Well-known political commentator, author and general master of the political arts Johnny Fallon (@jonnyfallon) highlighted a very interesting fact on Twitter recently. It was that Labour has now lost an MEP, a senator, 17 county councillors (one admittedly joining FF) and 4 TDs through defections. Or as I see it, the nucleus of a brand new party. Because let’s be honest, if that number of sitting elected representatives had defected openly to a new party, it would be big news.
Is a Real Labour party viable? I wouldn’t rule it out. There is an angry Labour vote still uncomfortable with Sinn Fein and certainly Fianna Fail, and don’t forget, a Real Labour party would almost certainly pick up transfers from everywhere save maybe Fine Gael, and certainly from Labour, if its candidates held respectable first preference votes.
Is it likely? I haven’t a clue. But when you look at all 21 elected representatives together, remember that Sinn Fein got by on considerably less for quite a while. It would also put enormous pressure on Democratic Left Eamonn Gilmore, especially if leadership rivals started touting the need to reunify the party.
Finally, let’s not forget that Labour has form on this: Labour has split into two Labour parties in the past. From 1944, the National Labour Party fought separate elections from Labour, winning 5 seats (including Dick Spring’s father) and holding a ministry in the 1948 coalition alongside Labour. They rejoined Labour in 1950.