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Labour in Government 1982 to 1987 and that latest poll April 19, 2012

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Irish Politics.

Was looking at some old election and polling books trying to see if there were patterns in drops in Labour support after they had had spells in Government. Although no time compares to the present, the period in Government from 1982 to 1987 was pretty harsh.
In November 1982 Labour had won 16 seats with 9.4% of the vote. In 1987 it won 12 seats with 6.4% of the vote. Famously in 1987 their leader Dick Spring held on to his seat by a mere 4 votes. There were plenty of other Labour candidates too that scraped over the line.
Whilst the 6.4% looks dreadful in todays terms, it could have been a lot worse. An MRBI poll in The Irish Times a year earlier had put the party on 4% nationally. In the 1985 Local Elections they had been obliterated in Dublin ending up with just two Councillors on Dublin Corporation (They won 11 seats in 1979) and losing a host of seats Nationwide on  County Councils (It did gain seats in some areas).In the 1984 European Elections it had lost all four of its seats too.
The long and the short of it is that being in government at a ‘tough time’ cost Labour support.
A year in the latest poll shows Labour are down to 13% and thats with a huge number of people who haven’t paid the Household Charge, a property tax, water charges and lots more cuts to be introduced too.
That latest poll in the Irish Times
Fine Gael, 33 per cent (down three points);
Sinn Féin, 21 per cent (up six points);
Labour, 13 per cent (down six points);
Fianna Fáil, 14 per cent (down one point);
Green Party, 2 per cent (up one point);
Independents/ Others, 17 per cent (up three points).

Briefly looking ahead they face a really big test in the 2014 Local Elections. In 2009 they got 15% of the vote winning 132 seats. Its already likely that they’ll perform well below that and its hard to see them topping that 15% in the next few years.
Not alone that but they have the bones of 30 former councillors that are now Oireachtas members, so that’s 30 council seats with 30 co-opted councillors.
Then at the next General Election, they will be fighting with a lot of first time TDs. O their current TDs (excluding the 3 without the Party Whip) 19 are first time TDs. Your first election after winning a seat is statistically when you are most likely to lose your seat.

Back to that poll and Sinn Fein must be delighted.
The 2009 Local Elections were poor for Sinn Fein and made worse by the subsequent desertion of a number of their councillors. Its all changed now and the Local Elections will provide Sinn Fein with a great chance of winning a seat on every council in the Country, making them an even bigger threat at the next General Election. I’ll expand in detail on their chances and prospective targets at a later date.

Fine Gael drop 3%, no surprise given the fiasco over the Water charges. In fact I thought they may have dropped even more.
Fianna Fail at 14%, down again. If they can’t make hay from the Household Charge and Water Charges fiasco when can they?

Why do they continue to mention the Greens and yet we still get the ULA lumped in with Independents/ Others. The Left may be that 3% gain but we honestly don’t know.

So not much of a post Conference bounce for Labour.


1. Julian Assandwich - April 20, 2012

Do Ipsos.MRBI release a PDF with more detail like Red C?


2. dmfod - April 20, 2012

There’s no analysis on their website but their managing director, Damian Loscher, has a surprisingly honest assessment of the situation in the Irish Times today http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2012/0420/1224314969462.html

He acknowledges “questions being raised now about the probability of austerity being effective, based on the outcomes of previous austerity programmes elsewhere and the evidence emerging from the European austerity programme countries” and admits that ‘The left has seen huge gains in recent years as the impact of spending cuts and higher taxes has been felt on working, low-to middle-income families’

It’s also one of the first articles I’ve seen in the mainstream media (not written by someone involved the household tax campaign) that attributes mass non-payment to opposition to austerity, rather than the preferred depoliticised explanation of government mismanagement: “it seems that the recent household charge adventure has opened a new chapter in our relationship with austerity. The reluctance of households to register was a quiet protest, but a protest nonetheless. For the first time we were asked if we wanted austerity instead of being told we needed it.”

The rest of the Irish Times’ coverage is as shit as usual and it’s striking how much Loscher’s article stands out simply by stating the blindingly obvious.


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