Labour to take flak for austerity while Fine Gael aims for overall majority
Opinion: It is an iron rule that the smaller party always loses out in a coalition
Eamon Gilmore: even a reshuffle of minister is unlikely to have much beneficial effect for Labour.
There are days when we are reminded that Martyn Turner is one of the best political analysts in the country. Wednesday was one of those days.
His cartoon depicted Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore feeding the Seanad to salivating wolves chasing a chauffeur-driven car called “politics” in which the Taoiseach and Tánaiste were the VIP passengers. The cartoon captured a sense many have had that the Government is seeking to sate public anger and frustration at politics generally, and the Government in particular, by feeding fellow politicians in the Seanad to the unhappy voters.
Turner puts Kenny and Gilmore together in the car happily involved in this joint enterprise. The reality, however, may be more nuanced.
The Labour Party has been only half-hearted in its Seanad abolition campaign. Many of its members have ignored the Yes effort from party headquarters or simply gone through the motions, while some Labour parliamentarians have campaigned openly with those of us on the No side. Seanad abolition has been almost exclusively a Fine Gael project, with support, once it went to referendum, from Sinn Féin.
The other reality is that the Labour Party is already at risk of being thrown to the same wolves. The referendum, and the nature of the Fine Gael campaign, plays to a grand Fine Gael strategy to secure the elusive second consecutive term with or without Labour.
Risks for Labour
If, as seems likely at the time of writing, Fine Gael succeeds in the referendum to abolish the Seanad then many Labour TDs may find themselves next in line to suffer the same fate as the ravaged Senators.
The risks for Labour were emphasised by the findings of this week’s Irish Times Ipsos/MRBI poll. The party’s support is now measured at just 6 per cent, less than a third of what it achieved in the 2011 general election and its lowest poll figure for more than 25 years.
This is just one opinion poll; Labour is actually a few points higher in other recent polls by Red C and Behaviour and Attitudes. However, it points to a substantial risk that Labour could be decimated at the next general election, squeezed between a dominant Fine Gael, mildly resurgent Fianna Fáil and a growing Sinn Féin. As the political geographer Adrian Kavanagh pointed out this week, if Labour support at the next election were to fall below 10 per cent then only Willie Penrose in Longford-Westmeath, Seán Sherlock in Cork East and perhaps Joan Burton in Dublin West could be viewed as having safe seats.
It is just six months since the Labour Party took a serious wobble in the wake of the Meath byelection when it polled 4.5 per cent, compared to the 21 per cent it achieved there in the 2011 general election.