Fianna Fail: Whilst FF are taking the brunt of the public anger (and just wait ‘til the water charges kick in) they are also been looked at differently by voters who take the economic crisis seriously, almost single-handedly by the performance of Brian Lenihan. Aside from the natural anger, surely FF’s biggest obstacle is its lack of imagination, with its foot dragging on issues like expenses reform leaving a sour taste in the mouths of workers who have taken cuts themselves. FF’s failure to tackle the banks on lending is beginning to grate with small and medium-sized businesspeople. That FF seem to be unaware of this issue raises serious questions about FF’s fabled political antennae.
Fine Gael: It is hard to find anyone outside Fine Gael who think that FG’s current good performances are anything to do with FG themselves. Whereas they actually have been up front on the need for cuts, and their universal health insurance idea has substance, one would be hard pressed to meet non-FG people who are enthused for FG as opposed to being furious with FF. The Dublin Mayoral election and the Dublin South byelection could bode ill for FG, taking the winning shine off FG, and Enda continues to be a drag on the party in Dublin, and really should be bounced off to the Phoenix Park in 2011. Is it unreasonable to believe that FG would be up near 40% in the polls under a more credible leader?
Labour Party: This is Labour’s time, and the idea of a “Gilmore Gain” to rival the Spingtide of 1992 is definitely on, especially in Dublin. Labour seems to have positioned itself as the political wing of the public sector, which is good politics if not good for the nation as a whole. A crucial contest will be the Dublin Mayoral election: Labour (as pointed out by Noel Whelan) could be in serious contention to win the first election, in a straight fight with FG for first place and possibly squeaking through on FF transfers, and that coupled with a win in the Dublin South by-election will highlight Labour’s strength (and FG’s weakness) in Dublin, and will cause tension in the FG/Labour alliance, especially as their economic policies seem to be diametrically opposed.
Sinn Fein: SF seems to be having difficulty determining what it is trying to achieve, and ironically, the border is now beginning to cause them problems. SF seems to be two different parties now, with a governing party having to be realistic in the North, and a southern party struggling to define itself on the left against a resurgent Labour party and a returning Joe Higgins. The loss of Killian Forde, the face of New Sinn Fein, along with the inability of Mary Lou to get elected to things is not a help. The Donegal byelection could provide a glimmer of hope.
Green Party: The Greens still seem to be shell shocked from having spent a political lifetime as the safe party of protest to now being held (in some quarters) in even greater contempt than FF. Their inexperience in government is telling, but what is more striking is their inability to identify and deliver on issues that will actually win over potential Green voters. Whilst the carbon tax, civil partnership and the elected Dublin mayor are all achievements, the party has not figured out a way of translating those successes into enough votes to actually elect TDs. The Greens have hinted that electoral reform is becoming important to them: Given that they may suffer on transfers (note their wipeout in the local elections) it may dawn on them that small constituencies with high quotas may not be the best system for them going forward, and that some form of attached list system may at least allow Green votes to elect some TDs. Whether they have the bottle to bring FF around to that way of thinking is another thing.Having said that, the recent knifing of Wille O’Dea will do them no harm. FF coalition partner voters always like to see FF bleed.