Sunday 26 January 2020

Lame Enda upstaged by Richard the Faint-hearted

Voters don't want Kenny as Taoiseach, they want his party's economics expert, says Jody Corcoran

JODY CORCORAN

Even among his own, support for Enda Kenny as leader of Fine Gael is not particularly strong. Just over half (53 per cent) of Fine Gael voters think he will be leader of the party come the next election, whenever that may be.

If elements within the Greens have their way the election will come sooner rather than later, such is the hara-kiri streak running through that particular party.

Apparently there is no truth to the rumour that the Greens are to convene a special convention to seek a two-thirds majority to send a delegation to give former Senator Deirdre de Burca a group hug.

Be that as it may, it's been a bizarre old week.

In the real world, meanwhile, none of this makes a jot of difference. This time next week, next month and probably next year the Greens will still be in government with Fianna Fail, the economy will still be bunched and close to 500,000 people will still be unemployed -- either that or they will be on a slow mailboat to Australia.

It is by no means certain, though, that this time next year Enda Kenny will still be leader of Fine Gael, even though his party seems to be cruising to election victory.

The Sunday Independent/Millward Brown Lansdowne poll shows Fine Gael is on course to win around 60 seats in the next election. It is hard to know what else Enda is supposed to do. Perhaps it is that he should just keep his trap shut.

He had tried that, of course, and it seemed to be working for him -- but he could only get away with it for so long.

Then he went on Newstalk to talk to Ivan Yates, a man with whom he once shared a cabinet table, to discuss things like water charges. "We haven't discussed this yet, but we, we haven't said that, eh, we have a particular view on this. Obviously, just a second, no . . ." he said.

To make matters worse he went on the Late Late Show with me auld mucker, Ryan Tubridy. My Sky box was down that night, so I didn't see the interview -- but the texts were coming in fast and furious.

Afterwards, Enda said he had been over-briefed for the Late Late, which, in fairness, can happen.

But when I hear that the spin doctors have over-briefed a politician I suspect just one thing: the spin doctors themselves were none too confident that the said politician would acquit himself particularly well. So what does that tell you? Herein lies the problem for Enda.

Even his own do not have absolute confidence in him. It goes without saying these days that politicians such as Kenny are decent, nice, likeable men. So I will not say it. But we do not need decent, nice, likeable men right now. We don't need line managers. We don't need man managers. We don't need delegators.

We need shin kickers. We need a banger of heads. We need somebody who knows what he is on about, who doesn't particularly care what the compromisers are on about -- and knows how to get it done. There is a shortage of such men in Irish politics at the moment, of all persuasion.

This is why George Lee was elected with such hoopla. George seemed to know what he was about, when he turned up on Six-One News and simplified the Exchequer returns for everybody, particularly the yummy mummies and yummy grandmummies of south Dublin.

Not only that, but he had a particular look too, a kind of nerdy geek look, in dictator-style horn-rimmed glasses -- the look which appealed to those who need to be horse-whipped, who want to be horse-whipped.

George has developed a bald patch, too, since he went into politics. That was the most fascinating insight of the week for me, seeing him there, back in the bosom, the camera shot from behind as Bryan Dobson interviewed him. So here we have it, Dame Enda, the Madness of King George and Richard the Faint-hearted.

That the public believe Enda is not up to the job shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody. The public decided that at the last election, when they swung away from him and piled into Bertie the Chancer. Nothing has changed about Enda.

But that is the fascinating thing about this poll. Nothing is changing. The public has decided. It seems to me now that nothing, absolutely nothing will ever change in that regard.

They don't want Enda: 49 per cent of those polled say he will not be Fine Gael leader at the next election, 38 per cent think he will. But they do want Fine Gael, or at least they don't want Fianna Fail -- and Fine Gael is the only other option at the moment.

But they want Fine Gael led by Richard Bruton: other than Enda, 54 per cent of voters prefer Richard the Faint-hearted to lead the party, and 65 per cent of Fine Gael supporters want him.

There is also something about Richard. He might just deliver an overall majority. It is that Richard seems to know what he is on about, which is only one thing -- the economy. It's all that matters these days, by which I also mean the banks of course.

The thing is, though, that these people who want Richard probably, in the main, also wanted George -- and see where that got them. The rule in politics, as always, is to hasten slowly. Put it another way: be careful what you wish for.

Put it another way -- that's politics. In the real world, there is a mood to hasten quickly, at all speed in fact. But that's not going to happen, not here anyway.

Now the yummy grandmummies want George back in RTE. They haven't given up on him entirely. They will be delighted to hear that out at the state broadcaster, George is swapping one dinosaur institution for another.

The public want George back doing what he does best; doing, it seems, the only thing he can do, which is telling the politicians where they are going wrong and then heading home for a nice cup of tea.

I was collecting the kids from school on Monday when George was on Liveline with Joe Duffy. The yummy mummies were glued to George in their 4x4s. Joe conducted his own survey, and something like 80 per cent of texters, or twitterers, or whatever they were, felt George was right to cut and run.

The folks from Millward Brown Lansdowne got down and dirty with the rest of Ireland on our behalf last week. The mood has swung against George: 45 per cent think he was right to resign, 43 per cent think he was wrong, 13 per cent don't know, or don't care. I'm with them, the 13 per cent.

But all is forgiven. Get back to RTE, George. Your country needs you: 58 per cent think that is where George belongs, 31 per cent think not, and 11 per cent don't know or don't care. I'm with the 58 per cent. I love it when, in a single phrase, George can make sense of everything.

What is this though?

Over a quarter of those polled think George should set up his own party, which is probably what he should have done in the first place: that's what 27 per cent want; 62 per cent say 'no' and a remarkably consistent 11 per cent don't know or don't care. I'm not too sure who I am with on this one, so I will cop out, just like George.

Meanwhile, we await with dwindling interest the unveiling of the real Enda Kenny, 60, and with a little more enthusiasm the next move of Richard Bruton.

Now, please excuse me while I empathise with Deirdre de Burca, the pet.

Meanwhile, the 300 or so of you who lose your jobs next week, you have my sympathy.

There is little else to offer, I'm afraid, other than the inglorious spectacle of politicians knocking over each others' sand castles in the kindergarten otherwise known as Leinster House.

Sunday Independent

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