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Election Results and the Left in Ireland


statsman

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It's fairly widely accepted that the 'revolution' in Irish politics that took place in the course of the 2011 General election was a conservative one, with the majority of voters voting for an essentially conservative change of government headed by FG, who are probably historically the most firmly centre-right party we've had. While nominally the 2011 was the most successful ever for the Irish left, the fact that Labour opted for coalition with FG meant that the election did not mark the long-predicted move to a classic European Left/Right structure for Irish electoral politics.

To see quite what a major shift to the nominal Left the 2011 poll was, it's interesting to look at the historic figures. The list below is an indicator of how the left of centre vote has shaped up in all GEs since 1i22. It comes with a number of caveats, however. For instance, I have included the Sinn Fein vote in each election in which they ran since 1954, but not before. I have also included Labour knowing full well that many posters will drop by to tell me that they are not Left wing at all. Point duly noted and ignored. A number of smaller parties who barely registered have been excluded, as have Independents, due to lack of time and inclination.

For me, the question this data raises is an old one; are we essentially and irrevocably a conservative electorate who tend to vote on pragmatic rather than ideological lines? If I was writing a longer essay on this theme, I'd include the histories of ideologically Right wing parties such as the PDs in this, but I'm not, so I won't.

My view is that we are, on the whole. I also take the view that the 2011 election was a blip rather than a new trend emerging, though I may well be wrong. Overall the data indicates that there's probably a core Left wing vote of around 12-14%, with the possibility of doubling that in a good year (discounting the 2011 blip). These are probably optimistic figures. They lead me to think that the prospect of a viable Left-wing opposition front with a strong ideological basis is going to be very difficult to attain, never mind a government on those lines. The history of Labour tends to show that parties of the Left only ever achieve a share of power here if they are prepared to temper ideology with pragmatism. They also seem to do best with leaders who have a strong public profile, such as Joe Higgins and Gerry Adams.

The data:

1922: Lab 21.3%
1923: Lab 10.6%
June 1927: Lab 12.6%
Sept 1927: Lab 9.1%, Irish Worker League 1.1%, Total 10.2%
1932: Lab 7.7%, Irish Worker League 0.3%, Revolutionary Workers' Groups 0.1%, Total 8.1%
1933: Lab 5.7%
1937: Lab 10.3%
1938: Lab 10%
1943: Lab 15.7%
1944: Lab 8.8%, National Labour Party 2.7%, Total 11.5%
1948: Lab 8.7%, National Labour Party 2.6%, Total 11.3%
1951: Lab 11.4%
1954: Lab 12.1%, SF 0.1%, Total 12.2%
1957: Lab 9.1%, SF 5.3%, Total 14.4%
1961: Lab 11.6%, SF 3.1%, Total 14.7%
1965: Lab 15.4%,
1969: Lab 17%
1973: Lab 13.7%, SF (Official) 1.1%, Total 14.8%
1977: Lab 11.6%, SF (Workers' Party) 1.7%, Irish Republican Socialist 0.1%, Total 13.4%
1981: Lab 9.9%, SF (Workers' Party) 1.7%, Socialist Labout Party 0.4%, Total 12%
Feb 1982: Lab 9.1%, SF (Workers' Party) 2.3%, SF 1%, Irish Republican Socialist 0.2%, Total 12.6%
Nov 1982: Lab 9.4%, Workers' Party 3.3%, Democratic Socialist Party 0.4%, Total 13.1%
1987: Lab 6.4%, Workers' Party 3.8%, SF 1.9%, Democratic Socialist Party 0.4%, Total 12.5%
1989: Lab 9.5%, Workers' Party 5%, Democratic Socialist Party 0.6%, SF 1.2%, Total 16.3%
1992: Lab 19.3%, Democratic Left 2.8%, SF 1.6%, Total 23.7%
1997: Lab 10.4%, SF 2.5%, Democratic Left 2.5%, Socailit Party 0.7%, Workers' Party 0.4%, Socialist Workers 0.1%, Total 16.6%
2002: Lab 10.8%, SF 6.5%, Socialist Party 0.8%, Workers' Party 0.2%, Socialist Workers 0.2%, Total 18.5%
2007: Lab 10.13%, SF 6.94%, Socialist Party 0.64%, People Before Profit 0.45%, Workers' Party 0,15%, Irish Socialist Network .02%, Total 18.33%
2011: Lab 19.5%, SF 9.9%, Socialist Party 1.2%, People Before Profit 1%, Workers and Unemployed Action Group 0.4%, Workers' Party 0.1%, Total 32.1%

Source:

Category:General elections in the Republic of Ireland - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Errors of transcription and addition are all my own work.
 


statsman

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I have reported the typo in the title, BTW.

