Labour's volatility has reached level of serious threat to Coalition's future
Keaveney, if he stays as chairman, will continue to preside over meetings of the Labour Party’s executive council.
He will also chair meetings of the central council and will, of course, chair the party’s next conference. The next Labour Party conference was scheduled for April but has been postponed to the autumn because of the Irish presidency of the European Union.
Some argue that Keaveney’s actions were motivated by his precarious constituency position. He holds what is perhaps the most marginal Labour seat. He polled less than a third of a quota on the first count in Galway East, then a four-seater, in February 2011.
His running mate, Lorraine Higgins, a favourite of party HQ who has since been nominated to Seanad Éireann, polled another third of a quota and Keaveney was elected to the last seat when she was eliminated. Since then, Galway East has been reduced to a three-seater and a large chunk of Keaveney’s base has been redrawn into Roscommon. The additional profile from his dissent this week may assist him locally, but it’s not clear that it will necessarily ensure his survival.
Instead of containing the impact of Keaveney’s resignation, Eamon Gilmore and his Ministers have made it worse. The best approach is to express regret at the loss of a fine colleague but tactfully beg to differ with him on his policy stance.
Instead, yesterday, Labour deployed its biggest media beast, Pat Rabbitte, to deliver a vicious volley at Keaveney and the other Labour malcontents. On Morning Ireland, Rabbitte characterised the dissidents as selfish and politically narcissistic and (in a remark clearly directed at Róisín Shortall) accused them of spouting calculated venom. He suggested they were all behaving like attention-seeking ballet dancers.
Rabbitte’s outburst may have been provoked by the earlier contribution of former general secretary Ray Kavanagh to the same programme. He said he hoped Keaveney would stay in the party and use his influence to change aspects of Labour Party government. It is clear some old Labour scores are being settled in public.
Later the same day, party whip Emmet Stagg, a man who knows of old how the position of party chairman can be used to undermine a Labour leader, described Keaveney’s continuation as untenable. Meanwhile, Nessa Childers MEP and Senator John White continue to make dissident noises off stage.
On current poll figures Labour will lose at least half of its seats in the next election. If they keep these shenanigans up for much longer their losses will be greater, and that election will come sooner.