All White on the Night

With Labour in the doldrums, could this guy have done a better job than Joan?

Alex White reflects on his leadership bid, Labour’s election hopes and his own endangered seat.

LABOUR’S POLL NUMBERS have been pretty much stagnant since Joan Burton took over the leadership nearly 18 months ago.

Eamon Gilmore’s resignation in May 2014 was prompted by a disastrous local and European elections where Labour won just 7% of the vote. His successor has not delivered – in the polls at least – the ‘Burton Bounce’ many had hoped for.

Until recently, Labour was still on 7% and though the latest Red C poll puts the party on 9% it knows it needs to be significantly better than this with the general election just weeks away.

So could the other leadership contender, Alex White, have done a better job?

white laugh

“God, I dunno,” White laughed as he responded instinctively to a question he probably wasn’t expecting when asked him this week.

During that summer 2014 leadership campaign, there was a sense that White was making up the numbers, ensuring there was at least a leadership contest to be had.

In the end it was no contest at all as Burton won the election with some 2,094 votes out of 2,720, to her competitor’s 607 – a landslide.

So if Burton’s election was so inevitable, why did White even bother?

I ran for the leadership because I thought I could do a good job and I gave a certain presentation of the party in terms of what our beliefs are and what we can do in this country and we’ve done a huge amount.

Video / YouTube

The polls would indicate otherwise while also showing that Burton has done little to impact the party’s standing in the public’s view.

White, of course, thinks Labour will do better when the election is called.

But are the poor poll numbers not a reflection on Burton’s failure to turn things around for Labour?

“I don’t think so, the leader is only one part of a political party’s presentation,” White insisted.

If you look at the same polls [when they] ask the question about the leader – the popularity of the leadership – she’s right up there with the other leaders. So I don’t think it can be attributed to the leader.

He believes that Labour can do better than most people think once the election is called, a mantra we repeatedly hear from the junior coalition partner.

Labour can be competitive in “most, if not all” of the Dublin constituencies and has TDs whose name alone will get them re-elected, White said.

Though he does not mention them by name these include the likes of Brendan Howlin in Wexford, Emmet Stagg in Kildare North and Willie Penrose in Longford-Westmeath.


White is reluctant to put a number on the amount of seats Labour will return. But when pushed, he said that between 27 and 30 seats would be “terrific”. But most realistic expectations are that between 15 and 20 would be a good day for Labour.

Whites own seat is in serious jeopardy. Dublin South and has gone from five seats to three and part of White’s stronghold has moved into the enlarged Dublin South-West.

He had considered moving, but recently wrote to constituents in DSW explaining why he didn’t.

“It is a tough one,” he admits of the new Dublin Rathdown, while insisting that contrary to recent reports there have not been any polls carried out by Labour in the constituency.

He added: “I think I’ve got a good, strong chance of being re-elected in Dublin Rathdown but it’s going to be up to the people. It’ll be a very tough campaign, a hard campaign.”

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