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Jody Corcoran: 'Fine Gael needs to take Varadkar off campaign trail'

Micheal Martin is relaxed with people - unlike his opposite number, writes Jody Corcoran

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Fine Gael: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar pictured with Tanaiste Simon Coveney. Photo: Douglas O'Connor

Fine Gael: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar pictured with Tanaiste Simon Coveney. Photo: Douglas O'Connor

Fine Gael: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar pictured with Tanaiste Simon Coveney. Photo: Douglas O'Connor

Fine Gael needs to pull Leo Varadkar from the frontline to stand any chance of winning the general election.

That may seem a dramatic move for a party which once contemplated a 'Let Leo Lead On' campaign slogan.

But at this early stage, it is evident Varadkar is struggling in the field, as many in Fine Gael feared he would.

Fine Gael strategists should have Simon Coveney lead the campaign in the southern half of the country and Paschal Donohoe the northern half.

Varadkar needs to be returned to base to host morning and evening press conferences. It's a winter campaign. There is no need for him out there when he is not being effective. He would be more useful on TV and social media.

It's doubtful they are even thinking about this at FG headquarters this weekend, but they will be by the end of the week.

In contrast, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin is showing well again on the hustings, a point he proved four years ago. He is relaxed and comfortable with people.

Varadkar is the opposite. That is not necessarily his fault. It is a quality of his personality. He is awkward around people, but the problem is not just that.

If he keeps going the way he is, he will do Fine Gael more harm than good.

Varadkar's reaction to the appalling incident involving a homeless man in a tent was a case in point.

The problem is the Fine Gael leader is 'political' to his fingertips. In a campaign, such naked politics is counterproductive. Varadkar needs to show a bit of humanity - or fake sincerity, as they say.

It may be he can turn it around this week, but it is far from certain. The problem with Fine Gael is that its entire campaign so far is too contrived, even desperate. Varadkar is the manifestation of such woodenness.

The message emanating from its media centre is juvenile at best, cynical at worst, and has been for months.

To release a 'Benny Hill' spoof video at the end of a week of shocking gangland criminality and the dreadful homeless tragedy was badly misjudged, to say the least.

Politics is a serious business. There are important issues to be debated. This is not a 'posh boy' game. It's the next five years, or so, of all of our lives.

Fine Gael took public opinion two years ago on another possible election slogan: "Forward with Leo's Team." They didn't go with that one either, perhaps because belatedly they have realised Varadkar is not hugely popular out there. But it is time for his team to step up, otherwise they will hand victory to Fianna Fail.

As for Martin's team, well, they are nowhere to be seen. The campaign gets under way proper this week. Major policies will be rolled out. The Fianna Fail cabinet-in-waiting will have to come out from behind the curtain. But Martin will be left on the field. You don't substitute a winning captain.

Will this election be won on the TV, in the media, or on the ground? Fianna Fail is winning on the ground. That was always likely. It's time for Fine Gael to think again, before it's too late. Bring Leo home.

Sunday Independent


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Tragedy: Gardai at Leeson Street bridge where a man was seriously injured after the tent in which he was sleeping was removed from the banks of the Grand Canal by an industrial vehicle. Photo: Mark Condren Opinion