No chance of going over edge as all is rosy at Labour lockdown

Mon, Apr 16, 2012, 01:00

CONFERENCE SKETCH:PINTS AND endurance medals all round! The Righteous Left has clocked up 100 years and the comrades celebrated on Saturday with a blowsy new rose and a small riot.

And with the anniversary of the workers’ lockout only around the corner, they cleverly marked this by having a lockdown.

Not everyone was happy about being incarcerated at their own conference, although the wannabe anarchists who managed to breach a fairly useless Garda cordon to get within shouting distance of the brethren were utterly delighted with themselves, before they all went off to have their tea.

It was comical to see them hugging each other when they realised they had somehow made it to the front door. Sinn Féin will have been delighted to see one of their flags flying from the middle of the rabble.

And full marks to Labour for topicality. “At this moment, one hundred years ago, the Titanic was only hours from its doom,” quivered Eamon Gilmore, injecting a bit of levity into his keynote speech.

There wasn’t much the faithful could say to that, so they listened in pensive silence as their leader worked up to a passionate finish.

In further homage to the ill-fated leviathan, the platform was stuffed to the gunnels with elected representatives. Eamon’s Bright Star Line.

It was quite a show of strength.

This was to demonstrate that the Tánaiste has achieved his pre-election ambition that “Labour would no longer be a half party”. Whatever that means.

“There is no doubt,” he added in the self-congratulatory video that is now a compulsory part of keynote night at every conference, “that the best election campaign of 2011 was run by the Labour Party”. That line was even funnier than the one about the Titanic.

And delegates were in need of cheering up after David Begg’s knockabout opener. The Ictu union president appeared under the impression he was delivering a hose-down and not a warm-up.

The unions are great supporters of the Labour Party. In a way, inviting Mr Begg to fill their undercard would be akin to Fine Gael asking Denis O’Brien to do a turn before Enda’s address. (Denis has been known to throw a few bob in FG’s direction.)

The Taoiseach, of course, has waxed lyrical over his five-point plan. Not to be outdone, the Tánaiste went all out with his six-plank programme, incorporating the Three Rs of Repair, Recovery and Reform.

He spoke in front of a living backdrop – row upon row of TDs, Senators and councillors. Sadly, from our vantage in the hall, the party leader’s head partially obscured the new rose logo with its proud “100 Years” tag.

All we could see was the word “ears” in big letters, which was a mite unsettling.

On a happier note, Eamon says Labour “believes no boundary should be set to a child’s imagination”. To this end, Ruairí Quinn will be working with Pat Rabbitte. That will be a lot for the little ones to chew on.

Recovery, by the way, walks hand in hand with reform. However, they won’t be walking over any cliffs, because the Tánaiste has made sure of it. He has been talking for months now about how he has prevented us all from toppling over the edge.

He was at it again, regaling us about how he saved the economy from a catastrophic plunge.

“You never get far, if you walk backwards,” he remarked. Indeed. You’d probably fall off that cliff. Unlike the Tánaiste, who will be pushed over it soon if he doesn’t find a new metaphor to wear out.

Meanwhile, in a remarkable show of restraint, Eamon got through his entire script without reference to the former deputy for Galway West. However, delegates made up for this during the rest of the weekend, with regular pauses for genuflection before their Blessed Michael of D, now ascended to presidential heaven in the Phoenix Park.

Their party leader’s speech – in terms of content and delivery – was streets ahead of the one delivered by Enda Kenny at his recent ardfheis. Yet Enda remains far more popular with the public.

But the Tánaiste was careful to praise the Taoiseach and their good working relationship. Perhaps Enda will give him some relaxation tips in return.

At the end of the two days, the comrades gave voice to their traditional rendition of I’m Walking Backwards for Christmas. Sorry. It was The Red Flag. They still take it out on historic occasions.