Friday 19 January 2018

Burton is warned that Labour could lose 20 seats in the General Election

Joan Burton and Alan Kelly
Joan Burton and Alan Kelly

Tanaiste Joan Burton has been warned that the Labour Party faces the prospect of losing more than 20 seats in the General Election, as concern heightens over the absence of a post-Budget bounce in the opinion polls.

The issue of Labour's dismal standing in the polls was discussed at a number of internal party meetings in the past fortnight, including by the party's national executive.

Constituency analysis commissioned by Labour headquarters shows that the party faces being left with just 10 seats after the election, according to a number of party sources.

The study is said to show the party has the potential to take five seats in Dublin, as well others in constituencies such as Limerick, Wexford Tipperary and Louth.

Ms Burton and deputy leader Alan Kelly are understood to be aware of the analysis.

At both parliamentary and advisory level, the scale of the disquiet over the party's apparent failure to capitalise on last month's giveaway budget has increased significantly.

"We are not at panic stations just yet, but it's fair to say we are getting there. We just don't seem to be able to get any kind of break," said a Labour strategist.

For the first time, members of the party are now openly discussing Ms Burton's replacement as party leader.

While there is no suggestion of any move against her prior to the election, the consensus in the party is that a poor election result will end in the Dublin West TD being replaced.


The three names being openly circulated in terms of her successor are Mr Kelly, Business and Employment Minister Ged Nash and Equality Minister Aodhan O Riordain.

However, all three TDs are preparing for a dogfight to hold onto their seats in their respective constituencies.

There is also growing unease surrounding Labour's manifesto and whether it will differ distinctly from that of Fine Gael.

One of the issues that has been reported back to party headquarters is the negative response from older voters in relation to the move by Ms Burton to increase the old age pension by €3 in October's Budget.

The feedback states that many voters have described the size of the increase as insulting - prompting suggestions among TDs that the move may have backfired.

A Labour minister this week said it was now essential the party makes every effort to differentiate itself from Fine Gael in relation to the manifestos.

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