Burton unaware of any Labour analysis on potential 20-seat loss
Tánaiste says many will not decide voting intention ‘until very much closer to election’
Joan Burton (above left) said: “In terms of the practical issues that face people, we have to have a government that can function properly and effectively and efficiently - and really the only people on offer to do that are the Labour Party and Fine Gael.” File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Tánaiste and Labour Party leader Joan Burton has said she is not aware of any internal party analysis which shows the party could lose over 20 seats at the next general election, as the most recent opinion poll showed the party on just 7 per cent support.
At the weekend, The Irish Times and other publications reported that senior Labour Party figures have warned a recent party analysis suggested the party could return with between 10 and 16 TDs at the next general election, compared to the 37 seats it won in 2011.
Questioned about the analysis, which was compiled by Labour Party strategists and based on constituency polls across the country, Ms Burton said she was not aware of any such analysis or report by the Labour Party.
‘Never seen such analysis’
“I see it referenced in the paper but I have never seen such an analysis. There is a lot of discussion, there is a lot of speculation. Everybody does, in relation to every constituency, all the time, [review] strengths, weaknesses and so on. But certainly that particular commentary was news to me.
“We have been carrying out an amount of polling around the country. In fact, the outcome of that polling has been quite positive. But I would still like to see improvements on it. We carried in out in various constituencies and it is rather at variance with some of the material in that [report].”
Speaking in Cork where she addressed the Labour Youth Annual Conference, Ms Burton acknowledged Sunday’s Sunday Business Post Red C opinion poll had Labour unchanged on 7 per cent, but she believed many electors have yet to decide on how to vote.
“I think the last couple of opinion polls really haven’t moved very much. They are all within margins of error. My own view is that a lot of people will not reach a conclusion about their voting intention until very much closer to the election.
“I think the polls will continue to be as they have been, plus or minus two or three per cent, with a fair degree of static. I think that may continue this time right up until we are very close to the election - I don’ think people have as yet focussed the way they normally do before an election.”
Confident on support
Ms Burton said she was confident that when various measures - introduced in the budget such as reducing the burden of USC on low and middle income earners - start to take effect in January, the Labour Party will start to see its support levels rise.
“People on long-term social welfare, particularly pensioners, will receive the Christmas bonus. On January 1 people in work will see reductions in USC which will be significant for low and middle income workers. It won’t be huge but it will be significant,” she said.
“I do hope that the Labour Party will see some of the benefits of the budget package which we put before the people ... I just don’t think that level of discussion and decision-making has happened yet with voters. I don’t think it will happen for a little while longer.”
Ms Burton said Labour was determined to go into the general election offering a clear programme of government for people which will improve their lives in terms of services through vital investment in areas like health, education and social welfare.
“I certainly want to see a [poll] improvement as early as possible. But, going around the country, I see quite a change in approach to Labour from people. It is the Labour Party’s job to change that change of approach into commitments.”
‘Suffered a lot’
Ms Burton acknowledged that “people have suffered a lot”, but they have not yet clarified what they want in terms of the next government.
“At the end of the day, that’s what the election is really about. How can we get the economy to such a state that people’s lives around the country benefit?”
She had noted both Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin had refused to go into government with anyone unless “all of them are top dog”, which she said was not possible, so the only viable government, she believed, was the existing coalition.
“In terms of the practical issues that face people, we have to have a government that can function properly and effectively and efficiently - and really the only people on offer to do that are the Labour Party and Fine Gael. ”