Saturday 20 January 2018

Labour sunk by the people's Democratic Revolution of 2014

But SF's 'revival' means squeezed middle didn't want a left-wing party, either

Joan Burton and Loraine Mulligan pictured at the count centre in City West. Picture; GERRY MOONEY.
Joan Burton and Loraine Mulligan pictured at the count centre in City West. Picture; GERRY MOONEY.
John Drennan

John Drennan

YESTERDAY marked the real beginning of a democratic revolution, and the reverberations of 'Independents Day' are likely to continue for some time.

Certainly Labour leader Eamon Gilmore, who now looks to be as secure as Michael Noonan on Election Day 2002, will not be suffering from ennui.

Even our invisible Tanaiste will know when it comes to the perfectly gauged revenge of the coping classes, the Government has been told in no uncertain terms that the "democratic revolution" they promised has failed.

The voters' stealth bomber- style targeting of the Labour Party represents a declaration that Labour has failed.

Significantly, the decision of the electorate to tamp down the Sinn Fein revival, however, means that just because Labour, in its current incarnation has failed, the squeezed middle did not want a left- wing party.

They – or the million that voted for Michael D – do. It's just they don't want the one that is led by Mr Gilmore and all that crew; the party that 'broke all your promises'.

In a previous, equally embattled existence, Pat Rabbitte regularly bemoaned the manner in which an electorate who thought Labour constantly voted for Fianna Fail.

On Friday, we secured a new variant of this as those voters who think Labour voted Independent – en masse.

The result has been greeted with some horror by those commandants of public opinion who believe Independents are fey, dangerous creatures that will be able to agree on nothing.

Grim but well-intentioned warnings are being posited about how such egotists would bust up the economy, be at the beck and call of vested interests and be unable to agree on anything.

It would, of course, be a great shame if our Independents were to behave in a similar manner to FF, FG and Labour, but perhaps we should be more hopeful.

Just as our Irish mammies would warn about how those who make beds have to lie on them the codicil to this, we are told, is that after our brief bout of madness the electoral prodigal sons will come back begging forgiveness.

But are those who make such an argument as behind the pace on the nature and evolution of Irish politics as the political parties?

Instead the electorate are, when it comes to the great failure of the Irish State, sending a somewhat more diffuse message.

Since 2011 it has become bleakly clear the party system is still dominated by threat- free dullards and ambitious careerists rather than democratic revolutionaries.

The failure of the 'democratic revolution' and Labour in particular to stamp this out and FF's failure to regain voter trust as distinct to acceptance has created a gap in the political market.

The traditional response to this hollowing out would consist of a new form of political party such as the Progressive Democrats.

But the electorate are rightly suspicious of such a process for the PDs are a failed experiment, the regeneration of which would represent a classic case of the politics of disguising rank old wine in new bottles.

In choosing to go Independent, the electorate are sending us a clear message – if we would but stop the talking and listen.

It might have taken 20 years for forgiveness to arrive but the voters want the sort of Labour Party that existed under Dick Spring back.

In contrast an electorate who have taken such a subtle chainsaw to FG, even the Taoiseach's brother Henry Kenny is struggling to retain his seat, have issued a comprehensive vote of 'no confidence' in Mr Gilmore's Labour.

Of course, in that regard, we are being already told by the current crew of Labour ministers that local elections are a one-off that bear no resemblance to what will happen in a general election.

However, often Irish elections bring to mind the way that the ancient Greek gods sent omens and messages to their worshippers in a cryptic form.

This meant that whilst the omens were correct, they could be easily misread.

Nothing epitomises the Irish variant of this particular trickery, or the capacity of politicians to play tricks on themselves, more than the 2009 local and European election results.

In those elections FG with 32.2 per cent of the vote overtook a FF party which, had they but known or listened, was already nudging into the dangerous margins of a FG 2002- style meltdown.

Labour, meanwhile, with 14.7 per cent of the poll flattered to deceive for while its Euro successes caught the eye the reality was more closely captured by a far more prosaic council performance.

Intriguingly a year later that result appeared to be fairly dated in a scenario where the country had its tongue out begging for Eamon Gilmore to be Taoiseach – just as half of Enda's party were looking to take Mr Kenny's head off.

But, in the long run, the 2009 result was a more accurate predicator of the political endgame than the summer madness of 2010.

Such a pattern suggests that when it comes to election 2014 if our political class think the much derided Independents are going to go away they are deluding themselves.

And those who may be fooling themselves most comprehensively are a set of Coalition leaders who have been found guilty by the coping classes of betraying the democratic revolution.

The planned response to this article of public faith, insofar as there is one for now, will be to stick it out in Government to the bitter end in the hope that luck or simple exhaustion will take the edge off the public's detestation for the Labour wing of this Coalition. It will be interesting to see how the plan to retrieve the support of the voters by doing that which they least desire will work.

One suspects, though, that it will not work at all well.

Sunday Independent

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