Author Archives: Shane Heneghan

From top: German Defence minister Ursula von der Leyden (left) with Joan Burton at an EU summit in Dublin Castle in 2013; Shane Heneghan

The last European summit in Brussels had a solution. A neat, gender balanced package was cooked up to occupy four of the main top jobs in the European Union.

The initial English language media reporting of this spoke as if the appointments- particularly that of the proposed new head of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen- are a done deal. They are not.

It’s worth looking at the treaty in regard to the appointing of a new head of the commission. Article 17.7 of the Lisbon Treaty states-

“Taking into account the elections to the European Parliament and after having held the appropriate consultations, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall propose to the European Parliament a candidate for President of the Commission. This candidate shall be elected by the European Parliament by a majority of its component members.”

This text has been interpreted generously by the Parliament to mean that the Council (the EU heads of government meeting in Brussels) should nominate one of the main groups “spitzenkandidaten” or lead candidates from the European election campaign.

A request that is very easily circumvented as European elections, by their very definition, cannot be conclusive.

But in nominating Von Der Leyen, the current German defence minister,- a name that has never been mentioned with regard to one of the main jobs in Brussels they have shown a certain level of contempt for the notion that the European Elections should perhaps influence the future direction of Europe.

If successful, Von Der Leyen would be the first Commission President not to have served as a Prime Minister of a member state since the 1980s and would arguably be one of the lowest ranking people ever to get this job.

She is widely regarded as being one of the weaker ministers (despite now being Merkel’s longest serving minister) in the current Berlin government – owing her success more to loyalty to Frau Merkel than ability and her appointment (just like that of Spanish Foreign Minister Borrell) to the Commission, opens up an extra slot for any upcoming reshuffles.

But the wheels are coming off the wagon.

Ms Von Der Leyen was in Brussels recently for hearings with the various different political groupings to get their support in Parliament. Both the Greens and the far-left groups have firmly said they will not be supporting her.

For the first time ever, the centre-right and centre-left groups do not have an overall majority by themselves in the European Parliament.

In principle, this deal was cooked up by representatives of these two groups plus the new liberal centrist group “Renew Europe” formed by President Macron and together, in theory, these groups should get her over the line.

However, it should be noted that the European Parliament does not have nearly as tight a whipping system as national parliaments.

The Socialist group is believed to be split along national lines, with even the German SPD having their doubts.

Greek Socialist MEP Eva Kalli is thought to have said that von der Leyen was tougher than former German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble during the Greek economic crisis.

Even in von der Leyen’s own centre-right grouping there are those taken aback that their spitzenkandidat, in the form of the hapless Bavarian, Manfred Weber, is being overlooked.

To be elected, Ms von der Leyen needs an absolute majority- that’s the support of 376 MEPs. Jean Claude Juncker got 440 in his equivalent vote in 2014 and despite his nomination being considerably less controversial or unpredictable than this one, this number still fell somewhat short of what he was expected to get.

One scenario floating around Brussels is that von der Leyen may get less than 400 votes and preside over a handicapped Commission.

While the Commission remains the sole body that can initiate law at EU level, the vast majority of them can be both amended and rejected by Parliament and many in this very divided chamber may revel in the ability to throw a spanner in the works over the next five years.

The debate on Ms von der Leyen’s nomination starts today at 5pm Irish time in the European Parliament. Followed by a vote – by secret ballot.

Should the unthinkable happen and Von Der Leyen fail to be approved this will require someone else to be nominated at yet another summit.

Shane Heneghan is a Brussels-based writer and academic. Follow Shane on Twitter: @shaneheneghan

Pic: Getty


From top: Young Fine Gael members campaign for directly elected mayors at a Town Hall event in Cork earlier this month; Shane Heneghan

It’s being billed as a democratic revolution. A handing over of power to the people and the strengthening of local democracy. A quick look at the proposals leaves us with more questions than answers.

