My Writings. My Thoughts.
So the reports are that the government will consider allowing the Seanad Reform Bill 2013 to go through to committee stage this afternoon.
I think we’ve gone beyond the point of tinkering with the Seanad within the constraints of the constitution. We should be looked at changes to the totality of the Oireachtas and local government and instead so much focus and energy is being expended on the Seanad, save it, open it or leave it to rot.
I attended the launch event and it was very disappointing how the issue was presented. There was even an initial pitch to the media that they would be suggesting for a No vote must to seen as an endorsement of this specific plan. I pointed out that this would be a perversion of democracy as a No vote is only a definite no to what is being proposed and not some round about yes to something not on the ballot.
The election system being suggested has some real oddities. Unless the Litir um Thoghchán system is radically overhauled (which the bill makes no mention of) any Seanad election under this new bill would cost the taxpayer millions more than any current Dail election.
Our former AG displayed a peculiar detachment from commercial reality when he tried to punt this away as a non-issue as it is something that An Post just has to do as part of its license. He seemed to ignore the fact that An Post is a wholly owned state company that is losing money already and that any accrued losses eventually have to be borne by the state and us as taxpayers. Not to mention the fact that the users of An Post are tax payers too, and that any revenue raising efforts it has to engage in so as to fund the Litir um Thoghchán system is passed onto us in increased rates for regular postage. It was as if he thought of state agencies as being there to do the bidding of the political class without any thought to their own day to day commercial realities.
Furthermore the ballots will need to be posted back using regular post which is to be paid for by the voter, I can see lots of the less well off rushing out to give their 60c over to voting for the Seanad. It is peculiar that the same folks who would be opposed to a prescription charge on ideological grounds find the idea of charging people to vote quite reasonable. And that is presuming that the weight of the combined ballots comes in under the weight limit for regular postage, the ballot for the NUI was about an A2 page, combine that with the ballot for TCD one and the witness letter and I can’t see any of the ballots coming under the 100g weight for regular postage. Then there is the basic reliability of the postal service and those in charge of sending the ballots to ensure that everyone who should get one does get one. It is very easy to see the error due to this being far higher than the supposed accidental spoilt vote that was part of the reasons for spending so much on e-voting machines.
The other rather strange aspect to all of this is the way in which it is being reported. I attended the event, asked some reasonable (I thought) practical questions, some of which I got answers to, and pointed out some difficulties with the bill such as the carrying forward the existing NUI and TCD registers which are inaccurate and wholly incomplete places the graduates of other colleges at a disadvantage, it should either be a clean slate or measures should be put in place immediately to get as complete a register as possible as soon as feasible. I also noted that while I didn’t agree with Enda Kenny’s stated logic or motivation for abolition of the Seanad that at least he had sought a direct endorsement of his view from the electorate and that the people would get to make the ultimate decision. This bill if enacted would have no such mandate from the public. And surely in a democracy a mandate should be sought for this sort of change, this isn’t some emergency measure to deal with an immediate crisis.
Yet nothing that was said either by me or by the proposers of the bill in response to those questions was reported in the media. I’m not looking for a name check here but rather that it would be noted that there are practical issues that haven’t been considered and that the bill had no tangible support from the public. Not a word. It’s as if the fix is in and the media have picked their side to support.
The Electoral Amendment Political Funding Bill 2011 has been poorly served by a media debate focused almost entirely on the problem it is supposed to solve, namely the underrepresentation of women in the Oireachtas, rather than any real assessment of whether it can actually solve it.
When it comes to electoral politics, those most deeply involved, for all their fervour, are frequently blind to reality. Most of the population, irrespective of gender, finds much of what passes for day to day party politics in Ireland to be a pointless turn-off. It is no wonder that only the narrowest range of social, income, gender or educational backgrounds are represented in election contests at all levels.
The four C’s (Cash, Childcare, Confidence and Culture) have been cited for well over a generation as a barrier to women contesting elections, only to be rapidly superseded in the past few years by a new fifth C: Candidate Selection. This C has come with the added benefit of a ready-made quick fix in the guise of Candidate Gender Quotas (CGQ) to be applied by party apparatchiks.
