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Andrew Lynch: Kenny's great, just so long as he keeps out of the way

Enda Kenny's advisers have complete faith in their boss's personal charm. They are convinced that if he could somehow meet every voter in the country face to face, he would be transformed into the most popular politician in Ireland.

While they're working on that one, it seems that the Fine Gael leader has some work to do with his own colleagues first. Over the next few weeks, the man who all the opinion polls suggest will be the next Taoiseach is due to hold a private session with every one of his TDs and senators. Although it's officially just a chat to prepare for the political year ahead, the reality is that a couple of weak media performances have left Kenny with some serious repair work to do -- and if he doesn't up his game soon, the internal rumblings over his leadership could easily flare up again.

Kenny's current problems started with a recent bid to improve his image by appearing on the Late Late Show, a decision he must now profoundly regret. From the moment he shook Ryan Tubridy's hand he completely failed to make any connection with the audience, looking painfully nervous and fumbling routine questions such as FG's willingness to enter coalition with Sinn Fein.

On the few occasions he managed to get off a decent line, he ruined the effect by flashing a rictus grin that most viewers found simply bizarre.

Last week's appearance on the Newstalk Breakfast Show was, if anything, even worse. When presenter Claire Byrne asked the simple question "FG: in favour of water charges or not?", Kenny sounded startled and confused. He made three attempts to answer, trailing away into silence each time before Byrne intervened in a deadpan voice: "Have you thought about it yet?" The answer, of course, was no.

Frustrating

For Kenny's core supporters within FG, all this is deeply frustrating. They constantly plead that their man is far more impressive and likeable in private than on camera -- and they're absolutely right. Their problem is that until Kenny actually gets his feet under the desk in the Taoiseach's office, around 70pc of the electorate will refuse to take him seriously in that role.So what should he do? The silver lining for FG is that while their leader is still struggling, the party's opinion poll ratings are way above what they need to win the next election. As long as Kenny doesn't embarrass them too much on the airwaves, few TDs will want to rock the boat with a leadership challenge. His safest strategy is to adopt a low profile for a while and allow the talent around him to shine, with a promotion for George Lee to the front bench an obvious place to start.

Kenny is still on course to be the next leader of this country. It's just a shame that so few other people seem to be excited about the prospect.


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