Wednesday, 16 May 2007

We don't want his support, but...

RTÉ is reporting that Tony Blair is set to feature in tonight's party political broadcast for Fianna Fáil along with Bill Clinton and George Mitchell. They will be commenting on the role played by Bertie Ahern in the peace process and were reportedly in agreement with their views being aired in a PPB for FF.

How utterly pathetic that Blair, not content with a huge shift to the right at home, is now backing the centre-right of Irish politics. Supposedly Labour in Britain are our sister party throught the PES and Socialist International. Of course we have many comrades (see my earlier posts on John McDonnell) but Blair is not one of them. I can't imagine how much in breach of PES rules it is to back a rival candidate over a sister party in another country's election, but it certainly goes against principles of fraternity and internationalism which supposedly underpin the left.

I wrote the mail below to the General Secretary of Brit Labour, let's see if they respond. Any replies will be posted here.
Dear Mr Watt,

I am writing to voice my disgust at the appearance of your Party Leader, Tony Blair, in a Party Political Broadcast for Ireland's Fianna Fáil party due to air this evening.

The decision of a Labour leader to publically back a centre-right party in this manner flies in the face of the principles of internationalism and fraternity we supposedly share as membersof the Party of European Socialists.

The historic link between our two parties has been severely damaged by this personalised intervention by your leader. Unless there is a retraction of Mr Blair's appearance in this video, I will be writing to the Party of European Socialists to ask them to take action against British Labour and working with my own party's representatives to do the same.

Yours in disgust,
Dermot Looney

Member, Irish Labour Party

Monday, 14 May 2007

No Coronation for Brown!

The Guardian reports John McDonnell will be on the ballot having secured more than 45 nominations from MPs, with Meacher out.

Wonderful news. McDonnell's campaign was written off by the cynics from Day One, but a truly bottom-up approach across Britain has landed him enough support to fight a values-based campaign against the co-architect of New Labour, Gordon Brown.

Labour Youth on Coalition

It's a question many are still asking - where exactly do Labour Youth stand on coalition and electoral strategy.

The basis is a number of motions at recent Conferences, the last of which are the following motions, adopted at the last Labour Youth National Conference in UCD last Autumn.

  • Electoral Strategy (proposed: Dublin South-West Labour Youth)

    Conference calls for:
    a vote for the Labour Party in the upcoming general election, and for voters to transfer against the government.

    Conference believes:
    all Labour Youth members should contribute as much of their time and effort as possible to ensuring the maximum number of votes for Labour candidates in all constituencies.

    Conference reaffirms:
    support for an independent electoral strategy for the Labour Party.

    Conference mandates:
    Labour Youth to include a call for a vote for the Labour Party alone in all its election literature, press releases and communication to members.

    Conference asks:
    all Labour Youth members not to co-operate with the distribution of any material, including leaflets and posters, which calls for a transfer to the Fine Gael party.

Labour Youth remains committed to this strategy in canvassing for Labour candidates in the election, and come the outcome of that, another motion comes into play
  • (Proposer: Dublin West LY) Conference ... Mandates:
    The NYE to campaign actively against any possible coalition proposal in which the Labour Party is not the largest party. This includes distribution of literature and active canvassing of party members outlining and seeking support for Labour Youth's stance

Browned off with Gordon? Look left to John!

I don't intend to use this blog as a dumping ground for old articles but given John McDonnell's campaign to lead the Labour Party in the face of the usual New Labour nonsense from Gordon Brown, I thought I'd share an article I wrote from Issue 4 of Left Tribune which came out last Autumn on the background to his campaign.

It's also worth noting that John McDonnell's campaign is officially supported by Labour Youth in Ireland. A letter was sent by Patrick Nulty, Labour Youth Chair, to McDonnell, which he graciously responded to with a handwritten note. The hope is for LY can now link up with Britain's Socialist Youth Network - keen supporters of McDonnell.

For John McDonnell, the hope today is that he can tot up the 45 required nominations from MPs to get on the ballot and ensure a true debate on the sickening decline of British Labour presided over by Brown and Blair.


