Tuesday 23 July 2019

Poll shows Taoiseach facing big trouble amongst women

Taoisech Enda Kenny
Taoisech Enda Kenny
Tanaiste and Labour leader Joan Burton

John Drennan

Enda Kenny is starting to acquire a woman problem and, sadly, we are not talking about the Bill Clinton sort of difficulty.

Instead, the declining Fine Gael leader and his flaccid party face far more serious woes.

Today's Millward Brown revelation that 48pc of the electorate and 58pc of women believe too few women were promoted in the recent reshuffle might not impress the Council for the Status of Women. But getting 58pc of the electorate to agree on anything is not too easy.

And when that agreement is not in your favour, then you have a problem.

This is particularly the case here because one of the essential features of success in modern politics is the capacity to build coalitions amongst electoral niche groups.

In this process, the party and its leader becomes attractive to a large number of varied-sized groupings such as young people, ethnic minorities, the gay community and women.

Some may be quite small but the totality builds a vast Obama-style coalition.

Sadly, the increasingly eccentric nature of Mr Kenny's leadership means he is actually shedding such groups.

This was epitomised by the boorish partisan approach to the Justice crisis, which cost FG a small but significant number of core voters who were appalled at the spectre of a FG leader behaving like a FF one.

FG's loss was small, but, these critical votes set FG up to concede its hard-won electoral top dog status back to a still tepid FF.

Now Enda, courtesy of the women thing, is in real danger of losing the support of another niche group.

A strong core of women has voted for FG since the 1970s, out of the belief since the Garret FitzGerald era that FG respected women more than FF.

FG was the party of the petite bourgeois woman that wanted to get educated, get out of the kitchen and get into the workforce. In contrast, the attitude of Fianna Fail was epitomised by their unease about 'well-heeled, articulate women'.

Suddenly a perception is emerging that the Taoiseach is equally uneasy in the company of those 'well-heeled, articulate women'.

Enda, the women feel, likes being photographed with smiling lovely girls.

But the women, and plenty of men too, sense there is a petticoat ceiling when it comes to promotion. The Taoiseach can protest all he wants, but the women - who obviously follow these things closely - have taken careful note of the fate of strong-willed women like Olwyn Enright, Lucinda Creighton, Fidelma Healy Eames and Olivia Mitchell under Enda.

They sense that the relationship between Enda and Fine Gael women is characterised by a sense of mutual unease and injustice.

Now, 58pc of the Dear Ladies feel an injustice was done to women in the recent reshuffle. And the loss of even 3pc of those would-be votes are votes Dear Leader Enda cannot afford to lose.

Mind you, the ladies in the Council for the Status of Women may still have some work to do.

Perhaps the most astonishing feature of the Millward Brown poll is that 6pc of the voters believe too many women were promoted.

Seeing as Enda only promoted one, it is difficult to see how he could have promoted too many, but, to paraphrase a famous phrase by Albert, that's a bad tempered electorate for you.

Sunday Independent

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