Labour’s candidate problem (and the danger of Independent snipers)…

Intelligent piece by former Fine Gael taoiseach Garrett FitzGerald in the Irish Times today. The data he’s handling is extrapolated from opinion polls and last year’s local elections (run at the same time as the Euro elections last June), shows two things. One Fine Gael’s growth stopped last summer, whilst that of Labour and Sinn Fein have continued to grow:

An important way in which the figures in Table 2 may fail to reflect accurately the eventual outcome, in terms of seats won, is the problem that Labour may experience in finding sufficient attractive candidates to enable it to increase at one swoop its Dáil representation by a factor of two-and-a-half.

An absence of local level information makes it very difficult to make any assessment of the extent to which Labour has the capacity on the ground to turn votes into seats.

However, it seems likely that in this important respect, Labour is at a disadvantage vis-a-vis both of the two other principal parties. Fianna Fáil has the opposite problem. It has at least twice as many TDs as it is likely to be able to elect.

And Fine Gael has a much lesser candidate problem because, having made a breakthrough in the 2007 general election, it needs a much smaller pool of new candidates than Labour does, and also because it seems to have been engaged longer than Labour in the process of building up this pool.

In about 25 constituencies, or three-fifths of the total, Labour needs candidates with a capacity to exploit fully its potential vote, so as to enable it to win seats that now seem to be within its reach.

And of course, that other growing pain, how to run two candidates in multi-member constituency and balance the vote:

Another problem for Labour is the fact that, whereas until now it had only one TD in each constituency, in about a dozen cases – mainly but not exclusively in Dublin – it could now face the same problem that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have had to cope with over many years – competition, sometimes bitter, between TDs of the same party.

He also notes the fact that lots of unpredictable results may come in from nowhere, especially the independent challenge to Fianna Fail. The likes of Thomas Pringle not only edging out Labour’s McBrearty, but drawing in votes from all over the constituency and from across the various ‘gene pools’: that quaint term which aptly describes the apolitical (genetic) character of almost all significant Irish political constituencies.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • MichaelMac

    It is fair to say that Frank Mc Brearty was a bit of a howler as a candidate. It gives a clear indication that once you get away from the Labour front benchers there is a real dearth of talent.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    The seeming strength of Independents is in part related to the comparatively low threshold of votes required to get into An Dáil…maybe 6,500 first pref votes is enough with the ability to attract xfers from all sources.
    But FitzGerald…..the man who congratulated himself on the way that stealth was used to achieve the level of European integration is clearly not a man who values the electorate.
    And having availed himself of a personal bail out from Allied Irish is hardly in a position to lecture on “we are all in this together”.
    But pushing the “experience” of Fine Gael over Labours lack of qualified candidates is of course Dublin 4 elitism at work. And hopefully counter-productive.
    A reminder that a new politics is needed rather than a swing of the electoral pendulum.

  • tolpuddlemartyr

    Ireland goes mad in the sweetie shop, only in my opinion…….

  • Greenflag

    What have qualified candidates ever done for Ireland ?

    Our current Finance Minister is an Oxford graduate -Fitzer himself was an economist don and wrote for the Economist Intelligence Unit . All of the current Cabinet have degrees in one subject or another .

    So Gilmore is a former Trades Union Official and Gerry Adams a former barman . Why does it seem to me that FG’s Kenny appears to have half the political nous of the former two ?

    Do they learn common sense in University or just how the world works in theory and not in practice ?

    The ‘economic models ‘ the so called experts worldwide are now working with are ‘broken ‘ When you have interest rates at rock bottom and businesses can’t or won’t borrow to expand then it’s clear that the economic assumptions that were previously believed simply don’t hold .

    Trickle down economics has become trickle up emisseration and the economists have their collective heads in their rear ends 🙁

  • pippakin

    Perhaps the only ‘qualification’ a candidate should need is a determination to do his best for his constituents and his country. It would help therefore if he had some idea of actual work, never mind college degrees. It is one thing to pass an exam it is quite another to be successful in the work environment.

  • Greenflag

    It seems to me that our elected politicians regardless of party and their ‘mandarin’ advisers had very little understanding of what was happening in the world economy prior to this crisis and ditto for the UK and the USA .

    When the ‘best’ isn’t good enough ? What then ? George Carlin got it right for the USA and he”s not far off the mark as regards the UK or Ireland 🙁

    What price international monetary and banking reform ?
    War ? Revolution ? or milllions more on the dole lines ?