This summer's announcement by left-wing MP John McDonnell that he would stand for the leadership of British Labour caused a minor stir in a popular media besotted with the personalities of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. But, as Dermot Looney writes, McDonnell's campaign is part of a historic narrative in which left and right battle it out for the hearts and minds of Britain and its troubled Labour Party.

A casual observer might not think a politician who lists "generally fermenting the overthrow of capitalism" among his interests in Who's Who fits in well to a Labour Party dominated by Blairism for more than a decade. But John McDonnell's bid to become the next British Labour Leader is far from an anachronism. Rather, it is a legitimate and vital campaign to reclaim the values, principles, policies and politics of the left for the party. And those scoffing how a socialist campaign is expected to thrive fall into the mythical trap of believing that Labour equals Blairism.

Left-wing activists who remain 'in the pavilion' of Labour politics have been battered, bruised and cast aside - but they are not yet defeated. An estimated 200,000 members have left the party in the last decade - some 25 times the entire membership of the Irish Labour Party. But Londoner McDonnell, who has significant Irish roots, is adamant that his campaign should be the trigger for many of them to rejoin and for new members, particularly amongst Britain's disenfranchised youth, to take up membership and activism. His campaign is undoubtedly one seeking to "reclaim" the party for what he views as its natural place on the left.

Far from the personality disputes of Brown and Blair - co-architects of the New Labour project - and the host of minor acolytes lining up to "renew" New Labour, McDonnell stands in the traditions of Nye Bevan and Tony Benn; popular, radical and caring politics rooted in the great dichotomy of left and right.

Perhaps more than any other left-wing party in the world, the importance of political and class culture has dominated the British Labour Party since its formation as the Labour Representation Committee in 1900 by Keir Hardie. The cultural ethos of the labour movement, built from the early years of the 20th century, focused on the transformation of society itself by the combined efforts of working-class people represented in their workplaces by trade unions and in parliament by Labour.

While he is recognised as a hero to many on the left nowadays, Keir Hardie's chairmanship of the party was in sharp opposition to Marxists in the Social Democratic Federation, an important component in the early Labour Party. Mass membership and mass support for the party came within a few years but this did not necessarily imply radicalism. Indeed, the first ever Labour Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald, rejected the socialism and pacifism of his early days in Parliament when he became leader of a minority government in 1924.

Any chances of re-election to Government were halted by the infamous Zinoviev letter, a forged document purporting to come from the USSR and calling for Soviet-style Communism in Britain. The forgery was printed in the Daily Mail - now, and then, a reactionary Tory paper with a particular distaste for any form of socialism (and, coincidentally, the Irish). Ramsay MacDonald was opposed by many on the left throughout his leadership, particularly given his opposition to the 1926 General Strike. He was eventually expelled from the Labour Party and formed a national government in coalition with the Tories and Liberals.

The Zinoviev letter and the subsequent controversy highlighted two parallel tendencies which have always restricted the left in British politics - the power of an unsympathetic media, and 'red scare' tactics by the Tories. The degree of 'redness' in the party is a ubiquitous source of controversy; so much so that the history of British Labour since its foundation might best be understood as a conflict between left and right.

A number of other key left-right arguments in the party have taken place over the past 60 years. The landslide post-War election of 1945 gave Labour a huge majority in Parliament, allowing the foundation of the Welfare State and the National Health Service, an institution that continues despite more than a quarter century of attacks by neoliberalism under Thatcher and Blair.

A remarkable feature of this government, led by Clem Attlee, was the attachment felt by ordinary people to Labour; the party had approximately half a million members when they took office in 1945, and over a million when they left six years later.

It is perhaps during Attlee's leadership that the radical left of the party reached its zenith. Nevertheless, Attlee himself was a moderate and his foreign policy - in particular his commitments to massive spending on arms and intervention in the Korean War in 1950 were staunchly opposed by a left wing who increasingly turned to Welsh radical Nye Bevan as its best hope.

Bevan, the archetypal miner-cum-trade union leader, overcame great odds in establishing the NHS in 1948, a feat which remains Labour's proudest ever achievement in government. But he was forced out of the Cabinet after opposing the war in Korea and subsequent challenges to Attlee's successor, the centrist Hugh Gaitskell, bore little fruit. The clashes between Bevanites and Gaitskellites were substantial but the moderates maintained the upper hand while the Tories under an aged Churchill and Anthony Eden retained power.

