Alan Kelly gives Brendan Howlin less than 6 months to improve Labour

‘We need to see a dramatic change in how our support base is responding to us’

Alan Kelly  said his party leader Brendan Howlin has  his support but  there has to be “a dramatic change in how our support base is responding to us”. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Alan Kelly said his party leader Brendan Howlin has his support but there has to be “a dramatic change in how our support base is responding to us”. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Labour TD Alan Kelly has given his leader Brendan Howlin less than six months to improve the party’s fortunes, as he warned that “dramatic change” is needed.

It will be seen as Mr Kelly, who attempted to stand for the party leadership against Mr Howlin after the last election, putting the Wexford TD on notice that he will face a leadership challenge within months.

He was speaking to journalist Sarah McInerney on TV3’s The Sunday Show.

“Brendan Howlin has my support, however, however - let me say this very clearly - we need to see a dramatic change in how our support base is responding to us,” the Tipperary deputy said.

The most recent Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll, taken last month, put Labour on 4 per cent and gave Mr Howlin a 20 per cent approval rating, the lowest of any party leader.

“We also need to see changes across a whole range of other issues,” Mr Kelly said. “We are now two years from the past general election. We have loads of brilliant councillors and candidates out there. We need to see a dramatic change in the coming months for the support base of the Labour Party.”

When asked by Ms McInerney if he would give Mr Howlin six months to improve the party’s standing, he replied: “I would say less than that.”

When asked by the Irish Times if he was giving Mr Howlin less than six months to improve, Mr Kelly said to look again at his interview but declined to comment further. Mr Howlin also declined to comment.

It is understood that, in order to remove a sitting Labour leader, a motion of no confidence has to be passed by a two thirds majority at the party’s central council.

The central council is around 60 people strong and comprises representatives from across the party, such as the parliamentary party, Labour Women and Labour Youth.

A number of sources, who would not be in favour of Mr Kelly leading the party, sought to suggest that he is acting now because a stronger rival will emerge if Ged Nash and Aodhán O’Ríordáin, currently in the Seanad, make it back to the Dáil after the next election. The Labour Party leader must be a TD.

Mr Kelly sought to run for the leadership of Labour when Joan Burton stood down after the last election, which saw Labour return with only seven seats, down from its haul of 37 seats at the 2011 general election, although a number of TDs left the party in the intervening period.

He failed to secure a second signature for his candidacy among the ranks of the parliamentary party, and Mr Howlin was the only candidate.

The party rules at the time said aspiring candidates needed a proposer and seconder in the parliamentary party to go before the party membership in the leadership election.

The rules have since changed, and as well as securing a nomination from within the parliamentary party a candidate can be nominated by five constituency councils, where “those councils represent at least 10 per cent of the total valid membership of the Labour Party”.

A spokesman for the Labour party said: “Since his election as party leader, Brendan Howlin has repeatedly made clear that everyone in the Labour party needs to focus on pulling in the same direction, and that if we do so, we can and will make gains again whenever the next election comes.”