Start­ing gun fired on what prom­ises to be a very long elec­tion cam­paign

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - OPINION -

THE race for Le­in­ster House is on. While a polling date hasn’t been an­nounced, with his com­ments in Cork in the past week Leo Varad­kar has fired the start­ing gun for the next Gen­eral Elec­tion. While Fianna Fáil would ap­pear to favour a slightly ear­lier elec­tion it now looks al­most cer­tain that we’ll be go­ing to the polls some­time next May.

Though Brexit should and will be the chief fo­cus for the next few months – prob­a­bly un­til the end of Jan­uary – we can ex­pect to see a lot of un­of­fi­cial elec­tion­eer­ing go­ing on the back­ground for the next eight months.

Of course, the elec­tion could still be called ear­lier, some min­is­ters are un­der­stood to think an ear­lier vote would be prefer­able if the UK does quit the EU at the end of Oc­to­ber, but the smart money looks to be on May.

This would, hope­fully, al­low time for the worst of the Brexit fall­out to pass. As an ad­di­tional bonus, Mr Varad­kar and his min­is­ters would also be able to en­joy at least one more St Pa­trick’s day jet-set­ting around the globe.

Po­lit­i­cally speak­ing there is also a more prag­matic rea­son that Leo Varad­kar will be tempted to go the peo­ple in May.

As the wil­i­est of Ir­ish elec­tion­eers Ber­tie Ah­ern proved on two oc­ca­sions, two of Ah­ern’s record three back to back elec­tion wins came in May and Mr Varad­kar will be keen to cap­ture a lit­tle of Ber­tie’s elec­toral magic.

There are pro­saic rea­sons for favour­ing a sum­mer poll. There isn’t a politi­cian in the land that wants to go can­vass­ing on a dark, dreary, wet and weary win­ter’s night.

The longer hours of day­light al­low for door knock­ing well into the evening and peo­ple do tend to be more re­cep­tive and in bet­ter form as the sum­mer looms.

Then there’s the most im­por­tant as­pect of all when it comes to an elec­tion, voter turnout on Gen­eral Elec­tion day tends be far higher in good weather.

As Mr Varad­kar says, May might be the “right mo­ment” for an elec­tion – for Fine Gael at any rate – but eight months is a long time and there are cer­tain to be crises that will put a dent in the Gov­ern­ment’s vote.

Gov­ern­ment par­ties tend to do well in sum­mer elec­tions but with Fianna Fáil’s pop­u­lar­ity grow­ing, it looks as though it will be a close fought bat­tle and, in the end, it could be the resur­gent Green Party that emerge as the king­mak­ers.

Whether they would choose to crown Mr Varad­kar or de­throne him and give Micheál Martin the reins of power re­mains de­cid­edly un­clear.

In the mean­time, we can ex­pect plenty of shadow box­ing – par­tic­u­larly in the run up to the bud­get – as the po­lit­i­cal bat­tle heats up be­hind the col­le­giate fa­cade of the con­fi­dence and sup­ply agree­ment.

In pol­i­tics, win­ners know to keep their friends close and their en­e­mies even closer.

For Mr Varad­kar and Mr Martin the con­fi­dence and sup­ply deal does ex­actly that.

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