#EUREF: Will vote crystallise the real left right divide (with Labour on the wrong side)?

Interesting piece by former FF point man for Willie O’Dea, Derek Mooney in last night’s Herald which hits several nails on the head re the Fiscal Compact referendum…

WITH less than a week to go the referendum campaign seems more and more to be about less and less. If you believe the posters, the choice is to vote Yes to achieve stability or to vote No to end austerity.

But do any of us really believe these claims? Regrettably, like previous EU referendums, the debate has been conducted at the extremes, not the centre.

He notes, with the almost single exception of Declan Ganley, the almost complete absence of the political right from the No side:

The sight of Declan Ganley sharing No platforms with irredentist left firebrands is a joy to behold, especially when you consider that they agree on virtually nothing, including Europe. Most on the hard left are euro-sceptics while Ganley is avowedly euro-federalist.

While passing the Fiscal Treaty will herald no major day-to-day changes — mainly because it just restates the centre/centre right economic orthodoxy in place since 2008 — it will cement it into domestic law for the foreseeable future.

It is this that the Irish left fears and opposes most. Passing the Treaty would recalibrate the centre of the Irish political spectrum a few points to the right.

It won’t be a seismic or noticeable shift, but it torpedoes the Left’s ambitions of shifting it the other way. It doesn’t vanquish them, nor does it make them tone the rhetoric down. If anything, it will do the opposite.

This explains why the campaign from Joe Higgins, Boyd Barrett and Sinn Fein has been so fierce. But not as fierce as when its over and they start to target each other.

And the upshot? Well, Mooney rather mischievously lumps Labour in with the centre right. Mischievous, but it sort of chimes with what many stalwart Labour supporters are saying when 40% tell of them polsters they’ll be voting against the party line.

And it’s this weak point that the Sinn Fein motion in Killarney this weekend calling for the Unions to disassociate from Labour is intended to target. Mooney concludes:

In the meantime Sinn Fein will continue to do well at Labour’s expense, after all Gerry and Mary Lou are saying now what Eamon and Joan were saying two years ago.

It is Labour who will be the biggest casualty then. Polls showing 40% of Labour supporters voting No could have longer term ramifications for the leadership.

But whatever they may be, they can be nowhere near as damaging as Gilmore’s infamous “Frankfurt’s Way or Labour’s Way” slogan. It may turn out to be the most devastating political slogan of recent times.

For its authors, that is.

That would certainly suit Sinn Fein, who have been winning the contest for disaffected Labour sentiment already. As we noted after their performance in the February 2011 general election:

Sinn Fein is no longer purely the interest (some might say obsession) of assorted internet anoraks and ‘Nordies’, but a political force that will factor much more highly than in any previous legislature.

So why is Mooney so gung ho? Because the slow decimation of Labour in austerity administration may also suit Fianna Fail, which lost a whole tranche of voters (urban dwellers, and lower income public sector workers) to Labour in that same election. Thus far they have concentrated almost solely on building confidence in their hard core.

Shaking voters loose from Labour may initially at least send some of them to Sinn Fein (though I suspect they already account for that party’s rise in the polls), but the destabilisation of Labour could be Fianna Fail’s first opportunity to begin pitching to a significant chunk of that lost public sector vote…

Much depends on how well Labour keep their nerve. Having mercilessly derided the Greens for mud-guarding Fianna Fail, they may be doing the same thing for Fine Gael.

But the residual reality is that whilst Ireland loves to talk publicly to centre left, but when it comes to the crunch, they have consistently voted overwhelmingly to the centre right.

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