Given the post ideological nature of politics in the Republic, it’s not surprising bits fall off every government that goes through a rough patch. Mattie McGrath in part survived the flushing out of the last FF led government because he jumped early and put constituency before party.
Now it is Labour’s turn. And being less practised in the art (and having a long long way to fall at the next election), the loss of their own party chair Colm Keaveney to the Dail whip has thrown a challenge to party managers that they have little modern experience in handling.
With Roisin Shortall, Willie Penrose, Tommy Broughan and Patrick Nulty all on the party sidelines, critics of the party leadership (which seems determined not to brook any loosening of the party line, suggests there are more discontent inside the party.
Right from the beginning there has been discontent and hints that an older leadership unwilling or unable to play a strong hand with their coalition partners. The argument in such quarters runs that they were too desperate to get into power to look at the policy small print, before or after going in with FG.
As Cormac Lucey notes, jumping may be Keaveney’s only chance of survival in a constituency (Galway East) where he was the first non FG or FF TD ever elected.
But to do that (in what will be a three rather than a four seater next time) presumably holding on to party membership, never mind the office of chair is more likely to be hinderance rather than a help.
The real existential problem for Labour is that Keaveney is only one of the bonus TDs they got in last year’s election. All of them will feel the pressure to walk the closer we get to election time. And the closer we get the less credible their claims are likely to be they weren’t attached to ‘the project’.
In the old Dail, five TDs would have been 25% of the parliamentary party. Less than two years into a tough parliament and that’s beginning to look like a serious core of party discontent.
Like the Lib Dems in Britain, it may only been the certainty of their fate in an early election which is stopping others from pressing the ejector button.