Long-term damage to Coalition

Yesterday Egan asked whether the nurses' pay row is going to seriously damage the National Coalition Party in the long term.

Looking at recent polls, it seems likely to me that the issue currently hurts the party's popularity. The decrease in support is only a couple of percentage points at the moment, but when the big three parties are so closely balanced, it can still make the difference between holding the office of prime minister and being in the opposition. That's serious.

At some point the issue will stop being a pressing concern. Will the damage last? I think the key here is Finance Minister and Coalition chair Jyrki Katainen. The party itself has a core of ideologically committed supporters and a rather stable image built in countless political rows over the decades. In the long, long term, it'll abide. Whether Katainen remains an effective, credible spokesman for the party is another matter.

I trust I won't be accused of exaggeration when I say that Katainen has come under a great deal of criticism over this issue. He was at the center of the Coalition's pay equality campaign and now holds the state's purse strings, so he's a natural target for nurses' ire. Yesterday's demonstration at the parliament building featured a rendition of "Jyrki Boy" (fi).

With regard to Katainen's credibility, the key quote is (my translation), "The more female-dominated, educated fields are paid over the general raise level, the more we're prepared to raise the state assistance paid to municipalities." The quote is from last February, but its infamy is a post-election phenomenon. Googling for the original Finnish sentence gets about 500 hits at the time of writing.

In summary, my confident prediction on whether the Coalition has suffered serious long-term damage is: maybe, depending on how the party chair comes out of it.

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