Candidate Gender Quotas are not just the wrong solution; they are addressing entirely the wrong set of problems. The long-standing problem of the under-representation of women in the Oireachtas is not an isolated issue, as frequently portrayed: it is a reflection of a much broader problem, that of disengagement in electoral politics by the vast majority of the population. Compared to a generation ago, far fewer people are members of political parties. Fewer still involve themselves in canvassing, leaflet dropping, or other electorally related activities which involve talking to and meeting ordinary voters.
Undoubtedly there are practical factors inhibiting many people, of all strands of society, from involvement in electoral politics. Candidate Gender Quotas do nothing at all to address the root causes of the original 4 C’s, which will continue to be the same barrier to the majority of women and, to a lesser extent, men, which they would always have been.
Is it seriously being suggested that former TDs such as Olwyn Enright or Mildred Fox, who left electoral politics to ensure a better family life, would suddenly return, simply because their selection as candidates is assured? Or that being selected will magically sort out the difficulties in securing the cold hard cash required to fight an election campaign? If someone lacks the confidence to contest an open convention of their fellow party members because they might lose, how will they cope with the demands of an election campaign where they could be publicly humiliated? The proposals on candidate gender quotas are just the sort of boneheaded solution to a very real problem that ends up giving the problem a bad name.
A total of 566 candidates contested the 2011 general election, of whom 166 were elected – 86 of the candidates were women, 25 of whom were elected, equating to a success rate of 29% for both. While women candidates were just as likely to get elected as men, women who were members of political parties were even more likely to be elected than their male colleagues. Women made up only 10.6% of the independent candidates nationally. In Wicklow there were 14 independents (all male), for the 6 University Seanad seats: of 46 candidates only 8 were women. This is in contests where candidate selection is not at issue; the candidates select themselves.
Evidently women have no problem getting elected when they contest elections, nor is there any evidence that women are disproportionately disadvantaged at the nomination and candidate selection stage. No hard data has yet been produced to show that women who seek a party nomination in Ireland are less like to be selected than their male colleagues. Indeed, if we were to remove the distortion of male incumbents at party conventions the success rate of women coming through as new candidates is very impressive. This is irrespective of the form the selection process takes, be it by ‘one member, one vote’, head office interview or delegate-based convention.
No other country operating gender quotas has our electoral system of Multi-Seat constituencies with PR-STV. As the psephologists tell us the more candidates you run, over and above your seat target, the more seats you forfeit as a result of transfers drifting away as the counts go on. Such quotas will require parties who have seats at present to run more candidates than is advisable. The lack of debate from within the membership of the larger parties on this unprecedented act of electoral altruism, this willingness to hobble their own chances, demonstrates how poorly thought out and understood the consequences of this bill are.
In the Minister for Environment’s own constituency, unless one of his recently elected male party colleagues stands down, Fine Gael will be compelled to run an extra candidate where there is no realistic chance of a 4th seat and, in so doing, will imperil at least one the party’s three seats, in the face of a strong SF and FF challenge.
The money and resources for election campaigns come from individual party activists, not party HQs – people who cannot be compelled by legislation to work or invest their time in candidate Y rather than candidate X.
This is a superficial gesture instead of the frank debate on political reform we really need. We must be more ambitious and look to overhauling the entire electoral system with cost-effective and accessible measures to encourage parties to take risks in running more diverse tickets. We could utilise PR-STV more, by making all parties run twice the number of candidates as there are seats in a constituency, creating an open, local list system with instant primaries.
The likely outcome of this legislation is to allow a power-grab by the party elite over ordinary members and encourage the political parties to be more conservative, not less, in their candidate selection. They will choose from the same pool of the middle-aged and middle class, with money to spare, no childcare problems, the right family connections or an inside line to the party hierarchy. We’ve seen too much of this.
Those advocating gender-based quotas are merely salving the symptoms of a much larger problem while allowing the apathy of the people to grow. It’s not simply that we need more women as candidates; we need everyone involved in what must be the grandest contest of ideas imaginable. We have never needed it more than now.
Note this was published in the Irish Times last year but I never got around to posting it here.
A number of people in recent weeks have called for the future of the Seanad to form part of the considerations of the Constitutional Convention. Self-serving calls from incumbent members of that self-regarding body for a limited examination of the functioning of the appendix of the electoral system should be ignored by the government. Much more worthy of consideration is the electoral system used for the entire Oireachtas and our local authorities; the heart and lungs of the body politic.
