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Labour times July 21, 2021

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Anyone read the Phoenix this fortnight and its thoughts on the Dublin Bay South by-election? In a rather cynical piece it argues that:

The more traditional Labourites will have noticed that the Irish Times poll in DBS showed Bacik polling significantly better in the ABC social class than in the more working-class sectors of the electorate. That’s fine in DBS but it won’t do in Tallaght, Ballymun and elsewhere. Some party members argue that Labour should recognise it has lost the ‘blue collar’ vote to Sinn Féin and that it should keep its focus on liberal social issues like ‘Repeal the Eighth’. Bacik’s election has ensured that this argument will intensify.

Interesting point. It’s not simply a case, so, of how many constituencies does Labour have candidates like Bacik available in, but how many constituencies in Dublin, in particular, that candidates like Bacik will succeed. That’s a crucial distinction for that party – even accepting that currently its fortunes, even allowing for media hype, appear a little more rosy than they did a year ago. Then again I’ve always been sceptical about the idea that Labour was finished. It has a social base – in a political system where it is clear a lot of parties have a social base. The problem is that there’s no clear room for expansion for a party like Labour, or indeed the SDs, or indeed the Green Party as well (though perhaps that functions differently for them due to different dynamics). Or perhaps another way of putting it is that the LP can knock along, as can those other parties on something between 6 and 12 TDs – probably indefinitely, but regaining their old operating level is a radically larger challenge. 

As it happens the Phoenix casts a sceptical eye on idea of Bacik becoming deputy to the current leader – floated in the Sunday Times. But there’s a rough logic to it if the LP is determined to try to prise away socially liberal voters. But prise them from who? Sinn Féin? Hardly. Fine Gael? Well to an extent, but that weakens their usual coalition partner. The SDs et al? Likely yes, but these are slim enough pickings and it’s not as if the SDs don’t have a profile in that area all their own. 

And one other thought. The social liberal agenda has largely been achieved – what is left is not inconsiderable but it tends to be more along the lines of mopping up operations (assuming that no one is arguing, though some of us might think it not the worst idea in the world, a frontal assault on misogyny – though I have an instinct that that blended with outright class politics might deliver us to a better place in terms of that somewhat faster). Is social liberalism going to be the motor of political change into the future? That seems somewhat implausible. So taking that into account that leads back to – well, bread and butter politics, doesn’t it?

Comments»

1. sonofstan - July 21, 2021

The rather depressing thought occurs that at least the ILP is wedded to social liberalism whereas the BLP’s quest for the mythical white swing voter might lead one to doubt a similar level of commitment.

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WorldbyStorm - July 21, 2021

That’s true. I think knowing a fair few people in the LP that they genuinely regard themselves as trying to combine social and economic politics. The blend is the issue though, how much of one, how little of the other. The BLP.. well… that’s a different matter. The current leadership seems so cut adrift from reality it’s just not funny.

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sonofstan - July 21, 2021

Emerged yesterday that they – BLP – are laying off 90 staff because of budgetary problems: apparently the party is one payroll run away from insolvency. During the Corbyn years it was the biggest and richest political party in Europe.

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Wes Ferry - July 21, 2021

If Starmer’s LP isn’t driving members away from the party, he’s busy expelling them.

And . . .

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2. Francis Donohoe - July 21, 2021

It may just be my suspicious mind? But I think it’s very possible that the British security services got a little bit of fright concerning the possibility of a Corbyn led Labour government, or even opposition, and perhaps Sir Keith is actually doing a fantastic job in terms of the reasons why he was put into it.

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EWI - July 21, 2021

It may just be my suspicious mind?

It’s not your suspicious mind. We know that this sort of right-wing activity was a British intelligence staple as recently as fifty years ago, within both the UK and the Commonwealth.

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sonofstan - July 21, 2021

Just got a leaflet through the door from the local Labour party soliticiting donations for a food bank. Not a word on it about the obscenity of people depending on food banks in one the world’s richest countries. Doing the Tories work for them.

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EWI - July 21, 2021

Just got a leaflet through the door from the local Labour party soliticiting donations for a food bank.

Remembering just what Burton did to encourage the need for food banks back when she was minister, I would throw their leaflets back at them.

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EWI - July 21, 2021

Just realised that you meant the BLP, my apologies. But what an embarrassment of a party (the British one).

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3. Wes Ferry - July 21, 2021

If Labour manage to capitalise the ‘Bacik bounce’ in the hope it might give them a lifeline to become the Establishment’s acceptable bulwark to the rise of SF, and if it pays dividends (some big ‘ifs’, I know), then surely the Social Democrats need to sharpen up and shape up to the Bacik challenge or face dribbling down the plughole of history.

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EWI - July 21, 2021

then surely the Social Democrats need to sharpen up and shape up to the Bacik challenge or face dribbling down the plughole of history.

