Friday 22 September 2017

Eilis O'Hanlon: Jaded Labour has nothing left to offer

With its pre-election fire and thunder a distant memory, Eamon Gilmore's party now seems bored by power, writes Eilis O'Hanlon

RARELY has a fall from grace been so swift or so humiliating. Labour has now been thoroughly eclipsed as the second party in the State a mere 15 months after achieving that position for the first time in its history.

Only 10 per cent of voters in the latest Sunday Independent/Millward Brown poll are now inclined to give Eamon Gilmore's party their first preference vote, leaving support for patriarchal Labour at half the level of that for young upstart Sinn Fein, an exact mirror image of the last election. It's almost Oedipal.

However shocked, Labour cannot be surprised. Junior partners are traditionally punished when coalition governments disappoint. When junior is seen to stray too far from his principles, the backlash is more severe still. Labour in office is imposing the very austerity which it campaigned on a platform to roll back: "Labour's way, not Frankfurt's way" is a boast not easily forgotten either. Voters aren't stupid. Fine Gael has treated Labour poorly, and it hasn't gone unnoticed that Labour has all too frequently let the bigger party get away with it. No one likes a doormat. Make too many compromises and voters clearly start to think that you have no bottom line. Protect the brand, or die.

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