Opinion

Friday 21 July 2017

The Yates Anthology: Why there's still life left in Labour Party

Brendan Howlin seems more at ease in himself without the tattoo of austerity on his forehead Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Brendan Howlin seems more at ease in himself without the tattoo of austerity on his forehead Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Ivan Yates

Ivan Yates

Not unlike Fine Gael in 2002, or Fianna Fáil in 2011, the Labour Party's final demise was predicted after February's disastrous rout, losing 30 seats. Combined with the loss of 100 councillors in local elections in May 2014, its national network was decimated. Ministers remained in denial, blaming pundits of unfair bias. Having predicted they'd end up with seven TDs, I took no glee seeing polls of 4-6pc proving uncannily accurate.

The first step to reincarnation is taking responsibility. Joan Burton ultimately stepped down, with a consequent coronation for Brendan Howlin. Smaller parties in coalitions invariably pay the maximum price. Labour's biggest gaffe in government was allowing Fine Gael take it for granted. At no time over five years did Labour TD's credibly threaten to quit to safeguard services for their blue-collar constituency. In controversy, they too compliantly agreed to circle the wagons.

Labour ministers fell into the trap of talking down to people, believing the veneer of authority. The trappings of office can turn the humblest of TDs into empowered, preachy egos. There were early signs that Shane Ross and Denis Naughten were donning this mantle within weeks of their appointments. Civil service briefs train them to adopt haughty, all-knowing, false invincibility. Diaries are dictated by departments; and hectic schedules create a dependency on mandarins. It was ever thus.

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