I've noticed in the last few days certain media commentators have turned on Eamon Gilmore and Labour now that they are flying high in the polls.
Two particular pieces caught my eye - one in today's Indo by Fionnan Sheahan and the second in Sunday's Tribune by Michael Clifford.
Mick Clifford's piece was particularly damning as he articulated what I have heard quite a few people say in recent weeks - that Gilmore is another Bertie attempting the classic Ahern trick of making promises that he cannot possibly deliver.
Michael Clifford - Gilmore suffering from bad attack of Bertie-itis
And he concludes:Last week, he told the Evening Herald that his party will "not hit middle-income earners". Existing tax rates will not be increased. There will be no cuts in social-welfare rates or child benefit. Instead, he will hunt down the billions by increasing the income tax rate for the 5% of the workforce which earns in excess of €100,000.
Taxing the rich is socially just, but anybody who believes that alone will deal with our woes should be dispatched to the dunce's corner.
Out of the other side of his mouth, he declared: "I think we're going to have to go through a couple of very difficult years. I don't think you can pin it on individual things."
Difficult for who exactly? His specifics suggest that 95% of the population will sail through the forthcoming times of austerity. In reality, Gilmore's economics has the ring of a missive direct from Planet Bertie.
In the Indo today, Sheahan takes a different tack - that Gilmore has been exposed as the 'naked emperor' whose 'bluff has been called' in the wake of Black Thursday and the depth of the fiscal and budget crisis Ireland faces.As things stand, he will sail into power. Once there, he will do as the Liberal Democrats did in the UK, and engage in swingeing cutbacks. Taking such a route will lower politics further into the mire and heighten disillusion. But will Gilmore care? By then, he will have achieved power, and his current focus is far more concerned with a strategy for power rather than any vision for a fair society.
He still has time to give us the true picture, to lay out his vision, to say how exactly he will be different from what has gone before. But he'd want to get his skates on or he is in danger of going down in history as just another Bertie.
Fionnan Sheahan: 'Naked emperor' exposed as Gilmore's bluff is called - Fionnan Sheahan, Columnists - Independent.ie
'A child, however, who had no important job and could only see things as his eyes showed them to him, went up to the carriage.
'The Emperor is naked,' he said."
-- Hans Christian Andersen's 'The Emperor's New Suit'
EAMON Gilmore's lack of a credible cabinet of policies is the modern day political equivalent of the vain emperor's folly.The Sunday Tribune also reports that Fine Gael's plan for public sector reform is partly designed to 'flush out' Labour policies on the PS and spending cuts.Woolly figures about savings to be made from "efficiencies" and vague numbers around "abolishing tax exemptions" would no longer cut the mustard.
Where previously a disaffected public was the only audience that needed to be persuaded, there were now altogether more critical analysts.
Genuine plans would have to be presented for appraisal with sums involved far in excess than the previous experience.
The Labour leader ought to have realised that, once his party had reached such unheard of heights in the polls, his platform would come under ever greater scrutiny.
Buoyed by his standing in the polls, Gilmore fails to recognise the political climate has changed. He still thinks he can get away with ruling out a range of high-spending areas for cuts, while claiming his party is taking the responsible approach.
Gilmore's bluff has been called and it's not going to get any easier for him over the next six weeks.
FG agrees to
And the Sunday Business Post has a piece by Niamh Connolly on how Gilmore is playing a 'waiting game'."The government see the four-year plan and the proposal for consensus as an opportunity to flush out the opposition. But we're quite prepared to be flushed out. We see the four-year plan as the chance to flush out Labour," one [Fine Gael] front bench figure told the Sunday Tribune.
She quotes pollster Sean Donnelly on Gilmore's strategy:
Are they right? Is Gilmore another Bertie? Are Gilmore and Labour exposed on the policy front?‘‘Labour is polling consistently way above anything they’ve got before and we have to take it seriously," he said.
It suggests that Gilmore’s fudge on its fiscal plans is currently much less important to voters than his capacity to articulate the mood of public anger because of the country’s finances.
‘‘Gilmore is not saying a lot and being clever, but people are so cheesed off with what’s happened and with Fianna Fáil telling us they’re the ones taking the hard decisions. Fianna Fáil’s vote had dipped even before it began taking those decisions," said Donnelly.
‘‘You have Gilmore fulminating and Joan Burton blamingt he government, while people are sittinga t home saying‘ Here Iam,mad as hell,and someone agrees with me’. People are happy that someone is agreeing with them." Nobody doubts Labour’s strength in Dublin, but it still has a formidable task in bucking the civil war legacy in the countryside where voters still vote along traditional Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael lines.
Or is he cynically exploiting the anger of ordianary voters by deliberately being vague - or even deliberately lying - about how Labour will close the deficit to 3% by 2014?
Labour and Gilmore are up in the polls because of anger at FF and Cowen, and doubts about FG and Kenny - but now the spotlight is on them like never before. Can they stand up to the scrutiny?
As the late Seamus Brennan put it: "You're playing senior hurling now lads!"
But are Gilmore and Labour, Kilkenny (canny old dogs and perennial winners who are seldom beaten, FF), Tipperary (great pedigree but only deliver once in a Blue moon, FG) or Waterford (early season promise, flatter to deceive but fall when they play the traditional big boys because they lack substance, Labour)?