The Labour coalition plan five years late

24th October 2001

A FEW Saturdays ago I sat down around lunchtime to have a bite. I switched on the telly to have a quick look and was confronted by the Labour Party annual conference.

Usually enough to put you off your food, I reached for the remote control. Before I could get to the button I noticed a chap on the podium making an impassioned speech. I nearly fell off the seat.

Irish politics and passion!

These things never happen together these days so I had to listen to what the bloke was saying. He was opposed to the Labour Party going into coalition with Fianna Fail. He was followed by big-wigs from the top table urging delegates to leave the matter open. The big-wigs got their way.

Now I’ve got a definite view on Labour and coalition. I think that for the past five years the Labour Party has betrayed their voters and the wider national interest by opting out of coalition with Fianna Fail.

Instead of a centre-left Government, we have been saddled with a centre-right Government completely unrepresentative of the broad opinion in Irish society, influenced by a few rampant right-wing, free market ideologues.

At a time of the greatest financial prowess in the history of the state, Ireland is among the lowest public sector spenders in the developed world, leading to the shambles we have in the health sector, a massive crisis in housing and complete chaos in transport.

Let’s be clear about this – this is Labour’s fault. They practically handed over Government to the PDs. This bunch of fruitcakes now have more influence than the whole of the backbench Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour put together.

Of course, Labour didn’t refuse to go into coalition with Fianna Fail. They weren’t asked.

They weren’t asked because they (purest of pure) were not going to be seen hanging about with them. The heavy middle class influence in Labour didn’t want to be seen with the populist Soldiers of Destiny.

They blamed Dick Spring for going into coalition with Fianna Fail. I blame him for pulling out when there was absolutely no need.

I wonder how many people now can remember why Labour pulled the rug on Fianna Fail. What, exactly, was Albert supposed to have done wrong?

The anti-coalition faction of the Labour Party have had five long years free of Fianna Fail. Five years with their petty dislikes intact. I hope they enjoyed those years.

Because their petty dislikes are not the only things they have intact. All the policies and plans of the Labour Party are also intact, unsullied by any chance to put them into practice.

Now when the budget surpluses are over Labour are toying with the possibility of doing business with Fianna Fail again. But only if they are good boys, you know. Meanwhile, Fianna Fail regularly rate over 50% in the opinion polls. It’s ridiculous.

Let’s get real. There is no chance of Fine Gael and Labour winning enough seats to form the next Government. If the Labour Party wants to get into power, there is a simple way to do so.

Ironically, ideologically speaking Fianna Fail is the closest to Labour when it comes to social policy. If Labour wants its policies implemented then it is pushing an open door with Fianna Fail.

It’s a chance to actually get something done. Labour should take it.