Opposition is still key to future power for beleaguered Labour

Tough calls...Labour leader Brendan Howlin.
Tough calls...Labour leader Brendan Howlin.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

You’d have to wonder where Labour finds itself just now, with local and European elections on the horizon and a General Election not too much further down the line; the party took an awful hammering in the 2016 election after a bruising five years in government and it remains to be seen if there are real signs of new life.

And yet we remember 2010; Labour was so high in the opinion polls that it led to a leadership heave against Enda Kenny in Fine Gael. Even into that autumn the party was pushing the ‘Gilmore for Taoiseach’ line.

It didn’t happen in the end. Fine Gael was the party which caught the late momentum and almost clinched an overall majority.

What prevented that from happening was a last-minute negative campaign from Labour. It parodied a Tesco ad and listed all the things that would happen if there was a Fine Gael government in by itself. They included a €50 rise in car tax, VAT increased to 23 per cent, a 3 per cent increase DIRT tax, €1 extra duty on wine and also cut of €252 in child benefit as well as a €238 annual water tax.

In the event, Labour managed to win a lot of the Fianna Fáil and Green seats that were there for easy pickings and ended up with 37 seats – a record for the party.

And so we had what really amounted to a grand coalition – two parties which between them had over 110 seats out of 166.

But a huge majority doesn’t necessarily mean stable government – not least in the midst of a national emergency which saw the State effectively run by outside forces (in this instance the Troika).

On top of that, a big majority means plenty of backbenchers and the constant grind of having no power, or no voice, or no influence always gets to some of them.

But what really killed Labour though was the Tesco ad. Over the course of the following three years, all the cuts and new charges it warned about came to pass, and some of them were in Departments run by Labour ministers.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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