The hunt is on. If the south is to be saved from itself, a new political party must found. You don’t have to be all that big, at least not at first. But you do have to be right, or if you want a fig-leaf, right-of-centre. Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, despite the mass anger of the population which is putting the fear of God into them, are hoping against hope they’ll get enough seats so that, should the worst comes to the worst, with the rag-ends of Labour they can cobble together a government. But on present figures, not even FF+ FG + Labour = a government. There is a mood out there that will chomp deep into Fine Gael’s numbers, then chew up and spit out the Labour party. Meanwhile Fianna Fail for the next twelve months will be lighting holy candles in the hope that Micheal Martin’s boy-next-door manner will make the electorate’s memory go all whoozy and forget that Fianna Fail were the guys who let off the financial stink-bomb in the first place. But not even novenas to St Anthony will help. Never again glad confident morning for Fianna Fail. Which is why the media pundits have sent out the call, the horns have sounded, the horses are poised to gallop out in search of that new party.
But but but, you say. You haven’t mentioned Sinn Féin. Don’t polls suggest they’re the biggest party in the southern statel?
OK. I can see I’m going to have to speak very slowly. Read. Today’s. Editorial. In the Sindo. Headed ‘Can the centre hold against Sinn Féin?’, it compares that party to a pack of wild wolves which, as you’ll remember from poetry class at school, descended on the helpless fold. The “conventional parties”, the Sindo says, must be “far more seductive in how they deal with the electorate”.
So why won’t the centre won’t hold against the Shinners? Well the Sindo speak of the “chilling” sight of Mary Lou McDonald “turning the floor of the Dail into a kangaroo court”. Imagine talking about shady Ansbacher dealings by government ministers back in the day – you wouldn’t get ‘conventional parties’ at the likes of that. Enda and Micheal are noted for their refusal to invoke the past when a Sinn Féin TD asks a question. Or to make allegations without evidence.
But the ‘conventional parties’ , the editorial says, must start ‘seducing’ the electorate. If they don’t, the south will find that “the political ethics of Sinn Féin’s Stalingrad of West Belfast are transported south of the Border”. (Yes, Virginia, that is a big B.) The editorial ends by warning voters that they have “responsibilities as well as rights”, and warns ‘conventional parties that “straight talking” (as well as seduction) is called for. That, it concludes, “will serve us far better the the current Sinn Féin-led meme of maudlin self-pity.” (What’s a ‘meme’, Victoria ? Pass.)
But whatever it means, the Sindo would prefer not just any of the existing parties to Sinn Féin, it’d prefer a party not yet in existence to Sinn Féin. Because these are desperate times. If the southern electorate don’t shape up and vote right, the Sin Féin tide will rise past their windpipe and they’ll die choking on memes.
Come out, come out, meme-free New Party, wherever you are. Ireland expects.