Yesterday’s MRBI/Irish Times poll was ‘historic’ (an overused word and it is pretty small history to be fair) in that, for the first time since the foundation of the State, the Labour Party topped an opinion poll (32%) with Fine Gael second (28%) and Fianna Fail last at an all time low (17%).
There have of course been strong parallels between Britain and Ireland in the mirrored careers of Blair and Ahern, both winning multiple elections, both getting out just before the bust, both leaving their successors [Brown / Cowen] with the poisoned chalice of leadership.
Brown and Cowen have both been exposed as poor leaders, both can’t shake deep complicity in the economic meltdown both countries are in, both have never won an election in their own right, and both face[d] political oblivion when election time came [Brown] comes [Cowen].
It’s only a matter of time until Cowen completes the circle and joins Brown in political exile. It’s is also only a matter of time til Fianna Fail follow the British Labour Party out of office after a generation in power.
My question is: Thatcher’s Conservative Party got so unpopular after years in power it took a generation for it to get back into power and only in coalition at that. The British Labour Party could now be out for a similar time.
Fianna Fail has been the default party of Government in Ireland for decades; however corrupt under Haughey, however feckless under Ahern – nothing seemed to matter. It got elected in 2007 despite everyone knowing how sleazy, complacent and cynical it had become. Despite its cosy relationship with the construction industry and developers being topics of daily debate. The Irish electorate has only itself to blame for putting Fianna Fail back into government – so its a bit late to get all hot and bothered about decisions Cowen made as minister for Finance in the Ahern years. Who put him there?
But is the mood today a decisive and permanent breaking of that default relationship between the Irish electorate and Fianna Fail? Is the mould of Irish politics being reshaped for the long term before our eyes?