Labour pains in coalition

 

The further three-point fall in public support for the Labour Party and continued decline in its leader Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore’s standing manifested in today’s Irish Times Ipsos /MRBI poll will cause deep alarm in the party and inevitably pose sharp questions about the price it is paying for its continued participation in the Coalition Government. Traditional mid-term cliches about “the only poll that matters is the general election” or “it’ll turn round when the economy comes right in a couple of years”, will be deployed by party leaders clutching at straws. But they will sound less convincing than ever.

Only six per cent of voters say they would vote Labour (excluding undecided), the party’s worst poll showing since 1987, and less than a fifth of its poll standing as recently as the heady days of September 2010. With the party’s vote now at one third of what it received in the general election of February 2011, the vast majority of its 37 seats – 18 in Dublin – must now be in doubt, with no chance whatever of repeating its two-seat successes in Dublin constituencies, and the likelihood of losing all European Parliament representation next year now on the cards.

What is particularly striking is the extent to which, not just other parties’ backers, but its own supporters say they are disenchanted with both the party and its leader – a majority of Labour supporters say they are not satisfied (44 per cent, to 40 per cent satisfied) with Mr Gilmore’s performance. That is in stark contrast to the 80 per cent of Fine Gael supporters who belive that Taoiseach Enda Kenny is doing a good job, and Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams does almost as well. Labour’s concern, given such figures, must be that things may yet get still worse.

Fine Gael, whose supporters, unlike Labour’s, appear to have an appetite for the Government’s austerity strategy, can take comfort in the two-percentage point rise in its support and Mr Kenny’s marginal satisfaction rating rise. It still, however, leaves the party 10 points below its 36 per cent general election vote. But it is a comfortable mid-term performance .

Fianna Fail’s reviving momentum has faltered – its support level has fallen back four percentage points to 22 per cent, while Sinn Fein is up a couple of points to 23. The latter, backed by one in three voters in Connacht-Ulster and one in five in Dublin, is now the two regions’ strongest party.

But the continued volatility and ultimate unpredictability of our electoral politics was also emphasised in the survey by the rise to a poll record one in five, and one in three in Dublin, of the number of those who say they would vote for Independents or Other parties.