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Saturday 18 August 2018

If Gilmore's not careful, his party could go same way as the PDs and the Greens...

WHEN I read of the reported dissent in Labour's ranks over the performance of Eamon Gilmore, I thought of the words of Brendan Behan -- "The first item on the agenda is the split."

Labour are barely six months in Government and it's alleged that some senior figures in the party are lamenting their leader's performance at the Cabinet table.

After languishing all those long, dreary years in opposition, Labour were buoyed after finally making it back into Government earlier this year. It was a great achievement, thanks in the main to the noted 'Gilmore gale' -- the strength of Eamon Gilmore's leadership.

Toxic

During the election campaign, some pundits even suggested that Gilmore could be the next Taoiseach.

Unfortunately his gale now seems to have blown itself out.

A 12pc poll rating last weekend signalled an abrupt end to the honeymoon for Labour. That's a drop of 7pc on their election result, leaving the Government partners behind Sinn Fein and even the toxic brand of Fianna Fail.

The greybeards in the party -- despite the bluster -- must be alarmed by this result.

Their backsides are barely warm at the Cabinet table and they're already being cast as yesterday's men.

Labour have every reason to be apprehensive, if we read our history. Look at the annihilation of the last two junior partners in coalition governments -- the PDs and the Greens. Need I say more?

Which is why the recent revelations about Eamon Gilmore this week, and their timing, are interesting.

It's reported that 'senior ministers', no less, have their doubts about his leadership at the Cabinet table. They were not named, and Gilmore says he does not believe the report, but the whispers story is dominating the party's think-in this week.

The Labour leader can deny it all he wants, as can his supporters, but any reports of weakhandedness do not ring well in the country's current economic crisis -- something Pat Rabbitte warned of in this paper yesterday.

He can deny it all he wants but, to be blunt, Gilmore has been absent in the past six months.

Spirited

With the exception of some comments on the Cloyne Report, he has been mainly publicly AWOL, particularly compared with the likes of his colleagues Pat Rabbitte and Ruairi Quinn.

Indeed, his most spirited performance of late was his furious reaction to this week's newspaper reports.

But with collapsing polls and a reportedly "dithering" leader, this could be just an appetiser for what's coming down the line for Labour.

Three more austerity Budgets are planned, it appears, and cracks are beginning to show in the party's relationship with its core working class voters.

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton has already attracted ire with her comments on dole being a lifestyle choice for some -- a matter that will return to haunt the party come December.

Gilmore's remarks ruling out debt forgiveness will come across to many as uncaring -- particularly from a supposedly Left-wing leader.

And this is all before Budget spending cuts are all revealed in the coming months. September could look like halcyon days for Gilmore in the midst of the coming winter of discontent.

Finally, isn't it telling that Michael D Higgins, Labour's presidential candidate, has left the party's logo off his election literature? Maybe the canny old operator sees the writing on the wall.

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