Christopher Mehigan · MA Public Affairs & Political Communication · April 12, 2010 · Pg 1 of 3
Labour Party 2007 General Election
Background to 2007 Strategy and Campaign
2002 election performance was poor. The critical
decision for Labour Party strategists was whether to
The Labour Party adopted a more centralised
a t t e m p t a n a g g re s s i v e s t r a t e g y o f m a r k e t
candidate selection process through the Labour
development by appealing beyond its existing base to
Party’s Organisational Subcommittee (OSC). The
challenge either the market leader (Fianna Fáil) or to
OSC would recommend the number of candidates for
challenge its main rival for the role of challenger (Fine
selection at a convention. In addition the OSC
Gael). The other option, which it chose, was the more
Chairperson and Party Leader could also add
conservative strategy of seeking greater market
candidates to the ticket once the election was called.
This occurred in Dublin South where Aidan Culhane
The party strategists calculated that the potential of won the selection at convention, but Alex White was
its existing policies had not been exhausted and nonetheless added to the ticket.
judged that better vote management through a formal
Working with the OSC, Labour established a
pact with Fine Gael would maximise support. This
committee led by Dick Spring in 2005 to devise a
was in direct contrast to the 2002 strategy when it
candidate strategy. The committee recommended
adopted a more independent line and viewed formal
one-candidate tickets in most cases with exceptions
alliances as problematic. Labour strategists felt this
in seven constituencies where two candidates were
new strategy reﬂected voters assessment that in
run in each. Notably this was the ﬁrst time that
practice there was no choice but Fianna Fáil
Labour ran candidates in every constituency since
Before 2004 local elections, Pat Rabbitte had 1969. This had been attempted in 2002 but was not
approved a vote transfer pact with Fine Gael and this successful due to lack of suitable candidates.
was extended in the ‘Mullingar Accord’ in 2005. The Notably none of the sitting Labour TD’s were
strategy was formulated to emphasise a clear challenged.
electable alternative to Fianna Fáil.
Labour Candidates in terms of Political Experience
TD Senator Councillor Electoral Experience New
Christopher Mehigan · MA Public Affairs & Political Communication · April 12, 2010 · Pg 2 of 3
This conservative approach to candidate selection communicating the vision, goals and responsibilities
evidenced by not challenging any of the sitting TD’s is of the campaign.
further reﬂected in the breakdown of the political
Particular effort was made to win the backing of party
experience of the Labour Party candidates. Only 5
members and to build a plan for realistic and
out of the 50 candidates were new to the process. 40
proportionate gains and risk-sharing. Labour
of the candidates were either sitting TD’s, Senators or
presented the strategy internally as a vehicle for
achieving more of its objectives, as it was the author
Communication Objectives of more of the policies in the agreed programme and
Steps taken to outline a shared vision as well as clear its ranks contained more senior political ﬁgures with
goals and responsibilities for the new alliance. In a ministerial experience - an important asset when
subsequent review of the media coverage of the competence was being stressed. For its traditional
election campaign it emerged that Fine Gael Leader supporters it characterised the strategy as ensuring a
Enda Kenny, and the Labour Party Leader Pat framework for a centre-left government to replace the
Rabbitte were almost identical in terms of time and centre-right one in place.
effort invested in each topic. This shows that both
Messaging was consistent, clear, and concise. Focus
parties were consistently on message in
was on the qualities and experience of the Labour
party and their candidates more so than particular
policies. Labour was presented as a key element in a
Media Coverage of 2007 Election Campaign
change of government.
9% 8% Campaign Analysis
60% 1. No substantial revision of policies, relied instead
on existing policies.
2. Conservative candidate selection, although more
8% far reaching than previously.
26% 3. Focus on communicating an elective alternative to
4. Convincing public this is the right choice.
Applying the Lees Marshment theory of political
11% 12% marketing to this leads us to conclude that the
political campaign best describes that of a Sales
0% Oriented Party. According to Lees Marshment the
Enda Kenny Pat Rabbitte
characteristics of a political marketing campaign run
by a Sales Oriented Party include:
Economy Health Education
Crime Tax Housing
Christopher Mehigan · MA Public Affairs & Political Communication · April 12, 2010 · Pg 3 of 3
• Attempt to persuade voters by using market
Unfortunately for Labour, the strategy of teaming with
• Focus on selling, using hard persuasive techniques Fine Gael appeared to beneﬁt Fine Gael more so than
that may mask weakness or problem areas. (Such Labour.
as the incompatibility of conﬂicting FG / Lab
policies) Labour’s Performance
• Try to make the voters want it, and what it offers, Much the same as the previous elections of the past
rather than change its behaviour to suit what the 30 years.
voters want. (Didn’t change, but tried to make
Over the ten elections during the period 1977-2007,
voters opt for an alternative government to FF)
Labour’s vote fell outside the 9-12 per cent band (and
• Research for advertisement and message its seats outside the band of 15 - 21, only twice. In
generation, but not product (candidate or policy) 1987 it plunged to 6% of the vote, reducing seats to
design. (Conservative candidate selection, no 12, and in 1992 it raised the vote share to 19 per cent
substantive policy reform) and won 33 seats. The remarkable stability suggests
a party that has found its level within the party
% Change Seats Change system, or, some would say, is stuck in a rut.
vote since since
Upon taking over as leader in the late summer of
Fianna Fáil 41.6% +0.1% 77 -4
2007, Eamon Gilmore emphasised continuity of
Fine Gael 27.3% +4.8% 51 +20 philosophy, improved organisation and better
Labour 10.1% -0.6% 20 0 presentation of Labour’s existing values and policies
rather than a more fundamental reassessment.
Green Party 4.7% +0.8% 6 0
Sinn Féin 6.9% +0.4% 4 -1 Labours performance was neither bad enough to
prompt a root and branch self examination nor good
Prog. 2.7% -1.2% 2 -6
Democrats enough to lift it into the top division.
Others 6.7% -4.3% 5 -8
Total 100.0% 0 165 0
Labour Party Performance 1977 - 2007
19.5% 20 20
16 16 17
15 15 15
9.9% 10.4% 10.8% 10.1%
9.1% 9.4% 9.5%
1977 1981 1982 (Feb) 1982 (Nov) 1987 1989 1992 1997 2002 2007
Vote Share Seats