Tuesday 27 September 2016

Joan ventures into cyberspace in quest for redemption

Published 04/06/2015 | 02:30

It's a long way back to anything like their record vote haul under Gilmore in February 2011
It's a long way back to anything like their record vote haul under Gilmore in February 2011

Almost one year on and Joan Burton is ready to go back on the road. It was a move which served the Labour leader well last year as she took off on a series of meetings with members all over the country. The result was that she was convincingly elected as the new party leader in place of Eamon Gilmore, who had suffered calamitous local and European Parliament election results in May 2014.

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For a time Ms Burton even got an opinion poll bounce and it looked as if a brave new world beckoned for her and the junior coalition partner. But soon Labour's slump resumed and now an election beckons - at most 10 months away.

The first meeting with an economic theme kicks off this evening in Dublin with the title 'Decent Incomes, Real Opportunities'. Others will follow over the next six weeks in Cork, Limerick and Galway as the party tries to build on its success in the same-sex marriage referendum and take the fight to the general election hustings in a political tour called 'Opportunity 2016'.

This time too, cyberspace will not be neglected. Soon, we are told, it will be possible to '#TalkToJoan' live and in person and on Twitter. Or, you could opt to send in your views on the whole thing on Twitter or Facebook. The evocation of the popular Joe Duffy RTÉ radio phone-in speaks for itself.

There is a certain hope in party circles that those within the party who went on the stomp in the marriage referendum might be fired up to give it one last go. The small but welcome 2pc rise in Labour support, bringing it to 10pc, in last Sunday's Red C opinion poll is another cause to talk things up.

But it is a long way back to anything like their record vote haul under Gilmore in February 2011.

That was 19pc and a total of 37 Dáil seats.

The current 10pc poll rating - if it holds up - is about where Labour traditionally has been. The 2011 result, the so-called 'Gilmore Gale', and another huge success in November 1992 recalled as the 'Spring Tide', were exceptional outcomes. Labour usually motors at around 10pc to 12pc - not far from where it is now.

But such a score would probably result in a loss of 20 Dáil seats next time. So, it is time for radical action - in Leinster House, around the country, and yes, in cyberspace.

Labour is trying to put the debate back on to bread and butter issues - and especially on to jobs. Burton is keen to emphasise how the unemployment rate has gone from a high of 15pc in 2012 to its current single digit rating of just under 10pc. The frustration within the party is that Labour has not put its brand on any of these jobs.

That is the key objective this time. But things are stacked against them.

The irony is that Labour has some good arguments - but will people listen?

Irish Independent

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