Labour forced to eat its words on first day out

A potential leadership rival slapped down publicly as an “obedient employee”, claims the recovery is the party’s not the people’s, a baby narrowly avoiding a politicians’ puckered lips, and a vase broken in the very first shop entered marked Labour’s first day on the campaign trail.

Labour forced to eat its words on first day out

The party’s first outing of election 2016 was an example of how to shoot yourself in the foot and deftly side-step the same shot in equal measure, offering a 24-hour showreel of the difficulties and opportunities politicians face over the coming three weeks.

Speaking in Dublin at the launch of the party’s campaign, Tánaiste Joan Burton attempted to frame the election on the triple points of health, housing, and the opposition’s “negative, sterile” view of Ireland’s future.

However, internal disagreements — or at least the perception of them — soon bubbled to the fore as the Labour leader and her deputy, Environment Minister Alan Kelly, spoke to the media.

Asked at the party’s John Rogerson’s quay headquarters if she is still her colleague’s boss after Mr Kelly told a Sunday newspaper “ah sure in politics you are your own boss really”, Ms Burton made it clear she is still firmly in charge.

With her deputy looking on, she described the Tipperary TD — Labour’s director of elections who is rumoured as a potential successor should the election not go to plan — as an “incredibly obedient employee”, before clarifying as the laughter died down “colleague, colleague”.

As Mr Kelly said quietly “you can trust me”, the party sought to return the debate to using the fiscal space for free GP cover for all and making the minimum wage a living wage.

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However, attention was soon taken away again as Mr Kelly took aim at the opposition by describing the recovery as his party’s alone — before being nudged into adding its the public’s too.

“It has to be pointed out at all times, it is our recovery they’re [the opposition] talking about. Our recovery,” he said.

Asked if the public has also had a role, he clarified: “Well, it’s the people’s recovery, but it’s this Government who created that recovery.”

At a later event in the Dublin suburb of Clontarf in the newly established Dublin Bay North constituency, the reality of that recovery — which is surging in some areas but non-existent in others — was outlined as the Tánaiste joined Equality Minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin to visit local businesses.

Despite a reporter knocking over a glass vase at the To Russia With Love charity shop, the very first store the duo visited — an accident Ms Burton joked was “the first casualty of the campaign” —the walk-around saw potential faux pas apparent earlier in the day side-stepped.

Walking past a young woman with a baby in the Spar on Vernon Avenue, local candidate Mr Ó Ríordáin joked “I won’t kiss your baby”, before the woman explained it wasn’t hers. “Well, I won’t kiss it anyway,” he responded.

At Thunders bakery Mr Ó Ríordáin tucked into a pastry before quickly handing the rest to a smiling child outside, turning the situation from ‘let them eat cake’ to ‘having your cake and eating it’.

Ms Burton and her entourage then walked across the road to Moloughney’s restaurant, watched by four gardaí, where the menu offered a ‘Dark and Stormy’ cocktail, full of ingredients that may not be to everyone’s taste. What a coincidence — exactly what Labour insists the opposition is offering voters.

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