Wednesday 13 December 2017

Kevin Doyle: Fine Gael's plan is to bore us with talk of recovery

A delegate closes his eyes during the Fine Gael ard fheis
A delegate closes his eyes during the Fine Gael ard fheis
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Fine Gael has a plan alright and it's beyond simplistic: bore the electorate into putting them back in office.

Giving an ard fheis speech is much like being best man at a wedding. Everybody, well almost everybody, in the room wants you to do well.

They expect you to plant a few jokes, tell some stories about how the marriage/coalition came about and predict there are very happy times ahead for all involved.

Of course there are a few ways to approach that scenario - you can be the over-the-top joker who pushes the limits, you can get it just right or you can be the shy, retiring type who won't upset the grandparents.

Enda Kenny clearly went for the latter in his speech on Saturday night.

He preached that voters shouldn't take risks and he led by example with a dull - but many in the party will argue effective - speech.

Mr Kenny took the 'humble statesman' approach, heeding the advice of his political strategists not to make any unnecessary journeys into policy areas or over-zealous attacks on the Opposition.

It's all part of the plan. Not the three-step plan that you will be tired of hearing about before the election date is even announced - but the Fine Gael plan to keep Mr Kenny to one central message only - namely 'Let's keep the recovery going'.

What TV viewers won't have seen was the series of speeches in the hour before the Taoiseach entered the room to Fleetwood Mac's 'Don't Stop'.

They were uplifting and, in some cases, even bordering on entertaining.

Had people at home seen Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald's contribution it might have warned their hearts with a bit of feel-good factor.

"Our nation is our nation once again," she declared.

"Many who left in despair will return in hope and confidence."

Finance Minister Michael Noonan spelled out the message in ordinary language: "We are not writing a blank cheque here. We'll only spend what we have."

And Brian Hayes had feet stomping with a rousing attack on Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin.

But when it comes to Mr Kenny, the policy is play it safe. Why take a risk that could backfire?

The Fine Gael approach is to a large extent based on the one brought to the UK Conservative Party by Australian Lynton Crosby.

A story goes that, at meeting in Downing Street early last year, senior Tories wanted to brainstorm about more imaginative ways of getting their economic message across to voters.

As they tossed about ideas Crosby is said to have cut them off at the ankles, stating: "All very fascinating, but voters only need to know two things about the economy: it was broken five years ago by the other lot and it's OK again now under us."

And that same message punctuated Mr Kenny's speech. He used the word 'recovery' 24 times.

He told us the recovery was real. The recovery was hard-won. The recovery was not a political prize. The recovery belongs to the people. The recovery must be strengthened and secured.

The recovery will get us an extra 10,000 gardaí, teachers, doctors, nurses and other front-line staff by 2021.

And in case you didn't realise it Fine Gael's long-term plan is to keep the recovery going. Got the message yet?

Irish Independent

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