A Full Blown crisis for Fine Gael
All day, Fine Gael TDs have publicly expressed disappointment at George Lee’s bolt out of the blue.
What they should have been expressing is:
Simon Coveney took off the kid gloves tonight when he was speaking to me, saying he was very annoyed. He said that Lee’s decision would create real problems for the party. We will explore them briefly in a second.
There is a but and the but is this. Lee’sdecision to leave was bizarre, unless there is an element of it that we are missing. Was he really cold-shouldered and excluded? His comments about Richard Bruton seemed to suggest that the party deputy leader and finance spokesman never warmed to him or took his views on board.
But from today’s spin, the narratives of his inclusion or exclusion seem to diverge radically, depending on to whom you were talking.
His rejection of a front bench position last week seems odd. Sure, it was late but it was still a significant offer. George rejected it on the basis that the offer was made under duress. Hah? His demands and his expectations after only eight months in politics seem to me to be both unrealistic and grandiloquent. It seems he belived some of the messianic hype that was thrown at him last year.
Poor old Enda Kenny. He’s had a bad couple of weeks. Two lousy appearances on the Late Late and Newstalk. Continuous mutterings from discontents about his wherewithal. And now this! George who looked like a game-changer for Fine Gael suddenly looks more like a game-ender for Enda.
All day today, certain TDs, but not all, were muttering that it has implications for Kenny’s leadership. There is a belief within the party that if Enda’s leadership was challenged, the Mayo man could muster no more than 25 votes out of some 70 TDs and Senators. And that the job would be Richard Bruton’s for the taking.
Bruton was not to be found today. Has that told us much. Not really. There is a sense tonight that the party will circle the wagons and pull together, that there is no real sense that it will trigger a leadership contest, or challenge to Enda.
In the longer term, there are clouds on the horizon for Kenny. there are no immediate dangers. You have to wonder now if Brian Cowen will outsurvive him as a party leader?