Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Mullingar Accord-the reality

Several journalists have incorrectly claimed that Labours failure to make seat gains in the 2007 General Election sprung from the Mullingar Accord. One of these is Kevin Rafter in today's Sunday Tribune who states:
The one significant difference, however, is that Fine Gael has made it out of the doldrums and, largely thanks to the Mullingar Accord, the seat gap between Labour and Fine Gael has widened once more. The opportunity for Labour after 2002 was to focus not on whether it ever went into government with Fianna Fail but rather on replacing Fine Gael as the second largest party in the state. Fine Gael was in such a mess after 2002 that Labour could have achieved a historic realignment in the Irish party system.....
This analysis is fatally flawed on a number of counts
  • When FG bombed in the 2002 General Election it lost 20% of its vote. Much of this scattered to Independents. Some FG voters switched to the PDs to prevent an overall majority for FF. In 2002 Labour adopted a go it alone strategy. Yet the lost FG votes did not go to Labour. These FG votes were largely conservative and were on loan to Independents and PDs. Labours go it alone strategy also failed.
  • FG conservative voters would not give first preferences to Labour. If Labour were to replace FG it had its chance in 2002. That was its chance for realignment. It was never on.
  • When Enda Kenny assumed the leadership of FG he reorganised the party from top to bottom. The fruits of this reorganisation were seen in the excellent local election results of 2004 where FG got within a handful of seats of FF. FG won most seats in the Euro Elections. This was prior to the Mullingar Accord. The Mullingar Accord evolved from a belief after the 2004 Euro and Local Elections that FG and Labour together could replace the FF-PD coalition. The Mullingar Accord did not exist at the time of the Euro and Local Elections.
  • Kevin Rafter and others fail to realise that there is a conservative block of voters which votes FG and will not switch to Labour to facilitate a realignment. It is by ideology conservative. It largely distrusts FF. It may go on loan from time to time to Independents and smaller parties. It eventually returns.
  • Labours organisational problems in constituencies such as Tipperary South and South Kerry cost it vital seats. The Mullingar Accord did not prevent the election of new TDs such as Sean Sherlock.
  • FF is Labours greatest enemy as it competes strongly and successfully for the working class votes.

To summaries: Labours difficulties stem not from the Mullingar Accord but from the conservative nature of the Irish electorate and organisational difficulties in several constituencies. When Labour adopted a go it alone position in 2002 it also failed to make a big breakthrough.

No comments: