Thursday 23 November 2017

Celebratory mood at cake and coffee charm offensive - but Leo insists contest is not over

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe and Fine Gael leadership favourite Leo
Varadkar handing out coffees for the waiting media on Leo Street, Dublin yesterday Photo:
Naoise Culhane
Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe and Fine Gael leadership favourite Leo Varadkar handing out coffees for the waiting media on Leo Street, Dublin yesterday Photo: Naoise Culhane
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

Does a 'Simon Street' even exist? Google maps reveals the existence of a 'Simon's Ridge' in Sandyford or a 'Simon's Place' which proves to be a sandwich shop in South Great George's Street.

Both outside the constituency of Cork South Central.

Leo Street, however, proved the perfect little venue for Leo Varadkar to informally launch his own campaign.

Sun-baked on this particular day, cosily cute and slap bang in the middle of, if not quite his constituency, but at least the constituency in which he was born, we were informed.

"Coffee and cake for anyone?" proffered Paschal Donohoe as he and Leo sauntered up, a little late.

Two self-consciously bedimpled cheeky chappies in dapper suits, balancing trays of cardboard cups with the coyness of children who have just cooked up their first mother's day breakfast in bed.

Shrugging helplessly and delightedly at their own cleverness and shamelessness as the top was popped open on a box of personalised Leo cupcakes with a swirly 'L' - a gourmet lemon sponge, buttercream light as a feather and an exquisite marzipan top.

"They're from 'Two Boys Brew' up the road because we thought, well, the two boys," said Leo's press secretary, gesturing towards the wide-eyed pair of Hugh Grants in political form.

Read More: How a two-year plan fell perfectly into place as Varadkar swept his rival aside in leadership race

They'd even remembered the crucial Campaign for Leo sign for the social media pictures.

It was like being invited to a wedding in which an expensive planner has dotted all the Is and crossed the Ts yet made it all look airy and effortless.

Marvellous to have managed to pull it all together at the drop of a hat like that.

Anyone might think Leo had been planning this for years.

And yet we all cooed in delight. Talk about shameless. Not all, however.

"Well I didn't try them," said a political correspondent sternly afterwards, as though one of Leo's stickily sweet cupcakes might have poisoned him with a deadly strain of bias.

And though it already felt like he was celebrating, this wasn't even the official launch. That comes next week. We must remain firm against the sugar-bombing.

Tea would be nice, though.

There was laughter as he said he can confirm that he will be a candidate in the leadership battle.

Paschal spoke again about how Leo is the "most capable politician of my generation".

Leo, in return, had the grace to attempt to look bashful.

He talked of how the "wounds caused by the recession are still very real" but how he wants to sign a "social contract" with people.

Where have we heard that before?

He also spoke of the opportunities the party had given to someone like him with no political background.

In fact, he has so been won over by this early show of support that he has changed his mind about retiring from public life at 51 and now plans to stay in politics for 'the long haul'.

"I'm absolutely committed to politics. So long as I feel I'm committed to politics and I do feel I'm making a difference it's going to be a job and a career for me. So long as the people want me."

Maybe at 38, 51 just doesn't seem so very far away anymore.

So is it in the bag? Leo bristled at the very idea. The contest is far from over.

"This is day two of a 16-day campaign," he pointed out briskly. He is not counting his chickens.

Handily, everyone else is busily doing that for him as the names of supporters racked up steadily like winning lottery numbers, with three more ministers and four more TDs giving their backing.

Simon Coveney is staying calm.

"I have fought a lot of elections, and I have never lost," he told Clare FM.

Cupcakes might help.

Fine Gael parliamentary party endorsements for leader

The Fine Gael parliamentary party makes up 65pc of the total electorate.

That makes each of the 73 members' votes worth 0.9pc of the total ballot.

Of the remaining electorate, 230 party councillors account for 10pc, while the remaining 25pc is rank and file members.

Leo Varadkar
Simon Coveney

Total: 45

Total: 19

Ministers: 17

Ministers: 5

TDs: 16

TDs: 5

Senators: 11

Senators: 8

MEPs: 1

MEPs: 1

Richard Bruton -MinisterSimon Harris - Minister
Frances Fitzgerald - MinisterDamien English - Minister
Michael Ring - MinisterDara Murphy - Minister
Eoghan Murphy - MinisterDavid Stanton - Minister
Sean Kyne - MinisterMarcella Corcoran Kennedy - Minister
Joe McHugh - MinisterKate O'Connell - TD
Helen McEntee - MinisterMaria Bailey - TD
Charlie Flanagan - MinisterSean Barrett TD
Paul Kehoe -MinisterHildegard Naughton - TD
Patrick O'Donovan - MinisterPeter Fitzpatrick - TD
Regina Doherty - MinisterTim Lombard - Senator
Mary Mitchell O'Connor - MinisterJerry Buttimer - Senator
Paschal Donohoe - MinisterPaudie Coffey - Senator
Heather Humphreys - MinisterJames Reilly - Senator
Pat Breen - MinisterColm Burke - Senator
Catherine Byrne - MinisterJohn O'Mahony - Senator
Andrew Doyle - MinisterPaul Coghlan - Senator
John Paul Phelan - TDGabrielle McFadden - Senator
Noel Rock - TDDeirdre Clune - MEP
Tony McLoughlin - TD 
Alan Farrell - TD 
Michael D'Arcy - TD 
Tom Neville - TD 
Josepha Madigan - TD 
Pat Deering - TD 
Jim Daly - TD 
Brendan Griffin - TD 
Ciaran Cannon - TD 
Colm Brophy - TD 
Peter Burke - TD 
Fergus O'Dowd - TD 
John Deasy - TD 
Joe Carey - TD 
Neale Richmond - Senator 
Catherine Noone - Senator 
Paddy Burke - Senator 
Martin Conway - Senator 
Michelle Mulherin - Senator 
Maura Hopkins - Senator 
Ray Butler - Senator 
Frank Feighan - Senator 
Maria Byrne - Senator 
Joe O'Reilly - Senator 
Kieran O'Donnell - Senator 
Brian Hayes - MEP 
Enda Kenny - Outgoing Party Leader *Martin Heydon - Party Chairman *
Michael Noonan - MinisterMichael Creed - Minister
Bernard Durkan - TDSean Kelly - MEP
Mairead McGuinness MEP  

* Outgoing leader Enda Kenny and party chairman Martin Heydon will not make an endorsement

Irish Independent

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