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.