The campaign continues, with much of the momentum now on the side of the “Yes” camp, who have been able to present a more united front then their opponents and have excelled in the debates that have been held. Fear has, predictably, become the primary button for the “Yes” side to push, with the endless comparisons with Greece, with the risk of losing invester confidence, etc, etc. This may be the most negative “Yes” campaign ever fought, with the more positive attempts to “sell” the Treaty being treated as secondary tactics.
That’s not unwise either. The Irish electorate have heard “Yes for jobs” many times over the past decade and it has never really worked out. Going for that option is not likely to sway many voters, burned so often before. But I suppose it would be nice, productive even, if the “Yes” side could try and elaborate a slightly more positive message in their campaigning as we get closer to the date. It’s possible that the “growth pact” that is being discussed elsewhere may yet have an impact on that count, so the final push might yet have a happier ring to it.
The “No” campaign certainly is a diverse bunch, nominally led by Sinn Fein and the ULA, joined by a host of micro-parties from the Communists to the Workers Party. Declan Ganley and Libertas have also jumped into the fray. We have here a very wide spectrum of “No” groups, with wildly different agendas, which is badly effecting their ability to get out the right, unified message to the Irish public. Divided you fall.
Sinn Fein are having big trouble in debates, with Gerry Adams largely shown up by Eamon Gilmore on TV3 the other night. They simply seem to flounder when pressed hard by the “Yes” side on issues like funding in the event of a “No” vote, and even the usually reliable Pearse Doherty has not been able to give a confident answer to that question. In that, Sinn Fein are looking increasingly unlikely to to count this campaign as a success. I’m not sure why Enda Kenny is really avoiding debates, because he has very little to fear from Sinn Fein.
Libertas is something else. The cat calls and jokes at Ganley’s expense are well deserved, though the constant string of “Why is he even getting attention at all!?” stuf you hear from the “Yes” side is mildly revealing of fear of a potential gamechanger. Declan Ganley is a prominent political figure in regards to European affairs, a newspaper contributor, a former MEP candidate and a leader of a prominent political group. You might not like him or his politics, but do not act as if he is completely undeserving of any media attention. We all know why you’re really saying that: you’re worried that someone with an ounce more personality and intelligence when it comes to PR then Gerry Adams might become the face of the “No” vote. That’s ok, but you should not resort to childish declarations of confusion regarding his media exposure.
The calls for the referendum to be deferred turned into embarrassed silence when it was revealed that to do was impossible under law, and the attempts to find a way around that ring hollow, a sign of desperation. The government is committed to this treaty and the vote: they know that the longer this goes on, the more uncertain the electorate will become. Yes, there are things going on elsewhere in Europe that could have a huge effect on the Treaty, but in fairness, when will there not be? In a worst case scenario, we’ll have to go again on a changed treaty, which is a bridge to be crossed when and if we come to it. Though, I’ll say personally that such an event would possibly be the last nail in my support for the EU project.
Oh, and UKIP. Nigel Farrage and his subtly racist cronies have no business campaigning in Ireland anymore then Sinn Fein do in England. They’re decision to include themselves in Irish political debate is a counter-productive one, but I suspect Farrage knows that: he just wants the attention of being seen as a “No” advocate in a vote he knows he has very little chance of actually having any kind of victory in.
If you trawl through the “Yes” sides actions in the press over the past week, you will find a host of apparent blunders, some of which I will elaborate on in Saturday’s edition of “Stupidest Things”. Suffice to say that Enda Kenny telling people they should find work to do or Ivana Bacik using Ganley’s very existence as a reason to promote a “Yes” vote, or Michael Noonan temporarily abandoning “solidarity” with Greece to point out that Ireland doesn’t actually have a great trade relationship with them is all very bad, but it does not appear to have done the “Yes” side too much damage.
Polls continue to favour the “Yes” side, though they all seem to have come with a great degree of “Don’t Knows”. That might be a bit of a worry for the government, but they are in a very strong position. It is looking increasingly likely that the answer will be “Yes”, unless the “No” side can get most of those undecided off the fence somehow. They will also be hoping for a lower then average turnout, which traditionally favours “No” sides in Euro referendums. I would guess something in the region of 50-55% will be the final number in that regard, but that is mostly a guess – it’s slightly less than Lisbon II, I think enthusiasm for this vote will be lower than that vote.
As we head into the final weeks of the campaign, the “Yes” will likely to continue on the present course, as it appears to be working, while the “No” side will likely start getting a bit more extreme with their rhetoric, much as they did for Lisbon I (successfully), even if such rhetoric is complete nonsense (as it was then).
It is very hard to see that happening though. The Fiscal Compact vote is looking more and more of a lock for the government, barring some unlikely swing in the next 14 days.
Edit: The continuing stance of the new French leadership, that they will not ratify the treaty as it is, is very concerning. France turning its back on the Treaty must essentially make it a lame duck: that indicates it will have to be changed in some manner, even if it is just to add a growth pact clause.
In essence, the Compact we are being asked to vote on cannot come into being as it is currently written, or will be changed after we have voted on it, perhaps requiring another referendum to confirm the changes are acceptable to the Irish electorate (or not, I’m not clear on how that works). Such a scenario keeps the “No” side in the game, giving them a possible use of the confusiuon tactic.