independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Labour likely to win just 10 seats in next election

Polls slide raises new questions over Gilmore's leadership, as party figures call for a 'Plan B'

'DENIAL': Sen John Whelan warned against complacency

LABOUR TDs and senators are alarmed at recent opinion poll findings, which indicate that the party will win just 10 seats in the next General Election – a prospect that has raised renewed questions about the leadership of Eamon Gilmore.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Senator John Whelan last week warned: "People are in a state of denial and delusion if they think it's impossible, just because we've been around for a hundred years, that we won't be obliterated like the Greens and the PDs.''

And Mr Whelan slammed what he said was the current culture of "despairing acceptance". He said: "We have to break out of that mode and become more forcible."

Another Labour senator, John Kelly, warned: "The leadership has to come up with a plan at the party think-in. Doing nothing is not an option. If all we do is wait for the local elections, the people will annihilate us."

A Labour TD, meanwhile, warned: "We need total change at the top. We are going to have to change the faces that are there, a reshuffle isn't enough. Ruairi Quinn is causing mayhem; Gilmore is a non-event. I thought the abuse against Bertie was bad, but what Gilmore's getting is unbelievable."

Yet another Labour source also warned: "Gilmore had better come up with a Plan B in our think-in or he will be the Plan B."

Labour's director of the local elections Kevin Humphreys warned that while Labour "can hope to hold our own in Dublin", the party faces a struggle in the rest of Ireland.

Humphreys's concerns are validated by the recent Sunday Independent/Millward Brown opinion polls, which show that Labour is facing a wipe-out across rural Ireland in the next general election.

Such is the scale of decline in Munster, where Labour is at six per cent, even dynastic politicians such as Arthur Spring, in the five-seat Kerry constituency, Sean Sherlock in Cork and another putative Labour leader, Alan Kelly in Tipperary, will all struggle to return to Leinster House.

Young first-time Labour Party TDs Michael McCarthy in Cork South West, Ciara Conway in Waterford and Michael McNamara in Clare, are also certain to lose seats.

In Cork South Central, Finance Committee chairman Ciaran Lynch is likely to fall foul of a constituency revision.

Labour may still retain two seats in Munster though, should deputies Kathleen Lynch and Jan O'Sullivan survive as expected in Cork and Limerick.

In contrast, the collapse in Labour support to just one per cent in Connacht/Ulster means the small inroads made by Colm Keaveney and Derek Nolan will be erased.

The party's situation in Leinster, where its vote is hovering at eight per cent, is not much cause for comfort. Its new TDs will struggle to survive in five-seat constituencies such as Carlow/Kilkenny and Louth; and in Meath East, in the wake of the party's humiliating by-election rout, Dominic Hannigan's seat is in real danger.

Labour would be expected to buck the national trend in its Kildare heartland but questions are being asked as to whether Emmet Stagg and Jack Wall will run again.

In Wicklow, Anne Ferris will struggle to avoid the two-pronged challenge posed by Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail. This has created the extraordinary scenario where Minister for Public Expenditure and reform, Brendan Howlin, might yet be the last Labour man standing in Leinster.

What will really concern the party hierarchy, however, is that the rot has spread to the electoral heartland in Dublin.

In 2011, the party won 18 seats, winning two seats in six of the Dublin constituencies. However, on current figures, Labour will automatically lose a seat in every constituency where it currently has two seats.

The party will also struggle to win seats in any three-seat constituencies in the capital.

Even the Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, who headed the poll in 2011, faces a battle to retain his seat. The strength of Fine Gael and a hesitant Fianna Fail revival means the Tanaiste faces a major battle with People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett.

Should Ruairi Quinn run again, anger over issues such as third-level fees means the Education Minister will struggle in Dublin Bay South.

While Pat Rabbitte, should he run, and Joan Burton are likely to be safe, the high-profile Junior Minister Alex White is being seriously squeezed by the reduction of the former five-seat Dublin South to the three-seat constituency of Dublin/Rathdown.

Veteran Labour Junior Minister Joe Costello will be engaged in a losing dogfight and a number of new TDs in Dublin are also facing a real threat, including John Lyons and Aodhan O Riordain.

When the Dublin decline is combined with the chasing of Labour out of rural Ireland, the Labour Party will struggle to win more than 10 seats nationwide.

Sunday Independent

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