The next time Labour came to power was 1964, in a slim majority led by another moderate, Harold Wilson. This majority was greater in the 1966 snap election and Labour were in government until 1970. Although many social-democratic social policies were implemented, such as increasing universalism in social welfare payments and legislation on race relations, homosexuality and abortion, the left of the party were largely undermined. By the late 1960's there was enough optimism, however, that the common consensus among ordinary Labour activists was that the "seventies would be socialist." Their hopes were not to be achieved.

The seventies saw positions in government alternate from the Tories, back to Labour under Wilson and then Jim Callaghan, and back again to the Tories. Wilson's successor, Jim Callaghan, was another centrist, and opposed a left that by now included ministers Barbara Castle and Tony Benn. In 1976 Callaghan's government received an IMF loan that was "badly needed" - the loan required the typical privatisation and free-market reforms attached to IMF interventions. The left of the party increasingly rallied around Benn and Michael Foot, a previous editor of the left-wing Tribune newspaper.

The so-called "Winter of Discontent" in 1979 led to the Labour government being well-beaten by the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher was to dominate British politics for more than a decade - indeed, some would say that her ideology and style, if not necessarily her party, continue to dominate today.

Tony Benn and others were massively supported by the Labour grassroots membership and pushed through democratic reforms, giving more power to the party conference and arguing for radical reform across the board. Michael Foot's election as party leader in 1980 was a significant victory for the left and, while Benn was narrowly defeated in a significant election for Deputy Leader in 1981, Labour's high standing in polls continued to hold until the beginning of the Falklands War in 1982. Thatcher's star then began to rise, supported by a jingoistic media and a significant split in Labour led by a right-wing opposed to democratic party reforms and left-wing policies.

The "Gang of Four" who initiated the split went on to form the Social Democratic Party, which later merged with a diminished Liberal Party to form today's Liberal Democrats. The SDP were somewhat successful in taking Labour seats in the 1983 election in which hysteria about Labour's manifesto contributed to a significant Tory victory. The manifesto, written by Benn and others on the left, argued for withdrawal from the EEC, nuclear disarmament, abolition of the aristocratic House of Lords and nationalisation of a number of strategic industries.

It was seized upon by the press as an excuse for Labour to "nationalise the corner shops" and, combined with Foot's unpopularity and hugely successful negative campaigning tactics and costly media campaigns by the Tories, led to a landslide defeat. Labour's own right-wingers famously termed the 50,000 word manifesto as "the longest suicide note in history."

While the Bennite left continued to argue for radical reforms, the extreme individualism, far-right social policies and the advent of neoliberal economics under Thatcher were the backdrop for the rest of the eighties. Where Labour was successful - in a number of radical left local government authorities, including the Greater London Council (GLC) - Thatcher's government simply abolished the councils. Two people affected by the abolition of the GLC were its leader, "Red" Ken Livingstone (now London Mayor) and his deputy, John McDonnell.

From the 1983 defeat on the party initiated series after series of reforms which were intended to "modernise" - in practice, moving further and further to a capitalist consensus. Under the leadership of Neil Kinnock, a former left winger who controversially abstained rather than support Benn's election for Deputy Leader, the party expelled the "Militant Tendency," a Trotskyite entrist group who had a number of MP's and control of Liverpool City Council. The media heralded it as a defeat for the left, even though the Bennites, now formed as the Socialist Campaign Group, were not aligned to Militant.

A number of key decisions were taken by Kinnock which were to lay the ground for Tony Blair's leadership a decade later, such as a concentration on the party's and a more centralised structure, giving power back to the leadership and away from the membership. Kinnock's leadership should have culminated in election victory in 1992, but the party were narrowly defeated.

The party swung further to the centre under Kinnock's successor, John Smith, and to the right under Tony Blair, who was elected leader in 1994. The New Labour project was originally intended to defeat the remaining vestiges of the left by coalescing with the Lib Dems but, given the huge unpopularity of John Major's Tory government, instead won a landslide election in 1997. Since then, Blair's centralised leadership, neoliberal economics and neoconservative foreign policies have dominated and the left of the party, confined to the backbenches in parliament, have suffered with the loss of membership and the "spin" against them from 10 Downing Street and party HQ.

