Labour could be reduced to a rump of five seats after the next election, some TDs fear as the party continues to slump in the polls.
With the latest snapshot survey of public opinion showing Labour standing at just 6% after another two point fall, concern is rising in the party of a near wipe-out at the looming Dail election.
“We could go down to around five TDs on a really bad day,” one deputy said as the party faced a catastrophic collapse from the 37 Dail members it saw elected on 19.4% of the vote in 2011.
With Fine Gael rising three points to stand at 27% in the Behaviour & Attitudes/Sunday Times survey, it is clear any political reward because of the economic recovery is going to the dominant Coalition partner.
The shift in polls has also strengthened the determination of Labour TDs to combat calls in some sections of Fine Gale for a snap November election following a relatively generous Budget in October.
Labour TDs want to wait until late February/early March for the election so that expected reduction USC and some other tax rates will have appeared in pay packets from the end of January.
“In a way we are just putting off the inevitable – the electorate clearly want to give us a bloody nose – but an early election would be very foolish,” a TD said.
The only piece of good news in the poll was support for Tánaiste Joan Burton whose satisfaction rating stands at 37%, just behind the most popular party leader, Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin, who is on 39%.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s satisfaction rating dropped four points to 32%, while Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams also dipped two points to 34%.
However, the Tánaiste faces an uphill battle to avoid being one of the Labour casualties in the looming election as analyists predict it is likely only one Coalition candidate will be returned in the Dublin West constituency which she shares with high profile Fine Gael Health Minister Leo Varadkar.
Labour figures are divided on the level of co-operation that should exist between the two Coalition parties in the election campaign.
While Communications Minister Alex White has called for a formal voter-transfer pact with Fine Gael, other have urged caution for fear it will backfire against Labour in the way the 2007 Mullingar Accord was viewed to have.
Fine Gael chief whip has predicted there will “absolutely” be a voter transfer pact, but calls from former key FG strategists Frank Flannery that the two parties should campaign on a joint platform have received a frosty reception within Labour ranks.
Labour managed to retain some 20 Dail seats on just 10% of the vote in the 2002 and 2007 elections, but the surge of Sinn Féin support, and the emergence of a raft of new parties, including the centre-left Social Democrats, mean the party will be squeezed much harder next time out.
Labour slumped to 6% of the vote in last year’s local elections which prompted the resignation of Eamon Gilmore after Ms Burton said the party had taken a “shellacking” as she pledged to try and restore support as leader. Overall, seven in 10 voters are dissatisfied by the Government’s performance, while 30% of the electorate view it favourably.
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