Fear of alternative could help FG in election, say strategists

Think-in hears party must emphasise stability in campaign, TDs and Senators are told

Kenny downplays expectation of giveaway budget following strong exchequer returns. Photograph: The Irish Times

Kenny downplays expectation of giveaway budget following strong exchequer returns. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

Fine Gael TDs and Senators were told by the party’s electoral strategists they must emphasise stability in the election campaign, and that fear of the alternatives before the electorate can work to its advantage.

Deputies were also told there were lessons to be learned from the campaign success of David Cameron’s Conservatives in the recent UK general election.

At the first day of the Fine Gael parliamentary party think-in in Adare, Co Limerick, TDs and Senators were given an update on the party’s general election campaign preparations.

They were updated on the work of the national strategy committee, which is chaired by Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and includes Minister for Health Leo Varadkar, who is in charge of communications; Minister for Children James Reilly, in charge of party organisation; and Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney in charge of manifesto preparation, with Brian Hayes MEP also a key member.

Fear

Mr Varadkar gave a presentation in which he spoke of the fear of the economy falling backwards if Fine Gael is not re-elected to lead a stable government. Mr Varadkar’s running mate in Dublin West, Senator Catherine Noone, mentioned the example of Mr Cameron’s Tories and how fear could play a significant part of the election campaign.

One source said: “We should fear the alternative. They would wreck the economy and reverse the progress made. [The] Tory technique was different – not fear – it was to remind people that no social problems can be solved unless the economy is strong and can generate the wealth to do so. We can’t fix health, homelessness, etc, unless the economy is strong.”

Later, Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton and his junior minister Damien English also gave a presentation on employment.

Speaking at the opening of the think-in, Taoiseach Enda Kenny downplayed expectations of a giveaway budget.

“We’re conscious that while the figures are encouraging and growing very strongly in the right direction we have a duty and a responsibility because the people are concerned that just because you’re in an electoral period that the politicians might blow this in terms of populist opportunities,” Mr Kenny said.

“We’re not going to do that. We’re not going to put the country in hock and the decisions we make are all based on securing the recovery for everybody.”

Confidence in TD

Mr Kenny also said he has confidence in Cavan-Monaghan Fine Gael TD Seán Conlan, who was last week arrested in connection with an alleged assault in a pub. Gardaí have received a formal statement of complaint from a man who alleges he was attacked in the pub owned by the TD. The pub is leased to a third party.

The injured man has claimed he was stabbed by his attacker with a broken glass. Gardaí attended the scene on the night, though no arrests were made at that point.

Mr Conlan was selected earlier this week to stand for Fine Gael at the general election.

“Seán Conlan is an elected member of the Fine Gael party and a Dáil deputy. He has been selected by his constituency convention to contest the next election, of course I have [confidence in him]. I can’t speculate on allegations that circulate in the media ... It is not for me to comment on allegations that were made. obviously the law will take its course,” Mr Kenny said.