Saturday 24 March 2018

Politicians stay out of tune with voters

Ivan Yates: Casting a keen eye on the 2016 political odds
Ivan Yates: Casting a keen eye on the 2016 political odds

Eilis O'Hanlon

US Republican hopeful Donald Trump continues to exert a morbid hold on the world's media, like a python mesmerising a Jackrabbit. The latest endorsement of his campaign by former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin only added to the feverishness.

RTE's Washington correspondent, Caitriona Perry, went for the measured approach as she reported from Iowa for Morning Ireland, treating this development, however surreal, as just another day at the office. Today With Sean O'Rourke went for a jovial "it's a funny old world" tone. BBC Five Live's Breakfast went straight to scorn.

BBC Radio Four's history show, The Long View, offered a different perspective, putting Trump's rise in the context of earlier political campaigns by maverick wealthy populists such as newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, car maker Henry Ford and aviator Charles Lindbergh, proving in the process that there's nothing new under the sun.

America is a big country, after all. It's bound to do politics on a grander, brasher scale. What they all had in common with Trump was an ability to "talk the language of ordinary people"; to articulate discontent with bankers and Wall Street and the political establishment; and to reach out to "angry have-nots". Ultimately, they all lost, as Trump probably will too, but it's still an interesting phenomenon.

Back home, the political parties remain mired in a phoney war as they wait for Enda Kenny to name a date. Newstalk Breakfast has started the countdown in earnest with profiles of, and predictions for, all 40 constituencies - one each day. On Wednesday, it was Tipperary's turn. These snippets are informative and fun, not only for political trainspotters, and you have to love a man who can casually drop in a line about his "sources in Clonmel". Ivan Yates is beginning to sound like Irish radio's answer to Huggy Bear, giving Starsky and Hutch the word on the street.

The Mooney Show took a different slant altogether, looking at how Irish politicians have used specially-written songs to drum up support on the campaign trail, the most (in)famous being 1981's Arise And Follow Charlie.

Eoin Sweeney guided Derek through some of the more cringeworthy examples, with 2007 proving a particularly woeful year. Who will ever forget Kerry's Greatest Man (about then Fianna Fail candidate, now an Independent, Tom Fleming), or the one about former Irish Farmers Association president that went "vote for John Dillon, because Dillon's gonna win" (he came fifth in the three-seat Limerick constituency).

Finally, there was a hugely enjoyable interview on Wednesday's Ray D'Arcy Show with statistician Stefan Klinsavitch, twice part of a syndicate which won the lotto in the early 90s using a system which he had devised. Ray found himself wondering: "Is there one last heist in you?"

"I am looking for a new challenge," Stefan admitted. Cue panic in Lotto HQ. The boffin is back in the game.

Sunday Independent

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