my take on the recent Sunday Times poll as seen from a different perspective, both in terms of distance and time. I never cease to be intrigued how distance can change your perspective. It is true whether that distance is in time or in space. Indeed not only does it change it, it usually improves it.
This blindingly obvious conclusion struck me late on Saturday night as I sat in my Hotel room on the Costa Blanca coast watching my twitter feed to find the results of the latest Sunday Times opinion poll.
As the old joke goes: it was like deja vu all over again. Exactly one year earlier I was sitting in another room at the same Hotel trying to follow the results of the General Election online.
Though I managed to log in every few hours to catch the resulting coming in online, I still failed to fully grasp the full impact of Fianna Fail’s defeat at the time. My mind was elsewhere. My Dad had died suddenly at my parents’ home in Spain on the eve of polling day. I had, along with other family members, rushed over for the funeral in the days that followed.
It therefore took a week or so for the full enormity of what had happened at the polls to sink in. When it did, I found myself almost detached from its consequences and outworkings. I had not been at the count centres for the emotional traumas. By the time I was back home and chatting with former colleagues; they were reconciled with their fates to the point of being phlegmatic.
Anyway, that was a year ago. Back to last Saturday night. Sitting in a similar room, one year on and almost 1800km away, I found myself having quite a different perspective on the latest opinion poll figures.
As I looked at the RTE news online I was taken aback to see them running the line that big news in this poll was the drop in support for Fianna Fail.
Really? Not from where I was sitting.
Perhaps it was the night breeze drifting in off the Mediterranean. Maybe it was the over generous Soberano.
Either way; it appeared to me that the big news in this poll lay elsewhere.
To my mind the first piece of news in the Sunday Times B&A poll was the halving of Labour’s support in one year – from 19.4% on polling day to 10% today.
Second was the dramatic increase in support for Sinn Fein. from just under 10% at the General Election to a whopping 25% in the poll.
Indeed, there is a third equally significant story, namely the finding that, at 70%, almost three times as many people are disatisfied with the Government than are satisfied with it (26%). Not a ringing endorsement for a government just one year into its term and yet to face any seriously testing challenges.
Though it would be foolish to read too much into just one poll, Sinn Fein’s strategists North and South will be feeling understandably satisfied that their tactic of placing the Labour Party firmly in their sights is paying dividends.
In comparison with these almost double digit changes, Fianna Fail’s decrease from 17.4 to 16 is modest, though disappointing.
Yes, it is the type of news Michael Martin and Co can do without with the first Ard Fheis in two years only a week away and the Mahon report looming. But who, in their right mind, really expected voters, who were bitterly angry with Fianna Fail, to suddenly turn and cry “this shower is even worse than you lot: all is forgiven” barely one year on?
Maybe it is a back handed compliment of sorts that the party’s fortunes still merit such attention and coverage: even when the figures don’t exactly back it up.
If so, then expect plenty more of the same for the rest of the year as further polls emerge and more pundits line out to say what it all means for Fianna Fail. Meanwhile, I will see if I can manage to be away for their publication. It appears to be the best way to view them.