Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Where do we go from here?

As the world an its mother knows by this stage, George Lee has packed in the job of TD for Dublin South and left FG. There have been reasons given, accusations made, hours of talk radio and miles of column inches covering the story since it broke just before lunchtime yesterday. I'm not going to add anything here on the specifics of George Lee since I don't really have anything insightful to add.

On the other hand, I can totally speculate on the political fallout from his departure. It leaves Frank Flannery and the FG backroom boys with a lot of egg on their face. After all the hype about George's candidacy and subsequent election, they have badly let down the party. The handlers should have known that something wasn't right and tried to sort it out.

So the first question is, will there be a push against Enda Kenny? From the wagon circling that has been going on in FG in the last 24 hours that seems unlikely. Richard Bruton is the obvious candidate for the top job, but that leaves them without a strong voice on Finance - I just couldn't see Kieran O'Donnell or Leo Varadkar going toe to toe with Lenihan and Burton. Beyond that you're looking at either Simon Coveney or Brian Hayes but again it is hard to see either of them leading the heave to oust Kenny.

So assuming Kenny is safe, there will still be some flak and fallout from George's departure in FG. Would it be in Cowen's interest, with his recent bump in the polls to dash up to the Áras and cut his losses. After January's tax receipts, the Boston Scientific and Halifax job cuts announced recently and the impending report from the Tribunal, things are only going to start looking down again from the FF side of the house. We could be looking at an election on 5th or 12th March (or the days before if they want to exclude students from the electorate again). According to my back of the envelope calculation a snap general election would return about the following spread of TDs
  • FF - 57
  • FG - 68
  • Lab - 29
  • SF - 4
  • Green - 1
  • Other - 7
which wouldn't be too disastrous from an FF point of view. Labour seats won't break 30 due to lack of local organizations in some parts. This will give a comfortable majority to FG/Lab but will keep the relationship honest as Labour could always threaten to invite FF back into power at any stage. An election in 2012 would give a much different result with Lab and FG both increasing further and FF falling. The post election horse trading then is going to be very interesting.

However, I don't think that Cowen will bail in which case we're looking at two byelections, Donegal South West and Dublin South. Both of which will probably be held in late May or early June and neither will be won by the Government side of the house. I'll write about my predictions for these byelections in the near future.

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