Labour leader’s vote offer won’t be reciprocated

Labour leader Brendan Howlin

Labour’s olive branch offer of support for like-minded opposition parties has been snubbed by the Social Democrats and Greens — despite an appeal to maximise “progressive” voices in the Dáil.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin urged supporters at a national conference on the weekend to give preferences to other parties after his own in future elections.

The party also debated women’s health, housing and potential coalition’s after the next general election, although a motion on the latter was rejected by delegates yesterday.

In his main TV speech, Mr Howlin said Labour if in government would introduce a digital service tax to ensure internet giants pay their fair share.

Labour supporters should vote for other parties or candidates too, he also explained: “To maximise the progressive voice, at the next election, I will call on all Labour voters to give their next preferences to progressive candidates, from the Green Party and the Social Democrats, and to progressive independents.”

But the offer for Labour voters to give their twos or threes to the Social Democrats and the Greens will not be reciprocated, those party leaders told the Irish Examiner yesterday.

Social Democrats co-founder Róisín Shortall, formerly of Labour, said: “No we wouldn’t [do the same]. It is somewhat naive of Brendan to suggest that you can control transfers.

“People make up their own minds. It is a matter for the electorate. There is no question about us doing it. We would be delighted to get transfers from any party. But there is no question about us entering any agreement,” she added.

The Greens also look unfavourably at returning the offer from Labour about recommending preference voting to the electorate. Greens leader Eamon Ryan said: “Historically we haven’t done this. It is not out disrespect for another party. We just leave it to voters discretion. We have agreed with the Social Democrats and Labour on Dail matters, but we usually leave it to voters.”

Nonetheless, he said the idea of recommending preferences be given to Labour would be discussed by the Greens electoral task-force, headed by up party chairman Roderic O’Gorman.

Mr Howlin had made it clear such a voting strategy would not involve a pre-election pact. Nonetheless, he and the leadership are open to post-election coalitions as long as an alliance satisfie certain redline issues. One such demand would be housing. Labour is proposing building 80,000 affordable homes with €16bn in public money over five years.

Mr Howlin reiterated the voting pledge at a press conference yesterday. A separate party motion to consider coalitions or confidence and supply arrangements was voted down by delegates.

A motion was defeated on the weekend to allow future leadership candidates to come from the Seanad. Currently, only TDs can run for the leadership.

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