McDonnell's leadership campaign takes place in the context of continued New Labour domination and has, to date, received relatively little attention from a media besotted with the Blair/Brown soap opera. But it has attracted support from across trade unions, the Labour Representation Committee, the Socialist Campaign Group and hosts of public meetings. His candidature is in the historical mould of Bevan and Benn but reflects up-to-date concerns about privatisation, the war in Iraq, the massive military spend and top-up fees for third-level students amongst other issues.

Left and right are complex, changing words, often used to mislead or overly-simplify. But they are far from 'dead', as the pseudo-postmodernists in New Labour would have us believe. John McDonnell's campaign for leadership reasserts the importance of the very basics of socialism - equality, solidarity and democracy - that the right have forgotten or chose to ignore. Only the history of the future will tell us if he and those on the left will be successful in their endeavours.


Born: September 8th 1951 in Liverpool, the son of a docker and shopworker with Irish connections.
MP for: Hayes and Harlington (London)

Positions held: Former Deputy leader of the Greater London Council. Chair of the Labour Representation Committee of ordinary members and trade unionists. Chair of the Socialist Campaign Group of 24 Labour MPs. Chair of the "Public Services Not Private Profit" campaign opposing privatisation. Leader of a number of all-party groups in parliament on trade union issues, the Irish and Punjabi community in Britain and endometriosis.

Has rebelled against the Blair Government on: the Iraq War, support for Israel, foundation hospitals, top-up fees, trust schools, civil liberties clampdowns and "anti-terror" laws, high military spending, nuclear weapons.

Controversy: Once claimed that the "deaths of innocent civilians in IRA attacks is a real tragedy, but it was as a result of British occupation in Ireland. Because of the bravery of the IRA and people like Bobby Sands we now have a peace process."

Quote: "New Labour has systematically alienated section after section of our supporters - teachers, health workers, students, pensioners, public service workers, trade unionists and people committed to the environment, civil liberties and peace. Spin and allegations of sleaze are causing decent people to lose trust in our party. This is reflected in lost votes, lost elections, lost members and a Labour Prime Minister having to rely upon Conservative votes in Parliament to force through legislation."

Campaign Website

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Blame us if you will, but at least blame the others

Following on from below, John Horgan's book is primarily concerned with the relationship of Labour to coalition and our economic position on the left-right spectrum.

So much in the Labour Party, on the Labour Party and about the Labour Party focuses on these two related questions, for obvious reasons. And this election campaign is no different.

But while there is so much commentary - most of which I agree with - on Labour's coalition strategy and the centrism of much of our economic, if not social policy, the focus on Labour excludes the place of the two other major parties associated with the left in the Dáil - the Greens and Sinn Féin?

So why do left wingers rightly berate Labour's coalition and electoral strategy but have little comment for either of the other two? Why, when the Greens have, after a lot of posturing, made it clear they will go into government with FF or FG? I don't believe for one moment they will rule out coalition with the PD's given their headlong rush for governmental power. They have watered down most of their remaining left-of-centre economics in a bid for 'respectability' - AKA deference to media hegemony. Notwithstanding the huge role of economics in social policy, their social platform remains progressive but their quest for power with principles to the side is undeniable.
Much of this was predictable for the Green Party. They don't have an active membership, a basis in social class or trade unionism and are led by parliamentarians with images softer than Mr Soft himself. But the election campaign for Sinn Féin, who can hardly be charged with the same, has been a surprise. A more nuanced analysis is required.

SF have dropped much of their progressive taxation and economic policies such as a fairer corporation tax regime and higher taxation on the super-rich. They seem scared shitless of media criticism of any left-wing economic position; I doubt most of their southern membership share the woolly justification for the policy drops, and I doubt they were consulted in the matter either. Similarly, despite hammering Labour out of it at every opportunity, the leadership will be more than happy to go into coalition with Fianna Fáil, if they're had.

