Thursday 18 January 2018

Varadkar must give voters a reason to dream again

Fortune favours radicalism and even strong centrists like Blair and Merkel challenged their own parties

Leo Varadkar. Picture: Colin Keegan/Collins
Leo Varadkar. Picture: Colin Keegan/Collins

Ed Brophy

What Leo Varadkar likes to call the 'new European centre' didn't quite hold. Even Angela Merkel couldn't inoculate herself from the populist wave that has swept the West. But a tainted victory is still a victory and she remains the most successful centrist politician of her generation, taking that mantle from Tony Blair.

Merkel's diminished return to power overlapped with Leo Varadkar's first 100 days as Taoiseach and a renewed focus on defining his much-vaunted Republic of Opportunity. Certain commentators were quick to point to omitted comments on dependency culture in his recent Ibec speech as evidence that it amounts to little more than what Gerry Adams labelled as "Thatcherism with a fresh coat of paint".

This isn't surprising. All new leaders have a period when people project whatever they want on to them. What was discordant about the dependency language was not so much its omission by Varadkar, which hinted at a useful ability to error-correct, but the fact that it appeared in the first place. When we [Labour] were in government with Fine Gael, Enda Kenny's advisers would often save the red meat for occasions like this or Fine Gael party gatherings, as if to reassure the faithful that he remained a true blue despite the influence of us turbulent social democrats.

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