The main thrust of the idea is too take power away from local Chief executives in areas such as planning and traffic management and give it to a directly elected mayor.

Cork, Waterford and Limerick already have functioning local authorities that could take this power.

Transferring this power to these assemblies of many directly elected representatives is surely more democratic than transferring it to just one?

The other argument for the proposal is that the directly elected individual would be a “Mr or Mrs Cork, (or Limerick or Waterford)” and be an ambassador for the area on both a national and international stage.

There is no reason to believe that this cosmetic function could not be filled by the existing mayor, already elected by the councils in the respective area. The terms these office holders have is now limited to a year.

We can easily increase their visibility by increasing that term to either two and a half years or five years. Problem solved. No need to reinvent the wheel.

These are the standard, well rehearsed arguments against the directly elected model. What’s peculiarly Irish about these proposals is the asymmetric nature of the plebiscites.

Above all, it would be remiss of me as a proud Tribesman not to ask why Waterford city and county is to be offered a directly elected mayor- but Galway isn’t?

Parochialism aside, the question as to why Urban Ireland is being offered reform and rural Ireland is not must be asked. If they become law, voters in these areas will have one more office holder accountable to them than people living outside them.

Can this be viewed as another snub to the people of rural Ireland? Perhaps its a simple oversight – but I would argue the government has questions to answer as to how the rest of the country will be represented post-plebiscite.

The asymmetric nature of this situation could become apparent quicker than we think. Will Cork hoover up resources at the expense of Galway, Donegal and Mayo as a weak Dublin government lives in fear of a media tantrum from Mayor Roy Keane?

Indeed, speaking of Dublin, isn’t it strange that the one urban agglomeration on the Island that might best use a directly elected mayor if that were useful is being denied it this time?

The greater Dublin area is to be consulted via a citzen’s assembly before it is decided what lies in store for the future of local governance there. Perhaps this is the best example so far of voters being treated differently based on geography.

Local government in Ireland is some of the weakest in Western Europe. It’s laudable to seek to reform it- but not on the back of an envelope. There is already a solid directly elected structure there – we should be seeking to beef up its powers and increase it’s visibility.

Since coming to office in 2011, Fine Gael has been a bit trigger happy with referendums and for the most part this has led to long overdue reforms but these plebiscites strike me as amateurish at best and a hollow distraction at worst.

Shane Heneghan is a Brussels-based writer and academic. Follow Shane on Twitter: @shaneheneghan

Yesterday: Derek Mooney: Mayor Culpa

Michael Taft: Local Election Vacuum

From top: This week’s Europvision semi final running order. The competition begins tomorrow in Tel Aviv, Israel;  Shane Heneghan

The contest that is known for getting far too political will be especially political this year after the victory of one of the least commercially successful Eurovision winners of the past few years from Netta Barzilai of Israel.

When it became apparent that Israel would host this year, the calls to boycott Eurovision were instant. Sinn Féin, Sweden’s left Party and the Australian Greens were all vocal.

A petition in Iceland very quickly gained 23,000 signatures- equivalent to 5% of the population.

The BDS movement hopes people and countries alike will skip this years shin dig and are busy setting up alternative events across the continent.

This is not the first time Israel has hosted the event and not the first time there have been calls for a boycott.

Indeed, Yugoslavia and Turkey refused to send representatives to Jerusalem in 1979 in the politically charged atmosphere just a few years after the Yom Kippur war.

This time around, no nation is boycotting for political reasons. Though Ukraine is staying at home- for reason of internal not external politics.

Local media reports indicate that the numbers travelling to this years contest are way down compared to previous years- though this may have as much to do with geography and the high cost of Tel Aviv as much as politics.

Recently, a group of international celebrities ranging from Marina Abramovic to Stephen Fry signed a letter slamming the boycott and asking for “all our friends and colleagues around the world to express their support for an exciting and successful Eurovision 2019 in Tel Aviv”.

