Lib Dems' Irish candidates look to 2015 after 'poor results'

Lib Dems' Irish candidates look to 2015 after 'poor results'

IRISH Liberal Democrat candidates punished by voters at last week’s polls say they have learnt a lesson from their electoral pasting which will inform the party’s General Election campaign.

As the dust settles on the local elections, unsuccessful Irish party members are already gearing up for the second round of the vote-winning battle in 2015.

“I was disappointed by the result in the elections in Hounslow, having polled quite well in the 2010 local elections” said Joe Bourke, who stood as a Liberal Democrat candidate in the Brentford ward.

“In the borough and across London generally the Lib Dems have lost substantial numbers of left-leaning voters to Labour, following the coalition with the Conservatives during this parliament,” the accountant, whose roots lie in Ireland, explained.

“More recently significant numbers of voters have moved to UKIP as both a protest and as a new alternative to the mainstream parties.”

But the long-term party member, who stood for a council place for the first time on May 22, will not desert the party.

“I fully expect to be involved with the General Election campaign to 2015,” he said, “when I hope we will be able to get our message of liberalism and tolerance across more effectively than has been the case in this campaign.”

Elsewhere party colleague Patrick Harte, a fellow first-time candidate who stood in the Crouch End ward in Haringey, was disappointed to see Labour take hold of two councillor seats in a ward which was previously a Liberal Democrat stronghold.

But for the optimistic candidate, a barrister who hails from Letterkenny in Co. Donegal, the party’s recent thrashing is par for the course for a junior partner in a coalition government.

“I was disappointed we only managed to get one Liberal Democrat in Crouch End but pleased the work effort of my team wasn't completely in vain,” he told The Irish Post.

“We can't ignore the poor results nationwide we have endured, which clearly show how unpopular being in government can be,” he added, “but we know from coalition politics at home in Ireland that the junior partner often gets an electoral kicking in mid-term elections. Labour in Ireland is similarly suffering, as we’ve seen so graphically this week.”

The 32-year-old, who did manage to gain a respectable 1101 votes in his ward on May 22, will not rule out standing for the party on another occasion.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the campaign and the tremendous support I got throughout,” he said.

“So while I'm looking forward to a rest, I would not rule out anything regarding standing again in the future.”

While the Liberal Democrats continue to dissect their failure and devise a strategy for 2015, for their counterparts in the Labour corner the real work begins now.

In Camberwell newly elected Tom Flynn is preparing to tackle Southwark’s housing shortage.

“I'm delighted with the result in Camberwell, with 65% of those voting choosing Labour,” said Flynn, whose family hails from Co. Kerry.

“We had a great result across Southwark - even picking up a seat in the Lib Dem stronghold of Grange ward,” he added.

“Our Parliamentary candidate Neil Coyle, is now in a great position to beat the local Lib Dem MP next year, with Labour having topped the polls across the Bermondsey & Old Southwark constituency,” he explained.

“I couldn’t be happier,” he added, “and I'm looking forward to working hard to improve our wonderful community and start the hard work of building 11,000 new council homes and making swimming and gym use free for all across Southwark.”

Similarly jubilant, Labour’s Martin Whelton was re-elected to his council position in Merton with a 1700 majority last week – equal to 68% of the vote in his Pollards Hill ward.

“In Merton we had one of the best results in London, gaining seven seats from the Conservatives, and one from UKIP as Labour took overall control of the council for the first time since 2002,” he told The Irish Post.

“The result was an overwhelming endorsement of the Labour administration,” he added.