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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: June 13, 2010 @ 8:42 pm

    The Leadership of Fine Gael

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    At time of writing, it appears Richard Bruton is refusing to comment as to whether he is going for the Fine Gael leadership or not. This comes in the wake of opinion poll results in this newspaper that put Labour well ahead of the other parties and FG at the same level as the last general election.

    Let’s help out Richard here folks. Should he throw his hat in the ring? Looks like Enda Kenny will not step aside voluntarily. Give us your views.

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      If Richard is as clever as we are led to believe he will support Kenny and tell those urging him to stand against Kenny to get a grip.

      Richard would do well to check the archives and reread how Alan Dukes would be the saviour after FitzGerald, when in fact FitzGerald should have stayed on or at least been replaced by Barry for the short term, or how Bruton was going to solve everything by replacing Dukes, when in fact Dukes was doing perfectly and the party should have had the guts to just back Robinson, and then how Noonan and Mitchell were going to solve everything by replacing Bruton, well we know how that turned out and actually Bruton by that stage had the kudos of having been Taoiseach and silenced those who doubted he could do that job.

      Then we come to Enda Kenny, on one hand people say he stops them voting Fine Gael, yet in every election he has faced he has led Fine Gael to victory in it so the proven evidence would indicate that in fact Enda Kenny doesn’t stop anyone voting for Fine Gael.

      In the 1980s there were 3 parties, now there are 6 (FF, FG, L , G, SF and a range of Ind and Left types) so there is no way FG will get to 40% under anyone.

      Enda Kenny is a motivator and gets a team to run well, Richard is not that type of person and I think Enda and Richard have had the conversation in private that they compliment each other and that each have skills the other lacks but together they can deliver.

      At the moment voters have the luxury of not having to choose – when the election comes, no matter when it is, that will focus the mind and they don’t want FG to take them for granted and they want FG to keep working for their vote.

      So, I’m still hopeful Richard would see the sheer folly and monumental stupidity of any coup to dump Kenny.

      Also in the longer term, why should a decline of Fianna Fáil not also include a decline of Fine Gael and perhaps ultimately some new parties, as politics is realigned on ideology, not whose father did what in the civil war.

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      What I said wasn’t personal by the way …. in case you were offended in some way. It was a general opinion comment.

      I’d hate to have you and Leo V as enemies !!!

    • Patrick Hennessy says:

      In short yes Richard should indicate willingness and his followers in the party should get their act together and make it as painless as possible for both Richard and Enda.

      Enda lacks something to be a party leader, and even if we cannot define it, we all sense it. More importantly the statistics prove it. He is up against the weakest Fianna Fail in decades and cannot kill the beast.

      Let’s have a change.


    • Betterworld Now says:

      The only question any prospective leader of Fine Gael needs to answer is whether or not he is willing to serve under a Labour Taoiseach.

      In a future Labour-led rainbow coalition, Enda Kenny might become Tanaiste and Minister for Education whereas Richard Bruton might secure Finance. One is symbolic, the other controlling. Neither can be achieved without a large helping of humility.

      Humility is not a characteristic I readily associate with Enda, whereas Bruton is well-versed in playing second fiddle.

    • Paul says:

      For FG’s sake yes Bruton would be a vast improvement no question.

      I personally hope that this opinion poll putting Labour on top does mark a sea change. I think the rise of a genuine alternative to FF/FG dominance would be better for everyone in Ireland. We need to get beyond this automatic response that if FF is doing badly FG must be doing well.

      A decent Labour party broadly representing the left opposite a decent FG party led by Richard Bruton representing a liberal view would be just great for the country.

    • robespierre says:

      I know many, many people who would vote FG under Bruton but wouldn’t with Kenny. This is most prevalent in cities. I’m a card carrying blueshirt and while I am not actively involved in constituency work anymore I would like us to enter the election campaign with a policy wonk rather than somebody who struggles to connect. Bruton is not perfect and I think the reason why nobody has come out for him is that there has always been a slight question about how much steel he has in him. If he wants to be leader he will have to take a leadership position.

      I know a number of FG TD’s whon you have down in the paper today as declared supporters for Kenny. Believe me, should Bruton declare his hand they will be cock-a-hoop and are definitely not concrete Kenny-ites.

      I also cannot fathom how not one person so far has mentioned how much political capital Kenny spent on the voluntary pay cut and especially the Seanad abolition. He has given too many hostages to fortune.

    • dealga says:

      By the accounts of the people that appear to know these things Kenny is a brilliant leader in terms of party organisation. Don’t really see it myself, but what would I know?

      However he is a poor speaker and gives no sense of having a vision for the country and how its institutions should work and should be paid for, which is what we’re all really voting for at the end of the day.

      So can Richard Bruton articulate that for FG?

