Go for the knockout or finish the round?

January 17th, 2021 8:00 PM

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SIR – In politics there is often the dilemma of whether to go for the knockout, tap out or finish the round. This is facing the US Democratic Party who are considering impeachment proceedings against Trump with only a week left before his term ends.

Such a move might be overruled by the Senate and make Trump look like a victim. Or it gets him out early, but will he still play the victim card?

In these circumstances the best outcome is not always achieved by the most obvious choice. This was evident in 2011 when, a year early, the general election put Fine Gael and Labour in office a year before Labour’s 100th birthday. Had the previous government run its full term Labour would still be in opposition or on their honeymoon and still more popular. Thus protestors might not attempt to disrupt their centenary conference.

There would have been less time for Fianna Fáil to regain popularity for the 2014 local and European elections. And the more aggressive campaign groups might have already materialised during the outgoing government’s final year, giving the incoming coalition an idea of what they were facing.

The sheer number of government TDs meant it was too big to knock out even though they lost 13 seats in the next general election in 2016. Had the 2020 general election been delayed by a few months, the Covid pandemic would have put a damper on opposition calls for a general election as seen by the aftermath.

The emergency situation could easily have delayed calls for an election till 2021 with the current opposition leader saying the pandemic is the reason she is not calling for a fresh election.

However, should Sinn Féin chance government popularity falling over the measures to claw back money spent on the pandemic or call for an election sooner facing into possible fiscal shortage and, if they went for the knockout, would they succeed?

This government is four seats away from collapse, but potential defectors know this. A defector will most likely want a few years to build up resources for the next election even if they do say so out loud, something defectors between 2011 and 2016 had. This might not be available to them now, so they are likely to stay in government.

Patrick Healy,

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