It would seem that the Iowa primary is rapidly becoming less about who wins on Jan 3rd but who loses the most and who exceeds expectations enough to carry momentum into the later contests. At the moment I would predict the following
7% – She has her core vote but in the battle to be the standard bearer of the Neo-Moral Majority within the Republican Party Santorum has won the purity battle and Perry has the organisation and the cash to fight on after this.
under 1% – Gone to consult on his peccadilloes but some few folks might still give him a nod.
15% – He could go lower than this on the night, he may well stay in the race after Iowa but if his polling numbers start go south, fast in South Carolina and Florida, I can’t see him having the organisation or cash to rally in either not to mind both.
Jon Huntsman, Jr.
under 1% – Gone in search of the Libertarian nomination but I suspect some trickle will refuse his calls to support Ron Paul and give him a nod.
19% – Has the organisation to get out a vote and hold off against the barrage of attack ads, but I would hold that his appeal is marginally more limited than the polls indicate.
14% – A better showing than expected is in the offing but could well be overshadowed by the apparent last minute surge for Santorum. He has the cash and organisation to fight on though and with potentially Gingrich and Bachman out of the way there is plenty of room for him to contest with Santorum for.
24% – He just can’t move enough of the wider Republican Party to rally behind him.
16% – Apparently experiencing a big surge after an endorsement from the Family Leader organisation. Of course if this polling boost doesn’t translate into support on the night and if Perry comes in ahead of him then expect a lot of soul searching. Still it would seem it could be down to him and Perry as the main challengers to Romney.
The proposal on electoral gender quotas are just the sort boneheaded solution to a problem that ends up giving the problem a bad name. Candidate Quotas will not attract the sort of women who are currently inclined to avoid contesting elections because of the well touted 4 C’s of Cash, Culture, Childcare and Confidence. Quotas do not provide childcare, and they will not fund-raise to pay for posters, election literature or the hiring of halls for public meetings, and it is hard to see what confidence a person can get from being added to the ticket in order to fulfil a quota rather than being nominated like any other candidate. Instead Candidate Quotas favour the usual sort of middle class, middle aged women who have the right sort of connections with the party hierarchy. Not that there is anything wrong with middle aged, middle class women being actively involved in electoral politics and there have been many fine examples of same down the years. And having to get nominated and win election against others irrespective of gender did them no harm at all.
The basic fact is that women are not excluded from standing either in elections or party conventions. The evidence as presented by the Yes side clearly shows that those women who make the decision to contest elections stand the same chances of being elected as men, and have even better odds than their male colleagues if they are members of political parties. There is no evidence either that women are less likely to win out at party conventions when they choose to contest them; quite the opposite.
The real problem is not that women as a group are excluded for standing for election; it is that individual women decide not to contest for entirely sensible reasons – none of which are addressed by the creation of quotas. In effect, we are saying to people who choose not to apply for a particular job, because of its nature, that we will not change the job description but instead will give them free pass on the first round of interviews. Why would anyone decide to apply for a job they weren’t previously interested in, simply because they would have to overcome one less hurdle in order to get it?
The recourse to charges of being conservative or backward simply because a person finds the case for the use of quotas to be unproven demonstrates the lack of substance underpinning these proposals. There is considerable disquiet across the political spectrum at the top down nature of the changes. This proposal was not part of Fine Gael New Politics document presented at the last party conference in 2010, nor have the ordinary membership ever had an opportunity to contribute to the debate on the broader issue of encouraging wider participation in elections beyond the narrow pool of family members of previous elected representatives, teachers, members of the legal profession and so on. It is worth highlighting that one direct consequences of this legislation at the next general election is to protect all sitting male Oireachtas members from any challenge from other men at party conventions.
It is time that local party organisations of all parties realise the practical impact of these measures and that the electorate more broadly realise that these measures will do nothing to assist the many women and men who decide elections are not for them. Many women and men, who actually know at first-hand what is involved in contesting elections, recognise that these misguided and misinformed proposals are transplanted from entirely different electoral systems. No other country with our electoral system has used gender quotas. No evidence has been produced that shows party conventions is where the core of the problem lies. Nor will the changes proposed be applied equally to all those who wish to contest an election, independents who receive state funding through the leaders allowance are exempt.
