WITH Fine Gael’s popularity ratings having increased in the latest opinion polls in the wake of the Budget 2016 announcement, party strategists who wanted to have the general election this month must be raging that it is not going to happen until next spring because they will have to face down a minefield of perennial issues of winter discontent in the meantime.
Already, the crisis of people being left for unacceptably long periods of time on trolleys in accident and emergency departments because of a shortage of hospital beds has started to heighten, along with the plight of the homeless facing into another winter. The government is taking a number of stopgap measures to try to mitigate both problems in the short term, especially in the run-up to the general election, but the opposition parties will do their utmost to play up the scandalous ongoing lack of a proper masterplan to meaningfully tackle these burning issues in the longer term.
The imminent publication of the findings of the Oireachtas banking inquiry, which it was thought would severely embarrass Fianna Fáil ahead of the general election, may backfire on Fine Gael, especially if they find themselves having to a coalesce with them to form the next government, given that Labour’s lacklustre fortunes did not improve in the latest opinion polls, while Fianna Fáil’s did.
The main thing the government parties will be hoping for is that the extra money in people’s pay packets in January and February as a result of Budget 2016 will sway voters.