With a General Election becoming a distinct possibility…
A personal forecast of the winners and losers.
Phryne Fisher writes:
Having seen your Electoral edition of ‘Ask a Broadsheet reader‘ I’ve made some predictions and observations. It’s a long one so grab a tay but it’s based on some fairly detailed constituency level analysis of GE2016.
I’d really welcome reader comments on my evening’s speculations.
(parties arranged in no particular order but I’ve treated smaller parties first as they will likely experience the most significant percentage swing in seat share)
Zappone and Ross (along with his embarrassing entourage of shivering, quivering, rosary incanting bumpkins) have ensured that anyone hoping for change through voting for independents will think carefully about straying from party stables and hoisting another Lowry-like Leviathan up to the Cabinet table.
Defector Donnelly has shown his true colours and his surprise move raises questions about both the orientation and aims of the SocDems who generally reek of over-reliance on focus groups in cultivating their ideology.
Gary Gannon may help them to re-establish their gender balance in the Oireachtas but otherwise it’s no change from their present seat count of 2. I fear that their appeal is manufactured right down to the Cadbury coloured wrapper. It’s understandable why they appeal to the affluence-aspirant Broadsheet reader but I wonder if there’s anything under the foil wrapper.
They began as a lifeboat for Labour and it remains to be seen if they will sink without Donnelly on board. Catherine Murphy will definitely retain her seat but what is Roisín Shorthall but a disgruntled and increasingly irrelevant ex-junior minister who is still reeling from coming off the worst in a spat with James Reilly (no matter how correct her stance was)? No doubt her constituency support is strong but after Donnelly showed his true colours will 10,540 first preference votes still sweep this Social Democrat to the top of her poll?
Brendan Howlin’s attempt to become a Hibernian Corbyn is as pathetic as it is comedic. One of the notable differences between this parliament and the last has been the silence of Joan Burton. Without a media spotlight, I fail to see how she will hold her seat against a very impressive and rising Ruth Coppinger and Sinn Féin’s narrowly beaten Paul Donnelly in Dublin West. The question is will Labour need a 7 seater taxi to bring them to Dáil Éireann after GE17 or will a standard four door saloon do the job(stown)?
Paul Murphy has clearly consolidated his own position (despite still having a life-sentence for false imprisonment of Joan (see above) still hanging over him). The question is can the Alphabet soup of AAA/PBP consolidate their vision for change and make electoral gains by offering the electorate something more substantive than loudhailer slogans from the civil rights era? Ownership of the water movement is in disputed territory between Brendan Ogle (will he be running and if so will it be against Adams in Louth?) and AAA/PBP.
What momentum the water issue has at present is questionable with Irish Water patiently awaiting an opportunity from their bunker. Ruth Coppinger remains the more impressive but less bombastic of the party’s twin peaks (the other being Murphy).
Ones to watch include Tina MacVeigh (her strong grassroots organisation and growing profile make her a strong contender for an inner-city / west Dublin seat if run) and Gino Kenny who also performed well last time around and will likely retain his seat. Repeal the 8th will be a strong vote getter for the party generally and for Coppinger in particular.
Independents 4 Change
No change. Daly and Wallace safe. Joan Collins will make gains. Tommy Broughan safe and rising as he wisely remained clear of SomDem volatility.
Only rising sea levels can bring this party up in the polls. Their DLR seat is likely safe among Ranger-Rover driving entrepren-vironmentalists with a surfboard in the garage. Ditto for Eamon Ryan despite the fact that he only topped the poll due to massive transfer friendliness from his SocDem rival. With a better candidate in Dublin Bay South, the SocDems could steal Ryan’s seat from under him although the Gormley legacy will likely secure him his seat. Predict no change.
Obviously standing to gain huge ground, especially in rural constituencies given popular distaste for FG among (1) socially conservative voters who have lost faith in FG over abortion and (2) downwardly mobile farmers who no longer either consider themselves part of the traditional FG rancher vote or doubt FG’s ability to return them to relative economic certainty or fight their corner in Europe.
