News Fionnan Sheahan

Friday 19 September 2014

White is going gaga for radio to garner support

Alex White's statements show none of the radical leadership he is promising

Published 15/06/2014 | 02:30

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Alex White
Alex White

WHEN Joe Duffy heads off on his holidays this summer, RTE have a ready-made replacement from his old days on the Gay Byrne Show.

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White Line will feature a series of top-of-the-head pronouncements on current affairs and social dilemmas – without the necessity for members of the public to call in.

Talk-to-Joe's former Montrose stablemate, Alex White, appears to believe he is currently canvassing for a role as a member of the commentariat as he goes through the Labour Party leadership contest.

The self-professed "southside liberal barrister" – albeit one who stresses he hails from a working class background on Dublin's northside – appears to view chalking up air time in Montrose as a credential for the party leadership.

No wonder he's being regarded as the not-so-new Pat Rabbitte.

White even cites taking on Sinn Fein "in the radio studios" as a key part of his strategy to combat Gerry Adams's party, as though the voters the two parties are competing for are glued to Marian Finucane's paper review every Sunday morning and have their outlook shaped by the debate.

In the Labour leadership campaign to date, White has yet to display a realisation he is running for the deputy leadership of the country.

He has adopted a Tony Blair approach of speaking rapidly and displaying energy. But there's nothing 'New Labour' about his campaign as he's a chip off the decidedly 'old' Labour block.

Intriguingly, he appears to go out of his way to contradict himself.

He ranges from stating junior ministers "have little enough power" to claiming credit for guiding through the legislation on the X Case, GP-only cards and the alcohol strategy in the Department of Health. When it comes to the medical cards though, he lurches from blaming the Cabinet decision on the budget to accepting the review fiasco "was wrong" and eventually apologising for "whatever measure of responsibility attaches to me", which isn't defined.

On the budget, White's penchant for going walkabout is particularly pronounced. One day he says if the Government was to miss the agreed deficit reduction for 2015 of 3 per cent of GDP by a few months "so be it".

He makes no effort to explain how this would be cleared at EU level, apart from citing the example of France missing a target, which merely seems naive and lacking in an understanding of how the dynamic of the EU works.

The next day he's talking about reaching the 3 per cent target being "very likely" so it doesn't arise anyway.

White's not in favour of income tax increases, but favours a wealth tax, based on a proposal from the trade union thinktank, the Nevin Institute, to raise €150m a year. Again, don't expect any major expansion on this point and what would be included and exempted under the category of "wealth". Just read the Nevin Institute document.

When it comes to Coalition options, White goes into Rabbitte-esque overdrive. Similar to his mentor's stance on Fianna Fail ahead of the 2007 general election, he goes out of his way to stress how he "abhors" Sinn Fein, sharing power with them "would stick in my craw" and doesn't see Coalition arising – but he never rules it out.

The efforts to create a bit of friction with Fine Gael for the delectation of the Labour grassroots have been commitments to ensure the party's "voice" is heard in Coalition, backed by vague accusations that the Taoiseach fired the Garda Commissioner, again without any elaboration.

Finding his own voice seemed to be a difficulty throughout the various Garda scandals as White was never quoted publicly expressing any reservations about those affairs.

White claims he'll be a "radical leader" of the Labour Party, yet hasn't produced a single radical idea to prove his theory.

The tragedy for Labour is he's not alone in this regard and the party's current leadership roadshow illustrates a distinct lack of inspiration, idealism and high-mindedness, which for so long proved to be part of the party's attraction.

It's been replaced by the instinct for survival.

Despite his lack of experience, White is still in with a outside shout in the Labour leadership contest.

The endorsements of the frontrunner Joan Burton have slowed to a trickle as so many of the party's TDs and senators develop splinters sitting on the fence.

The palpable resentment towards Burton from certain quarters, particularly within the higher echelons of the party, presents White with the opportunity to garner a respectable degree of support.

At the very least he'll get to fill a bit more airtime, so he'll have achieved something by his standards.

Sunday Independent

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