The most ludicrous aspect is that if enforcing a quota of 30% doesn’t work that it will, within 7 years, be increased to 40%. If that doesn’t work it will be doubtlessly increased further, until such time as the public conforms to the expectations of those who have the ear of the minister.
That the current situation in regard of the make up of the Oireachtas is unacceptable should not mean that any old notion not matter how badly thought out must be adopted. Surely that is a form of electoral correctness gone mad.
There was a quite stunning piece of ‘electoral analysis‘ in the Irish Times yesterday, now I’m no holder of a candle for Sinn Fein as most would know but this piece is a complete distortion of SF’s presidential campaign and it’s successes as well as it’s failures. And don’t worry I will be getting to the low speed pileup that was the Fine Gael campaign in due course.
The article has a number of clear errors in analysis that have to be down to someone completely misreading the data either due to wistful daydreaming or a deliberate attempt to pull the wool of people’s eyes. Whose eyes exactly is unclear.
For a start his basic premise is underpinned by the assertion he repeatedly makes that Sean Gallagher as a candidate, both in his profile and message, was as equivalent to FF as Martin McGuinness was to SF. This despite the many months in which Sean Gallagher was loud in his claims he was carrying no torch for FF. And while I personally believe that Sean Gallagher’s involvement with FF was considerably deeper and more significant than the ordinary foot solider that he sought to portray himself as, I think it is wildly inaccurate to suggest that all those who supported Sean Gallagher were avowedly doing so because he was the FF nominee to the same extent as those who voted for Martin McGuinness were doing so because he was the clear nominee of the SF organisation and was clearly going about the land espousing SF policy.
Mr Flynn goes on building his house of misaddressed canvas cards by conflating vote numbers for two elections that had quite different turnouts, even though comparing the actual number of SF votes in Feb 2011 to those of Martin McGuinness in Oct 2011 makes no sense at all when one election had a turnout of 70% and the other 56%.
He further claims “…Fianna Fáil supporters, offended by the attack on a candidate who had only one degree of separation from their party, flocked to Gallagher in their hundreds of thousands.” For 100s of 1000s of voters to switch from SF to Gallagher is factually impossible. If 100s of 1000s had switched to Gallagher from SF then the SF vote must have been much higher than the polls were showing. And then even more people would have had to switch from Gallagher to Higgins to balance out this incredibly influx of true FFers who were telling the pollsters up to days before this that they were voting for Martin McGuinness. So the drop in Martin McGuinness’ support from the polls to polling day mus have been huge, except it wasn’t: he was on 13%, 13% then 16% and finally polled 13% on election day itself. So no 100s of 1000s of FFers came home to Gallagher from McGuinness after the Frontline.
Gallagher lost 12% from the weekend preceding poll to polling day, and this supposedly with 100s of thousands coming back to him from SF. 100s of 1000s not a 100,000 but 100s of 1000s, so a multiple of a 100,000. Sean Gallagher got 28% of the vote or just over 500,000 votes, imagine how small his vote must have been before SF’s great error on the Frontline…err..what’s that you say… Sean Gallagher was on 40% in the polls prior to this, or closer to the 700,000 figure that Michael D. Higgins got on polling day. but how could someone who gained 100,000s of votes from SF end up on 200,000 votes less than they were projected to get before SF’s gaffe. That’s FF calculus for you!
We also get a very laboured piece about how SF’s vote where they had a TD was down on their GE result, ”Furthermore, when the performance in the 14 constituencies where Sinn Féin had TDs elected in February is analysed, it shows that it lost more than 26,000 votes” except that this drop in votes is much more down to the lower turnout overall than any great drop in the SF vote. Disguised in this guff is the real fact that the overall SF vote did go up, despite the lower turnout!
Truth be told SF actually saw a bigger increase in their vote share in those constituencies where they currently do not have a TD. With the benefits of incumbency for their sitting TDs come the next election, this means any growth in their party vote % will likely see them retain what they have with the same or even a lesser national poll and increase their representation quite nicely on even a modest overall national rise. But that’s wouldn’t make such good reading for the FF inclined insider that might be taking comfort from reading or even writing such an article.
