Regardless of the number of seats won, coalition will mean negotiation.
By definition, a precondition would not strengthen Labour’s hand in negotiation as it would have to be conceded before negotiations could begin. Indeed, it might – if one were not skillful – weaken the negotiating position in that something would already have been given and one’s antagonists/future partners would try constantly to bend negotiations in their favour by referring to it.
I’m not arguing for preconditions as such; I’m arguing for a tiny number – even one – of socialist preconditions. (My suggestion can be found here: https://colummccaffery.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/labour-in-government-a-radical-but-modest-proposal-to-reduce-inequality/ )
There are a number of reasons for going down this path. Here are a few and in NO sense are they in order of importance:
i) The lie that the Labour Party is the same as every party or at least not particularly different to a humane liberal party, or – as even some of our own members allege – is not socialist at all, needs to be addressed. This can be done by laying down one or two fundamental demands/preconditions which a liberal party by virtue of its principles or ideology cannot concede without doing itself damage.
ii) It gives voters who are serious about changing the very direction of Irish development something for which to vote.
iii) It puts a leftist demand right at the heart of public controversy in the run up to the election. (Without this the media will of necessity be attracted to liberal controversies like, say, abortion law.)
iv) It delivers a basic return for coalition no matter how bad circumstances are or become.
v) It steals a march on the fantasists who need to injure Labour as the voice of Socialism. They know that they must undermine socialism as a contemporary hope and ambition so that their “religion” can be THE left. Their “project” necessarily is about defining socialism in terms of the unachievable or – similar, really – the 19th century.