“Sauve qui peut” is the French expression that means “every man for himself”. Its literal translation is an order to “save (yourself) who(ever) can”.
On the day of the second round of the French elections, this seems an appropriate description for what emerged from the Progressive Democrats in Dublin today. They seem to have discovered on the doorsteps that the founding rationale for the Progressive Democrat party was probity in public life, rather than a commitment to right wing economics. While their public representatives appear to have long forgotten this in their lust for power, many of their supporters clearly haven’t.
There is a dawning realisation in the PD parliamentary party that a return to power seems highly unlikely for the current FF/PD coalition, based on all the recent opinion poll findings. Fianna Fail may well have a number of coalition options after the elections, but the PDs simply won’t be able to supply sufficient seats to make up the other part of a coalition with an overall majority. This realisation, combined with the fact that McDowell’s sustained “slump coalition” jibes have effectively ruled out participation in any alternative coalition, has finally convinced the sitting PD TDs that saving their own individual skins is now the only electoral objective on 24th May.
The party’s only real consideration this weekend has been to decide on the course of action which is likely to inflict on themselves the least incremental damage. Hence, the decision to stay in Government but demand that the Taoiseach provide a full explanation with regard to his housing transaction. The split between PD Dublin and rural TDs was also highlighted by the very different presentation from Michael McDowell and Tom Parlon. The former said that a full explanation was required if the Taoiseach expected to present himself to the electorate in three weeks time, while the latter was merely inviting the Taoiseach, if he felt like it, to clarify matters.
At a press PD press conference before the 2002 general election, when the opinion polls were predicting meltdown for that party, a comedy TV programme planted a “journalist” who asked Micheal McDowell if they would be changing the name of the party after the election. A clearly puzzled McDowell asked the journalist to clarify what she meant. “ To the Progressive Democrat” replied the journalist - a title which would indicate that they’d been reduced to a single TD. In fairness to McDowell, he got the joke and laughed loudly and genuinely.
I retain the hope that they will have cause to change the name of the party after May 24th 2007.
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