The question for FF is not how well they will perform in rural Ireland but how they will fare in the battle with Sinn Féin (and some FG candidates) in poorer urban areas. This is the only constituency where they stand to make or lose crucial seats. One rather ominous note was sounded earlier this week suggesting FF also have prior knowledge of Garda scandal and did nothing with it (for context see this potentially explosive finding from NAMA Winelake).
This is the FG ‘kompromat’ which will be their best shot at halting FF from pulling the plug at a time of their choosing over the McCabe scandal. The final question, given the high likelihood of no clear winner is who FF will court for a governing partner. They have effectively been in shadow-coalition with FG for almost a year now but would they ever contemplate coalition with Sinn Féin?
The recent leadership change in the North has so far passed off well although elections there will be the true litmus test. The graceful exit of McGuinness has removed much of the old spectres and Michelle O’Neill heralds the dawn of a post-Good Friday party. In the South no such candidate presents her- or himself to supersede Adams. MacDonald isn’t sufficiently popular and Doherty has both the wrong gender and the wrong profile to present to a southern electorate wary of Ulstermen of any shade.
Thus Adams will undoubtedly lead the party through the next GE and will likely retire thereafter with either of the aforementioned Pope’s children the most likely to succeed in the South. The key issue for Sinn Féin is that they are caught in something of a popularity trap in which each step forward is also one step back – as they moderate and gain middle ground/swing voters, they lose more traditional voters (and especially preferences).
Thus they are stuck on somewhere between 12 and 17 percent of first preferences nationally. They performed towards the lower end of this scale in the real test in March 2016 (13.8% nationally) and despite their apparent ignorance of running campaigns south of a line running from Drogheda to Drumcliff they must have learned something from the experience of the 2016 campaign.
In the face of Dublin media and Fine Gael they stand to make significant inroads specifically in Meath East, Galway West, Dublin West and possibly Wexford. If they can break the thus far unobtainable 20% of first preferences – an unlikely scenario – they could stand to win as many as six new seats while retaining and consolidating their existing holdings.
The party will undoubtedly lose seats. The past 11 months have been the politics of contrivance and stasis, weathering scandal after scandal with an invisible Taoiseach and an amicable prelude to a potentially vicious leadership battle between Coveney (the party favourite) and Varadkar (the people’s/media’s darling). FitzGerald is unlikely to emerge from Garda-gate with her reputation intact nor, for that matter, will Enda. Incidentally, FitzGerald had hoped to ride the wave of Hillary mania predicted for November but in a world of Trump FG will likely take the safe bet and send a man (and possibly a straight one) to Washington for St Patty’s Day.
Bearing all these factors in mind, despite the glow of his twitter account, @ChampagneForLeo will likely not woo big cattle farmers away from the Coveney camp at a party caucus. One seat that will definitely go is one of the FG three in Dún Laoghaire as Seán Barrett is no longer Ceann Comhairle (incidentally this gives FF a safe seat in Seán O’For-Real’s home town thus limiting Sinn Féin’s opportunities in Kildare South where they had made major inroads in GE16). Returning to FG, internally, the backbenches are heaving at the insolence of the cabinet independents and the relentless inability of government to produce good news stories for their constituents.
How well these foot soldiers will perform in the impending canvas is anyone’s guess… In terms of projected losses, FG are looking at anywhere between 3 and 7 seats down depending on the timing of the election and that is not a card within Kenny’s hand.
Don’t forget to check out the following to give you the best picture of where seats can be won or lost:
To be honest, the appropriately named ‘thirty-second’ Dáil has lasted beyond all expectations.
The end must be nigh but how will it fall and why?
I’m not a pollster and I did not ring up a thousand people to work out the following but … based on all the above (and a few hours of number crunching constituency-by-constituency … below are my predictions (2016 figure -> 2017 prediction) (FF and SocDem figures have been bracketed to reflect the Donnelly defection.
FG 50 -> 43
FF (45) -> 51
SF 23 -> 29
LAB 7 -> 4
AAA/PBP 6 -> 8
SOCDEM (2) -> 2
GP 2 -> 2
IA 6 -> 3
Ind4Change 4 -> 4
IND 13 -> 10
I’d love to hear people’s thoughts. Lots of love and have a swinging time at the polls,
Phryne Fisher is a Broadsheet reader
Yesterday: Ask A broadsheet Reader