Alan Kelly has a human problem. He made a lot of enemies on his way down the greasy pole of politics. He could have used some friends last week. They were skinny on the floor.
or a Labor leader who was a Senator, MP, MEP and Minister, he might have expected to take a few close comrades with him on his political journey. He was surrounded by the entire Labor parliamentary party as he delivered his resignation speech on the plinth of Leinster House on Wednesday. And he was all alone.
Two years ago he managed to be elected leader of the Labor Party because he was popular with members. He was liked by most Labor local councillors, some of whom are shocked that he was dismissed without consultation.
Still, he has bad relations with those who worked with him at close quarters.
When Joan Burton stepped down as chair in 2016, Alan announced in a fanfare that he would challenge Brendan Howlin for leadership.
Despite exerting intense pressure, he failed to persuade a single Labor TD to give him the second signature needed to get him on the ballot. He was perfectly willing to propose, but everyone politely refused to shake hands. They humiliated him and left him stranded. You knew him.
Kelly served at the Department for Transport as a junior minister in the unpopular Fine Gael-Labor coalition 2011-16. He was unloved by most of the officials he met there.
When I was in the same department – after 2016 – I mischievously probed the mandarins to get their thoughts on ministers who had served in the transport position in the previous government.
They were reluctant to talk about former ministers, but over time it became apparent that most of them liked and respected both Leo Varadkar and Paschal Donohoe as they sat in the transport hot seat. Among the juniors, the name of Michael Ring was usually greeted with mild affection and amusing chatter. The mention of Alan Kelly caused a stony silence.
One or two, if pressed, would signal in Mandarin that it wasn’t Flavor of the Month. It wasn’t his politics or obsession with his local constituency interests – it was his rough-and-tumble way, his brazen way of doing things that didn’t go over well.
Last week Labor presented an absolutely united front for the cameras. The images on the pedestal were terrifying. Alan had to go. TDs and Labor Senators stood behind him like prison officers, making sure he didn’t run away before he could do the deed.
He even alienated his supporters in the parliamentary group, who had been planning his downfall for weeks. A mysterious row lurked in the background over a flawed process for appointing a Labor Party staffer. The TDs unanimously refuse to talk about it. It looks like there’s more to this problem than meets the eye. They’re trying to dismiss it as an internal matter, just another of many problems.
Some Labor crackpots say the real reason is the persistent opinion polls.
The contractions constantly languish around 3-4pc. Alan’s guidance brought no improvement. The same narrative suggests that Alan has tried hard in the Dáil, been erratic and at times done well – but he has a fundamental problem, unable to escape his time as Minister for the Environment, Communities and Local Government in the later years of government 2011 -2016.
He will forever be identified with this detested regime and his prominent role in the water price debacle.
The clinical method of his execution suggests careful preparation. The conspirators had many meetings. Last Sunday, they had a secret rendezvous at Senator Marie Sherlock’s home in Phibsboro to set up the ambush.
Eerily, there was no leak to the media as of Wednesday afternoon, forcing a hasty press conference at the pedestal. Labor executes well because they’ve had a lot of practice. Ask Eamon Gilmore.
It is inconceivable that Alan’s execution was not planned without an agreed successor. There was only one: Ivana Bakik.
There is no indication that Ivana was one of the main conspirators, but she must have been aware of the conspiracy. The only other credible candidate would have been Dublin Bay North’s Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who opposed Kelly two years ago. He’s left, capable and articulate – but in any competition he’d be Bacik light.
The succession was undoubtedly long before Kelly’s three closest “friends” in the parliamentary group – Cork East TD Seán Sherlock, Fingal TD Duncan Smith and Senator Mark Wall – walked into his office with a revolver and a glass of whiskey last Tuesday.
Ivana is seen as Labor’s last possible savior from collapse. Their victory in the Dublin Bay South by-election last summer was the highest point in Labor’s fortunes since the 2011 general election, when they won 37 seats. But the latest opinion polls have not prevailed, there has been no upswing.
Labor TDs want Ivana’s face on every party poster in the country at the next election. She’s the perfect image of modern, middle-class, urban Ireland – but perhaps not as welcome in Alan Kelly’s Tipperary or Michael Healy-Rae’s Kerry as in Rathmines. Her Dáil performance since her election has been muted but all Labor TDs have been overshadowed by Kelly’s bombastic style.
Ivana is the model social democrat – liberal, left-wing, but not threatening to the middle class. Your first step this week should be to stroll down the corridors to Catherine Murphy’s office and strike up a conversation.
Ivana may not initially get a particularly warm welcome as the Soc Dems are rightly proud of their achievements, which have consistently led them ahead of Labor in the polls. Why should they join Labour, a party in permanent decline?
They would never have teamed up with Kelly – his personality is too combative to make that possible – but Ivana is a far more forgiving operator. And so we have the possibility of a strong Social Democrat presence in the Dáil, with a serious chance of entering the next government.
Ivana’s Labor leadership will pose new challenges to Sinn Féin, which has dominated the opposition benches throughout this government’s tenure.
The media is already licking its lips at the prospect of the silent rivalry looming with Mary Lou. One, the thug who beats Micheál Martin week after week; the other, a cerebral persuader who polishes government with sweet reason.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/kelly-didnt-help-himself-but-labours-extinction-rebellion-sealed-his-fate-41415649.html Kelly didn’t help but Labour’s Extermination Rebellion sealed his fate