It was left to Alan Kelly to rule out any deal with Michael Lowry — when Kelly emerges
as the principled voice of reason in the party, you know something has gone badly awry in the failed state that is Labour, writes Shaun Connolly

Hell is truth seen too late, observed the political philosopher Thomas Hobbes. And while the Labour Party meets in Mullingar — not hell — this weekend; the road to Mullingar, like the one to hell, was paved with good intentions.

Not quite a wake for the party’s time in power, more the removal — removal of reality as to why Labour finds itself in such a mess compared to Fine Gael, if the musings of its past and present leaders are anything to go by.

Serial reality-denier Eamon Gilmore outdid himself as he peddled his revenge scorn book settling scores with Joan Burton when he lauded the now infamous “Every Little Hurts” mock-Tesco advert.

Gilmore said the ad was one of the most successful campaigns in history as it was only rolled out once and people are still talking about it five years later.

For sheer jaw-dropping crassness, it is a bit like Jackie Kennedy saying; “That trip to Dallas me and Jack took in November 1963 was amazing — people are still talking about it decades later!”

The ad was meant to emphasise that Labour would act as the moral brake on Fine Gael and thwart such outrageous, ideologically driven Blueshirt excesses as cutting child allowance; bringing in an expensive water tax; and banging a quid on a bottle of wine.

For more election news, analysis and general banter join us HERE

It clearly resonated and a last-minute Fine Gael surge to shade a majority was stopped in its tracks as Labour received record numbers of votes.

The only problem was, rather than put a brake on Fine Gael, Labour went on to break every single one of the six clear promises in the ad as it conspired to form a Tory coalition of misery with Enda & Co.

Slumping to 6% in the 2014 local elections as a result, Gilmore jumped before he was pushed as Burton took over. However, she failed to turn over a new attitude for Labour which could have changed its image back from lap-dog to watchdog.

Burton made a number of early strategic blunders, for instance saddling the party with the Department of the Environment and its hated water tax rather than insisting on the jobs portfolio that would have finally put the Labour Party in a position to take some credit for the largely cyclical economic upturn.

Depressingly silent during the endless run of controversies at the Department of Justice that finally forced Alan Shatter from office, Burton had an opportunity to reassert moral authority when Kenny cack-handedly tried to stack the Seanad with a crony, but, as usual, Labour wimped-out and limped into the corner with barely a whimper instead.

Still reeling from accusations of blatant cronyism herself, St Joan wavered in the face of temptation again when, for four full days, she evaded questions on whether Labour would allow itself to be propped-up in government by the likes of disgraced former Fine Gael minister Michael Lowry.

It was left to over-promoted and overly ambitious deputy leader Alan Kelly to firmly rule out any deal with his deadly constituency rival Lowry — when Kelly emerges as the principled voice of reason in the party, you know something has gone badly awry in the failed state that is Labour.

In politics timing is everything, and just like taking over the party too late, Burton showed she is not a lucky general when her prevarications on a Lowry deal were thrown into sharp, and ugly, relief by a damning High Court judgement stating the TD engaged in a “litany of falsification and deception”.

Rather than set, an admittedly belated moral standard for Labour, Burton had bleated the same meaningless banalities as the Tory do-anything-for-a-deal-to-stay-in-power Taoiseach on Lowry.

And with his 11 refusals in a row to answer a very straightforward question about a post-election hook-up with Lowry, Enda Kenny set the tone for the whole election campaign: Grubby.

It was also bad politics as it destroyed the key theme of the Coalition campaign, that the only alternative to it is the chaos option of a government propped up on the whim of independents.

Kenny’s lack of finesse in failing to fling Lowry back into the political shadows suddenly exalted him into the role of kingmaker of the next Dáil — in US terms a sort of human Ohio without whose support no one can govern. Clearly, the pursuit of power is all for Kenny.

British Tory leader Michael Howard’s career was torpedoed by the withering assessment that “he had something of the night about him”. Lowry certainly has something of the tribunal about him and always will; thus he should be left ostracised in its dark, unforgiving shadow.

But then Kenny has clearly always been more indulgent of Lowry than he would like to let on. You only have to look at the chummy tone of the deeply sexist handwritten note Lowry wrote to the Taoiseach last year urging the reappointment of a woman to a State board because she’s “not bad looking either” to see that. Enda carelessly left the note on the front bench for prying eyes to find and make public.

Now he is careful to tip-toe around Lowry for fear he will need him in order to remain on that same front bench next month.

Barely back above that rock-bottom 6% support, Labour also hopes to hobble back into power with Enda, but for what purpose? Labour is not yet in hell — Mullingar is merely the ante-room — because it has yet to realise the truth about the time and trust it has squandered while in power.

Hobbes laid the foundation for much of modern Western progressive political thinking with Leviathan and its concept of the need for a “social contract” to bind society together. Labour broke its social contract with the people who turned to it in 2011. Labour voters feel lied to.

Electoral hell awaits.

For more election news, analysis and general banter join us HERE

More on this topic

Water charges 'will be collected'; Joan Burton expected to step down as Labour leaderWater charges 'will be collected'; Joan Burton expected to step down as Labour leader

Independent Alliance say FG will have to agree to 'radical proposals' for a govt by ThursdayIndependent Alliance say FG will have to agree to 'radical proposals' for a govt by Thursday

Talks with Independent Alliance could delay govt formation; SF says FF have 'lost credibility'Talks with Independent Alliance could delay govt formation; SF says FF have 'lost credibility'

Leo Varadkar's govt formation comments 'misleading and self-serving', says Michael McGrathLeo Varadkar's govt formation comments 'misleading and self-serving', says Michael McGrath


Lifestyle

Food news with Joe McNameeThe Menu: Upcoming food highlights

THE health properties of tea have long been advertised. “It maketh the body active and lusty” a 1660 promotion suggested. However, before you dunk your teabag into a mug of steaming water, spare a thought for the environment. Some have polypropylene to help to seal them and it doesn’t decompose.Storm in a teacup: Top 8 loose-leaf teas

Bestselling author Isabel Allende talks to Rowena Walsh about life, grief, and why it’s never too late to fall in loveIsabel Allende: It's never too late to fall in love

Cliffs of Moher Retreat owner Michelle Moroney has written a book on finding self-worth and stepping back from our 24/7 lives. She talks to Marjorie Brennan about the need to unwindMichelle Moroney highlights the need to take stock of our lives

More From The Irish Examiner