[Edit: Thanks to whoever fixed it.]
 
Last edited:

harshreality

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I actually blame the voters.

At this stage they seem to have some sort of political Stockholm Syndrome that appears every time they go near a ballot box.
 

Murph

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Well done Statman -didnt realise there was such a jump between 2007 and 2011.

I wonder will Labour qualify as a party of the left by 2016 or even 2014?
 

Tim Johnston

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Well there is another thread suggesting that FG has a 'social democratic' wing, so maybe our political compass is a bit messed up.
Think you're right about the recent election. Also, I think what skews the data somewhat is that FF are 'centrists' which tends to mean that a lot of differently-minded people have voted for them over the years.
 

statsman

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Well done Statman -didnt realise there was such a jump between 2007 and 2011.

I wonder will Labour qualify as a party of the left by 2016 or even 2014?
That's an interesting question; I suspect they will, but primarily of the middle-class left. If they retain, say, 10% first prefs then it makes it hard for the other Left parties to make real progress.
 

Analyzer

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The Looper Party are a snouts in the trough party, and the same with regad to FFinished.

SF are a wannabee snouts in the trough party.

Ideology is a load of pretence in the politics of most western countries nowadays.
 

statsman

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The Looper Party are a snouts in the trough party, and the same with regad to FFinished.

SF are a wannabee snouts in the trough party.

Ideology is a load of pretence in the politics of most western countries nowadays.
If that least sentence is true, then the rest of Europe is just catching up with us,
 

harshreality

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If that least sentence is true, then the rest of Europe is just catching up with us,
Unfortunately I think you are right.

Whatever the voters want to hear appears to be the ideology with parties who get their policies from opinion polls.
 

Protestant/Catholic=Irish

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It's interesting to note that the percentage of those that vote left does, in general, gradually increase every election.
 

Jackass

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Ah yes the myth that Labour are left continues....................
The MRBI poll for the Irish Times showed that Labour now draws more support from the professional classes(17% amongst ABs) than any other socio-ecomonic group. The professionals in the public sector have followed Labours stance on the CPA.
 

TheMushyStuff

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Well the vote on the left maybe rising but I fear they can never get into government without the centre-right or just the right wing. That makes the left sacrifice some of their ideologies for the right elite. E.g Liberal democrats or Labour.
 

Protestant/Catholic=Irish

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Well the vote on the left maybe rising but I fear they can never get into government without the centre-right or just the right wing. That makes the left sacrifice some of their ideologies for the right elite. E.g Liberal democrats or Labour.
That is because Labour have created that culture. If Labour simply stopped whoring their principles to get into government, people would realise that they have to make a choice between a left coalition or a right coalition as a mixture of the two will not occur.
 

Gauloises

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Good OP. Important to remember that a lot of Independents at the 2011 Election would be considered left. Pringle, Halligan, Murphy etc.
 

Gauloises

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Interesting to note that Labour did not reach their 1969 levels of support again until 1992. We have long memories.
 

Plebian

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Interesting OP, I wouldn't get hung up on the concept of classic left in an age of third way politics. Here's the thing, there are parties like FF and Labour who can swing left or right of centre depending on their coalition partners. Then there are left wingers like Thomas Pringle and Ming or Wallace who tend to get left out of the equation as well. The way I'd see it, it's not about peoples stated left or right ideology but about what coalition blocks could be built. On the Conservative-Right you have 50% for FF/FG, or 46% for FG/LAB on the Social Democratic Right. On the liberal left you have 32% for SF/LAB. Throw in FF into a SF/LAB coalition and you'd get a centre-left Govt. Even ignoring FF there's 50% between Independents and SF/LAB to work on, the field is getting very crowded.
 

statsman

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The MRBI poll for the Irish Times showed that Labour now draws more support from the professional classes(17% amongst ABs) than any other socio-ecomonic group. The professionals in the public sector have followed Labours stance on the CPA.
Being Left wing is not uniquely a working class position.
 

borntorum

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Many people who voted for FF would have voted for a mass social Democratic Party in any other European country. Even now the bulk of the party's support appears to come from the working classes. So it's a bit of a false dichotomy to portray Irish politics as FF/FG (right) v Lab/SF (left)
 

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