This evening, Brian Cowen hoped that the promise of an election after a budget was agreed would keep the show on the road, although that’s by no means certain. Whether an election comes earlier or later, recent opinion polls show a level of support for Fine Gael and Labour which would allow them to form a very safe coalition.
However, what’s more interesting is whether there’s any possibility of Labour becoming the largest party. This would require Labour to do the following:
• Come up with a credible, comprehensive alternative approach to tackling the economic crisis, which doesn’t penalise vulnerable groups and ordinary working people who were not responsible for it. And.....
• Convince the Irish people that they are capable of implementing it – which requires international diplomacy as well as ability at home
• Keep coalition options open, unlike 2007
• Go on the offensive against Sinn Féin and the Greens, with a clear message that neither would govern in the interests of the majority. In particular, they mustn’t be fooled into dropping hints about including Sinn Féin in a coalition – a vote for SF must remain a wasted vote.
If Labour were able to pull this off – and it’s a very big if – it would provide an alternative model for dealing with the crisis and would provide hope internationally, at a time when the received wisdom is that massive cuts are the only way forward.
Regular readers of this blog and its predecessor will know I’ve had my differences with the Irish Labour Party. I still maintain that Labour is a short-sighted and partitionist party when it comes to the North. But I put that aside for the bigger picture. Here’s an opportunity for the Irish Labour movement to show the world how it’s done. See you in Co. Louth.....