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Labour Polls Boost As Fine Gael Stall

Another weekend poll and we’re still little wiser about the outcome of the upcoming general election.

The latest Red C Poll in the Sunday Business Post shows how delicately balanced the contest is. The combined support for the coalition of 39% – FG at 29% and Labour at 10% – wouldn’t be near enough to see them returned to office. That’s the bad news for the government.

The saving grace for the two parties is there isn’t even a hint of a viable alternative government emerging. Nothing to shift the odds of 1/11 on Enda Kenny being returned as Taoiseach.

FG Support Stutters
If Fine Gael comes in at 29% on polling day then it won’t get close to 60 seats – it’s 11/10 on the party coming in at 60 seats or less. On this showing, that’s a better bet than 4/6 to get 61 or more.

The presumption of course is that the party will do better than 29%. But the polls over the past month point to a definite stalling in the upward trajectory we saw in FG’s support in the run-up to Christmas.

One silver lining for FG in the Red C poll however was the finding that the party is way ahead of everybody else when it comes to who voters trust on the economy.

Just under 40% of voters opted for Fine Gael compared to 16% for Fianna Fáil, the next most trusted party.

The economy will be the number one criteria for many voters when it comes to Election Day, so Fine Gael’s clear advantage in this area could yet prove critical.

There was better news for Labour, but their one point rise is well within the margin of error, so nobody there will be getting too carried away. It’s still very much in the balance whether the party can hit double figures, currently they’re on offer at 8/11 to be at 10 or less seats and even money to be at 11 or more.

Contrasting Fortunes At Polls
Sinn Féin will be greatly encouraged by its 19% rating but the big question is whether it will match its opinion poll rating with actual votes – traditionally it hasn’t. The 17% return for Fianna Fáil is clearly a concern for the party, particularly as it has enjoyed a good couple of weeks. In contrast to SF, opinion polls tend to understate FF’s support. The party had better hope that is the case because this poll has it at the same level of support as its 2011 meltdown.

I’d still expect Fianna Fáil to exceed 20% come polling day and Sinn Féin to be closer to 15%, but the polls aren’t currently backing that up.

And for all the agreement around the environs of Leinster House that independents won’t do as well as predicted, the opinion polls continue to suggest otherwise – one in four voters are still plumping for them and there’s no sign of any drop-off in support.

Speaking of independents, reports that Noel Gregory, brother of the late Tony Gregory, has switched his support from Maureen O’Sullivan to Christy Burke is a boost to the former Lord Mayor’s chances. O’Sullivan is a fine candidate and remains favoured to hold her seat. But it’s not a sure thing and this is reflected in a serious tightening in the odds on Burke in recent days – he’s now just 2/1, having been available at 5/1 less than a week ago.

Joe Costello is at 5/2 in the same constituency. I had him out of contention but Labour sources tell me they have a private poll showing him still in with a chance. It’s hard to see more than one government seat in this three-seater, so if he comes through it’ll have to be at the expense of Minister Paschal Donohoe. It still looks a long shot to me.

Keep an eye on: Clare, where I think the final seat is up for grabs between FF’s Michael McDonagh (2/1) and independents Dr Michael Harty (3/1) and Ann Norton (5/2). All three are better priced than Labour’s Michael McNamara (6/4) and I struggle to see the Labour man holding his seat.

Value bets: Pamela Kearns of Labour at 5/1 in Dublin South West. The party had two seats here this time and, even without Pat Rabbitte, in a five-seater it must be in with a shout here. In Longford-Westmeath, independent Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran is tipped by many to take a seat at the expense of Fine Gael’s Gabrielle McFadden. It’s a hard one to call but, at 7/4, Boxer is a lot better priced than McFadden at 2/7.

*Prices correct at time of publication