In looking at the Dublin West by election results we get some weird guilt by association from this sentence ”Similarly, in the Dublin West byelection, the turnout was down by 6,770 votes while the combined vote of the Labour and Fine Gael candidates fell by 6,400 votes. ” which is meant to be underlined by the follow up ” All this while what was effectively a Fianna Fáil presidential candidate and a bona fide Fianna Fáil byelection candidate were performing very well.”
So just for the casual readers at home, that’s repeat that the overall vote was down 6770 and the Labour and FG combined vote was down by 6440. This is clearly intended to get the impression that it was just the Labour and FG voters than stayed at home while the FF core came out for their man.
He then caps all his baloney with choicely overegged political mayonnaise by misusing the data to suggest that we are now privy to some magical new information about FF’s core vote that we didn’t before…what could this be, you wonder. You will wonder in vain. All the numbers suggest is that there is some potential from FF to grow their vote from the 17% achieved in Feb 2011. Yet this supposedly new fact is one that would be evident to anyone who was even remotely aware of the 2007 and 2002 election results and FF’s history of electoral success in Ireland since its foundation. FF have a potential, a potential mind, for a vote percentage higher than that achieved in Feb 2011. Shares may go up as well as down. Heavens to Betsy, what a revelation but that does nothing to prove that there is now some new higher FF core vote. I wonder if someone failed to explain the difference between actual and potential to the poor lad. There is a strong feel of a Chewbacca defense to these final two paragraphs.
The piece underlines the supposed impartial nature of the piece with the final line
“Odran Flynn is an electoral analyst” electoral illusionist is more like it.
With the polling for the Dublin West by election time happening tomorrow there is only a little time for me to whisk up some more egg for my face. The last poll to take place here was for the general election and you can get the full result of that here.
The main parties broke down as follows that time:
The full field this time out is below along with my predictions of % vote.
Labour Party Patrick Nulty 24.8%
Socialist Party Ruth Coppinger 21.1%
Fine Gael Eithne Loftus – 17%
Sinn Féin Paul Donnelly 14.82%
Fianna Fáil David McGuinness 12.47%
Green Party Roderic O’Gorman 2.13 %
Independent Brendan Doris – 1.39%
Independent Gary Bermingham – 1.43%
Fís Nua Peadar Ó Ceallaigh 1.2%
Independent Barry Caesar Hunt – 0.97%
Independent Benny Cooney – 0.77%
Independent John Frank Kidd – 0.58%
Independent Jim Tallon – 0.34%
I think the SF transfers break more for the SP than for Labour but while the FG’s transfers should really be expected to trend to Labour and more of less cancel that out, don’t be completely astounded if the the FF votes actually moved the FG candidate into contention herself.
So we’re going into the final furlong or the last straight and the race has shifted considerably since the first attempt at this I had made. And how wrong that was, or right in some cases. Never one to back away from the table when there is the chance to double down and get more egg on my face. Here is my current assessment of what the 1st preference vote percentages will be.
Gallagher 31% – this is down considerable on what the polls are saying, my reasoning being that as his support base has grown so much only in the last few weeks that it is soft and open to picking away at by each of the other candidates. Some of whom may attempt to get people to lend them a No.1 before returning it to Gallagher in transfers if only to allow them to claim some expenses. I would hold that his surge to the top is down to two factors other than his own likeability (a) to a strongly anti-politician mindset on the part of the public and (b) because Gallagher is the least urban or urbane of the candidates. Davis, Norris, Mitchell are Dublin based, Higgins for all that he is from and of the West is an academic, McGuinness has no geographical base in the south, nor does Dana in truth though more of her support is in the West than elsewhere. So Gallagher has become go-to guy for the more rural minded folks, he is their George Bush, someone they could see themselves going for a pint or mug of tea with.
Higgins 24.8% – again I have him a little weaker than the polls show him because I think that he has never nailed down the support that was there for him. He has taken no risks and while he is competent and respected, that hasn’t translated in he being seen as inspirational.
McGuinness 13.7% – He will be seen has having underachieved and I believe his candidacy has actually ill served the SF cause in the south as it reminded too many people of the darkest days troubles and how SF and republican movement were in the thick of that awfulness. Made rather excessive claims for kudos for his role in slowing and eventually stopping the destruction of an avalanche of violence than he had himself assisted in setting in motion in the first place. That said had SF run someone of considerably less prominence I suspect their support would have struggled to match the GE result, but what harm.
