Here in Ireland the recent history of smaller parties isn’t that hopeful.
However they keep on popping up.
The new Reform Alliance (RA) is a product of a schism from Fine Gael.
Lucinda Creighton is the leader of this new tribe in Irish politics and the easy analogy is with the Progressive Democrats (PDs) and Mary Harney.
The PDs were originally formed in 1985 as break away from Fianna Fáil.
The reason for that split was, quite simply, that Des O’Malley and Charles Haughey were two alpha males who couldn’t stand each other.
It was a case of this gene pool aint big enough for the both of us!
In the boom years the PDs were junior partners in two Fianna Fáil led coalitions and under the leadership of Mary Harney they were disproportionately influential given their meagre amount of Dáil Deputies.
Thatcherite in their world view they pushed the main party down a road to a point where the economy was overheating to an insane degree.
It wasn’t going to end well and it didn’t.
When the bubble burst people who had been encouraged to borrow and then borrow more turned on the neo-Liberal snake oil peddlers who told them the good times would never end.
The Progressive Democrats, quite literally, were wiped out by the electorate.
In the 2007 election they lost six of their eight Dáil Deputies.
Among those to lose their seats were party leader Michael McDowell, deputy leader Liz O’Donnell and party president Tom Parlon
Even a change of leader didn’t help to prevent the cull, Harney having stepped down in 2006, but remained on as Minister for Health.
Harney, now leading a parliamentary group of two including herself became leader again and remained at the cabinet table with the poisoned chalice that is the health portfolio.
In November 2008 at a special conference in Mullingar the Last Rites was read on the PDs.
I didn’t weep at their passing dear reader.
Now there is a new entity on the congested right wing of Irish politics.
It is telling that a break away from Fine Gael can move into the space vacated by the PDs.
In the tweedle dum and tweedle dee of Irish politics this is, sadly, highly possible.
This state since the early years of its existence has operated with two essentially Christian Democrat parties vying for power.
Another small party to enter government in the 21st century and come to grief was the Green Party.
All organic and cuddly they claimed to be woven from a better moral fabric than all the rest.
However they still entered coalition with Fianna Fáil in 2007.
Their leader Trevor Sargent said he would never lead the Greens into government with Fianna Fáil so he stepped down and was made a junior minister.
In return for keeping Brian Cowan’s party in government they were given two seats at the cabinet table and in return they got…err…realistic about the plundering of Ireland’s natural resources by multinational corporations.
The party had been staunch supporters of the ‘Shell to sea’ campaign in County Mayo.
Suddenly there was radio silence on the issue, especially from party leader Eamonn Ryan.
In the 2011 general election they suffered a wipe out losing all six of their Dáil Deputies.
It has been the dream of many an Irish politico on the left to have a genuine left right split in political choice of the type that would be recognised on continental Europe.
At the next election the Labour Party, currently junior partners to Fine Gael, will face the fury of their own societal constituency in a situation analogous to the Greens.
The austerity measures have hit the poor and the public service workers very hard indeed.
Moreover it has been Labour ministers who have been doing most of the IMF’s dirty work.
The party formed by James Connolly has proved itself to be a useful implement of international finance capitalism.
I doubt that words like ‘austerity’ will upset this new crew.
Ms Creighton was a rising star and many saw her as a future leader of the party.
However she lost her junior ministry and the Fine Gael whip last year over her refusal to vote for abortion legislation.
All but one of her six colleagues in the RA lost the party whip for the same reason.
So far it isn’t a party just a ‘group’.
They intend to invite all Independents in the Dáil and Seanad to the event, which takes place at the RDS on January 25th.
The only named speaker so far is economist and media darling David McWilliams.
What is clear that this is an embryonic party on the right of the political spectrum.
Given their origins in a split over the abortion legislation (emerging from the death of Savita Halappanavar) then perhaps they will be more comfortable on the ‘Christian Right’ of major social issues.
Currently the Dublin media are gushing over this exciting new creation on the political stage.
The coverage so far has mainly been soft ball questions about how wonderful the future is going to be.
I was half expecting one of the star struck hacks to shout “up the RA!”
But then again perhaps not…