Thursday 14 December 2017

Labour deputy leader contest a two-horse race

Alan Kelly
Alan Kelly
Votes will be counted on July 4, and winners will be announced the same day
Daniel McConnell

Daniel McConnell

The contest to become the next deputy leader of the Labour Party is a two-horse race between junior transport minister Alan Kelly and Cork TD Michael McCarthy.

Both have impressed at the various hustings with Mr McCarthy seen to have done particularly well last week both in Galway and in Cork.

The other contenders, junior minister Sean Sherlock and Waterford TD Ciara Conway are lagging behind and are at this stage unlikely to be elected.

Mr Kelly, a formidable political operative while not the most popular member of the party, has been the front-runner from the time he announced his candidacy.

He has performed solidly and has emphasised his no-nonsense approach, bordering on brutal realism at points to describe the plight facing the party at present.

Referring to the devastating result in last month's elections, Mr Kelly said the past was over and though Labour members know what they have gone through, "people don't care".

It is perceived that some form of an informal pact with Joan Burton has been formed and either way, he is considered a strong favourite to be in Cabinet once the contest concludes on July 4.

For his part, Mr McCarthy, who is chairman of the Oireachtas Environment Committee, has impressed many with his ability to communicate his message with ease both at the various hustings and in the media.

"McCarthy is doing well. People like him and he can carry himself well. For many he is the ideal candidate, but while Kelly isn't everyone's favourite person, they know he is the real deal," said one senior party source.

At the hustings, echoing Siptu president Jack O'Connor, Mr McCarthy said Sinn Fein and others were "occupying the soft political space of protest while never telling us where they will find the money".

The total electorate who will be entitled to vote is 3,265, comprising party members who paid their membership fees by the deadline last week.

Although an estimated 5,000 would have been entitled to vote if they paid their fees, party figures say the electorate is as they would have expected. This is because some members are not in the party long enough to be able to vote.

Another interesting dynamic of this election is that the Old Labour / Democratic Left divisions are not a factor in this race and are now consigned to earlier generations.

The final hustings debate is due to take place in south Dublin later this week.

Votes will be counted on July 4, and winners will be announced the same day.

Sunday Independent

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