Eamon Keane: How the Independents will keep Labour in line for Taoiseach Enda
In the run-up to the last General Election we had the 'Mullingar Strategy', or Accord, as FG and Labour liked to call it.
Both parties agreed a pre- election pact which existed right up to the election of the Taoiseach.
It subsequently cost Pat Rabbitte the Labour leadership , as he was blamed for not placing Labour with its own clear ideological voice.
Well, this time we have the 'Mudguard Strategy' and it's going to be the best thing that has ever happened to Enda Kenny and Fine Gael.
A mudguard is designed to stop the excrement from hitting the fan, as it were. This time Enda will use it to stop Labour from hitting Fine Gael. And the mudguard will be the Independents who are elected to the next Dail.
Enda will use them as a tactical shield with Labour and bring them into play as he needs. So Inda and the Indies will determine your future. Here's how it works.
The dogs in the street, and everyone who hasn't emigrated, know Fine Gael will be the largest party in the State.
But what happens next in the aftermath of the vote? You're probably wondering if Labour will be their partner.
Well, yes they will.
Talk of Independents is just that, barring a massive surge in the next few days. But the talk is done with a strategic view.
Unlike our Government with the IMF/EU negotiators, FG and Labour know you do not show all your hand.
You also play tough early on. So FG will talk up a deal with Independents as Phil Hogan has done. Meanwhile Varadkar and Kenny don't rule out Coalition with Labour. This is good FF-style double-speak tactics.
Labour have been forced to move from talk of being the 'biggest party' to pushing the need for 'stable' Coalition as Pat Rabbitte outlined in the Herald.
The danger of the monopoly of power and so on. Now don't forget that when the last Rainbow Coalition was being put together, one of the negotiators was Enda Kenny.
This time he and his party have the cards. FG will use the Indies to mudguard against Labour demands. They will limit Labour ministries to a couple if, as expected, projected poll results translate into seats.
They will tell Labour that they have a deal with the Indies -- "Do you want to miss out on power, Eamon?" will be Enda's cry.
They will also use the Mudguard Strategy when it comes to policies. FG have sold us a centre right reform agenda -- new improved public service and health service with a dash of political reform .
So they will be keen to be seen to do that early on. Any squawk out of Labour and you will be reading more about a deal with Independents. If Labour threaten to walk out in negotiations, Big Phil will be snapped meeting Shane Ross or Jedward or whoever has decided to run for election.
Stage two of the Mudguard Strategy is when the Government is formed. Labour will face the prospect of SF and socialists screaming sell out across the benches every day . Again the Independents will be Enda's mudguard. They will take the s*** and stop it from hitting the Dail fans. Here's the scenario:
Let's take it that FG and Labour work out a programme for Government. Suddenly, it's year three of their five years. Labour have enough of SF sniping at their 'sell out' and austere Budgets. The polls suggest Labour are down to 10pc. What happens? Labour get nervous.
They threaten to walk on some issue. Enda uses the Mudguard Strategy. Brings in the Indies to nurse his Government home. Tells Gilmore, "Fine, you want to walk but we and the Independents will see this home for the good of the country".
An old woman in Listowel once assured a worried election candidate that ''you'll get all 11 boxes from me.''
Well next Friday be wise as you tick off all your preferences. You may just determine the size of Enda's mudguard.