It's often been remarked that despite the All-Ireland nature of the party, SF in the 6 and SF in the 26 are very different indeed, the southern membership much further to the left and more radical. I think the truth is more complex than that. In fact one of the key divides in Sinn Féin is between rural and urban members. Canvasses on on the doorsteps of Cabra, the Falls, the Bogside and Killinarden is probably a lot more similar to each other than those in the homesteads of rural Fermanagh, Monaghan or North Kerry.

There is an undeniable socialism to much of Sinn Féin's membership in Dublin in particular but they can hardly be impressed with the economic changes made by their leadership in recent weeks. What's surprising is the utter silence from their membership; cynics will point to past discipline in the party, but there is also a genuine sense of belonging and attachment to the leadership in SF that just isn't replicated in Labour.

For me, Labour's leadership deserves a lot of criticism from the left for our economic policies and coalition stance, but there can hardly be said to be 'parity of esteem' for the Greens and Sinn Féin. While there's some merit in saying that Labour have crept to the centre, that slow drift is fast being overtaken by a Green gallop and a Shinner sprint.

Lessons of the Past

Although many of us in the Labour Party are a bit obsessed by the historical ephemera of politics and elections - posters, badges, rosettes, you name it - we are very limited when it comes to items of a deeper importance - books which explain who we are, where we are and how we've gotten here. Yes, there's the gossip of Fergus Finlay's 'Snakes and Ladders,' Ray Kavanagh's 'Spring, Summer and Fall' and Stephen Collins' shaky 'Spring and the Labour Party,' but there's little in the way of serious political analysis, recently at least.

The best book I've ever read on the Irish Labour Party is "Labour: The Price of Power" by John Horgan, a former TD, Senator and MEP who's now Professor of Communications in DCU. This was written in the mid 1980's when Labour was at a very low ebb indeed. In and out of Government, with a continuous debate on electoral and coalition strategy, surpassed by the Worker's Party in Dublin and at one stage as low as 6% nationally in the opinion polls; it was an interesting choice of time to launch a major study on the party and to map out a history, analysis and outlook for Labour.

There are many memorable anecdotes, narratives and quotes, but one of Horgan's own remarks sticks out. I don't have the book to hand, but to paraphrase,

"For everyone on the left in Ireland, the Labour Party is the party you're thinking of leaving, have just left or would never dream of joining."

Now if you consider yourself left-wing but aren't in Labour, it might seem a bit arrogant to you that the likes of us to believe that the diversity of Irish socialism and associated philosophies is located entirely within the context of the Labour Party. I would argue that to a large extent that the belief is accurate. The two organisational narratives of the left as a whole in Ireland have been the relationship with nationalism and the relationship, or lack thereof, with the Labour Party. That isn't to say that issues of religion, trade unionism, locality or class are somehow not important. But while we've all heard the cliches on Labour's failure to win widespread electoral support, there's very little on the failure of projects within and outside Labour to win popular support.

We've had little in the way of analyses of Labour Left, a huge movement of left-wing and anti-coalition strategy in the 1980's; on their predecessors in the Liaison of the Left, or on agitation within Labour in the early years, or Larkin's re-entry in the 1940's.

There's been little of organisational interest written on the Socialist Labour Party, Noel Browne's engine for change in the 1970's or on the countless splits and formations of new 'mass working-class' parties that have risen and fallen over the years.

Why bother with all these history lessons? Well, when we go about agitating for change inside or outside the Labour Party, it's worth learning on the successes and failures of the past, however different the context. So whether it's a loose grouping in the Labour Party agitating for better party democracy, a Campaign for an Independent Left or any other group organising for change, you need to do two things; justify your existence in the context of the current Labour Party, and learn the lessons of the organisational past.

The former has tended to be a series of condemnations and a lot of personality-bashing rather than a deeper analysis. And the latter is usually an afterthought, partly because we lack the tools. Maybe I'm missing all these tomes, but if not, a good start for all of us would be an indepth look at these historical projects and not just a series of 'we like ice cream' demands.

Monday, 7 May 2007

I call him Gamblor!

The only monster here is the gambling monster that has enslaved your mother! I call him Gamblor, and it's time to snatch your mother from his neon claws!

Apologies for another speculative post, I'll have some real politics up soon but edited from a post on the St Pat's Message Board here's some tips I've punted on in the election.