Their endorsement is crowned by Israeli TV’s booking of Madonna for the interval act. The material girl in the Michael Flatley slot is a Kabbalist and has always been strong advocate for Israel.

Despite the aforementioned petition, Iceland will still participate next week with one of this year’s more eye catching acts.

The BDSM clad metal band Hatari believe “we can bring this critical conversation or make awareness of the situation here with our message and with our agenda-setting powers and hopefully we will make awareness to the world through Eurovision.”

Their song – “Hatrið mun sigra” loosely translates to Hatred will prevail. Take from that what you will.

But perhaps the participant to watch is Italy’s Mahmoud. The half-Egyptian has already caused a stir in Salvini‘s Italy with his song Soldi when it won the San Remo festival. It has since broken to the top of the charts and is among the favourites to win the whole thing.

The song has lyrics in Arabic and whilst not political a victory for this song would not be seen as without significance.

For clarity, Palestine is currently ineligible to take part in Eurovision as their broadcaster lacks EBU membership.

Shane Heneghan is a Brussels-based writer and academic. Follow Shane on Twitter: @shaneheneghan

From top: US president Donald Trump and former Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the White House last year’ Leo Varadkar with actor Arnold Schwarzenegger during a visit to Santa Monica, Los Angeles yesterday; Shane Heneghan

Ahead of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s first visit to the White House this week.

Shane Heneghan writes:

It won’t be easy, will it? It’s not going to be one of your best photo ops. In fact, it will probably have your liberal east coast fan base up in arms- and shaking hands with the entire Choctaw nation won’t change that. It’s probably best to concede that the St. Patrick’s day rendezvous with the Donald is a necessary evil. But is it?

When your predecessor, John A. Costello, inaugurated this paddy wackery by giving Eisenhower a bowl of shamrock in the 1950s, the atmosphere was very different.

Ireland was going through it’s toughest decade economically of the 20th, century and immigration was threatening to push the population below two million. America’s economy, by contrast was roaring ahead and national self confidence was still sky high after victory in world war two.

But Taoiseach, you are no John A. Costello and, it goes without saying that Trump is not Ike.

Does it really have to be a given that our head of government has to slavishly kow-tow to the President of the United States on our national holiday every single year regardless of who holds either office?

Surely other countries on the radar would be just as accommodating. I have a few suggestions on your alternatives.

Berlin: You came to power seeking to lead a government of the “European centre” so for Paddy’s day why not go to the centre of Europe? Poor auld Angie has had a rough few months putting a coalition together. I know you can sympathise with this and we all know she has a green pants suit she’s just dying to wear for the occasion.

Not a conventional choice, I grant you. But our Theresa is another women in dire need of a break and could do with putting things into soft focus for a while- it just might help ease the brexit tensions. Plus, if you ask nicely, I’m sure she’ll let you see the Hugh Grant staircase again too.

Edinburgh: By contrast you could seek to emphasise older Celtic links as Nicola Sturgeon is hugely popular in Ireland and in general. The optics of a visit to Scotland would just scream “Hey Theresa, I got a hard border for ya, it starts in Berwick-on-Tweed!” Plus a photo of you in a kilt will totes break the internet- you can’t buy that.

We all know you want another chance to spring some more leaving cert French on us and the reflective glow factor from Emmanuel Macron is massive, I don’t need to tell you that- but be careful of being burned a la Icarus by flying to close to the sun (king).

Ottowa: You know who you’re real ideological soul mate in North America is and he doesn’t live on Pennsylvania avenue. We can bet he’s got a pair of green socks just waiting for the occasion.

Joking aside, politely refusing to meet Trump for just one year out of his four year term could send a powerful statement around the world about your government’s values. Think about it. It might be one of the most powerful diplomatic tools you have at your disposal.

