Downward Labour Spiral Can Be Reversed


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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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6 Responses

  1. Dick Barrett

    December 20, 2011 10:27 am

    Cian is right, but those policy changes all hinge on taxation and budgetary policy. We must impose a progressive budgetary strategy on this government.

    That means demanding increases in income tax on high earners, and possibly a wealth tax as well. If we do not get that, we cannot do anything else, in which case we should leave government.

  2. CMK

    December 20, 2011 1:39 pm

    Cian, thanks for a valuable insight into the parallel universe inhabited by the Labour, eh, ‘Left’.

    Yes, every demand you list is a sensible proposal; the current Labour Party are committed to imposing precisely the opposite in each case. Yet, people who regard themselves as on the Left remain in the Labour Party. Why?

    Those of the current cohort of Labour TDs who survive the next election, probably about ten or less, will, in all likelihood be either centrists or firmly on the right. The Labour TD for my own constituency spent the morning of budget day briefing the local Chamber of Commerce about the implications for THEM. A Chamber deeply committed to reversing workers rights and gains. Face it, the Labour Party, if its TDs are anything to go by, are slightly to the Left of FG.

    The Labour Party is over, it’s gone, it’s dead, what we have at present is a zombiefied party that will keep imposing austerity, regardless of the costs to Irish people, until the next election when Labour will join the Greens in the dustbin of recent Irish political history.

    Of course, Labour will say ‘we have to impose austerity, the quicker to regain our economic sovereignty’ while Labour are well aware that by the time we’ve paid for the banks’ debts economic sovereignty for individual European nation-states will have been hollowed out to nothing.

    Labour members should expect no quarter while they remain members of a party committed to simultaneously dismantling what’s left of our welfare state and public provision, while continuing, remorselessly, to pay out bondholders.

  3. Cian

    December 21, 2011 1:19 pm

    The reason people who are on the left of the Labour Party remain as members is to challenge the neo-liberal orthodoxy of cuts and austerity that the government is imposing. We have absolutely no intention of dropping out and allowing these policies to go unchallenged within the Labour Party.

  4. CMK

    December 21, 2011 7:50 pm

    Cian, I admire your tenacity and you obviously have a strong political stomach, to mix metaphors.

    But I’d point out that ‘the neo-liberal orthodoxy of cuts and austerity’ matches exactly Labour Party policy in government. It’s like arguing that FG will apply 100 lashes but Labour will only apply 99. Yes, there’s a difference between 100 and 99, but it is not much.

    Look at the Labour Party’s record in government so far:
    – an atrocious budget
    – continued support for paying bondholders through the renewal of the bank guarantee
    – the ‘lifestyle choice’ moment from Joan Burton when 440,000 people are on the dole and 50,000 people leave in 2011 alone
    – facilitating attacks on the lowest paid workers in ERA and REA schemes (which should be absolute red line, ‘we’re out the door if you touch these’ issues for even the mildest of social democrats)
    – nothing, nothing at all, done to the abomination of NAMA
    – Labour TDs cuing up to lash the public sector workforce and the unions
    – any cuts, at all, to the education budget (which is a core policy concern for Labour) should justify Labour leaving government.
    – not a squeak from a Labour TD about either the EUR 100 household tax or the, even worse, proposed property tax. But plenty of attacks from Labour against those trying assist Irish citizen resistance to these proposals.
    – no honesty from any Labour TD that while GDP and GNP shrink at an alarming rate, the hype about ‘our’ expanding exports is compounding the cruelty that is the extension of a welfare state for business at the expense of public services for citizens.
    – not a squeak from a Labour TD when ‘THAT’ 1 billion euro bond was paid

    Labour ARE a neo-liberal party and I think the Labour Left, what’s left of it, and the upper echelons of the trade union movement will find that workers will soon tire of the ‘it would be worse if FG governed alone’ line that’s used to justify continuing in government. How much worse can it get for substantial portions of the Irish population? After just over nine months in government the Labour Party have pushed back, relentlessly, the advances of Irish citizens. It shows no sign of letting up and we still have over four more years of the current policy agenda to go……

    This, by the way, should be required viewing for Labour Party members: