Michael Taft: The Progressive Bloc Opens Up a Significant Lead


From top: Merrion Street, Dublin 2: Michael Taft

Is there any justification, any rationalisation in maintaining that election 2020 is a two-way race between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael?

In the Irish Times/MRBI poll – the first poll whose fieldwork came after the election was called – the Progressive bloc garners 38 percent of the vote, with Fianna Fail trailing at 25 percent and Fine Gael falling further behind at 23 percent.

The two conservative blocs total less than half the vote.

Earlier this month I suggested this contest could be seen as a three-way contest. The first two polls (the Sunday Times B&A poll having come out on Sunday) seem to confirm that.

But we shouldn’t be too surprised. The growth in support for progressive parties has been growing since the early 1980s. During much of this time, this growth was taking place below the radar as we were still captured by the idea that Irish elections are a contest between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.

Now, however, that growth gas burst into and throughout the radar. Indeed, support for Progressive parties is now beginning to challenge the combined strength of the two conservative blocs.

Of course, there are the usual caveats: this is just one poll; it is ‘early days’, etc. Parties can grow or fall back over the course of the campaign.

A real problem is that, not being cohesive, there may be a problem in maximising seats between progressive parties (though, as pointed out previously, voters are increasingly transferring within the progressive bloc). These and other questions will fuel speculation in the days ahead.

However, this speculation should be rooted in the fact that the first two polls show that Progressives are contenders, not also rans, not just mere fillers for a conservative-led coalition.

The challenge is to build on these results. In an earlier post I suggested a modest strategy for progressives – to boost the votes of all progressive parties (the party of your choice) and to urge progressives to transfer within the bloc to maximise seats.

Most of all, progressive parties – activists, spokespersons – should now start acting and talking like poll leaders.

We need to convince more people that progressive policies will make a real and positive impact on their day-to-day lives.

To do that requires people having confidence in the candidates and parties they vote for. We should start acting like the leaders that the polls show that we are.

Now is the time for trade unionists to make these arguments, either individually or collectively.

Now is the time for civil society activists who might not be associated with any particularly party to urge support and transfers for progressives.

And it is time that party activists to make their voices heard within their own party. Support for progressives has never been higher in an election poll. Let’s not throw away the opportunities this presents.

It might be a stretch to say that the old order is collapsing while the new order is trying to emerge. History rarely vindicates poetic aspiration.

But we can confidently say that there is a lot of people trying to tell us something, trying to tell us that they are not satisfied with either conservative bloc, trying to say they are willing to support a progressive party and, potentially, a progressive alternative.

The question is – are we listening?

Michael Taft is a researcher for SIPTU and author of the political economy blog, Notes on the Front. His column appears here every Tuesday.


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21 thoughts on “Michael Taft: The Progressive Bloc Opens Up a Significant Lead

  1. bisted

    ‘…not just mere fillers for a Conservative-led coallition’…labour and greens have been precisely that…mere fillers…and have stated that the will do so again…they were bought same as Siptu was bought

    1. MaryLou's ArmaLite

      They are progressive in that they are involved in less racketeering and gangsterism than 20 years ago.

  2. Ben Redmond

    Some progressives are as progressive as the Healy-Raes. If I lived in Kerry I’d vote for them. They do exactly as they say on the label.

    1. scottser

      you know ben, i never took you for a delaney-supporting, climate change-denying, trespasser-shooting drunk driver..

  3. Clampers Outside

    SF were dissing both Labour and the Greens in their election campaign launch, so I’d say the idea, of lumping all the so called “progressive” parties together looks nice on paper, is very far from the reality of anything remotely cohesive or potentially “working together” imho

    1. scottser

      they’re always at that clamps. trust me, if they need each other’s support to form a government there’ll be dancing, songs and smiles when the time comes.

      1. Clampers Outside

        Mr Taft did suggest same in his last post.
        Sure what would I know…
        *rubs crustal ball*…

        …Nothing :)

  4. Cian

    Jeez lads, did you not read Michael’s post 2 weeks ago where he suggested that all the left join together to form a government?

    – Nationalist Left: Sinn Féin
    – Social Democratic: Labour and Social Democrats
    – Radical: People before Profit, Solidarity, Workers Party, Rise
    – Greens
    – In addition, there are independents loosely associated within Independents4Change (I4C) as well as other unaffiliated independents.


    Personally I think it’s bonkers because even the individual parties can’t pull in the same direction. I’m looking at you Social Democrats.

    1. V

      But it must be said that a formally organised Opposition to the Government
      Like a Common Bond co-op
      Isn’t new

      And the decades its been in the ether have all proved that the Left can’t even pull together to sign a birthday card
      and everyone else not Government Party has always had bigger plans for themselves – the best examples of that in today’s money are Zappone, Ross and the Healy Raes

  5. Liam

    Whatever about “progressive”, it’s not a “bloc” – they mostly hate each other. The SDs are Labour splitters; Solidarity had a split only last year and hate the soft left etc.

  6. italia'90

    Your union and their political party Labour, abandoned the workers of the private sector when they needed protection the most, pre and post economic crash.
    Workers, working families, the working poor, single parents and a generation of young people have been made to pay for the greed and avarice of a fiscally incompetent kleptocracy.

    Please spare us this pseudo-US Democratic “Progressive” claptrap when there is an elephant in the room.
    There will be a surge towards Nationalism before there is any countenance of “Progressive-ism” by the Irish electorate.

    Just look across the pond and a little further east for the evidence and at which party is making steady gains here and not far away from getting their hands on the Levers of Power, which has always been their ultimate goal irregardless of their ideological principles.

    Vote FF get FG.
    Vote FG get FF.
    Vote SF get both FF and FG.
    It’s all panto anyway, we are governed from the Bundestag, not the Dáil.
    The sliver lining is that labour is dead.

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