Shane Heneghan is a Brussels-based election and poll watcher. Follow Shane on Twitter: @shaneheneghan

Pics: Rollingnews/Leo Varadkar

From top: Forza Italia’s Silvio Berlusconi, and Lega’s’s Matteo Salvini at a press conference last Thursday; Shane Henegahn

With most governments since the second world war lasting scarcely more than a year, Italy can be described as the Mexican soap opera of European democracies.

The election today marks the debut of a new electoral system in which around 37% of seats will be allocated under a British style first past the post system, the remainder being allocated under a proportional system.

Despite this, for a number of reasons, it looks as though stability may remain illusive. For starters, the country is unique in that a government must maintain a majority in both houses of Parliament.

This election presents the standard plethora of parties loosely arranged into blocks that may or may not be able to form a government.

The outgoing left-wing government seems unlikely to be re-elected despite having provided relative stability and Prime Minister Paolo Gentoloni’s relative popularity.

The single party that is likely to come out with the largest amount of support will, according to polls, almost certainly be Movimento 5 Stelle (5 Star Movement), founded by comedian Beppe Grillo in 2009. Despite often being characterised as populist, the party has also embraced environmentalism amongst other issues.

The party began life with a eurosceptic slant but has since abandoned plans for a referendum on the euro and now says the “European Union is the Five Star Movement’s home” .

Their leader, 31 year old Luigi Di Maio, is described as a pragmatist- despite this the party rules out the idea of going into coalition or joining or forming an electoral block.

Of course, it just wouldn’t be an Italian election without a contribution from the bauld Silvio Berlusconi and despite being barred from holding office for six years in 2013, the former Prime Minister is dominating the campaign.

His centre right block has designated incumbent European Parliament President, Antonio Tajani to be the candidate for premier- presumably until Silvio can take office again next year.

There has been at least as much focus on government formation as there has been on actual policy during this campaign- perhaps lamentable in a country with the second highest level of public debt in the Eurozone.

The 5 star movements refusal to consider a coalition has led to speculation of a grand coalition between the left and right wing blocks. As this is Italy, this would be more like a coalition of coalitions and this will be far from straight forward.

It’s quiet likely, for instance that the right wing, euroscpetic “Lega” party will not wish to serve with the left wing block’s “More Europe” faction. Expect to see a few of the more extreme parties on either side pass up the opportunity for power in this scenario.

A less likely outcome is that the 5 star movement may be convinced to consider a confidence and supply agreement to get either of the two established blocks over the line.

Such a decision would require a vote of the full membership of the movement and how appealing their 135,000 partisans consider the idea of becoming Fianna Fail a la carbonara is unclear.

Given Italy’s aforementioned electoral history, the clearest prediction one can make is another election following this one before too long.

Shane Heneghan is a Brussels-based election and poll watcher. Follow Shane on Twitter: @shaneheneghan

Pic: Getty

Update: Voters deliver hung parliament in Italian election (RTÉ)

From top: German Chancellor Angela Merkel; Shane Heneghan

Despite being in a position of unprecedented weakness, reports of Angela Merkel’s political demise are greatly exaggerated.

Shane Heneghan writes:

As noted previously, government negotiations in Germany take time. The numbers thrown up by September’s election were bound to exacerbate this especially when we consider that the three groupings in question had never worked together at the federal level before.

The Liberal Free Democratic Party FDP abandoning negotiations removes what had been seen as the only viable option from the table but it does not mean government formation impossible.

A deal with the Social Democratic Party (SPD), where this party either extracts a high price from ‘Mutti’ for their help in bailing her out, or perhaps where the party supports a minority Christian Democratic Union (CDU)/Christian Social Union (CSU(/Green coalition from outside government (an Irish solution to a German problem), would seem like her next best option. A similar deal might also be possible with the FDP once their leadership has had a chance to cool off.

It should be noted that Germany has never had a minority government in the post war period and the Chancellor herself is on record as saying she would prefer fresh elections to such a messy arrangement.

