Tuesday 15 October 2019

Battle of the leaders to be key deciding factor in election race

Joan Burton
Joan Burton
Micheal Martin
Enda Kenny
Gerry Adams

John Drennan

Whether we like it or not modern politics is presidential. Leaders make a difference and in a battle where the margins between success, survival and annihilation will be very fine how the leaders are poised to perform will be critical in determining the future of the various parties and the next government.

Some even argue that despite all the hype, spin and focus groups, the modern election is quite medieval.

As with the old Wars of the Roses if the king falls the party melts away to fight another day ... if at all...

So how do the leaders stack up as we enter endgame?



Some will say, given her performance to date, that this is a high rating.

We, however are looking to future potential rather than the current market.

That is certainly chilly for since becoming Tanaiste Burton's personal ratings have plummeted.

Any bounce Labour secured since her arrival has been of the dead cat variety.

She is however the best natural campaigner since Bertie Ahern whilst the only woman leader factor will be critical.

The suspicion is that Burton has been dragged down somewhat by Labour's 'the party that broke all your promises' implosion.

Her capacity to disentangle from that will play a critical role in the fate of Labour.

She certainly won't be found wanting on the walking, talking and stamina fronts and is the only party leader to date who has put manners on Mary Lou.



He is sometimes too prosaic for the poetry of political campaigning, but all those breakfasts of fruit and apples mean he is an energetic campaigner who has a fine Jack Lynch style capacity to empathise with the voter.

His hidden steely side and command of factual information means he is most likely to win the leaders' debates if Enda can be dragged out of the bushes or whatever hiding place he will seek.

In fairness to Micheal for all the sniping he will add to rather than reduce the Fianna Fail vote.

Instead Micheal's problem, rather like Joan, is one of building a compelling narrative out of the ruins of his party.



John Drennan's Guide to Politics - Spring 2015

The next election will change your life. In a special supplement with the Sunday Independent, John Drennan presents his guide to Irish politics.

As we noted earlier the margins in this election are very fine and Enda could as easily top the leadership ratings rather than coming third. In so far as these things matter Enda is a better debater than he has been given credit for.

When it comes to meeting and greeting those strange things called 'voters' he will not lack for energy on the old Bertie Ahern 'the hardy lads working hard' front.

The problem for Enda is that in campaigns and debates he is a front foot merchant.

Mr Kenny is good when he is on the attack or courting the voters.

When someone lands a hit on him, though all too often and all too easily, Enda dissolves into something resembling a jellyfish stranded by the cruel tides upon the beach.

Significantly, like Frank Bruno, he is getting a bit wilier in his dotage.

Mr Kenny may also benefit from the theory of low expectations where, like the dog driving a car on the motorway, the fact that he does it at all is a matter of applause and success.



How Mr Adams will fare is the great variable in this campaign. He has a chilly charisma about him and he is becoming slightly more familiar with foreign, apologies, Irish affairs.

In debate though, he is still too leaden-footed. Like Enda our Gerry may dream of being like John Francis Kennedy. Sadly, like Enda again, Gerry bears a closer resemblance to George Bush or worse still Dan Quayle.

The problem for Gerry is that he is vulnerable to too many uncertain factors. In particular, Sinn Fein must surely be fretting over what yet may emerge from underneath the stones to frighten the political children.


Though election coverage is normally dominated by party leaders not every election is decided by them.

This was epitomised by the role played by the Late Late debate involving Eamon Dunphy, John Waters and Eoghan Harris in 2007. When it comes to our next gig don't rule out an intervention from a Ross, a Lucinda or a Donnelly playing a key defining role. The bigger party strategists certainly aren't.

Sunday Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section