The Labour Party, God love it, is a creature of habit. Vastly overhyping its voter expectations, it enters government, bitterly disappoints them, and gets clobbered at the next election. It then stumbles into opposition for a dark period of recrimination, infighting and finger pointing, before emerging out the other end and doing it all again. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Here’s a thought: for the first time ever, Labour has a fascinating opportunity. The people who voted Labour in 2016 are the hard-core pragmatists, the people who are loyal for whatever reason, or actually liked what Labour did in government. Barring Labour going loopy, they’re disappointment proof.
Now there’s a chance for Labour to build new voters not based on promises but on actual delivery in government. After all, the Labour Party’s seven TDs are far more valuable (read vital) to Fine Gael than Labour’s previous 39 TDs.
If Labour are smart it can look for real concrete demands off Fine Gael, solid deliveries that are all bonuses because nobody ever expected Labour to be able to do them. From a referendum on the 8th amendment to political reform to childcare to housing, Labour has the ability to finally be the party it always says it wants to be.
Not the disappointing over-promisers, but the party that surprises everyone by actually getting good stuff done.
You know who has been through this? The Progressive Democrats in 1989. They lost over half their seats, then entered government and actually gained seats at the following election. Having lost its easily disappointed voters, the PDs then built a new following based on their delivery in government, remaining one of the few parties in Irish politics to actually gain seats coming out of government.
There’s an idea. But first Labour members must resist the urge to do what Labour members always do after being ejected from government…