A couple of years ago I was talking to some friends about the political climate. In terms of party politics, the PDs had been decimated, Fianna Fáil had seized the country’s minds through no fault of their own but rather a global boom period of 10 years, Fine Gael were suffering because of the digs at Enda in the media and public domain, the Greens would always maintain the minority, and Labour, well that was the interesting one. My view was that I could see that the Labour party had a great deal of senior people in the top ranks but sadly that was also their undoing. They lacked fresh blood that would spread their appeal to a wider audience; the next generation of voters. I myself viewed them as an established party with little buzz that I was observing on the street; undeservedly so I might add as many points raised by the party were very valid. I recall saying that the way I saw it was that Labour had two options: 1) Maintain the status quo and fall further in voting numbers or 2) Embrace the modern age, find new blood and bring a New Labour to the Irish political stage.
Since I made that statement things have truly turned around. Fellow blogger Séamus Ryan, from Waterford, has been blogging for a while, since about 2006, and he is truly an outstanding example of how politicians can reach that new audience of voters; continually delivering interesting snippets of information to the masses. In addition to Séamus, the overall Labour party outreach changed. We saw more and more technology being adopted, even to the extent that last year’s party conference was streamed over the web using a popular social media site to attract more numbers. There is even a Labour member of the Twitter universe that spreads the word! To top it all off, the party also elected a new leader, challenged with the task of deciding the future direction of the party and he is doing just that.
Last night I was in WIT to hear Eamon Gilmore (leader of the Labour party) speak. I commend him on an excellent rhetoric to the audience, focussed on the economic development of the South East and also its educational needs, with particular emphasis on the university for the region. Unlike many politicians who pander to the masses, Eamon didn’t just say something to please the crowd, he offered opinion on the cultural and regional impact of such a facility – not just that it was needed because it was what people wanted to hear. That, to-date, is a greater insight than we have seen from many politicians, including our own Minister in Waterford. I spoke briefly to Eamon after the event and encouraged him to extrapolate and perpetuate the direct and aggressive line of questioning that we have recently observed in the Dáil from Fine Gael. To have the Labour party onboard with this issue and to force the questions until such time that the woeful inertia of Minister Hanafin is finally overcome.
So brings me to my final thought. In a few short years we have seen the Labour party evolve from a perceived “old” party to one that is now embracing technology and the community through social networking sites and other mechanisms. We are seeing the emergence of a charismatic leader who is clearly very articulate, understands the needs of the working public, is willing to engage in change, and who is seeking a rejuvenation of the party towards future success. From the party perspective we are seeing it engage and actively tackle issues such as the university for the South East, issues that mean a great deal to many young voters, young parents and those who are suffering in a lagging economy. The Labour party is changing in my opinion and it’s very close to the way that I imagined it should do. It is my opinion that we are seeing a greatly changing Labour party and if it keeps progressing along these lines and possibly a change in traditional economic policies then it truly could be a majority share of the electorate. Let’s hope that change and choice is on the cards for the future of Irish politics.