to whom it would consider coalition with. On the plus side, FG support is almost certainly soft and crying out for something a bit tastier. Also, the Fourth Coming of Michael McDowell would be fun. Let’s not forget: Even in the dark days of the 2007 general election, the PDs got 56,000 votes. A party that accepted it had a modest appeal, and modest targets, that stayed pure to its voters as opposed to going for the classic Irish “Let’s agree with everyone and sort it out later” approach must have a fair crack at 10% of the vote.