Both Ends Burning


So, after today’s first ballot in the Conservative Party’s leadership contest, we now know – unless he hits an iceberg – that Boris Johnson is going to be the next Tory Leader and British Prime Minister. And his platform – when all the nods and winks are stripped away – is for a hard Brexit which – after yesterday’s defeat of the motion against a no-deal Brexit in the House of Commons – will only be stopped if sufficient Tories vote against their own Government in a confidence vote. This would be in the certain knowledge of precipitating a General Election in which their own party would be wiped out. 

So, both ends are indeed likely to be burning on the Brexit question and this means that the prospect of a 2019 General Election in Ireland are virtually gone. How quickly things change because only a few months ago, when Fine Gael was riding high in the opinion polls, there was a lot of speculation about an early general election here. 

However, the increasingly messy Brexit situation is not the only reason why I think a 2019 General Election is off the agenda.

Firstly, in the wake of the Local and European Elections, Mícheál Martin renewed his commitment not to pull down the Government this year. Why would he? He’s deliberately played the long game to give the current administration time to lose its sheen and it’s worked for him – why would he do it any differently now?

Secondly, Fine Gael has to recalibrate its electoral strategy in the light – in particular – of the Local Election results. Based on the recent election results it has too many candidates in play and needs to scale back or it could lose seats it mightn’t otherwise do. This is going to take time!

Another factor militating against a 2019 General Election is that three of the four TDs elected to the European Parliament are Opposition members – this helps ease the day-to-day voting pressure on the Government this side of the by-elections. And the Taoiseach has now indicated that these by-elections will be held in November or December. 

However, there is a good chance that the Government could lose all four of the by-elections and this is why my money is on a general election sometime from early 2020 onwards – unless the Brexit situation gets even madder -- which is a distinct possibility – and this might lead us to later in 2020 or indeed even into 202

Leaving aside the timing of the next General Election, the other big takeaway from the Local and European Elections is that the composition of the next Government is all to play for. Only one thing is certain at the moment in terms of the next Dáil – Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil will be the biggest parties. However, what the numbers will be for both parties, and the rest of the parties and independent groupings is still very much up for grabs. 

So for those who are looking to shape the agenda of the next Government a number of things are clear:

  • First, you have to be engaging with ALL parties and groupings – and over the coming months – to shape their manifesto priorities and that of the next Government. A selective approach could be very short-sighted and self-defeating.

  • Second, this influencing work needs to be taking place now and consistently over the months to come.

  • Third, those groups who can demonstrably mobilise and sustain wider public support – like in relation to climate action in recent times – are likely to reap the biggest rewards in terms of shifting the political agenda.

Finally, as always with my blogs, there’s a musical or cultural reference and today’s is to the great 1975 Roxy Music song, Both Ends Burning. Watch the video clip at the link below and enjoy!

Pat Montague