Mitchell 11.4% – I still reckon a fair few FGers will give their No. 1 to Mitchell once they are in the polling booth. But it will be more out of sorrow than joy. I somehow doubt that the transfers from the 3 lower candidates will be enough for him to overhaul McGuinness. I think that after this election, FG need to seriously reassess the General Election result and realise that the public’s embrace was much more one of desperation and despair than of new found devotion the party and all its works. Trust and support needs to be earned, we’re on probation with the public (as all governments are in truth) and we need to give them more reasons to vote for us, rather than reinforcing the reasons not to vote for X or Y. Because along will come a Z and get the support we had loosened from X and Y.
Norris 10.5% – Some might imagine this a disaster but being in the race and being credible for so long is a triumph in itself. I don’t think he gets enough transfers from the 2 to be eliminated before him to claim his expenses which is a pity.
Davis 4.4% – I guess this is the difference between a well-funded campaign and a well-planned one. Gallagher had a plan to mark himself as the sensible non-establishment candidate (how someone so steeped in the largest party for so long can be able to so easily tag himself as the anti-establishment candidate is truly stunning. )
Scallon 4.2% - there is still an constituency out there for Dana, even if it is from people who feel sorry for her and themselves. She could yet make a return to Europe if she could see her vote in the West exceed 13%, that will be one of the interesting vignettes to look out for. That could be a platform for her if she could combine with Declan Ganley’s organisation.
So it would appear that Gay Mitchell is tanking in the polls, and that his chances of winning the contest are declining faster than the Kerry team in the last 5 minutes of the All-Ireland. Now while I don’t think that his poll showing is really all that reflective of how he will do on the day; too much of the support for Norris, Gallagher McGuinness and even Mary Davis appears to be in groupings that traditionally do not turn out on polling day. It has to be acknowledged that there has been a failure associated with the Fine Gael campaign to date. So even though I still expect that Gay Mitchell will do better on polling day than the current polls show, that isn’t likely to be enough for him to win (or even be even close to 2nd on the first count if Gallagher’s numbers in the older demographics holds up).
I think Gay Mitchell would be a fine president, though I also accept that many people have a pre-determined view of him that they can’t be shaken from not to mind have reversed in such a short space of time. And yet it has to be asked how can someone from the largest political organisation in the state be doing so poorly. And that comes down to the real mistake the party made, it was not in who it choose but how it went about making that choice. There was plenty of time and nothing to prevent a consultation process with the membership up and down the country. Yet nothing happened for months after the general election despite we all being aware that the Presidential election would be happening in the autumn.
After a series of elections in which the party members had gone the extra yard to get the party back into government, many were probably feeling they were due a breather. Yet instead of realising this and seeking to do something different that would engage and energise membership and to allow them have some measure of ownership of the process of selecting the party’s candidate, it was instead decided leave well enough alone and allow the inner circle of the party have the power. The result is that too many people on the ground appear to feel that since the cllrs, the parlimentary party and the national executive were the ones to pick the candidate then they should go do the heavy lifting on their own, after all they picked the candidate on their own. I believe that is a mistaken approach for many members to adopt but I can understand where they are coming from.
There is still time for the party to do a me culpa on the process and get the membership to come out for one last push over the next few weeks but more importantly the party must learn the lesson that the membership can’t be taken for granted and that if we don’t make a real effort to make the party more responsive and more open to the participation of the membership in decision making about what the party stands for and what direction we are to go in that many members will either drift away from involvement or else confine themselves to campaigning only for the individual rep they happen to be friendly with.
To hell with opinion polls, let’s try picking some actual numbers based on the reading of entrails and the deductive reasoning of a biased pundit. I mean I couldn’t be much worse that this guy.
So here goes, as it stands right now this is how i think the respective candidates are really set to do on election day.
