A wake-up call to Leo: some of us don’t get up early in morning

Mr Varadkar wants to be a leader for goody-goody early risers. I’m going back to bed

Festival-goers,  possibly not Fine Gael voters.  Photograph: Luke MacGregor/Reuters

Festival-goers, possibly not Fine Gael voters. Photograph: Luke MacGregor/Reuters

 

I’ve been away. I’ve missed more than a few cultural convulsions. The Catholic Church will be doing less meddling in our maternity hospitals. That sounds like a fine thing.

I also learn that in the course of the Fine Gael leadership campaign, Leo Varadkar confirmed himself as the Wrong Sort of Fellow.

In truth, as a middle-stump democratic socialist – fond of corduroy, but not quite at home to the Corbyn-Eagleton fisherman’s cap – I was already fairly certain that Mr Varadkar was not the Right Sort of Fellow (for me, anyway).

He seems polite. He knows how to order a sentence. But his discrete shuffle to the economic right has, over the past few months, been hard to ignore. Every time you blink, he seems to have shifted a step closer towards Thatcher Gulch.

Never mind the important stuff. What really confirmed his Wrong Sort of Fellow status was a largely insignificant propagandist tic at a campaign launch. It seems that Varadkar wants Fine Gael to be a party for “people who get up early in the morning”.

Needlessly alienating

Who was advising the man? Surely, in politics, you do everything possible to avoid needlessly alienating any section of the electorate. When being “tough on crime” you must expect to aggravate the burglar demographic. When discussing internal security, it’s reasonable to upset saboteurs and agents of hostile governments.

But why align yourself with one sort of riser over another? He hasn’t explicitly said he won’t look out for those of us who get up late. The implication is, nonetheless, there to be read. The probable next taoiseach will represent those who get up when it’s still dark. The rest of us can go to blazes.

I get it, really. This is a variation on the political construction that honours “hard-working families”. Politicians assume that few voters will self-identify as slovenly layabouts. “What about drunken malingers?” they won’t shout at meetings. “Who will stand up for those of us robbing fruit machines to buy fags and barley wine?” Everyone likes to think they are good people.

To be serious for a moment, politicians should, of course, identify with fraught parents rising at six in the morning to commute blearily towards unedifying jobs. (Well, they should pretend to anyway.)

But the apparent correlation between getting up early and the virtuous life is a step too far. Give me a call and I’ll tell you why. No, I’d leave it until after lunch if you wouldn’t mind.

Toad-worshipping

There are, in everyday life, few divisions more stark than those between early birds and night owls. The noisy exuberance that the former bring to their morning routines are, to us, as baffling as the toad-worshipping dances of the Kodogo Islanders.

Why would anybody wish to speak before noon? The phrase “it will seem better in the morning” makes as much sense as arguments for the flatness of the Earth or the divinity of cattle.

It won’t seem better. It will seem much worse. I will be depressed, irritable and exhausted. Every movement will require a conscious effort of will. Small problems will seem large. Large problems will seem insurmountable.

I suppose early birds feel much the same way shortly after teatime. The slightest hint of encroaching night causes them to yearn for their beds. Dawn will have barely announced itself before they stride out to catch this proverbial worm they’re always droning on about.

We are a tolerant nation. This division should be easy to live with. One fellow likes marmalade. Another likes jam. What’s the problem?

The problem, pal, is that night owls don’t discuss their preference as if it grants moral superiority. You don’t hear us trot out an equivalent of “early to bed, early to rise . . ”

Bad people

If Simon Coveney had come out for “people who like to get up in time for Countdown”, then he’d have had as much of my support as I’m prepared to offer any member of Fine Gael. But he didn’t. Night people are bad people. They deserve only opprobrium.

I’m not having it. Marcel Proust was a night owl. He spent the last 13 years of his life snoozing until noon, eating chips and composing the longest novel ever written.

Winston Churchill did most of his morning’s work in the scratcher. Prof Jacob Bronowski remembers phoning John Von Neuman, the great mathematician, “well after 10” to confirm that he agreed with one of his findings.

“You wake me up early in the morning to tell me that I’m right?” Von Neuman snapped. “Please wait until I’m wrong.”

You don’t speak for us, Mr Varadkar. You don’t speak for us.

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