I don't deny that I'm the most biased person going , but I do have a collect-12-crisp-packets politics degree from UCD and a bit of experience and with the gambling you have to force some objectivity to the equation.

Working in the business, I really am surprised at how much is staked on individual constituencies and so on and I think that some of those "in the know" have one up on the election traders who are just going on previous results and the odd opinion poll.

Odds are taken off Paddy Power and Boyles; Ladbrokes did have some markets up but they seem to be gone now. I don't apologise for having a Labour bias or for going for outside bets in general!

10 pts total.

Seats Won Market

2pts Labour to win 23 or more seats @ 9/4 with PP

By no means a certainty but on a constituency-by-constituency analysis I've predicted in my blog that Labour will emerge with 23 seats. Surprised at the generous odds being offered - Boyles have slightly less favourable odds, giving 2/1 on 24 or more seats.

Don't see much else in that market worth punting on. I think the PD's will take a hit and both SF and the Greens to increase their share but the odds aren't great.

Constituency Markets

1pt on Carlow-Kilkenny - Michael O'Brien (LAB) @ 8/1 (PP or Boyles)

Very high odds for a serious contender. Was not far off election last time out, and with Seamus Pattison retiring he can make the most of his Kilkenny base (a Labour stronghold, if such a thing exists in Irish politics). Boyles are giving 4/7 on his Labour colleague, Jim Townsend, to take a seat here, even though the two are neck and neck. If O'Brien can poll a higher first preference vote, or if the transfers go his way, he should be competing with Mary White of the Greens for the fifth seat.

1pt on Dublin North-Central - Bronwen Maher (GR) @ 6/1 (Boyles)

High odds for someone who's in with a decent chance. The perceived wisdom here is for 1 FG (Richard Bruton) and 1 FF (Seán Haughey). However the second FFer, Ivor Callelly, has really fallen from grace and in a tight three seater a second FF seat would be unlikely in the event of a national swing against them. That leaves Finian McGrath (Ind), Derek McDowell (Labour) and Bronwen Maher with a chance of the third seat. McGrath hasn't got a smooth ride back and independents generally suffer in tight three-seaters. This is one of Labour's weakest constituencies in Dublin and a with a national move to the Greens a seat is an outside, but possible outcome.

0.5 pt on Galway East - Colm Keaveney (LAB) @ 25/1 (Boyles)

Outsider of course but should be nowhere near 25/1. Had a decent vote - 0.4 of a quota - in 1997 when he last ran and almost a quota in the last locals in Tuam. With the west of the constituency becoming urbanised a Labour seat isn't an impossibility here.

2 pts on Tipperary South - Phil Prendergast (LAB) @ 5/4 (Boyles)

Huge chance here to take a seat. Has polled well previously and a huge profile in the area. Gunning to take Seamus Healy's seat after 1 FG and 1 FF.

2 pts on Dublin South-Central - Eric Byrne (LAB) @ 6/4 (PP)

Completely biased here as I'm working for the candidate but am very positive about him taking the seat. With Gay Mitchell gone and FF weak he can mop up a lot of votes having always been there or thereabouts.

Next Government

1 pt on FF, Greens and PD's @ 12/1 (PP)

These odds exclude independents. I'd say FF will drop 10 seats, the PD's will drop 4 and the Greens will gain 4. That leaves 83 seats - 1 short of a Dáil majority. They'd find no problems cobbling together a couple of "FF gene pool" independents to elect a Taoiseach. Never mind the bluster and blow of the PD's on either of them, and I wouldn't put too much faith in the Greens staying out of a Government if they have the chance. People will dismiss this one out of hand but if the arithmetic is there it wouldn't suprise me if this one worked out.


0.5 pt on over 66.5% @ 9/4 (PP)

With the electoral register reformed and a decent interest in the election nationally, I'd expect a high turnout.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Prediction Time

Well, after a four month wait I'm finally blogging.

And why not, given the day that's in it.

Across the world, socialists and trade unionists will celebrate May Day, so fraternal greetings and solidarity to the left blogohemisphere on our day of celebration and rememberance.