    • Mick O' Hara says:

      Enda Kenny is flat and boring. Most young people cannot stand to listen to him. The game was up years ago with Kenny. He can win local and European elections, but at the end of the day, people do not want him as their taoiseach…

    • DC says:

      If Bruton does try a heave and fails, which is a good bet, that leaves a vacancy in the shadow Finance portfolio. The new FG finance spokesman wouldn’t have time to stake a major claim to that seat in any future Cabinet, assuming an election in a year. Again assuming that FG manage to elect the next Taoiseach, that means the Finance portfolio is up for grabs in any coalition deal.

    • Liam says:

      The other element here is that if Labour get a strong mandate, they will deliver the final coup d’etat to the economy by not reforming the public sector and not taking tough decisions in relation to the economy, it will be tax and spend until the markets cut off the credit a la Greece

      The fiscal conservative which should include anyone with a mortgage and works in the private sector will be in a quandary, do they vote FG in the hope they will be the strong senior partner or if Labour are looking strong do they bite their tongue and vote FF to prevent Labour getting into power and hope that FF have learned their lessons.

      I’d be interested if there are any demographic trends at play in the next election, the over-50’s will vote status quo policywise as they will be motivated to keep their short term benefits intact regardless of the long term consequences to the economy and the public sector unions will have similar objectives.

      Its quite depressing really that younger people are going to get screwed over royally by those better placed in society.

    • barbera says:

      imo Mr Kenny should remain as leader of FG — i prefer him to Mr Bruton, whose big brother already had a shot at this and Taoiseach. Mr Kenny has put a lot of work into being leader over the past years and should be given a chance to contest the next election as leader of FG. No leader will be popular at this time. The electorate has become very bitter

    • I wonder should I be keeping my own counsel on this one?

    • Ah g’wan as Mrs Doyle would say.

    • Deaglán, feel free to click to me blog and read what I’ve been saying since Friday.

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      Dan, your blog as always is very good. But none of those who side against Enda have ever explained what exactly it is they think Richard or anyone else will do differently or where in the polls they think Fine Gael ought to be.

      If Richard had won in 2002 there is not a chance in hell he would have succeeded in organising the party the way Enda Kenny has – it’s just not Richard’s thing and it is from that organisation that the rest of Fine Gael’s success followed.

      For example who in their right mind really believes any party could get 40-45% in a vote now – not even Fianna Fáil could during the Celtic Myth – in 2002 it got 41% and in 2007 it got 41% – it hasn’t got above 45% since the early 1980s. Those days are gone.

      It’s like comparing X Factor viewing figures to those of Morecambe and Wise and saying X Factor is a failure because it ‘only’ gets 12 million instead of 20 million.

      I think Richard was wrong and will now pay a heavy price – no matter what the outcome is. He had his chance at the top in 2002 and he lost and that should have been it. The next leader of Fine Gael – a year before the end of the first term in government – ought to be from a completely new generation.

      In the 1980s during the Garret v Charlie years there were two and a bit parties, now there are six (FF, FG, L, G, SF, Ind) who all take a large chunk of votes. Just like you can’t go back in time and make people still to a few TV channels to bump up ratings, so too you can’t go back in time and make it only three political parties.

      Every single person who has been leader of Fine Gael has ‘failed’ to connect – we were told Dukes would be perfect, then Bruton, then Noonan and then Kenny and you know what in every election Kenny has faced he has led Fine Gael to win it so the proof is that for all people say in opinion polls the fact is Enda Kenny doesn’t stop anyone actually voting for Fine Gael because if it did then Fine Gael wouldn’t have got the election results it has since 2002.

      So if Richard thinks Enda Kenny is wrong he should spell out why and what he would do differently and on what standard he should be judged because if anyone supporting Richard thinks he will lift the party to 40% or more they are going to get a very rude awakening.

      They should heed the lessons of the Lib Dems in the UK – we know Fine Gael is going to be in government after the next election. We just don’t know the scale of the victory and there were polls in the UK showing the Lib Dems were the biggest party but when push came to shove and the Lib Dems were put under the same spotlight as Labour and the Tories, they wilted and so it will be with Labour.

    • Desmond, I don’t think that FG should be expecting to be up over 40%; as you mention, times have changed. Fact is that too many of the semi-core FFers wouldn’t vote for FG if we had developed a cure for cancer and found massive gold deposits around the country. But we should be solidly and consistently over 35%, and you know we were, but as more and more people have deserted FF and more of them moved to Labour it seems many of those who were with us because they thought we were the only real option have moved to Labour. I don’t believe the IT poll is correct, and I reckon that FF are closer to the low 20s, that we’re still just over 30% and Labour are around the low 20s too. But with FF so low, we should be higher and it is a recurrent problem on the doors that people can’t get their heads around the notion of Enda as Taoiseach and that is now a massive factor fuelling the support for Labour.

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