Team Varadkar delivers a masterclass in professional political campaigning
Leadership favourite's well-oiled campaign machine offsets his disappointing delivery, writes Philip Ryan
Eoghan Murphy barely looked at the stage once throughout the first Fine Gael leadership husting in the Red Cow Hotel in Dublin.
Murphy, who is Leo Varadkar's campaign manager, was engrossed in his phone for the entire debate. He was furiously sending texts and WhatsApp group messages to his campaign team. Varadkar wasn't at his best on the night and Simon Coveney surprised many with his strong delivery and robust responses. The Varadkar team needed to be prepared for any fallout. And, as with all aspects of the Fine Gael leadership election, the Varadkar camp was prepared.
Once the final whistle was blown, Varadkar's TDs and advisers converged on the assembled press pack. They circled like hungry vultures all squawking the same message. It was intense. They insisted that they expected Coveney to come out fighting as he had been backed into a corner. A Cabinet minister dismissed Coveney's renewed vigour as mere "self-preservation".