Unless they have a Bacik to run in every constituency, and are about to restrict the vote to Trinity graduates/Irish Times readers, then I don’t think there’s much to be worried about.

At most the Labour Bounce(tm) is an excuse to keep SF out of media debates against the Govt.

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4. Wes Ferry - July 21, 2021

Not every constituency would welcome a Bacik candidate 😱, so I similarly don’t fear a Labour tide across the state.

I was thinking more about the Irish Times/Indo/RTÉ alliance bigging up Labour to frame the political landscape now there are renewed if slight signs of life, and also the Social Democrats’ response.

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Fergal - July 21, 2021

It the establishment wish to ‘big up’ the Irish Labour Party their first mission should be the end of the SDs…

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5. Mat - July 22, 2021

I’m aware of the way STV works in Ireland and of the history of the SDs, Labour, and Greens but also agree that the pool of socially liberal, vaguely centre left in theory voters is limited – is there potential for a reorganisation that brings most of the voters of SD/Labour or SD/Labour/Greens together with a single party? Or does it not matter?

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WorldbyStorm - July 22, 2021

That’s a key question. It’s difficult to be absolute but… On paper yes, in practice I don’t think so. There are overlaps, particularly with relation to the SDs and the LP, the GP has a slightly different base – even if some in it are left wing the area it encompasses goes a bit beyond that (even into independent territory). But the antipathy between the parties, at least the SDs and LP is a factor, the sense that being subsumed is something no-one would want, and trying to forge a new entity is something some would be very leery of. That said I wonder about members, and there’s a sense maybe that the SDs and some GP people up to and including reps would be of similar minds. Don’t know about contacts though.
In a way a problem is that they all get a reasonable share of the vote and are all of a similar enough size (likely the GP will fall from its current standing back to LP/SD size) at least in polls and that’s a factor too. In other words each can make a case that they can survive individually on what support they get so… why enter a new organisation when perhaps the calculation is they can wait it out and see if others falter.

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sonofstan - July 22, 2021

I think Labour can build back to where they were most of the time apart from the Spring/ Gilmore spikes. SDs? Either a breakthrough next election, or else curtains and eventual subsumption into Labour. Green vote is the squishiest of all. Anwhere from 0- 20 is possible 🙂
INteresting if either Labour or Greens become the third biggest party, pushing FF into 4th…

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WorldbyStorm - July 22, 2021

Squishy is a great way of putting it. That’s it exactly. They’ve no class base as such, just votes that are loaned out and that, as you say, could leave them 0% (well, maybe 2%) and 20%.

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6. crocodileshoes - July 22, 2021

If public sector workers were offered a centre-left party that was 100% behind them, and would not coalesce with FG, FF or SF, I think there’s a gap in the market there. That constituency has moved away from Labour because of austerity and won’t go back as long as Labour is seen as the natural party of coalition with the centre-right. I wonder is there any research on how public sector workers and their (our) families voted in the last GE?

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Wes Ferry - July 22, 2021

Even if there is a gap in the market, it’s a pretty crowded market as it stands. For better or worse, SF now looks like a credible alternative to FF/FG/Greens.

I don’t know where any new party would come from, how it would happen in practice, how long to establish itself and become credible.

And it would need a competent or charismatic leader with a decent platform to capture the public imagination or it would struggle like Labour or the SDs.

Any of ‘the usual suspects’ presenting themselves as a new party would be unlikely to affect the balance of power IMHO.

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EWI - July 22, 2021

I don’t know where any new party would come from, how it would happen in practice, how long to establish itself and become credible.

A starting point would be freeing the big trade unions from the grip of Labour Party members.

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Alibaba - July 23, 2021

Fair enough. That makes sense if the new entity would be gifted by trade union money and practical backing and become free to advocate and campaign for its own policies, pegged only to the commitment to never, repeat never, enter into a coalition with FF or FG.

In the interim I don’t support trade union disaffiliation from the Labour Party when the money has nowhere else to go, apart from into the bureaucratic arsenal, which would do the trade union head honchos nicely.

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7. John O Brien - July 22, 2021

The Phenoix has an anti Labour agenda. Labour Youth will have Jeremy Corbyn as a guest speaker at its Tom Johnson summer school. The election was about hosing etc. With the decline in the middle class a social liberal agenda will not help Labour. It was a positive united campaign based on traditional democratic socialist values.

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EWI - July 22, 2021

The Phenoix has an anti Labour agenda.

The Phoenix does not have an ‘anti-Labour agenda’, any more that it targets other groups. I am certain that Paddy Prendergast would welcome a left-leaning correspondent with an insight into leftist politics and trade union officials…

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roddy - July 22, 2021

Why would neo unionist Labour have a Republican supporter like Corbyn as a guest speaker?

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Wes Ferry - July 22, 2021

I think you’ll find the Phoenix slings barbs at all political parties; hardly a specifically “anti-Labour agenda”.

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