SHAUN CONNOLLY: Gilmore is unlikely to recover from latest blows

DESPITE being a bit of a lefty by Labour’s irredeemably bourgeoisie Chardonnay-socialist standards, when Colm Keaveney became party chairman it was always clear he would be less Chairman Mao, more Chairman Row, and so it has proved.

Everyone expected it to end in tears, no one expected it to end in Latin.

The fact the Tuam TD tweeted his exit via the enigmatic phrase “Acta non verba” — “deeds, not words” —underlined the somewhat theatrical side to his quixotic nature.

As does his decision, for now anyway, to remain chairman of a party whose parliamentary wing he has now been thrown out of. A move which, given that Eamon Gilmore could not even bring himself to mention Keaveney by name in his terse statement acknowledging the departure, should make for some wonderfully dysfunctional meetings of the national executive committee with neither speaking to the other and passive-aggressively communicating via poor old Joan Burton: Gilmore: “Could you tell the so-called chairman that he is a buffoon, Joan.” Keaveney: “No, Joan, could you tell the so-called leader that he is a buffoon, or Et Tu Buffooni, as we say in East Galway....”

And all the while the people who voted Labour in record numbers just last year, cringe, embarrassed at the memory and vowing never to do so again.

Mr Gilmore insisted Keaveney had chosen to “watch the recovery from across the lobby”, but, unfortunately for the rest of us, while the Coalition may be on the floor, it is certainly not in the recovery position yet.

Indeed, it is unlikely Mr Gilmore will ever really recover his position as some of his TDs still within the party refer to him openly as the “caretaker leader” who needs to be replaced before the next election if they are to have any chance of avoiding a crushing defeat.

This scenario would see Roisín Shortall fire the opening shot after the expected drubbing in the 2014 local elections, thus allowing Ms Burton to then enter the race posing as a “unity candidate” as the Social Protection Minister is keenly aware that she who wields the knife seldom wears the crown.

But whether even regicide — the assassination of a king — will be enough to save Labour from the wrath of the electorate is another matter.

And while Ms Burton has fared surprisingly well with a tricky brief, she will now be remembered as the woman who slashed child benefit for the most vulnerable families in the country and snatched a huge chunk of the back to school allowance away in a budget that seemed unnecessarily cruel and targeted disproportionately at the weak.

Mr Gilmore expressed his opposition to being effectively bitch-slapped by the Blueshirt Thatcherites who vetoed his wheeze to make those earning over €100,000 a year pay a tiny bit more in USC tax by “walking out” of the special Cabinet Budget meeting — but as the meeting was not actually officially in session at the time, in reality he walked-out of nothing, and then promptly walked back in again after the promise of a few crumbs being squeezed out of rich pensioners.

While technically Labour can claim to have stuck by its election pledge not to cut “core” welfare payments, in the real world, public opinion has found it guilty of just that due to the miserly attack on child benefit and the party will be sentenced to a sound thrashing at the next election as a result.

Nobody remembers the reason three of the last four Labour TDs jumped ship, and we only recall Ms Shortall’s departure due to the fantastic scale of the sheer personal bitterness it revealed between her and “stroke specialist” Dr James Reilly — but Mr Keaveney essentially went over child benefit and the memory of that cut will smoulder in the minds of Labour supporters for a very long time.

And if Keaveney refuses to budge as chairman and Gilmore is forced to call a delegate conference to unseat him, what happens if the members vote to keep their Latin champion in place? Will Gilmore fall on his sword instead?

But hopefully one unforeseen consequence of Chairman Row’s exit will be that politicians actually start to think before they tweet, as Mr Keaveney’s Latin lunge left him at the mercy of critics deriding his perceived pomposity.

Elected officials should have latched onto the novel concept of not twit-tweeting last year after the wonderfully named US Congressman Anthony Weiner tweeted a picture of his, er, aroused weiner, to a female admirer, then lied about it, then resigned.

But it seems politicians learn nothing from the idiocy of others in their grubby trade, as proved once again in recent days by British Tory MP David Davis who came out against David Cameron’s plans to extend marriage rights to same sex couples by insisting that “most parents” did not want their children to be gay.

Now, while some parents might feel like that (though as God, or the universe’s Intelligent Design, or whomever, has already decided otherwise, and what are they going to do about it anyway?) many, many more British parents do not want their children to be Tories.

Thus Mr Davis’s remarks caused quite a negative reaction, prompting the bad speller and former boxer to tweet: “Once fought gay boxer. Respect & like trained with after bout so not bigoted. actvists calm down- listen to other views youtu.be/-3T2teJaVlA.”

So, Mr Davis’s tweet “proves” he cannot be homophobic because it directs people to look at a video of him punching a gay man in public. Hmmmm, and we thought the Dáil had a monopoly on dumb deputies?

And as Mr Keaveney says goodbye — or “Valete” as they would have said in the glory that was First Century Rome — to his erstwhile Labour chums he might reflect that much of the rest of the parliamentary party he leaves across the lobby appear to be caught in the Stockholm syndrome where hostages begin to identify with their kidnappers.

Because whatever delusional bubble they might be living in, the cold, hard truth is that Fine Gael has rode Labour like a show pony at the county fair.


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