“The permanent government” is a term usually used to mock democracy. We use it when we want to indicate that politicians are mortal and temporary. Here today, but fortunately gone tomorrow.
Their masters, the tangerines, will always be with us. All they have to do is wait for the fickle electorate to depose a troublesome minister. After a short wait, the power returns to its natural resting place.
In contemporary Ireland, the phrase ‘permanent government’ might more accurately apply to Fine Gael. The party, which has lost two straight elections, is in decline but miraculously still in power. In December, it will retake the office of the Taoiseach.
The blueshirts are beginning to look like a permanent fixture.
The perceived advantages of political stability have turned into the disadvantages of obsolescence. Fine Gael has been in office for over a decade. Last week, they were reminded of their unpopularity — but not their mortality.
an Ipsos/Irish times According to polls, Fine Gael is at its lowest since 1994. After Enda Kenny’s 76-seat triumph in 2011, he lost 26 seats in 2016 and came back with just 50 TDs. In 2020, Fine Gael again lost dramatically under Leo, this time dropping 15 seats to come out again with 35 TDs.
It has endured five years of political carnage. Nonetheless, Fine Gael is still the dominant party in government and is on the verge of resuming what it sees as its claim, its rightful place as primus inter pares in a coalition.
Today, Fine Gael’s situation is even worse. Ireland’s confidence in the party is at rock bottom. Leo’s latest fall came just a week after he was released from threats of prosecution for leaking details about the infamous deal with doctors.
Political commentators had predicted he would enjoy a second coming after the cloud cleared. The opposite was the case. The publicity surrounding his freedom from all charges has only served to remind voters of the unfortunate incident.
His authority is far from restored. The poll revived fears from nervous backbenchers that their seats are doomed and Varadkar’s leadership is a noose around their necks. His future tenure is likely to be shaped by this incident. It was not a crime, but a serious error that will hover over his head as he begins his next term as Taoiseach in December.
Such a lack of overall balance is unfair to Leo’s performance in office – but the incident appears to have permanently colored voters’ views of him and Fine Gael.
The real problem for Leo and Fine Gael is not his offense but that both he and his party have been in power for far too long.
As voters shake Fine Gael’s sense of entitlement – their acceptance of a right to rule – Leo and some other Fine Gael ministers continue to act as if they are permanently in government.
Leo’s act of leaking the document was not the dark sin that is often portrayed. It was simply a symptom of the perpetual delusion that many Fine Gael members indulged in.
The vote of confidence was a rare tactical blunder by Sinn Féin
Leo has been a cabinet member for over 11 consecutive years. For a young man of 43 years that is more than 25 percent of his life. It’s about half the time he’s been a full adult. For him, cabinet membership is a normal part of adulthood.
State cars, chauffeurs, coaxing courtiers, the government jet, and a huge salary come with adulthood. This also applies to decision-making, some of which he is exceptionally good at.
Last Tuesday, it looked like the coalition was battling the unstoppable tide of Sinn Féin. Mary Lou’s vote of no confidence, described as a cliffhanger, passed by a crucial margin of 19 votes. Wednesday’s meeting of the Fine Gael faction was exceptionally optimistic. Leo was out of his leak swamp and Mary Lou had been turned away. The no-confidence vote had been a rare tactical blunder by Sinn Féin.
On Thursday, the coalition’s cough was eased. Fine Gael’s recovery began to suffer from convulsions; Support had fallen below the psychologically important 20 percent mark to a new low of 18 percent.
Worse, Fine Gael languished behind his true enemy, Fianna Fáil, now down to 20pc. That hurt a little.
Still, there was little consolation in the poll for Taoiseach Micheál Martin. His ratings fell similarly to Leo’s, falling 11 percent to 40 percent.
He suffers from the same disease as Varadkar – longevity.
Micheál first took office 25 years ago when Bertie Ahern appointed him Minister of Education in 1997. He was in the cabinet for 14 years until 2011, when he took over the leadership of the opposition for nine years. He is now Taoiseach and will be Tánaiste in December.
As with Leo, his party support has declined since the disastrous 2020 election.
Unlike Leo, he is threatened internally. He must have shared Leo’s sense of triumph after Tuesday’s no-confidence vote, only to be bumped back into the reality of Sinn Féin supremacy with a bump on Thursday.
Has it never occurred to either party that the public is simply fed up with the same old faces over and over again?
The jibe Mary Lou uses so often — that Micheál and Leo are Tweedledum and Tweedledee — lands a hit every time both protest that the cost of living hike was not their fault. Such feeble pleading makes her look helpless, unable to sort through the chaos.
However, Mary Lou looks like she and Pearse Doherty are on the mend — not through questionable Sinn Féin politics, but because of her personal freshness.
The depth of the setbacks by both major parties is difficult to overestimate.
The polls show that Sinn Féin’s dominance is widespread. They perform in all provinces and in Dublin. Their strength (44 percent) in the 18-24 age group contrasts with their two rivals, where Fine Gael (17 percent) and Fianna Fáil (8 percent) trail far behind.
The only places where Sinn Féin is in third place are farmers and AB voters. Fine Gael are still the first choice of the rich. Fianna Fáil are marginally the preferred choice of the elderly and farmers. Neither category offers much promise for future expansion.
As Micheál and Leo go on break, they could be doing worse than contemplating their longevity – their permanent government status. Voters rejected both men in the last election. All polls agree that they are on track to lose again.
If they really want to keep Sinn Féin out of office, they should stop spreading scare stories about the main opposition party.
There is an obvious but more selfless course of action open to them. At this stage, Micheál and Leo have become useful to Mary Lou. A few fresh faces at the helm of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil would not please Sinn Féin.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/old-boys-summer-dip-reveals-political-life-is-grown-stagnant-41845246.html The old boys’ summer shows that political life is stagnant