Speaking on Saturday night at Fine Gael's President's Dinner, Enda Kenny told the audience that his party needs to be ready for a General Election in 2009. Kenny also said that the current southern government has lost authority, adding that Fine Gael is ready to lead and make the tough decisions necessary to restore the Republic's economic growth.
The Mayo TD also announced that he will be touring the south until the end of the year, attending 30 public meetings organised by Fine Gael across the state.
All this comes a week after a Sunday Business Post/RedC opinion poll showed Fine Gael gaining five points against a Fianna Fáil drop of 10 points.
However, this all seems a bit too simple for me. It was completely out of character for the arch-pragmatists of Fianna Fáil to dish out a budget that was about as well-advised as Russell Brand delivering etiquette lessons to the Women's Institute. And now we have talk of going to the polls again.
I have a sneaking suspicion that it would suit Fianna Fáil to lose the next election (when I say 'lose', I mean top the poll as they always do, but without enough seats to command a majority). After all, in terms of economics we're in for another couple of lean years at least, and if belt-tightening happens under a Fine Gael administration, Fianna Fáil could relax for a bit safe in the knowledge that it's Kenny's party that will take the flak. As Kenny admits, tough decisions will need to be taken by whoever governs, and protests on the streets of the south by disgruntled septogenarians and parents in recents weeks show just how angry people can get about these things. Then, when things start to pick up a couple of years down the line, Biffo's Boys could slide back into the limelight and claim credit for things going well again. Meanwhile, Fine Gael would be left on the electoral scrapheap for a generation.
There may well be an election next year. Fine Gael may well get into government. But Enda Kenny might want to think hard about what he wishes for at this particular juncture in the global financial crisis.