  • John Ó Néill

    Opinion polls are going to mask a bigger issue with predicting election results – transfers. With FF dropping down into unchartered deep water and Labour creeping up into high altitude – FF may run single candidates where previously they ran two or three (and could expect leakage in second preferences). Labour are going to put up two in places where they’d previously barely considered running one (and now have to develope canvassing strategies and limited transfers). Fine Gael are comfortable in that they are Plan B the eternal default option for government (while the electorate appear increasingly uneasy at only having a Plan A and Plan B).
    Basically it will be a psephological catastrophe…

  • Alias

    It’s mainly because the general public tend to confuse intelligence with formal education, and those with a formal education also tend to confuse the two whereas the intelligent rarely do. The world is full of well-educated stupid people, and some of them unfortunately present a clear and present danger to the safety of the general public when they present themselves for election.

    You have to look at what a person has already achieved before deciding if they are qualified to achieve what you would expect them to achieve. No organisation will surpass the ability of its CEO so if you promote an underachiever to that role – by the whimsy of the electoral process – then your company will begin to underachieve. Likewise, if you promote someone with a proven track record who is more capable than your current ECO then you’re company’s performance is likely to improve accordingly. There are exceptions, of course, but they only serve to prove the rule.

    Fitzgerald ranked as the worst prime minister on record by economic performance before Bertie and Biffo beat him by a country mile. All three are well-educated stupid people. Fitzgerald never had a job that wasn’t in the public sector, so his mentality was never focused on the private sector and he never had any understanding of how wealth is actually created.

    If you want your economy to grow then you’ll have to elect those people under understand business. In other words, highly successful business people with a record that shows they know how to create wealth and manage organisations. Unfortunately, however, intelligent people don’t waste their time serving stupid people.

    Anyone who thinks that a muppet like Gilmore or Kenny can lead an economy to success really shouldn’t be allowed to vote…

  • pippakin


    I was with you to the last line! I agree Enda Kenny has all the makings of utter failure, but Gilmore whilst taking the usual ‘useless anywhere else’ route to politics does appear to have some ability.

    In any case who else is there Gerry Adams? Now, he is said to have some achievements, and if anyone votes for those they deserve what they get.

    Oddly the name that springs to mind is Declan Ganley of Libertas…

  • the blow – in

    Alias –
    Whats this fascination some people have with ‘businessmen’ who would apparently save us all from ourselves?
    It was the self same ‘businessmen’ who got us into the difficulty we are in!
    It is ‘businessmen’ who have decided that the way to save the economy is to take €1 per hour off the check-out staff and cleaners in our economy – while keeping the corporate tax rate at a ridiculously low rate – all in it together my arse!

  • Rory Carr

    Oh, don’t fuss about Alias, Blow – in. Businessmen always think that they are the only ones who should be in charge of everything. The trouble with the world is that they have far too much influence upon government and that is why we always wind up in a mess – the essential greed that motivates them also blinds them completely to the effect of their policies in emisserating others to the extent that they become completely innured.

    In any healthy form of government businessmen would be barred from any participation since their only motive would be self-interest, though they would need to be consulted from time-to-time along with the other representatives of production such as labour and banking services.

  • Brian Walker

    Dear old Garrett.. I remember him so well at counts with lots of bits of paper stuffed in his pockets. He was always his own best tallyman..

  • Greenflag

    Are bankers businessmen ? Are hedge fund and derivatives traders businessmen ? The largest business corporations -banks and insurance companies virtually write the legislation they want .The elected politicians do the rubber stamping. And we have seen what they have delivered.

    We have seen the effect which the deregulation of financial services has had on the USA economy and consequently on the world economy and the present anarchic currency and bond markets .

    Does Alias believe that even more ‘arsenic’ will cure the patient .

    Rory is closest to the truth -consultation with government fine but leave the millions and brown envelopes behind and no bribing the politicians .

    Next problem how to stop the politicians and parties from accepting the bribes .

    Why not a mandatory death sentence for all (businessmen and politiciansand civil servants) ) found guilty of bribery and corruption under NET (national economic treason )?

    Perhaps an SF Government would care to enact such legislation ;)?

  • Greenflag

    ‘He was always his own best tallyman..’

    But he could never find a matching sock 🙂 . Somebody told him once that the secret to not being known as Professor Oddsocks was to always buy or have the missus buy the same colour socks – preferably black or very dark blue and then just keep them all in the one box .

    The advice of course went over his head 🙁

  • Rory Carr

    I have never been convinced of the argument that the death penalty is a necessary protection for society that works by acting as a deterrent. Indeed there have been over two score of cases in recent US history where murders were carried out by individuals seeking suicide by the state (tip: if you wish to choose this as method of self-exit in the USA it is best if you are black and poor. Oh, and do make sure that your selected victim is white.).In such cases the death penalty has acted as an incentive to murder which rather defeats its intent.

