WHAT next for Brendan Howlin and his Labour Party, now that the penny has dropped with a thunderous crash, and the message gone out that nobody loves ’em? Yet, for a party on its last legs, his recent one-man show, or ‘keynote address’ to the party’s 70th annual conference, was delivered with the cockiness and assurance of a leader expecting at any moment the call to greatness.
Striding energetically from one side to the other of a fit-up platform, it was clear his spiff was intended to mesmerise, tantalise and energise the plain people of Ireland.
Sadly, it didn’t. From a rhetorician’s point of view ( … em … ourselves really), his theatrical hand-gestures were out of synch with his words.
They added nothing to his speech; nor did his pained facial expressions relieve the flat, mundane, dull voice with which he delivered his message to the converted.
Perhaps the problem was the content: boring politico-speak that had no clear message, no passion and, certainly, no impact. If his intention was to strike a chord with the oppressed toiling masses, those who actually work for wages – especially low wages, he failed miserably. This was evidenced by the reaction in the Cork Arms where this shout went up when Howlin appeared on screen: ‘Patsy, turn that crap off!’
Howlin’s message, if he had any, was that the ‘left’ should form an alliance with other like-minded parties and individuals to maximise ‘a vote-transfer pact.’ He recommended that Labour voters should give their second preference votes to candidates from mosquito outfits such as the Greens, the Social Democrats and ‘progressive independent candidates’ (who they?).
But Dáil Lefties weren’t biting. They were fearful that the public opprobrium that has stuck to the Labour Party like a contagious disease would spread to them should they rub shoulders. They politely told Howlin to go away and take a running jump.
His response was fascinating. Not in the slightest way was he stumped, or offended, and with a make-believe confidence that took one’s breath away, he went off on another tack. He commandeered for the Labour Party Michael D Higgins’ impressive vote in the presidential election!
He said of the non-partisan Higgins that his presidential ‘socialism’ was responsible for winning 820,000 votes. And, with a perfectly straight face, he suggested that as the Labour Party was ‘socialist’ and, should it win a level of ‘socialist’ support similar to that garnered by the President, the country easily would have its first Labour-led government. Simple, but quite mad!
For some obscure reason, Howlin’s bizarre analysis reminded us of the lunacy of the Rocky Horror Picture Show which, in a wild celebration of murder, adultery, cannibalism and cabaret, bizarrely gives meaning to people’s lives; just like Labour’s passionate assertion that it too can provide a sense of importance and purpose to the lives of ‘socialists’!
Unfortunately for the party, to do that, it first has to sift, filter and distil all the wacky activities, plots and backstabbing that are par for the course with Labour (In fairness, perhaps we should exclude murder?).
Others would argue that there is a fundamental difference between the Rocky Horror Picture Show and the Labour Party. People leave the entertainment spectacle enlightened to some extent, whereas with the Labour Party, one can expect to learn nothing other than that political promises are as false as dicers’ oaths.
After the last general election Labour’s representation in the Oireachtas fell from 37 to seven – an 81% collapse! The collapse was brought about by its fascination with mercs and perks and its unrestrained lust to remain in government (any government) at all costs.
As someone accurately said: ‘It didn’t just stand idly-by while people already in poverty were plunged into penury, Labour ministers implemented the policy.’
Indeed, Howlin would do well to recognise the fact that the Labour Party is in a condition not too unlike Monty Python’s parrot; and working people throughout the country are well aware of that reality.
Decent men and women whose political attitudes always have been marked by practical, hard-headed intelligence, shrewd mental alertness and sound judgement, are not going to be impressed by Howlin’s re-run of political nonsense, such as his ‘maximising of the progressive vote at the next general election.’ ‘Progressive vote, me arse!’ commented one shrewd old gent in the Cork Arms as he ordered another pint.
Others are of the opinion that instead of trying to cobble together pre-election pacts and post-election coalitions – snatching at straws basically – Howlin’s logical course of action should be to hand over leadership to Alan Kelly who for obscure reasons desperately wants the job.
The problem for Howlin is that he always will be associated with the water charges campaign.
During that acrimonious time, he well and truly nailed its colours to the ‘pay up or else’ mast and, ironically, his right-wing attitudes had him confronting an array of organisations and former comrades whom Labour one time would have counted on as allies.
Then, in January last year, Howlin admitted that he would have handled the water charges controversy differently if the Troika had not used such muscle on the government.
He explained his dilemma in the following way:
‘We were under the cosh to build a huge utility like Irish Water and to get a national metering programme in place and charge for the water in the space of three years.
‘We were afraid of the consequences for our country if we pulled the government down. But we paid too high a price for that and we should certainly have stood our ground in relation to Irish Water.
‘We just should have said no. I’m now sorry we didn’t.’
Pass the sick-bag, someone.
Curiously, Howlin’s Pauline conversion went unnoticed among the public. That may be explained by the perception among the punters that he, as a politico, is irrelevant and that his party might as well be as dead as the dodo, for all it mattered.
And, here’s the interesting bit: nobody cares!
This is true: An eminent Cork politician, on Hallowe’en night was shocked to see children with huge carrier bags full of sweets.
Yes, sweets! In light of the obesity epidemic among children that the country is facing, he wants a commitment from retailers to sell sugar responsibly. And proper order too!
For some reason the following jingle came into our head, which has absolutely nothing to do with the eminent politician, but was popular aeons ago on Spangle Hill.
We hope the gentleman takes no offence, as none is intended:
‘Roses are red, violets are blue
Sugar is sweet and so are you.
But roses are wilting, violets
Sugar bowl’s empty and so is