Higgins, Michael 27 %
Mitchell, Gay 18%
McGuinness, Martin 14%
Norris,David 12 %
Gallagher, Séan 8%
Scallon, Dana Rosemary 6%
All things being equal candidates could be viewed as starting out with the same level of support. with 7 candidates that is 14.3%. Of course that is rubbish the public aren’t randomly drawing names out of a hat. They have biases and favour interests and dislikes of particular people and their points of view. They have their own life stories and experiences to influence how they make their choices. And the choice they make also influences their transfers. Those who vote for Dana won’t be transferring as heavily to David Norris as they do to other candidates, (that doesn’t mean no one will vote Dana No.1 and Norris No. 2 but many more more will transfer to Mitchell.
So let’s start at the bottom, Dana’s pitched worked well in 1997 but the world is a very different now. Dana has actually made the case against her being President as a bulwark against abortion when she said that no such legislation would be coming before her while she was President as the Attorney General had said so. So why vote for her them? It’s like a noted Shark hunter looking for a job with the coastguard while citing acres of evidence that there is no risk of a shark attack. Go hire someone with expertise in narcotics smuggling instead. I believe her support base will be under half what it was in 1997. So 6%
I think Dana and Gallgher are really confined to fight over an equal share of the vote, Gallagher is saying interesting things and if the campaign wasn’t about a series of denials of one’s involvement in controversies then the press might have found time to let him talk about them. Sadly it isn’t and they won’t. A lack of posters compared to others also tends to make people believe you are not serious and also are a lost cause (or so people told me once). So he will get more than Dana but not much, hence 8%.
Now it gets interesting, Sen. Norris’ support base is too much in the hands of those who don’t vote and too much of his support is driven by people who can’t think of a reason to not vote for him nor a reason to vote for anyone else. Once they are provided with a reason to support one of the 6 others they will drift away, or less they simply won’t remember to turn up. Couple that with the various scandals or pseudo scandals and suddenly the cuddly, slight crazy angle doesn’t have the same appeal. Now 12% might not seem like much to some folks but it’s a credible performance from an independent. So I’m saying 12% at the moment, that could trend upwards depending on the campaign or it could collapse entirely if there are more letters in the writing desk.
The notion that SF and more over the republican movement are so shielded from their past that Martin McGuinness can be talked of as a serious contender in a PR-STV one seat election shows how little the various political pundits know about elections. SF get 10% just about 6 months ago in a national election and certainly McGuinness will increase on that but the idea that he would double in a lower turn out election when much of his base is amongst those less inclined to turn out while those with the most knowledge of his involvement in the north over the past 40 years will be very inclined not to support him. The only way he increases from this level is to tap into some of those on the harder left who are inclined to support Michael D. Higgins in despite of his Labour involvement rather than because of it. And that may well be what FG are about with their targeting of McGuinness. Boost him at Higgins expense.
Davis, the candidate who wasn’t and isn’t there. She comes across as terribly nice which is great in a way but this is the Presidency and for all that it is seen by most people as the state’s official greeter and our overseas tourist No.1, most people are aware on a certain level that the job also involves serious political judgement and knowledge of the constitution and the political realities of the country. The amazing thing about the previous Marys is not that they did all the touchy feely, dancing at the moonlight crossroad bridge but that they did that while wearing their education and knowledge of the less press friendly demands of the post so lightly. That they did the front of house tasks well was a bonus but that they could do the dull spade work had to be a given. It’s not with Davis and that is why she’s not going to challenge for the position when the race gets tighter.
So how in God’s name do I have Gay Mitchell in 2nd place? Because while he might on 14/15% amongst the population at large his appeal will work much more so to the demographics that will turn up on polling day. And he has (for all that most elements of the blogorati will despise him for doing so) seen off the sound spoken challenge of Dana for the more conservative element of the population and even those that vote for her will come, in part, back to him and he has going after a forgotten vote, middle aged men who think that the President should be more assertive on behalf of Ireland and not just the greeter No.1. I call it the two and half men strategy for rather obvious reasons, go after a large support base that others, in particular the media, turn their noses up at and you’re laughing.
Higgins is well out in front at this point and is best placed to gain more transfers from each of the other candidates than anyone else. I think he will get 20% minimum but that 27% could be picked away at if an improbable but not impossible combinations of factors were to kick in. Dana undermines him slightly in the West, Norris in the urban vote, McGuinness in working class areas and on the more ideologically inclined left, Davis in the “shure he’s terrible nice” stakes. Were that to happen the race could fall into Mitchell’s lap. But that’s not likely and unlikely things never happen in Irish Presidential elections right?