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.
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%
Categoryeneral elections in the Republic of Ireland - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Errors of transcription and addition are all my own work.