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Mr. Congeniality… Enda Kenny and FG’s future… May 30, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.

Here’s a thought. Backroom in the SBP examines Enda Kenny and finds the following:

Fine Gael was in a parlous state after the general election of 2002. Losing 23 Dбil seats and down to 31, commentators speculated on its future in the same terms that are applied to Fianna Fбil today. It is doubtful if any other leader could have saved the party except Kenny, who applied his huge campaigning energy to crisscrossing the country, energising supporters and charming those he met almost on a one-by-one basis. His efforts eventually bore fruit.

Is that true? Would no other leader have succeeded as Kenny has? It’s a most interesting question. Certainly Kenny had/has an emollient quality that is lacking in his putative rivals. To name them is to see why they might not have been quite suitable for the top job in FG. Bruton? Too clearly right wing, too ‘efficient’, Noonan, too much of the past. And so on and so forth. The younger generation can be counted out entirely. Varadkar hadn’t got in the door of the Dáil in 2002. Hayes, had been in the Dáil in 1997, lost his seat in 2002 and returned in 2007, but in a way his star has never quite climbed in the way some thought it might. He’s there and God knows, he may be leader some day, but it will be by default rather than as an expression of any great enthusiasm in FG.

And Kenny, it must be admitted, has – for a man avowedly of the right, a chameleon like quality to not so much blend in with the scenery as disappear from. I don’t want to overstate things. This is probably not the most right-wing government this state has ever had, at least not in ideological terms, though in terms of outcomes it is no slouch. But Kenny is of the right and further right than many might realise.

In a sense this is the genius of his persona. It’s difficult to quite grasp it.

And Backroom makes some good points:

But after nearly 15 months in government, it is time for Kenny to kick on to a higher level. As was inevitable when leading a government cutting spending and raising taxes, Kenny’s personal popularity ratings have started to tumble.
While his own and Fine Gael’s numbers are by no means disastrous yet, there is every chance they will continue to slide. This means that there is a much greater likelihood of confrontation and argument with disgruntled voters wherever he goes, and the consequent media furore that always accompanies these.


So when the referendum campaign winds up later this week, Kenny and his advisers might want to take stock of whether a recalibration of the Taoiseach’s activities might soon be in order. Whatever about the referendum outcome, the polls have turned against the government parties. It is difficult to see any way in which they might go up again much soon, as further tough measures remain to be implemented.

Or ever one might add to the ‘might go up again much soon’. But this is true and it’s a fact that is often unstated in the polling analyses in the media. I would be staggered if there was a significant recovery in the LP vote, at least anything that would put it where it was at the last election. And while that holds slightly less true for FG because of class and demographic aspects of their support, it still remains true enough.

The sunny days of 2011 are now gone, and not to be returned to.

And Backroom makes some further points worth reflecting upon:

As worrying for Kenny is that, if Labour’s fortunes decline faster relative to Fine Gael, it will make the smaller party both more irritable and assertive. Time spent galloping around the country might be more productively spent behind closed doors massaging colleagues’ fragile egos and building government collegiality.

This could prove to be a real problem for Kenny. It’s not that I have any illusions that there will be an outbreak of leftism in the LP, although the noises off may take on that hue. More likely it will be a centrist populism that will be the expression of LP ire with the government. Expect, perhaps, something along those lines now that the LP has hit 10 per cent in a poll (only one poll, they will say, and they will be right, but one is all it takes to indicate where they may be heading and it is sharply away from the electoral territory where they received almost 40 TDs – consider that Adrian Kavanagh suggests the LP would be on 14 seats with the results of the MRBI poll, 22 with the results of RedC Both above and below the Waterline: Varying results for Fine Gael-Labour coalition in Sunday Business Post-Red C (26 May) and Irish Times-Ipsos MRBI poll figures).

Within Fine Gael, Kenny’s position for the moment certainly is secure. He has promised a mid-term reshuffle and there are ambitious groups of current junior ministers and 55 other Dбil parliamentary party members with their eyes on bigger jobs.

Secure so far the writer could have added. I’m always reminded of the end of Jack Lynch in national politics when the term ‘secure’ comes up in the context of major party leaders. 1977 saw him deliver the strongest FF mandate ever. Within two years he was gone (granted he did not want to return to contest another election and had suggested 1980 as the year of his departure, but even still. Commanding positions have an unfortunate habit of becoming anything but). But yes, he’s alright so far, though he’s also a leader who has an unfortunate history of division not that far behind him. And let’s not forget that within twelve months of the last election there was an heave against him.

There are an awful lot of people Kenny has to keep on his side and in close contact with. That is another reason to do more work behind closed doors.

Disappointingly Backroom doesn’t really go into details as to what the work might be. Perhaps s/he doesn’t know any more than you or me.

This will entail getting under the engine of his government and mastering the detail of how it all works, something he has been able to get away without doing so far. Several ministers and their senior staff are deserving of closer scrutiny from the top.
Summer is on the way. Kenny and his advisers could use it productively to work out a strategy, as opposed to just tactics, for his leadership of the country. Photocalls have some role to play, but they are no substitute for strategic leadership.

All that may be necessary, but it doesn’t quite address how it fixes the problems already outlined. Strategic leadership doesn’t strike me as the solution to falling poll numbers or a testy partner in government or a restless back bench.

But perhaps the truth is that there are no solutions to those issues.


1. Oireachtas Retort - May 30, 2012

“But after nearly 15 months in government, it is time for Kenny to kick on to a higher level. ”

One disappointing aspect of the last few weeks has been the absence of any real change in gear. Neither side seems capable or at least willing for now. Plenty of photo ops and money for social media gurus but the actual debate is still bumping along at the same pace. No momentum. Regardless of the result I think the whole campaign will leave a very bad taste people’s mouth.

Some amazing comments and arguments slipped out though. Real contempt for some of the basic tenets of democracy in a few places.

Sarah McInerney had some good bits from within Labour on last nights late debate.

[audio src="http://www.rte.ie/podcasts/2012/pc/pod-v-29051258m08slatedebatetuesday-pid0-3488736_audio.mp3" /]


WorldbyStorm - May 31, 2012

That’s very true re the campaign leaving a very bad taste. I think it will work out badly for those who pushed it in the long run. the contempt for democracy is genuinely disturbing.


2. Oireachtas Retort - May 30, 2012

Those last two points aren’t necessarily related ha


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