It’s time it was said: Labour had a mediocre election. I’ll pause here for a moment to let the indignation rise. Best number of seats ever, etc. Yes, I know. But seriously: Fianna Fail was like Himmler at a Bar Mitzvah and Labour beat them by a mere 2%? Labour are 2% more popular than the party that destroyed the country? Seriously?
80% of Irish voters, looking at the Labour candidates on the ballot paper, decided to give their first preference elsewhere. Yes, many of them came back to Labour eventually in lower preferences, but at that stage it was probably as much an anti-Fianna Fail thing as it was pro-Labour. Which begs the question: Is this proof that Labour has finally broken through into second party status, or is this just, like 1992, a flash-in-the-pan skin deep result? Will election 2016 be where a leaner, fitter Fianna Fail punches Labour to the ground and takes second place? Is there anyone who really believes that Labour will come out of election 2016 will more seats than they had going in? Yes, I know, five years away, ridiculous to speculate, etc. But in your gut?
Today (Sunday) Labour will vote to enter government, and I don’t envy them their choice: They have to vote Yes, because to not do so will be to betray the voters whom they never seriously hinted at that they would stay in opposition. Yet they know in their hearts that going in will give Fianna Fail the prominence and the space to recover, and give Sinn Fein and the United Left a clear target to assault from the left. Labour in opposition, leading it, would be the great transformational moment in Irish politics, Left Vs. Right, and probably dooming Fianna Fail.
But, to their credit, going into government is in the national interest. Yes, there will be those who sneer about careerists and ambition, but there is nothing wrong with ambition. People go into politics to get things done (unless of course you’re Joe Higgins or Richard Boyd Barrett) and Labour are going to take one for the team, and for that we should be grateful. To those about to lose their political lives, we salute you.