Sunday 20 October 2019

Labour stuck in the middle between Green abyss or Fine Gael takeover

John Drennan

The classic Muppet Show song by Kermit the frog about how it is never "easy being Green" was frequently used to reference the eternally fraught state of John Gormley's Green Party.

Sadly, these days it's even harder being red than green.

Or in the case of Labour, a soft shade of salmon mousse pink might be more appropriate.

Still, it was supposed to be different in Killarney.

For two years the Labour Party has been battling to turn the tide fearing it, like the Green Party, was heading for an electoral meltdown.

It had been hoped Saint Joan of Arc would change all that.

The problem, however, was that any bounce Labour gained from the departure of Mr Gilmore was of the dead cat variety.

In fairness, Labour's new Queenie didn't disappoint.

The patented Burton style of quiet steeliness was on full display as she rounded on the Opposition. Hard words spoken softly.

Burton, as usual, took particular pleasure inspecting the frailties of Sinn Fein and its leading personnel.

She made the sharp observation that: ''by profession, I'm a chartered accountant. Unlike Gerry Adams, I'm good at maths. I knew the bank guarantee was a bust. And I shouted as much from the rooftops.''

By contrast, the Coalition had, in three years, bid the troika goodbye, exited the bailout, shut down Anglo, tore up the toxic promissory note and restored Ireland's credit rating.

As Joan draped the party in the good news of another 80,000 low-paid workers removed from the Universal Social Charge, one message was clear.

In different, livelier times Labour would tear itself apart over whether the party should or would go into coalition with Fine Gael.

These days, Labour is eyeing the prospects of a second term with its current partners and what that will mean for the party's fortunes long term.

It remains to be seen as to whether the fates will be kind but Labour is getting a little wilier.

Those who fretted that the conference would be dominated by gay marriage and abortion had no need to worry.

In Killarney, the Labour mums made sure the great abortion set-piece was moved to the political attic of Friday evening.

Labour did not want the dance of the seven thinly veiled tax cuts being compromised.

John Drennan's Guide to Politics - Spring 2015

The next election will change your life. In a special supplement with the Sunday Independent, John Drennan presents his guide to Irish politics.

Still, all the delegates recognised that while they are not among the walking dead, they remain in a very tight spot.

In the case of Labour, they are 'stuck in the middle'.

On the left they are battling with the faux Syriza of Sinn Fein and the triple As of the anti-austerity non-alliance.

The less than fantastic Invisibles of Fianna Fail are not a problem but Labour's Fine Gael 'friends' are a bristling political porcupine barring any further progress into the centre.

This means that, ironically, the party that wants so desperately to represent the working poor increasingly resembles that self-same class.

Like the squeezed middle, Labour is effectively in the sort of political default where the scale of the voter support it possesses cannot sustain the number of seats it possesses.

All it can hope for is that a bit of modest political prosperity can enable the party to trade down from the present mansion to a more modest bungalow next time around. But what will that mean for Labour long term?

Sunday Independent

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