Sunday, June 13, 2010

The old heave ho

All the talk of the last few days has been about the results of Friday's opinion poll in the Irish Times that put Labour as the most supported party in the state. Even allowing for IPSOS/MRBI's probably flawed method of allocating undecideds, the core vote for each party still puts Labour top of the heap by a point. But the most interesting outcome has been the inevitable talk of replacing the leaders of both FF and FG.

Enda Kenny, for all his organisational skills, has not sold himself to the floating voter. In a time period where FF's vote has collapsed to less than half their election result only two years ago, FG have not made the required inroads and a lot of that is down to Kenny's performance. He gets a lot of credit for bringing FG back from the brink in 2002 but his time is up. The difficulties come up when you try to figure out who should take over at the helm.

The obvious candidate is Richard Bruton. As deputy leader and finance spokesman has been a good performer in the Dáil, jointly attacking Brian Lenihan with Labour's Joan Burton on all things economic. As a Dublin based candidate he might also help revive the party in the capital and push them back up towards Labour's level of support. The downside is that a Dublin leader will not attract the rural vote, but his name and his brother John's farming background might reduce that effect. Were Bruton to take the top job, FG's biggest problem is who to put into the finance role - it is unclear that there is an obvious candidate for that position.

After that it is hard to come up with potential candidates. The right-wing section of the party would love to put Leo Varadkar in charge but that would alienate large swathes of the voters. The rural section would be very against a Dublin leader and so might look to someone like Simon Coveney or Phil Hogan. Of the Dublin TDs, Alan Shatter has been very vocal on the Children's Rights issues and Brian Hayes has built up good support in a traditionally FG unfriendly area in Tallaght but neither of them at the moment have a national profile that would be required to lead FG into a general election.

So really it all points to Bruton. The next week will be interesting. If the motion of no confidence in Cowen passes then Kenny becomes Taoiseach after an election and the heave never happens. If the motion is defeated, and it probably will be, then Enda Kenny will have to fight hard for his political career.

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