With this in mind, however, she will also be aware that it is very hard for fresh elections to be called in Germany without the consent of the sitting Chancellor and the President- so it might not be as unstable an option as we think.

It is remarkable, and perhaps also more evidence of how much Germany values stability that no major contender within the CDU (or CSU) seems to have yet made indications that they wish to challenge her for the leadership and even if the current impasse leads to fresh elections in the new year, for the moment at least, it’s almost impossible to see her party not prevailing in one form or another.

I think for the short- to medium-term she is irreplaceable,” said Jürgen Hardt a leading CDU member of the Bundestag. There seems to be a general realisation of this even within Germany where despite the uncertainty people remain calm and markets remain steady- the Frankfurt stock exchange even rose slightly yesterday.

This is in stark contrast to her embattled counterpart in the UK were chatter of Theresa May leaving downing street has been bubbling under the surface since the exit poll was released at the end of the last election.

Speaking of the UK, perhaps even more unfounded is the notion that Merkel’s difficulties are an opportunity for an embattled Theresa May to “divide and conquer” in Brexit negotiations.

It is notable that with the exception of the Alternative For Germany (AfD), the entire political spectrum in Germany has a similar attitude to the talks and will be keen for the country to continue its current line albeit at slower pace due to domestic difficulties.

Shane Heneghan is a Brussels-based election and poll watcher. Follow Shane on Twitter: @shaneheneghan

Pic: Getty

Previously: Stability Über Alles

From top: German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday congratulates German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble (foreground) during Schaeuble’s 75th birthday next to Christian Democratic Union (CDU) vice chairperson Thomas Strobel (third right) and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker: Shane Heneghan

We’ve already seen the finales of the American and British version of this boxset – in which the well-connected, competent, elite, slightly-less-than-likeable female politician who seems all but assured of a solid and somewhat boringly predictable victory has her hopes dashed at the very last minute.

Of course, it would be far too simplistic to think that the same thing could happen in Germany on Sunday for Angela Merkel as she is a much stronger certainty for victory than either May or Clinton.

For one thing, the German voter has a strong and consistent love of stability – Merkel is one of just three people to hold the office of Chancellor since 1982. In addition, she has presided over a relatively prosperous country even if it is not without its problems.

This does not mean that Sunday’s vote is boring.

Merkel’s centre-right CDU-CSU alliance is currently in a grand-coalition (or GroKo) with their traditional left of centre rivals, the Social Democrats.

Their candidate for Chancellor and Merkel’s main rival, Martin Schulz is struggling to make an impact despite an initial bounce when he won his party’s nomination.

This is due largely to how close the two main parties have become in recent years. It’s a familiar story- as the centre ground parties move closer together the fringe parties become more attractive.

In terms of polling, the CDU-CSU remains in a static yet solid lead on about 36%, but the interesting area of movement in terms of opinion polls is the race for third place.

The once poorly organised Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) is certain to be the first far-right wing movement to enter the Bundestag since the 1930s. This will be the headline “shock to the system” particularly if they can manage to break 10%.

The Greens have been resurgent, the far-left Die Linke remain stable and the liberal FDP party remain on course to storm back into Parliament.

Recent polls have these four options bumping along between 8 and 11% each. The extreme right and left will almost certainly be left out of government formation negotiations.

Which brings us to the crux of the matter. The interesting element this time in Germany will be coalition formation. If the election does not result in a continuation of the current GroKo set up, Angela may put something together with the liberal FDP party whom she is reasonably close to ideologically and whom she has experience of dealing with in the past.

The party will be wary of another stint in government with Merkel however, as last time they had one they lost all of their seats in the Bundestag at the subsequent election. As such, they may be ready to exact a higher price.

Alexander Hahn, a member of the FDP national executive, told Bild. “The FDP should enter no government in which it cannot name a finance minister,”.

