Friday 23 March 2018

Party short on options as it faces into election wipe-out

Kevin Humphreys has warned that Labour should not enter into a coalition this side of the election
Kevin Humphreys has warned that Labour should not enter into a coalition this side of the election
Daniel McConnell

Daniel McConnell

On one level, the desire for some form of an election pact between the current coalition parties makes a lot of sense.

Despite some very clear policy differences and some high-profile spats, the Fine Gael/Labour coalition has been remarkably stable, given the challenges it has had to face.

Four years of austerity-laden pain have taken a significant toll on the oldest party in the State.

A change of leader did little to arrest its decline and a host of high-profile retirements has starved the party of any chance of building momentum.

Many in Labour now speak of their Fine Gael colleagues with contempt.

So Alex White's call for "some form of an accommodation" between the parties has divided opinions within Labour.

Clearly, as a senior cabinet minister and as a leadership candidate last year, Mr White represents a bloc of TDs and Senators who think, rightly, that a deal with Fine Gael now is the least-bad option.

They realise that trying to get back into power is the only realistic way the party can remain as a leading force in the next Dáil.

Based on their current poll ratings, some pundits have suggested Labour could come back with fewer than a dozen seats, which would put them behind Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and even a technical group of Independents.

Were it to suffer such a wipe-out and not form part of the next government, there is a very real chance that Labour would not enjoy automatic speaking rights in the Dáil.

Others, like junior minister Kevin Humphreys, argue that the party should not consider any pact of any sort this side of an election.

They argue that such a deal would only dilute the Labour brand even further.

But the truth is Labour is low on morale and popular support and is running short of options. A deal with Fine Gael may be its only hope.

Irish Independent

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