    However I must say that Greenflag’s proposal does have certain attractions and I could see it begin to have a deterrent effect over time but only if the most senior banking executives were prosecuted as there is a likliehood that if middle or lower ranking officials were charged and executed the banks would be happy to keep sacrificing them in the interests of maintaining higher profits for their shareholders, which is after all their sacred duty.

    But if we are going to go down this road the let’s go all the way. There is no reason why the public, who will have been most affected by the wrongdoings of these crooks, should not witness their punishment – just to make sure there are no slip ups.

    So, we’re agreed then, public execution it is!

  • pippakin

    Bankers are not entrepreneurs, they are not real business men they are the leaches on successful businessmen. Has anyone looked at the charges banks make businesses pay for the privilege of putting money in banks, let alone bank loans, if they can get them.

    I’m inclined to think that hanging is too good for some of our politicians and the directors of banks.

  • Henry94

    RedC poll in tomorrow’s “Irish” Sun

    FF 13pc, FG 32pc, Lab 24pc, SF 16pc!, Grns 3pc, Others 11pc

    That’s the talk anyway.

  • Alias

    That’s in line with what I am hearing from the ordinary folk that matter, i.e. that FF have paradoxically fallen lower than their core support.

  • Greenflag


    ‘So, we’re agreed then, public execution it is!

    If that’s too much for the squeamish perhaps life imprisonement with hard labour -no parole -no appeals and state confiscation of personal and family properties .

    We can dream eh ?

  • Greenflag

    pippakin ,

    Businessmen depend on bankers for their daily survival particularly small and medium size business where cash flow is critical . Small businesses can’t grow as fast as they might want without access to capital .

    In my personal experience the world of the small and medium size businessman and that of the mega corporations while they both may subscribe to the same profit motive -nonetheless I’ve found (not in all cases mind you) that the larger the corporation the greater the greed . Somewhere around sales of 50 to 100 million euros/pounds/dollars companies start treating people as a capital resource to be squeezed to the last drop in the name of profit maximization . At that level the money men /accountants /financial brokers /tax avoidance experts /consultants start milking the revenue stream along with the CEO and his top management team . Over the past 20 years the pay of CEO’s relative to the average worker’s has increased by a factor of thousands . For example some 40% of Americans have nothing but their pay check if they are lucky and the clothes on their back while less than 10% of Americans own 85% of the wealth . This gap has been increasing for 20 maybe 25 years. It will end in a bloodbath sooner or later given the virtual non existence of a welfare state in the USA .

    Most job growth in the USA in the period 1990 through 2002 came from small and medium size businesses and NOT from the large corporations who spent most of that time downsizing their employees and continue to do so while outsourcing every job they can and earn themselves even greater bonuses .

    ‘Those whom the Gods wish to destroy they first make etc etc etc 🙁

  • Greenflag


    insert above after profit motive ‘are vastly different ‘

  • Greenflag

    That red c poll is probably due to the urban flight to SF in some of the more working class constituencies . Based on the above figures a Labour/SF coalition is ahead by one per cent over an FG/FF stitch up .

    I can’t imagine any of the ‘others’ allying themselves with FF at this time although some may buy into an FG led coalition .

    Could we yet see Gerry Adams as Tanaiste in the Dail ? with McGuinness as Tanaiste in NI ? MI5 and the CIA and other security agencies as well as the IMF/ECB will be updating their personal files on the above no doubt . Operation Save the Euro and German exports etc etc 🙁

    This will be probably the most critical election in the history of the State since 1932 when FF came in from the ‘cold’ . But today there is no credible Roman Catholic hierarchy to advise the electorate to stand true to Pope Leo ‘s encyclicals against the dangers of ‘socialism ‘ . In fact the RC Church could probably help to increase the left wing vote by speaking out against SF and Labour .

    So when is the election does anybody know ?

  • pippakin


    Very few small/medium sized businesses have those peculiar creatures commonly known as accountants. Banks on the other hand are built on the breed. As a company grows an accountant is employed, and very often as soon as the accountant is in the door ‘corporate’ flies in the window. Since an accountant is not a ‘productive’ person he has to create his worth in, ahem, other ways.

    He does this by pointing out the ‘unproductive’ other areas, by some creative accounting in the mergers and acquisition fields and by minimising ‘wasteful’ personnel and any hint of individuality.

    The above is my opinion of accountants/bankers who are imo the same breed.