This ministry is arguably one of the most powerful economics portfolios in Europe today and is currently held by Merkel’s right-wing ally, 75-year-old Wolfgang Shauble.

A divisive figure, what happens to Schauble post-election is probably a more interesting plot line, and in the long run for Europe, a more relevant one.

He has been a staunch defender of the ECB’s strict orthodoxy in managing the EU debt crisis and change here would not be without repercussions.

There are many in the Greens and Social Democrats who would also like to see the back of him.

The process of negotiations takes time- last time it was nearly three months before all was agreed so there are bound to be some high-profile casualties in that time.

Shane Heneghan is a Brussels-based election and poll watcher. Follow Shane on Twitter: @shaneheneghan



From top: French president-elect Emmanuel Macron; Shane Heneghan

In a conciliatory speech yesterday evening, Emmanuel Macron greeted his unexpectedly strong victory of 66% to Marine Le Pen’s 34% in a slightly more sombre mood than some might have expected.

There are several reasons for this. Perhaps he has the current incumbent, Francois Hollande in mind – a man who came to power five short years ago on a message of hope and change who shall leave the Elyse Palace next weekend with negligible approval ratings and without having made any serious dent on an unemployment rate of 10%.

That 34% of voters choose a Fascist, with a capital F, over him will also be in the back of his head and despite the Front National’s loss, obtaining over a third of votes cast remains a remarkable achievement for a party that begin life as a ragbag of Vichy apologists and holocaust deniers.

Yet more sobering for the President elect is the number of people who did not bother to vote at all. At 74%, turnout was at a near record low (though by contrast, it’s worth noting that only one Irish election has reached this level in the past 35 years).

Many of those voters who sat this one out may be eager to take part in next month’s Parliamentary election and frustrate the new President’s efforts to put together a coherent majority thus hamstringing his ability to deliver on his promises.

But perhaps, one notable detail of the result is likely to stick in his mind. Unlike Brexit and Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen has remarkably strong support among younger voters. T

his will perhaps be firmly in his mind when dealing with a youth unemployment rate of nearly 24%- if he finds time to do this between restructuring the euro and reforming the French public service.

Don’t get me wrong. The rise of this guy has been meteoric. He was unknown five years ago. His party didn’t exist 14 months ago and on Sunday, he will take charge of the world’s fifth largest economy and get the codes for Europe’s largest nuclear arsenal.

But his demeanour at the very least seems to show us a man who also sees the writing on the wall. Macron has five years to succeed where Hollande failed or he will hand Le Pen the Presidency in 2022.

Shane Heneghan is a Brussels-based election and poll watcher. Follow Shane on Twitter: @shaneheneghan

Pic: Getty



From top: Emmanuel Macron Francois Fillon and Marine Le Pen; Shene Heneghan

With four candidates within 3% of one another in the polls, France’s presidential election remains volatile. The two most dramatic statistics frequently ignored in the past few weeks, however, are the high level of undecided voters (as much as one third) and those who say they won’t vote (about 28% in a country where 80% turnouts are the norm).

All this, together with the tragic shooting of a policeman in central Paris just days before voting make this easily the toughest French presidential election to call in the history of the 5th republic.

A year ago, many pundits would have said the election of Marine Le Pen as president was considerably more likely than that of Donald Trump or a vote for Brexit and she has done her best to make the most of these two events.

Her campaign has been scandal-ridden from the off with allegations of misappropriation of funds from the European Parliament to loan agreements with those close to the Kremlin in Russia. Despite all this, and despite her party’s poor record in other recent elections (the FN was expected to make breakthroughs in the most recent regional elections but failed) she is still the woman to beat.

If she wins, France’s place in the euro and the EU itself are both very much up for discussion and without France, the continued existence of both is unlikely.

Her main rival began this campaign as an outsider, but as a man who fell in love with, then subsequently married his secondary school French teacher, Emmanuel Macron is used to overcoming the odds.

