The Yates anthology: FF needs a manifesto now
I pity the poor Fianna Fáilers. They're like Leeds United fans - recalling former glory days, enduring the pain of endless frustration, defeat and diminished expectations. The latest poll confirms the party has regressed to the historic low of 17pc, back to the level of March 2011. Then it had the excuse of sovereign default, the humiliating troika bailout and the imploding leadership of Brian Cowen.
The latest ratings mean that this was not a temporary little nightmare; its local election success are now a distant memory.
Micheál Martin and the Fianna Fáil frontbench must accept total responsibility for this failure. Their identity crisis has been meticulously cultivated by themselves. Caution of adopting any firm policy positions has evolved into paralysis. Martin himself has stuck to the safe territory of attacking Gerry Adams about abuse victims, championing the cause of Mairia Cahill and accosting Enda Kenny on the Garda Commissioner's resignation/Fennelly Commission. This adversarial stuff amounts to low-risk point-scoring in the context of big picture leadership. Fianna Fáil desperately need to explain who it seeks to represent, how it differs from Sinn Féin and Fine Gael, where it wants to modernise the nation and who it's against and even why we should care about it any more.
Kenny encountered a leadership contest less than a year before polling day. Richard Bruton eventually fronted a challenge, but the driving force was frontbenchers wanting to secure cabinet posts. Martin is allegedly secure because of a lack of both. The malaise in Fianna Fáil is so bad that no one even has the power-thirsty ambition to grab the leadership. Being a nice guy just won't cut it. The best prescription is compulsory viewing of Netflix's 'House of Cards' for Fianna Fáil TDs to rediscover their inner Machiavelli and produce an election manifesto now.
There's money to be saved
Punters pay €13bn in insurance annually, including health cover, life and non-life policies. Information released by both the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission and Health Insurance Authority compels you to shop around. On care insurance, you can save 50pc, or up to €1,200. If you're over 34 and uninsured, and don't sign up for health insurance by April 30, your LCR (lifetime community rating) loading premium will cripple you in perpetuity. There was a notion in recent years that insurance brokers' days are numbered. Think again.
It seems that the necessity for an intermediary is now unavoidable. Ninety per cent of insurance policies previously were underwritten through a broker. Ninety per cent of the future market was meant to be online. But who does this most suit - insurer or insured? Terms and conditions buried in fine print, rarely read, are designed to add to Plc profitability.
The public urgently requires a single 'one-stop shop' commercial brokerage which will provide advice across all insurance platforms. Yet only two health insurers pay brokers commission. Remember, insurers want to sell you the policy that'll provide them with maximum profits.
Loser of the week
Mega-successful TV series are based on the principle that the sum of the parts greatly exceeds individual endeavour. 'Top Gear' has a total viewing audience 340 million, earns the BBC £50m annual revenue and is BBC2's most successful show. The formula has been perfected since 1988. The banter between Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond goes beyond scripted material. This spontaneous magic won't be repeated by alternative presenters.
Clarkson's axing is a calamity. At 55, while not facing the job centre, he probably won't find an equivalent success elsewhere. The BBC will lose audience share and continue its steady decline.
Behind the mask of Clarkson's persona, many in the multitude of politically correct thought-police can't see that a lot of his humour is contrived. He's a wind-up merchant using predictable material of minority groups, be they foreigners, golfers, vegetarians, environmentalists, adolescent youths or the Welsh. He adds to the gaiety of the nation through contrarian stances that are aimed at people taking offence.
Let's hope we don't replace free speech with narrow-minded censorship.