Thursday 10 June 2010

The forward march of Irish Labour

These are tough times for the west European left, which explains why this blog will have so few European teams to cheer for once the World Cup kicks off tomorrow.

Ireland may have been cheated out of a trip to South Africa by Thierry Henry's handballed goal, but they do provide some good news on the political front as the Irish Times reports a new poll showing that the Irish Labour Party is the Republic's most popular party for the first time in its 98 year history.

Just 12 per cent of voters are satisfied with the way Taoiseach Brian Cowen's Government is doing its job (down seven points) while 83 per cent are dissatisfied (up seven points). The next General Election must be held within two years.

Here are the party standings.

Labour, 32 per cent (up eight points since Jan); (up 22 points since 2007 election)
Fine Gael, 28 per cent (down four points); (down 1 point on election)
Fianna Fáil, 17 per cent (down five points since Jan); (down 24 points on election)
Sinn Féin, 9 per cent (up one point); (up two points)
Green Party, 3 per cent (no change); (down two)
Independents/ Others, 11 per cent (no change).

Irish Labour's record general election share was 19% in 1992 under Dick Spring's leadership. Just how much of a political earthquake would be in prospect if the next election were to resemble anything like the polling can be seen by comparing the result of the last General Election in 2007.

Fianna Fail 41.6% 77 (-4)
Fine Gael 27.3% 51 (+20)
Labour 10.3% 20 (-)
Green 4.7% 6 (-)
Sinn Fein 6.9% 4 (-1)
Prog Dem 2.7% 2 (-6)
Ind 5.2% 0 (-8)

Labour is traditionally the third party of Irish politics. The larger parties, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, uniquely reflect an enduring political cleavage descended from the Irish civil war, and their opposing views of the Anglo-Irish Treaty which founded the Irish free state in 1922.

We shall see if their forward march lasts. But Irish Labour's best political prospects for a century certainly offers something to celebrate - particularly for those of us with Irish roots!

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