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Party's over for political leaders

So. No Micheal Mojo then. After a week of euphoria in Fianna Fail circles, when they thought they had pulled it back from the brink, when its new clean-cut, clean-handed leader seemed to magic away the past 10 years with one simple word -- "sorry", they are now faced with a terrifying prospect.

This could be as good as it gets. Fianna Fail pulled the ultimate stroke last week in seeming to redesign the brand in one fell swoop, putting in a new leader who could apparently credibly announce that this was a new party. There was a feeling the soldiers were back in touch with their destiny and anything seemed possible.

And it got them 16 per cent in today's Sunday Independent/ Millward-Brown Lansdowne poll. So the rejuvenated Fianna Fail are only 3 per cent off the all time low they hit last month. It is hardly a cause for celebration. They will still need 9 per cent of the population to join them in the secrecy of the ballot box to get that 25 per cent that would be a likely and respectable outcome for them.

But if Martin may not be doing the party much good right now, at least he's not a liability like some other party leaders. At least Fianna Fail had the chaotic fortune to get rid of its greatest liability. Fine Gael didn't do so when it had the chance, and is now in the bizarre situation of enjoying 34 per cent support while its leader only enjoys a 26 per cent approval rating. So at least a quarter of Fine Gael supporters are managing to ignore Enda Kenny. But let's face it, Fine Gael can't hide him away forever, not during an election campaign, and certainly not if they win the election.

Sinn Fein find themselves in the same boat. While Gerry Adams enjoys a satisfaction rating of 28 per cent, far in excess of his party's declining 10 per cent support, Adams's popularity has plunged, more than halving since the last election. And the more he goes around not knowing basics like the Vat rate in this beleaguered country of ours, the more he will damage them.

Eamon Gilmore would appear to be the only party leader who is a definite asset to his party, though his popularity, and that of his party, appears to have peaked.

But the big question today for Fianna Fail is what Martin can do to improve its poor core support, like its 9 per cent support in Dublin. Even Munster could only muster 17 per cent support for it's favoured son's new party. Martin can perhaps take comfort in the fact that some people say they are more likely to vote Fianna Fail now that Martin is leader. Unfortunately that effect is greatest among Fianna Fail supporters. So in other words, people who were going to vote Fianna Fail anyway feel slightly better about doing so now that Brian Cowen is gone. That's comforting for those people, but not really for Martin or the party.

Sunday Independent