Of mice of men

The most conspicuous 2007 hype, widely regarded as the cause of the much-discussed “squeeze”, was the media's insistence on treating the election as a straight fight between two men – or, at a stretch, two coalitions. Opinion-poll figures were regularly aggregated over pictures of Enda and Bertie. We could hardly complain this was unfair to smaller parties (what's fairness got to do with it?) if it gave an honest and accurate picture of the alternatives. But it didn't.


It's true that on raw figures some polls showed the rivals neck and neck. For a time during the campaign, the “alternative”, with Greens, was ahead. But over two years of polls and clear-sighted analysis of constituencies, it was virtually impossible (given Fine Gael's low starting point and the likelihood that many gains would be at Labour's expense) to envisage those numbers translating into an overall seat majority behind Kenny. In mid-May it looked marginally likelier, but arguably FG got its best-case on 24 May and still fell well short. Moreover, it was also difficult to see the FF-PD numbers stacking up behind Bertie.

So with media connivance, to say the least, we had an election posing as something it was not. The moment polls closed, pundits shifted into reality mode and acknowledged what had always been overwhelmingly likely: we were in a numbers game about who would join Bertie. The funniest part of this media Big Lie was the attempt to paint hapless Enda Kenny as a credible could-be taoiseach, e g with Times and Indo scoring the TV debate as a draw – after a million viewers saw Bertie's salivating smile when his opponent turned it into an accountancy contest. Not all voters bought the polarity. I live in the State's most populous constituency, Dublin South Central, where half of us didn't vote, and most who did gave first-preferences to someone other than FF, FG or the PDs. Sadly, we were unique in the latter respect.