AND so it came to pass that, after the last general election, the Labour Party saw its Dáil representation plunge from 37 to seven deputies. Of Biblical proportions, the catastrophe blasted the minds of all those politicos who experienced it.
Yet the media’s weeping Jeremiahs, in other words the people who make Old Testament-style predictions regarding Labour’s future existence, and what they imagine the political adjustments need to be, well, they’re rather pessimistic about Labour’s present situation and gloomily prophetic about its future.
Grimly they’re suggesting that Labour might be doomed to misery and that in a short span of time could end up broken and useless unless the leader, Brendan ‘Pompous’ Howlin, rescues it from the political inertia that engulfs it just now.
A gaggle of Labour councillors around the country agree with the soothsayers, largely because it isn’t difficult to chart the party’s terminal decline since Comrade Pompous assumed command. Worse still, they see themselves as collateral damage when their own political ambitions are flushed down the S-bend and nobody gives a tinker’s.
And then, suddenly, last month the chickens came home to roost. The party woke up to the shocking results of the latest poll: Labour had plummeted to a 3% popularity rating, a collapse so terrifying that the party would be struggling for its very existence in a general election.
Like the last of the Mohicans, Labour’s unhappy local councillors wailed in desperation (discreetly first and then publicly) at the fact that Howlin, the Great Patriotic Leader, had been ‘sleepwalking’ the party into ‘oblivion.’ Nor was it long before their bloodshot eyes took on an accusing glare and they were pointing a recriminatory finger at their boss.
Against a background of muttering that included horrible words like ‘incompetence’, the penny dropped for the man in the street: Howlin’s goose was cooked and that soon he would be yesterday’s man.
As Terry O’Brien, a concerned Kerry councillor diplomatically put it: ‘We need to soul-search and do something very quickly … Howlin’s leadership is not working.’
Another councillor, Laois-based Noel Tuohy, warned that the party was close to ‘implosion’ and there was no sign of ‘the promised dynamic rebuild.’
As if they had been reading Vladimir Lenin’s famous political pamphlet ‘What is to Be Done,’ pinkos the length and breadth of the land began laying the blame for the party’s collapse on the shoulders of the unfortunate Comrade ‘Pompous.’ Their criticism was simple and to the point: the leader ‘had failed to connect with the electorate.’
Another councillor called for a change of leadership on the basis that the contest held after the last general election had been ‘immensely damaging’ to the morale of the party. She and others now wanted a new leadership election and a new leader if the ‘negative trend’ was to be reversed.
A political genius
Comrade Howlin, however, hasn’t been fazed by the demands for a formal process to validate whether or not support for him remains solid. Nevertheless, if there’s any attempt to stage a heave against him the following sequence of events should be kept in mind.
Any claimant to the leadership throne has to be proposed and seconded by a TD from the parliamentary party, which at this time consists of the seven surviving TDs from the general election wipe-out. Once that is done, the candidate can go before a full contest that involves the vote of rank and file party members.
But here’s the rub: It’s a procedure that can be bypassed. In 2016, Howlin had no problem finding a TD seconder, but this was not the case with Alan (AK47) Kelly who was challenging the leader. Not a single parliamentary colleague was prepared to second Kelly’s nomination, making it a cinch for Howlin to be elected leader without a contest.
It sort of recalled the old days in the Soviet Union and no one had a clue how Comrade Pompous engineered the masterstroke. But, of course, we’re not suggesting in any way that political hanky-panky was a factor. Certainly not!
The remarkable election process wasn’t exactly agreeable to the values and sensibilities of ordinary Labourites, even though it brought home the fact that any arbitrary dumping of Howlin in the future would be an extremely difficult task, should he indicate resistance to the move. In other words, the party might be caving in and disintegrating all around him but it’s clear that he’s in for the long haul and intends to keep going as leader in spite of all the adversity and bad-mouthing.
Which raises this question: although he may well continue to have a glorious future in politics (Fine Gael next stop?) does he see his current party, Labour, having any future at all? We think we should be told.
And now for something different: Fianna Fáil’s decision to back Michael D Higgins for a second term as President is bizarre, even if the purpose of occupying the Áras is not power, or leadership, but remembering tall tales and opening things.
On the other hand, one of the perks of the job is that a president has the right to use the first person plural pronoun, ‘we.’ It’s a privilege that Mark Twain said should be limited to newspaper editors and people with tapeworms!
But, it now seems that Fianna Fáil’s backing of Higgins for a second term has more to with spiking Éamon Ó Cuív’s bid for a nomination than getting the best person for a part-time job that offers excellent opportunities to fill the blank days of retirement.
After all, Young Dev’s grandfather was the founder of the party to which Mickey swears allegiance and one would have expected that out of auld decency he’d have endorsed his candidature. But clearly, whereas Mickey is a proponent of showing tender-heartedness for his rivals he certainly won’t let them run for any office that is higher than the one he has. Perhaps that’s because Young Dev has regularly criticised the dead-end direction in which Mickey has taken the party?
Or, maybe Martin thinks that someone who wants to become President and spends five years campaigning for it should not be trusted with the office?
Whatever the reason, it all seems rather mean and crass, particularly since Young Dev always has come across as a sort of mythical creature – the honest politician!