Next year’s European Parliament Elections do not, from an Irish perspective, actually matter. Now, before the EP office get upset, all I’m saying is that Irish MEPs don’t really matter that much. Name two Irish MEPs since 1979 who led the parliament and/or one of the three main parties. “Well, there’s Pat Cox, then there’s, eh, um, eh…”
Domestically, it does not really matter much either, save for the image it gives. If Labour fails to get a single MEP elected, a prospect which is not impossible, it’ll solidify the public image that Labour is the most despised party in the country at the moment, in terms of numbers of people actively disliking it.
Now, Labour, like the PDs and Greens before them, have this fundamental misunderstanding about our Single Transferable Vote system. They think it is always proportional. It isn’t. If your party becomes transfer repellent, as FF were in 2011 and the PDs were after 1987, you get less seats than you are entitled to, and when you’re at 9% in the polls that has the potential to wipe you out.
A solution? Labour should demand FG do two things. The first is redraw the European boundaries, which have to lose a single seat anyway, into a single 11 seat constituency. Running two or three candidates should give Labour a chance of holding at least one and maybe scraping a second. Secondly, they should introduce an Australian style Above The Line voting option on the ballot, where voters, IF THEY CHOOSE, can just tick a party box, and the parties transfers are allocated according to a pre-published order (perhaps at county or province level), ensuring that FG and Labour transfer solidly to each other.
A radical solution? Yes, but if I were one of the walking dead Labour TDs zombie-ing around Leinster House at the moment, I’d start thinking outside the box, because if this works, they could try it for the general election.