The recent resignation of the Mayor of South Dublin, Dermot Looney, from the Labour Party was another hammer blow for an already embattled party. It brought the number of Councillors who have resigned to 27. While Labour has lost Councillors, TDs and Senators the leadership and those members who have remained with the Party have stuck with the same the two message – namely that they had tough decisions to make and that without Labour things would be worse.
While the latter is hard to quantify in that it is difficult to establish whether Fine Gael would have been any harsher it is the issue of “tough decisions” that is less than credible. Ireland’s financial position from 2008 was perilous, every political party knew the position the State was in. Labour entered the 2011 General Election campaign knowing full well that the new Government was facing the harshest budgetary position in the history of the state. Yet it was Labour who chose to make promises it could not keep.
We all remember the infamous negative advertising that Labour used – the mock up Tesco ad aimed at Fine Gael with the tag line “Every little Cut Hurts”. Ironically Labour in Government has imposed virtually them all. It promised “Labour Way”, it promised to keep open army barracks, it promised to protect pensioners medial cards, it promised not to increase student fees and it promised to not to cut child benefit. Again on the basis of “tough decisions” they have broken the promises they made to the electorate. The fact is Labour gained seats on the basis of its manifesto yet in Government they have reneged.
For those people who have left Labour, I myself made the decision to leave over a year ago, the reaction from many former colleagues has been at times vitriolic. The main accusation has been that “we walked away” or that we didn’t have the bottle for “tough decisions”. It is this macho nonsense that puts people off politics. The fact is in a democracy people make choices. People chose to join a political party on the basis of what the Party stands for. When you start to disagree with the party you are a member of it is time to leave. A political party is an organisation like any other if you want to leave you leave. However for some Labour Party people this is an anathema – You are a member so you stay loyal. I find it utterly bewildering. The fact is and I will repeat it again, it is a political party and not a religious cult.
The difficulty Labour has when it comes to May’s Local Elections is putting a manifesto and a set of policies before the Irish people. Seeing as much of the policy platform Labour fought on for the 2011 General Election was abandoned as a result of coalition Government on what basis could people trust any commitment made for the Local Elections? For a start the Labour Party will not have a majority on any County Council, indeed it is likely that no one party will control a Council, so will it again compromise on its manifesto commitments? For example if Labour candidates make a promise not to increase the property tax can they say for certain that this won’t happen? Decisions might be made by the Labour leadership which will force Labour Councillors to either break this promise or leave the Party.
As an Independent candidate I can make the promise not to increase the property tax and know that it is a commitment that I can guarantee I can keep. Political party candidates will not be able to make this commitment.