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Prospects for the further left… September 30, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.
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As mentioned earlier in the week, there’s a profile in the Phoenix of Paul Murphy. But as I saw that advertised on the front cover when I purchased it I realised that it would more than likely be an overview of the SP. And imagine my lack of surprise when on reading the piece it turned out to be an overview of the SP, the SWP and so on – though with a curious drive through of SF’s candidate strategy in Dublin South-West, that latter due to the somewhat tenuous linkage that Murphy will run as the SP candidate at the Dublin South-West by-election.

The Phoenix argues that since DSW is about to go up from four to five seats it’s the GE that he and the SP are looking for as they seek to retain two seats for the SP in the Dáil with the imminent retirement from that institution by Joe Higgins.

It notes that back in the early days of the ULA things were happier, at least on the surface. 2011 saw five TDs, Higgins, Daly, Boyd Barrett, Joan Collins and Seamus Healy elected broadly speaking under that banner, though in actual fact they were elected under their individual party designations i.e. SP, PBP, etc.
As we know, the ULA disintegrated in the subsequent two or so years, with consequent, and in some instances, understandable frustration and upset on the part of many involved. And since then we’ve seen some depressing examples of political manoeuvring – most notably at the European Elections where the prospects for retention of a further left seat faded when both the SP and PBP contested it. The Phoenix argues that in relation to that: ‘Smith’s real goal is a Dáil seat in Dublin South-Central in the knowledge that this is only attainable by replacing ‘Comrade’ Collins’.

The Phoenix suggests that ‘despite modest gains in the local elections, the prospects for growth for both the far-left groups is bleak, and in fact they may struggle to hold on to any of their Dáil seats’. It is true that the locals didn’t bring massive breakthroughs, but, in truth both did build on pre-existing numbers of councillors in their respective alliances – AAA and PBP. One could argue that those will provide a core of activity around which Dáil campaigns can be supported. And, as or more importantly, vice versa.

In any event the Phoenix lists the constituencies. It’s all pessimism about Dun Laoghaire, which surprised me, but it makes a very solid point – ‘two of RBB’s comrades won council seats but with only a combined total of just over half what the TD secured in 2009’ and that in addition to the fact that due to the Ceann Comhairle being returned unelected the constituency will effectively drop to a three seater. The Phoenix thinks FF and FG will take a seat each leaving the rest to FG, the LP or RBB.

Dublin Mid-West (sic), well it argues that there are only two seats up for grabs after FG and FF, with SF, LP and the SP fighting for them. I’d think the LP might be the loser here, but it is Burton so that could alter things. SF is solidly in contention. But there’s a strong legacy from Higgins and I’m unconvinced that in any event, legacy or not, Coppinger won’t take the seat on her own strengths.

Dublin South-Central is a mess. Collins should on the face of it win. But Smith’s presence throws predictions, and SF is in contention too for a second seat (the Phoenix notes that Daithí Doolan did particularly well).

The Phoenix puts forward the case that in a way only Collins and Daly seem more rather than less likely to be re-elected, and it suggests rather tenuously that it is because they slipped the ‘straitjacket’ of ‘narrowly ideological parties’. Perhaps so. Perhaps so. But it seems to me that it’s more likely that specific circumstance in constituencies is shaping this contest. RBB is unfortunate that it’s the Ceann Comhairle. Collins unlucky that her erstwhile comrades would be so provocative. It’s far too soon to write off Coppinger.

It is true that other seats around the country don’t seem to herald any great breakthrough. But while I think there will be losses from the original five I think on a good day it might just be one or two. So not quite the wipe-out of the further left that the Phoenix would seem to make out. Indeed there’s a sense that perhaps that argument is overdone. I doubt anyone at this point expects runaway electoral and/or other success any time soon, perhaps not for decades, perhaps never. But matters staying more or less the same is far from matters going into reverse.

Referencing Adrian Kavanagh’s projections, while they’re obviously broad brush stroke they seem to point to holds, if not quite gains, for many or most further left TDs in the Dáil.

Dun Laoghaire: Jennifer Cuffe FF, Sean Barrett FG, Mary Mitchell O’Connor FG, Richard Boyd Barrett PBP

Dublin South Central: Catherine Byrne FG, Eric Byrne LAB, Aengus O Snodaigh SF, Joan Collins UL

Dublin South West: John Lahart FF, Cait Keane FG, Pat Rabbitte LAB, Sean Crowe SF, Cathal King SF

Dublin West: David McGuinness FF, Leo Varadkar FG, Joan Burton LAB, Ruth Coppinger SP

Dublin Fingal: Darragh O’Brien FF, James Reilly FG, Brendan Ryan LAB, David Healy GP, Clare Daly UL

Tipperary: Michael Smith FF, Tom Hayes FG, Michael Lowry IND, Mattie McGrath IND, Seamus Healy WUAG

So, ironically, it’s more a question of much the same as 2011: UL 2, PBP 1, SP 1, and WUAG 1. All that has happened has been a repositioning within that original 5. And of course this is only one projection and only based on the current situation.

