Eamon Gilmore ousting ‘wasn’t all for nothing’, says Alex White

Minister Alex White insists that there ‘was no plot’ to oust Eamon Gilmore

Minister for Communications Alex White:  said it is unrealistic for Labour to expect to repeat its 2011 general election success.  Photograph: Alan Betson

Minister for Communications Alex White: said it is unrealistic for Labour to expect to repeat its 2011 general election success. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Minister for Communications and former Labour leadership contender Alex White has said replacing Eamon Gilmore as party leader “wasn’t all for nothing” despite continuing poor poll figures.

Mr White was beaten by Joan Burton in the contest for the Labour leadership last July, and was one of a group of TDs prepared to back a motion of no confidence in Mr Gilmore, although he insists he was not part of any plot.

The most recent Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI opinion poll puts Labour on 6 per cent, lower than its local election performance of 7.2 per cent of first-preference votes.

“No, I don’t think it was all for nothing,” Mr White said when asked if changing leader had made no difference for Labour.

“We had a terrible local elections, we haven’t recovered from that. We have a new leader and it is completely unproductive to now talk about what would have happened or what might have happened. Eamon decided to resign the leadership.”

Mr White also insisted there “was no plot” to oust Mr Gilmore, but said the “unvarnished truth” was he was prepared to support a motion of no confidence from a number of backbenchers at a meeting of the parliamentary party.

Mr Gilmore resigned before the motion was tabled.

Dignified exit

The Dublin South TD was beaten by Ms Burton in the leadership contest by 77 per cent to 23 per cent, and he says he knew early in the five-week contest she would win easily.

“I think Joan Burton had this won within a few days of announcing she was going to run. She is deeply popular in the party. I have deep roots in the Labour Party but not as strong as hers.

“When people I know quite well told me they thought I would be a great leader someday but they were voting for Joan, it became pretty clear.”

However, he insists the campaign he ran and the motion of no confidence in Mr Gilmore have not damaged his own future prospects for leadership.

Mr White said the leadership contest was too long, and suggested a reformed process should be introduced.

Labour leadership elections are operated on a one-member, one-vote system, and numerous regional debates were held between Ms Burton and Mr White, as well between the deputy leadership candidates.

“I can see why, historically, political parties decided these issues quickly.

“Politicians, particularly experienced politicians, they decide these things pretty quickly, not just TDs and Senators but people in the party who have been around and know how things work and need to work. It’s nothing personal. How do you facilitate debate within the party, which is what we wanted?

Party service

“The decision was made by a lot of people early on in the process, yet it continued on for three or four weeks.”

While Mr White said it is unrealistic for Labour to expect to repeat its 2011 general election success when it won 37 seats with 19.5 per cent first-preferences, “as matters look now” 10 to 12 per cent would be a good result in the election, and the party should “aspire” to winning more than 15 Dáil seats.