Apart from a brief stint as economy minister under President Hollande he has no government experience. He left government to set up his own centrist, grassroots, staunchly pro-EU political movement, “En Marche” which has since gone from strength to strength. He now has a strong chance of meeting it through to the 2nd round.

Another candidate firing up his party base is veteran left winger Jean-Luc Mélenchon- who is perhaps best described as a French Bernie Sanders. Like Sanders, he has been drawing big numbers to rallies recently – even to ones where he appears by hologram. Though turnout with the far left is always an issue and most polls have him a few points behind he cannot be ruled out from getting through on Sunday.

The early favourite for this contest was the centre-right’s Francois Fillon who saw poll numbers tumble when it emerged he may have been paying his wife around half a million euro a year to do more or less nothing.

Despite this fall from grace, he is still hovering around 20% in polls, doing very well among the over 60s and Catholics (two groups with consistently high turnout) and benefits from a well-resourced campaign. Staunchly opposing adoption rights for same sex couples and in favour of limiting immigration and stronger relations with Russia, Fillon can be described as being on the right of his own party.

One of the main advantages Fillon would have over his rivals if he were elected is the ability to form a Parliamentary majority after the election. Officially speaking at least, none of the other three can count on more than a handful of MPs in the Assemblee Nationale.

The legislative elections that happen within a few weeks of the second round of the presidential election are bound to give the incumbent a boost but it would be highly unlikely that any of these three movements came close to an outright majority. Fillon himself has his rivals in his own party and may not always get his own way in Parliament.

We can say therefore that the next President of France is likely to be a weak figure whose tenure may change the relationship between Parliament and Presidency for the foreseeable future.

Shane Heneghan is a Brussels-based election and poll watcher. Follow Shane on Twitter: @shaneheneghan

Update: Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen estimated to be through to second round (Guardian)


From top: Theresa May; Jeremy Corbyn; Shane Heneghan

Further to the announcement of a UK General Election on June 8…

Shane Heneghan writes:

On paper, Theresa May’s decision to seek a general election makes sense. Her party enjoys an historic lead in the polls ahead of Labour and the given wisdom is that the Conservatives will make very strong gains.

Received wisdom is not doing all that well these days, however and a few potential pitfalls seem to leap off the page.

The most predictable of these is perhaps Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon remains one of the most popular women in the British isles and continues to campaign for a second independence referendum with great gusto.

If the SNP do as well as they did last time (and we have no reason to think they won’t) then their demand for another referendum can hardly be ignored. Theresa May’s increased majority could come at the cost of the very existence of the United Kingdom.

Perhaps even more obvious is the threat of political fatigue.

This will be the fourth national poll in the UK in three years. This will depress turnout. That does not necessarily make it difficult for the Tories, (unless the fact that May promised there would be no early election becomes an issue) but it will make things a little more unpredictable.

And then there’s Corbyn. The man they said was doomed from day one. Both figures and pundits put his chances at getting to Downing Street at slim to none.

In such unpredictable times we can never completely rule him out, of course, but let’s consider a Labour wipe out where they lose up to 100 seats. This leaves the far left of the Labour party discredited for a generation and allows for a more centrist and ultimately more electable leader to emerge.

If, on the other hand, Labour under Corbyn make modest gains, then the left of the party holds on to some credibility and causes some Tory blushes even if the leader has to stand a side.

With such great expectations, the real risk is that the gamble falls flat. Imagine if Theresa May comes form a majority of 12 to just 20.

Tory backbenches would not be best pleased at having just fought a seven week campaign for next to nothing. She’d look weak and any potential opponents within the party she has would be bolstered.

Today, the media is full of a sense of palpable inevitability. Remember what happened the last time there was such a feeling around a female candidate?

Shane Heneghan is a Brussels-based election and poll watcher. Follow Shane on Twitter: @shaneheneghan

Earlier: Snap!

Montage: Daily Telegraph