A New Party? …. probably not …. October 31, 2012Posted by irishelectionliterature in Irish Politics.
I’m currently reading ‘Radical or Redundant? Minor Parties in Irish Politics’ which is so far anyway an excellent read. One of the things covered is why the much vaunted new party failed to emerge prior to the 2011 General Election. (New Vision, Fís Nua, CPPC, DDI and of course the ULA and some others did emerge and since then others such as Sli Nios Fearr and Tús Nua emerged).
The book notes that…
An opinion poll in the Sunday Independent in June 2010 detected a desire for a new mould-breaker, with the majority of voters feeling a new political party was needed.
A new political movement ‘Democracy Now’,was resultantly established to tap into this sentiment. Its intention was to run a list of high profile non-political candidates, including…Eamon Dunphy…Fintan O’Toole and economist David McWilliams. With as much as €400,000 pledged to the group in one day and a significant number of voluntary staff and even free campaign offices provided, it seemed as if the new group’s aim of twenty seats in the new Dail might not be unrealistic. In the end , however, the aspirations of this movement came to naught, as it decided not to contest the election in the absence of one resource it could not acquire: time.
So even with all that, they didn’t fight the election. Now some may say it wasn’t time but that some of the high profile individuals got cold feet about running. Time though was needed to launch the party, public meetings countrywide, establish a HQ, establish countrywide, get (and vet) potential candidates, get an electoral strategy together and all the other things that go along with running for election.
Despite Fianna Fail and The Greens electoral hammering… Twenty months on from that election there is a significant portion of the electorate disillusioned with the government (mainly Labour) and politics in general. The undecideds in the recent Irish Times MRBI Poll was 33% and in the latest RedC poll for the Sunday Business Post it was 22%. That Business Post poll also told us the ‘softness’ of the Labour and to a far lesser degree the Fine Gael support.
Despite the failure of a ‘mould-breaking’ party to start we still get the odd piece about Michael McDowell, Declan Ganley or the like being ready to spearhead a new party. If the papers get what they want it would be a PDs mark 2.
There probably is room on the right for a niche scrap Croke Park, cut welfare , cut allowances etc or to borrow a phrase ‘Corrective Action’. I presume too that there would be an appetite for burning bondholders here also. However I’d imagine the appeal would be limited unless it had an O’Malley type as leader or at least someone who was well respected.
There is a gap to the Left of Labour also, indeed probably a bigger gap than that of the right. Or as EamonnCork recently put it
What there is a lack of is a new social democratic/socialist party to represent the public servants who are going to get the lash from Croke Park 2, the opponents of the household and water taxes and the victims of austerity. The ULA was never going to be that kind of party because of the parties involved, they have no interest in being mass parties and I say that without prejudice because I have time for both the SP and SWP. But with Labour committed to implementing austerity and SF showing worrying FF type tendencies in the Quinn affair, it strikes me that the space is to the left of centre rather than to the right of centre. If you want something even more right wing than the current dispensation all you have to do is wait for Labour to disappear and FG to govern on its own.
The funny thing is that a part of this group is one that the Greens may have appealed to had they not gone into government and subsequent meltdown.
So Where would this new party come from? disaffected Labour TDs ? a number of the ‘Left’ Independents joining up? or a party emerging from the CAHWT and other campaigns?
Of the four Labour TDs that have jumped ship , whilst they no longer sit on the Labour benches in the Dail and have voted with the opposition against various cuts, none of them have left the party. Groups like The Campaign for Labour Policies and other initiatives indicate that there is an effort to change the direction of the party from within rather than a new formation being founded. Its possible that we may see a leadership challenge within the party if the poll numbers continue to decline. …… were it to succeed then what?
A radical change of direction or a stand on a few issues like cuts to home helps or whatever the cause célèbre of the day is?
If a leadership challenge is unsuccessful then we may have a few more losing the party whip but resignations from the party…. and enough to spearhead a new Left party?
So to a new party with some Left Independents in it. One of the many points from the book was the huge disadvantage a new party would have would be the State funding of the political system.
This manifests itself in various ways.
- Why would (for instance) Left Independents Catherine Murphy or John Halligan jettison their €41,000 leaders allowance to join a new party? Especially when it would probably lead to the loss of some of their constituency staff.
- The changes in the rules regarding political donations makes it very difficult for a new party (especially a Left of centre one) to assemble a war chest to organise and fight elections.
- The current model of Political funding is based on previous election performance, so a new party is at an immediate disadvantage to existing parties. The bigger the number of seats won the bigger slice of the political funding pie the existing parties get, whilst the new party gets nothing.
Now could ‘opponents of the household and water taxes and the victims of austerity’ found a new party? possibly but it would more likely be An Anti Austerity Alliance rather than an actual party. Even then what policies would be in common, what agreement would candidates sign (Like The Statement agreed at the foundation of the United Left Alliance) to stand for the new Alliance? The problem too is that its highly unusual for a party without a high profile leader or without electorally experienced candidates to make any kind of breakthrough.
The Local Elections are due in May 2014, so we’ll find out if there’s going to be a new party soon enough.