Here at home, Election '07 is off to an unwieldy, odd start. Fianna Fáil's launch was uncharacteristically low-key, unimpressive and no doubt in fear of the Tribunals. Ahern's dawn raid on the Áras now seems to have been a pre-emptive strike on the Mahon tribunal where yet more dodgy dossiers were to be uncovered.

It's being billed as two competing blocs - FF/PD and FG/Labour - by all and sundry. Such a dichotomy suits three of the four parties. But for Labour, playing second fiddle to the Blueshirts in the campaign means being pushed to the sides on so many debates. Such is the outcome of the electoral arrangement and such will be the downfall of Labour candidates across Ireland who fail to take, hold or regain a seat having being squeezed by expensive and seemingly more salient and relevant FG rivals.

It's not all bad news of course. Labour has an excellent range of candidates and an analysis based on the various Internet chatter and previous results shows good seat chances in some 26 constituencies - and a strong chance of two seats each in a further two. But with a core base of just 7% and an average of 9-13% on opinion polls, 30 seats is not likely.

Overall, though, I'm more positive than I have been previously about individual candidates despite the national picture. For fun, more than anything, here are my predictions.

For me there are 4 categories of constituencies.

Level 1
The first are the reasonably safe seats. Nothing is safe in PRSTV, particularly for the third party. But these are seats where Labour traditionally performs and where the TDs have a longstanding reputation and good track record.

For me, these are
Eamon Gilmore (Dun Laoghaire)
Ruairi Quinn (Dublin South East)
Pat Rabbitte (Dublin South-West)
Michael D Higgins (Galway West)
Emmet Stagg (Kildare North)
Willie Penrose (Longford Westmeath)
Jan O'Sullivan (Limk East)
Breeda Moynihan-Cronin (Kerry South)
Brendan Howlin (Wexford) and
Brian O'Shea (Waterford).

Level 2
The next level down are tight constituencies where we can win or lose depending on a few hundred votes either way, and places where we are hoping for two seats;

I've come down on the Labour side in tight races in
Carlow-Kilkenny (Michael O'Brien)
Dublin Nth (Brendan Ryan)
Kerry Nth (Terry O'Brien)
Dublin West (Joan Burton)
Dublin Central (Joe Costello)
Tipperary South (Phil Prendergast)
Kildare South (Jack Wall)
Dublin North West (Roisin Shortall) and
Dublin Nth East (Tommy Broughan).

I've given us two seats in both
Dublin SC (Mary Upton & Eric Byrne) and
Wicklow (Liz McManus & Nicky Kelly).

Tight races I believe we'll just lose are in
Cork South Central (Ciarán Lynch)
Cork East (John Mulvihill and Seán Sherlock)
Cork North-Central (Kathleen Lynch)
Dublin Mid-West (Joanna Tuffy)
Dublin South (Aidan Culhane & Alex White)
Dublin North Central (Derek McDowell)
Meath East (Dominic Hannigan) and
Tipperary North (Kathleen Lynch).

Level 3
The next Level down are candidates who are some way off but might squeeze in with a national swing ala Moosajee Bhamjee in 1992.

Only a significant swing towards us will give a chance to candidates like
Ged Nash (Louth)
Michael McCarthy (Cork South West)
Oisín Quinn (second candidate in Dún Laoghaire)
Martin Coughlan (Cork North West)
Brian Collins (Meath West) and
Jim McGarry (Sligo North Leitrim)

Level 4
There are many candidates running who may not have a realistic chance of Dáil election, but it is vital they do run to maintain a Labour presence and build a foundation for Labour, particularly in the West.

These are;
Des Cullen (Cavan Monaghan)
Pascal Fitzgerald (Clare)
Siobhán McLaughlin (Donegal North East)
Seamus Rodgers (Donegal South West)
Colm Keaveney (Galway East)
Jim O'Brien & David Whelan (Laois-Offaly)
James Heffernan (Limerick West)
Harry Barrett (Mayo) and
Hugh Baxter (Roscommon South Leitrim)

That leaves us with 23 seats and 27 defeated candidates.

23 is not a cause for celebration. Given the unpopularity of the current Govt, 30 would have been a reasonable and achievable goal to build on. But the FG pact will tie us down in most of races above in which I've said we'll lose out; time and a lot of campaigning ahead will tell.