The one date that we've all been building towards is almost upon us. But the world of politics is focused on another date entirely.

As they tuck into their Quality Streets over the coming days, politicians can rest assured that the extra calories won't be long burning off when they start the energy-intensive pavement pounding in the New Year.

The Taoiseach gave them something extra to chew on in his pre-Christmas discussion with political correspondents on Friday, when he said he would reflect on the best date for an election over the holidays.

This was a departure from what he has said to date on the topic – that his preference is for an election in May. It was the first time he has publicly indicated that he is keeping this option open.

For that reason, the chances of an early Spring election have risen as quickly as the bubbles in your Prosecco over the pre-Christmas weekend.

Leo Varadkar was due to respond in recent days to the Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, who requested that both leaders agree the timing of an election. They are likely to meet early in the New Year to discuss the issue.

There are two issues to consider in deciding the date, as far as the Taoiseach sees it. 

The first is that he does not want to accede to a "wind-down" of this Dáil. The Fianna Fáil leader believes a date could be agreed that would set out a schedule for certain pieces of key legislation to be passed. 

"What I don’t want to see is a three or four month election campaign," Mr Varadkar said.  It would mean, he believes, "the Dáil and the Government effectively focusing on that rather than focusing on the business of Government and the problems that people face in their everyday lives."

The second consideration is what Mr Varadkar calls the "realpolitik of the arithmetic". He pointed out that the Dáil numbers have "changed considerably from when the confidence and supply agreement was first signed three and a half years ago".

That agreement involved Fianna Fáil agreeing to abstain in certain votes in order to allow Fine Gael stay in power. Now, "if Fine Gael votes for a motion of confidence and Fianna Fáil abstains, that’s not enough," Mr Varadkar pointed out.

If any agreement is to be made with Fianna Fáil, the Taoiseach wants to ensure that the nine Independents who regularly support the Government but are not in Cabinet, continue to do so. 

"I’ll need to speak to them and reaffirm our support for any arrangement we might come to between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael," he said.  Asked if that includes independents whose relationship with the Government has caused some controversy, including the Galway West TD Noel Grealish, the Taoiseach said: "I wouldn’t be ruling anyone in or out." 

If these are on board, then he will lay down a condition for Fianna Fáil: "In the first instance what we would need to know is that if we come to any arrangement that Micheál Martin actually has the support of all of his party for it," Mr Varadkar said.

Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness has previously said he would vote against the Government if there was a no-confidence motion in it in the New Year. The Taoiseach is suggesting that if this were the case, someone in Fianna Fáil would have to vote for the Government – as opposed to abstain.

"I would need the assurance from Micheál Martin that he actually has the support of his party for this and if he is going to have dissidents in his party that go against the whip that he will be able to provide people who counterbalance perhaps that by voting with us on motions rather than abstaining," Mr Varadkar said.

There were quips doing the rounds about what Fianna Fáil TD would draw the short straw of having to vote with Fine Gael. But it is nothing more than a joke as it is unlikely to ever happen.

In making the Fianna Fáil leader an offer that he cannot accept, Leo Varadkar is putting the ball back in Micheál Martin's court.