Why Labour will now feel free to negotiate harder in programme for government

* Fine gael and labour to form coalition

* Labour with a stronger influence

* Kenny deprived of genuine alternative government strategy to browbeat Labour in negotiation

With exit polls and tallys from across the country telling a similar story it looks inevitable that the government of the 31st Dáil will be a coalition between Fine Gael and Labour.  As they sit down to negotiate the potential programme for government in the coming days there will be a number of interesting dynamics at work.

Fine Gael went to the polls daring to dream of an overall majority.  While strategists are already talking up the historic victory and seat bonuses, they will nevertheless be disappointed not to have carried off the main prize.

Labour’s stronger than expected showing may yet yield 40 seats and while three weeks ago it was Gilmore for Taoiseach, ten days ago there was a chance of only 30 seats.  They have had highs and lows but will walk into government buildings on a high.  Like a football team coming from behind to grab a late draw, they will be the happiest of the parties come Sunday evening.

The independents will not be strong enough to provide Fine Gael with an alternative government strategy, and it is unlikely the leadership would risk the wrath of the nation by providing so simlar a mix to the outgoing government of a dominant party held in power by smaller single interests.

Fianna Fáil flickered into life during the campaign but ultimately underestimated the anger of the people, and their desire to vote against them as much as for anyone else.  That is particularly the case in Dublin where there is less of a ‘local man’ vote.  The dire showing effectively rules out Fine Gael turning to FiannaFáil as an alternative government partner.  Despite their closeness in terms of psychology and policy.  As they say a blind man riding past fast on a horse would not be able to tell the difference.

So Labour will have a stronger influence than would have been the case a week ago.  This will be good in reigning back the more right wing tendencies of Fine Gael and may yet provide a genuinely alternative programme of government.

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