By Anthony Sheridan
Writing in the Irish Times recently about the continuing decline of the Labour Party, historian Diarmaid Ferriter asks:
Is there really much difference between the Labour Party and the Social Democrats and would it not make sense for them to coalesce?
The same question has been asked many times by journalists and politicians since the people effectively rejected the party in the 2016 election. The question is always advanced as a possible strategy for rescuing Labour from extinction.
That mainstream journalists and politicians would scramble around looking for strategies to save the party is not surprising but it is disappointing to witness a prominent historian engaging in the same hopeless delusion when he really should know the answer.
So, for Mr. Ferriter’s benefit and other’s hoping that, by some miracle, the Labour Party can be saved – here’s the unvarnished truth.
The Labour Party is heading for extinction because it is, first and foremost, a loyal member of the ruling political class. A large and increasing number of voters have come to realise that the party does not represent their interests and vote accordingly. Election results do not lie, the brutal political reality is out there for everybody to see.
Also, in recent years, particularly since the economic catastrophe of 2008, more and more voters have come to realise that the political establishment itself is rotten to the core.
The people have delivered the same message in every recent election – a demand for radical political change. Labour, instead of answering that call, has doggedly remained loyal to the corrupt political regime that the electorate is rejecting in their droves.
And this is where the difference between the Labour Party and the Social Democrats crystalises, this is what Mr. Ferriter should know.
The Social Democrats are anti-establishment, they were created as a direct result of political corruption within the establishment. The party’s raison d’être is to rid the state of the disease of political corruption that has infected the body politic for decades.
If the Social Democrats was to merge with Labour they would almost certainly suffer the same fate as the Progressive Democrats. They too came into existence in protest against political corruption, principally under the corrupt politician Haughey. But over the years and particularly under the leadership of Mary Harney, the party returned to its rotten Fianna Fail roots. That betrayal of hope and trust signed the party’s death warrant.
In the run-up to the 1992 election Labour Party leader, Dick Spring convinced many, including myself, that the party was determined to represent the people rather than powerful interests.
I was particularly impressed when Spring, most unusually, revealed the truth about a fellow ruling elite party when he accurately described Haughey and Fianna Fail’s influence on politics as ‘a cancer in the body politic’.
Shortly afterwards, Spring cravingly led Labour into coalition with the ‘cancerous’ Fianna Fail exposing the naked truth that his true loyalties lay with the power and privileges of the ruling political class and not with the people.
Mr. Ferriter, in common with all mainstream commentators is unaware of or refuses to acknowledge the truth behind the rapidly changing political landscape. Instead of facing reality, he clutches at straws of hope for the doomed party.
Perhaps, he suggests, Labour may regain momentum if Sinn Fein suffers as a consequence of making hard decisions in government.
That a negative performance by one party might help save Labour is as ridiculous as the idea that a positive performance of another [Social Democrats] might do the same.
The choice facing Labour is simple – remain loyal to the current dying political regime or respond to the demands of the people for radical political change by becoming a genuinely radical left wing party.
No prizes for guessing which road Ivana Bacik will take.