Friday 9 December 2016

Revealed: Labour's grand plan to woo back voters

Jody Corcoran and Daniel McConnell

Published 27/09/2015 | 02:30

Tánaiste Joan Burton outside Government Buildings
Tánaiste Joan Burton outside Government Buildings

The Labour Party intends to focus on "fear and desire for stability" which it believes is "shaping" the electorate's views ahead of the General Election, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

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The decision follows internal party polling which has found a majority (54pc) do not believe a change of government will put the country's economic recovery at risk, while only 46pc feel it will.

The private polling also contains a separate finding that 46pc want a change of government "even if it creates economic uncertainty" with a third of those supporting Independents and a quarter backing Sinn Fein.

However, the extensive data which has been seen by this newspaper shows strong voter desire for "stability" and gives the Coalition significant credit for economic growth.

But it is clear from the findings that Labour now intends to take a stand on voters' fears that the next government will be unstable, comprising "multiple parties or Independents" if it is possible to "form a stable government at all" after the election.

Separately, in an interview with the Sunday Independent today, Labour leader Joan Burton has said the Government will have scope for additional spending in the Budget over and above the €1.5bn stated.

As Labour's election strategy becomes clear, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin will tomorrow warn that the Coalition parties "are intending to run what is likely to be the most negative re-election campaign in our history".

In a party commemoration address in Dublin, Mr Martin will say: "In recent history there is no example of a government which sought re-election on such a negative basis."

Meanwhile, several Fine Gael ministers are this weekend talking up the likelihood of a November election, with Finance Minister Michael Noonan said to be a strong advocate, a move Ms Burton insists she is still opposed to.

And in a letter to Labour supporters yesterday, Ms Burton also declared that the controversial 8th Amendment which introduced a constitutional ban on abortion here "cannot be changed soon enough".

The Labour poll was carried out in May, July and September this year among a massive representative group of 3,021 voters. Asked if a change of government would put the recovery at risk, 54pc disagreed and 46pc agreed.

There are some positive aspects in the poll for the Coalition: 72pc of "likely voters" believe the Government has played an "important role" in growth and 67pc think the country is generally on the right track.

However, it is also clear that the country is divided when asked about their "fears" of changing government.

For example, 56pc would "like to see a change in how Ireland is run" but are fearful of a change of government; a significant 46pc think the country needs a change of government "even if it  creates economic uncertainty" and a slim minority (49pc) would "fear" a change in  Government "with things getting better under the current Government".

The electorate's fear of "instability" is clearly evident in the Labour polling data: 60pc would be "concerned" about instability if the next government was made up of multiple parties or Independents and 54pc are "concerned" it will not be possible to form a "stable government at all" after the election.

The poll also found Fine Gael more than Labour is the beneficiary of perceptions around the recovery, concerns about stability and government formation, although Labour has received some benefit on these issues too.

In her interview with the Sunday Independent today, Labour leader Joan Burton has revealed that the minimum wage will be increased in the Budget, by an expected 50c an hour, from €8.65 to €9.15.

Declaring low and middle income earners to be the main priority, Ms Burton said better-than-expected revenues will allow greater scope for a more generous Budget.

Asked if there is scope to go beyond the €1.5bn limit, previously stated by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Ms Burton said: "There is scope."

However, she said the additional room will not reach as high as €2bn.

"We haven't really had a detailed discussion with him [Michael Noonan] about that but it is a relatively small scope, it is not going to massively change the figures," she said.

Ms Burton also said she wanted a proposal by Labour TD Willie Penrose to reduce the current bankruptcy discharge period from three years to one dealt with before Christmas. She has also confirmed that changes to the Universal Social Charge (USC) will contain a rising of the entry point at which the charge is paid, as well as a flat rate cut.

In a finding which has convinced Labour to play the "stability" card in the election, the poll found 82pc of voters chose stability when "faced with the option of stability or change" at the next election.

However, this question found strong desire for stability evident among supporters of all political parties and Independents: Fine Gael (92pc), Fianna Fail (89pc), Labour (82pc), Sinn Fein (74pc) and Independents (70pc). A significant 34pc of Labour supporters believe the country needs a change of government "even if it creates economic uncertainty".

There are positives for Labour contained elsewhere in the poll: when asked what they believed the next government will look like, 29pc said Fine Gael/Labour, up 10 points since November. Labour sources yesterday said the party intended to target "the grumpy middle" which claims they will vote for a non-government party but are worried about changing the government.

Today Mr Martin will tell the Sean Lemass commemoration at Deansgrange in Dublin: "Four times in the last 10 days the Taoiseach has said that it's a choice between stability or chaos. In the Dail, he lined up his backbenchers to claim the world will fall apart if Fine Gael doesn't get your vote.

"Basically Fine Gael is saying that you have no choice - the Irish people should just stay quiet and do what they're told. Enda Kenny says you have no choice and that failing to vote for him is a vote to destroy your country...

"Well, they won't get away with it - let them go ahead... we're ready for them."

Sunday Independent

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