The Sunday Times poll which shows Labour attracting only 11% support and coming in fifth place after independents and others should serve as a wake up call to Labour Party members.
It is well known that Labour always gets a hammering in elections after propping up Fine Gael led governments. However this poll rating is not part of this usual cycle, it is actually much worse than that.
For example, the last time Labour was in government, support levels rose in opinion polls, after the general election. For most of 1993, Labour enjoyed ratings in the early 20s, which was higher than our historic breakthrough of the Spring tide in November 1992. Typically it takes a few years for dissatisfaction with Labour performance to kick in. Such a quick collapse in support combined with the fact that Fianna Fail support is still very low, should be extremely worrying for party.
If the Labour Party was implementing key Labour policies in this government this might be an electoral price worth paying. However, with the exception of the restoration of the minimum wage, it is extremely difficult to spot Labour influence in the key decisions of this government. This government is implementing right wing neo-liberal policies not much different to those that Fianna Fáil implemented. Public services are been run down, privatisation continues, income inequality is increasing, unemployment is soaring and our hospital system is under extreme pressure.
Change will not come from the Labour Ministers or backbench T.D.s that are involved in implementing cuts and austerity. If the downward spiral is to be averted, Labour members must stand up and insist on a number of core demands. A minimum price of participation in government must be set. This should include:
- Protection of the marginalised and vulnerable. For example the devastating cuts to DEIS schools should be reversed immediately.
- Job Creation; lift the public service recruitment embargo; invest in infrastructure.
- Policy measures must reduce rather than increase income inequality; taxation must be progressive, proportionate and fair.
- The policy of austerity and cuts which is creating a downward economic spiral must be stopped. Alternative measures to close the budget deficit must be implemented including closing tax reliefs/ tax expenditures and taxing wealth.
- The Anglo Irish promissory notes must not be paid in full.
- Bring our taxation rates on oil and gas reserves in line with European norms
The impending electoral culling of the Labour Party is not inevitable. The condition of Labour attracting electoral support is quite simply the implementation of left wing and progressive policies in government.
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