Thursday 29 September 2016

Much put-upon Enda need only look at the uncertainty surrounding world leaders to realise how good he has it

Gerard O’Regan

Published 23/07/2016 | 02:30

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, and Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny earlier this month. Photo: AP
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, and Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny earlier this month. Photo: AP

Well we've had the hottest day of the year so far - and could it be there are some rustlings in the undergrowth suggesting the much put-upon Enda Kenny might be able to enjoy his summer after all.

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Well we've had the hottest day of the year so far - and could it be there are some rustlings in the undergrowth suggesting the much put-upon Enda Kenny might be able to enjoy his summer after all.

Many of us have recently been mildly fixated on the precariousness of his political situation. But maybe it's all a bit like Brexit. Trying to predict the future on certain issues is somewhere between taking a wild guess and chancing one's arm.

In a wider context, Kenny surely can take a certain consolation from the travails of a host of other political luminaries on both sides of the Atlantic, as he contemplates the prospect of indulging some bouts of Mayo sunshine in the coming weeks.

Uncertainty rides the waves not only in Ireland but also further afield. Even Angela Merkel (below, with Enda Kenny) - for so long the High Queen of Europe - must confront previously unseen hurdles when she faces her electorate next year. While as of now it's unthinkable she would fail to return to power, she could be back in the Reichstag with a greatly weakened hand. Over the last couple of months, her showing in the polls is proof positive that the dizzying heights of popularity she once enjoyed in Germany are no more.

There are various reasons for this slump, most notably her unwavering insistence that the Germans accept more than one million refugees. Such huge numbers have inevitably strained resources, particularly in the conservative heartland of Bavaria. As with other countries there has been a growth in the popularity of more right wing politicians, who believe her 'open door' approach on the question of immigration is simply not tenable.

There is also the perception among some voters that she has now been in power for too long and may be losing her touch. But perhaps most challenging of all for the Merkel persona is that her strongly held belief in the ideal of a 'one for all - and all for one' Europe has been seriously dented by British determination to break away and plough their own furrow.

Meanwhile, François Hollande will face an even more stern general election test as the hot house which is French politics throws up an array of challenges and challengers. According to one recent poll he will lose an election in 2017, no matter who his opponents happen to be. There are grim tidings in the fact that only 14pc of voters now have a positive opinion of the current incumbent in the Élysée Palace.

Nearer home, the many hurdles facing Theresa May have been well aired. Since taking office, she has been making mighty efforts to show how tough she can be. Already we have been assured she would indeed nuke the enemies of Britain should she feel the need to do so. But more pressing problems are already gathering pace; her mettle will be tested sooner rather than later as a plunging pound this week suggests the UK risks sliding into serious recession.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for his part is determined to prove the old adage that it is not they who inflict the most pain, but rather those who endure the most who triumph in the end. His plaintive presence, the mild-mannered voice, the enduring unflappability, has unnerved some of his most diehard critics. He will slug it out to the bitter end - but regardless of the result of this latest Labour leadership contest - it's impossible to see him ever becoming Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic the pronouncements of Donald Trump become increasingly irresponsible. His statement that the US would not necessarily defend Nato partners, such as Poland and the Baltic republics in the face of Russian aggression, is surely the end of the line. Trump's determination to continue to play politics with world peace is nauseating.

But while Hilary Clinton's campaign continues apace - it seems many will vote for her only through gritted teeth. "It's just so hard to get excited about what she stands for," said one supporter this week. It doesn't bode well for her long-term future in the White House.

On a lesser scale, Nicola Sturgeon and Arlene Foster are also two politicians caught in the post-Brexit quagmire of uncertainty. The SNP leader has taken the opportunity to renew agitation for another Scottish unity poll - yet in the unlikely event this goes ahead in the next couple of years it will surely end her career if it is rejected by voters second time round.

North of the border, Arlene Foster must know she has been left batting an increasingly sticky wicket on the Brexit issue. The fallout has the potential to really hit living standards among her unionist constituents - and she knows it. Despite her recent pronouncements, she has more economically in common with the Republic than she cares to admit.

So Enda Kenny can take some summer cheer from the shared agonies of Merkel, Hollande, May, Corbyn, Trump, Clinton, Sturgeon and Foster. He is not alone in finding that climbing the greasy pole - and more importantly, staying at the top of the greasy pole - is a messy old business.

Irish Independent

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