In fairness the profile is quite complimentary to Murphy, noting his hard work on the ground and in Europe over the years. But there’s a lot of questionable stuff. Is Murphy being groomed to be the public face of the SP? Does that even make sense in the context of the sort of party the SP is? Are the SP’s and the SWP’s attitude to the North really so similar? Is the latter ‘effectively abstentionist on the national question and hostile to Irish nationalism’?

I think it probably is true that SF will roll forward yet again, picking up seats here and there that were entirely unexpected, and in a way that may be deeply problematic to the further left blocking gains here and there. There’s also the point that the demise of the ULA was a profoundly demoralising experience with ramifications that are still reverberating around the left to this day. And there’s the clear problem of having similar organisations contesting much the same electoral ground, or in some instances, as noted above exactly the same electoral ground.

In a way, though, surely another way of looking at it is that the further left has planted a flag on electoral terrain, taken and is in the process of holding seats. This despite all the problems that the Phoenix has listed, and one or two it hasn’t! In other words, despite everything the further left party least likely to return a TD next time out is not the SP, but the SWP/PBP. That most or all of the other TDs elected in 2011 will be returned. There’s an outside chance of one or two more. Sure, not exactly a ringing endorsement and unlikely to alter the overall balance of power in the next Dáil or all that much outside it if economic conditions continue to strengthen, but not entirely discreditable.

Actually a much more interesting question presents itself, and that is what, if anything, can be done with these resources, that likely 5 TDs and those three groups/parties, in relation to a broader consolidation of the Irish left.

Comments»

1. Marxie - September 30, 2014

Does the Phoenix refer to ‘Dublin Mid-west’ it is of course Dublin West. But why anyone would bother discuss the fantasy which passes for political analysis in Prendiville’s SF bullshit sheet is beyond me

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WorldbyStorm - September 30, 2014

It sure does refer to DMW. But to be honest however much in error it may or may not be I think it’s well worth taking the opportunity it provides to assess both its analysis and the broader fortunes of the further left. This being a site concerned with the left and left politics. And as you’ll have noted I don’t agree with its conclusions.

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2. roddy - September 30, 2014

As for the SWP and “the national question” ,I never attended a SF organised march of signifigance from the late seventies to well into the 90s that didnt have a SWP presence complete with banner.

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3. Liberius - September 30, 2014

That pessimism about Dun Laoghaire though makes slightly less sense when you remember than the turnout dropped from 2009 to 2014; 55.52% in 2009 v. 46.19% in 2014. If you look at it in percentage terms PBPA then the drop becomes less severe with 14.93% now v. 22.81% in 2009 when RBB was on the ballot paper, that’s nearly two-thirds of the previous vote, not half. On top of that they grew their vote by 6.2% in killiney-shankill to 21.76%, when compared to that of Ballybrack in 2009. Also there is the 8.1% they clocked up in Blackrock to consider.

And this is without considering that there are modest amounts of SF votes that could be used to pad out RBB’s vote once their candidate is eliminated; and, actually, that really is the nub of this Phoenix piece, it’s an attempt to downplay RBB in the off hope they can increase the SF chances, proper cynical ‘journalism’.

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Mark P - September 30, 2014

I can still remember their attempts to portray Sinn Fein’s O’Broin as the man who would end Boyd Barrett’s chances some years ago. Then after Boyd Barrett wiped the floor with him, they tried to push the line that O’Broin got more of the real working class vote (also untrue).

The background to the piece is SF irritation at the good response Paul Murphy is getting in DSW. You’d want to see the number of posters SF have up contradicting Pearse Doherty’s radio comments about the water tax.

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WorldbyStorm - September 30, 2014

Very handy analysis Liberius. Well worth keeping in mind as we move towards the election. Which is not to say it won’t be difficult, but all constituencies are difficult, just it may be quite a lot less difficult than presented in the article.

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4. Justin Moran - October 1, 2014

I’m a bit suprrised by the confidence in the Phoenix about Collins and Daly to be honest.

If we look at the locals just gone by, PBP took two seats in Dublin South Central to Collins’ one. On first preference votes, it was 3,750 to 1,473, especially bleak when Pat Dunne has been a sitting councillor for the last three years and had the less crowded part of the LEA.

Obviously, Joan Collins has a substantial personal vote, but that’s a reasonably big gap to close, especially when the PBP have a councillor in the Crumlin-Kimmage LEA and Collins has no-one in Ballyfermot-Drimnagh.

In Fingal, neither of the Clare Daly backed candidates in Swords LEA got elected and together the two of them had less than half a quota.

I’d be very disappointed not to see Daly re-elected and again, like Collins, she has a substantial personal vote that clearly didn’t transfer to her two candidates, but I think Phoenix is being more optimistic about their chances than the figures warrant.

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