An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The surprisingly cold candidate.

Icy icy baby!

Icy icy baby!

On paper, she’s electoral gold. She’s pretty, young and well-educated. She looks great on a poster and even better in real life, bringing that X factor to politics. Except she doesn’t. When you meet her, she smiles at you and shakes your hand and affects to listen to you, yet you can’t help notice that the smile has all the warmth of an open fridge full of fish fingers. In fact, you can’t help feeling that the smile is like that of some sort of alien doppelganger, like someone who has only learnt how to smile late in life and is trying to copy someone else a little too hard.

Her earnest look is betrayed by that flicker as you talk to her, that millisecond when she looks over your shoulder to identify her next port of call. Yet the smile remains rigid, even though you know she’s not listening. And there’s the test right there: If you were to suddenly say to her “My mickey is unusually heavy. Would you like to see?” She’d keep smiling, her brain miles away, whereas a really good and forthright candidate would at least ask: “Fair enough. Will it increase the chance of me getting a number one?”

An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The Rat.

“It is with a great heaviness of heart that I feel I have no alternative but to call for the resignation of the man I hoped might appoint me a junior minister at some stage and now it looks like we’re totally flutered if I don’t say something so I’ll say it. The Taoiseach should resign. I have given this serious consideration, and conferred with my family, including our youngest who looked me clear in the eye and asked “Who is this man, mammy?” Let me be very clear: It is not true that I happily voted for whatever nonsense the party leader put in front of me for the last three and a half years and now that the chips are down and I’ve a better chance getting elected as a member of the Gary Glitter Party. Each one of those votes was arrived at by a careful consideration of what was in the best interests of the people who would be best served by my being named minister of state with special responsibility for badger conservation or the black babies or something. Even though that did not happen, I stood ready to serve, preparing myself for the role by nodding sagely at whatever the Taoiseach happened to be saying about whatever that stuff is he talks about in the chamber. Let me also say that I have been accused of speaking against the closure of St. Furiousbridget’s in my constituency, voting to close it, and then going on a march to keep it open. If anything, this merely goes to show how broadminded a person I am, as indeed does the fact that I held off lifting a finger against the Taoiseach until I got word that that drunken, womanising whoremonger, sorry, my party running mate, was about to attack the Taoiseach in the Feckerstown Gazette tomorrow morning. Never let it be said I did not give the man a chance to repent his ways.”

An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The Plank.

Let’s be honest. The suit is wearing him.

“Now, he should be party leader!” They gush. “After all, he’s from a lovely family. And he wears a suit so well.”  All this is true. On top of that, he’s a tall, handsome young man, comes from a family with money, and is by all accounts a kind and decent man with impeccable manners. Woman find him attractive, particularly women of a certain vintage, thrusting their heavily perfumed cleavage at him as he works a room. He’s the sort of guy a nice middle class mother would give herself a hernia pulling her daughter across a hotel reception room by the arm to introduce to him. He will actually get better looking as he gets older, and looks like a cabinet minister.

The problem is that he is actually a nicely finished plank. He struggles to utter even the most bland of statements, and would almost certainly end up the tool of those around him. He has never expressed an original political idea in his life, and maybe it is that which keeps him so popular, allowing people to project on to his attractive blandness that which they want to see themselves. It’s an attractive quality in a mannequin, but in a Taoiseach? When people speak of a candidate being “presidential timber”, the problem is that in his case, he literally is. Solid Irish oak. But it polishes up so well!

An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The Political Conspiracy Theorist.

You see him on Twitter declaring that everything, everything, is a wily political chessboard move, and nothing happens that isn’t part of a conspiracy that would give Fox Mulder and Dana Scully a nosebleed.

God love him, but he gives our political masters way too much credit. The PDs, for example, were part of an international ideological conspiracy to destroy the welfare state. He’d never actually met anyone of any significance from the PDs, but then that would have hindered the purity of his beliefs.

Immigration is part of a plot to destroy Irish culture. Apparently there’s a tipping point (he can prove this on an Excel spreadsheet!) whereby one additional Pole tips the balance, and all of a sudden we’re setting fire to GAA clubs and eating cabbage flavoured ice cream.

The Sunday Indo and RTE are the tools of Fianna Fail. Or Fine Gael, depending on the balance of fluid in his brain at any given time.

Everything is part of a plan concocted by people far smarter than him but not smart enough to cover it up from him. He tends to smell of wee a lot, but that’s because every morning they sneak into his bedroom when he is in the toilet, and pour wee on his trousers to discredit him.

The well-organised bastards.

An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The Political Biological Clock.

Time's flying. It’s normally a single event which causes the realisation: The moment you realise that the guy two years behind you in college is now a junior minister, or that plump girl you used to pity is now the political editor of a major national newspaper. And it’s not just your peers: Behind you, you see younger, slimmer, prettier and more media savvy types coming up behind you, making you realise that your beer belly or plump tree trunk ankles have now rendered you no longer a threat to their career path. You’re in their way.

What happened? You were going to be a senator at 25 or presenting your own Today FM sunday show at 27. What happened was the curse of our generation, who haven’t quite grasped that our physical age is a good ten years older than our mental ages, and that time is running out to do the great things, learn the guitar, write that novel. Get a fright when you realise that a guy you used to see playing the guitar naked whilst full of soup is now a father?

Tick, tock, tick, tock…

An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The Handwringer.

handwringing“What…about…the…children???” She will bellow, head rubbernecking around the studio audience, making eye contact with all to ensure that no one cares more about the issue than her, and that everyone knows it, too. Everything is a simple equation: If we can afford to bale out the banks, then surely we can afford to fund absolutely every single request for spending from every other NGO too? If you even question it, you hate children/animals/basket weavers from North West Kilkenny, and wish they were dead, don’t you?

She has “no problem” paying extra taxes to help the weak, she says. She tends to say that a lot when centre-right governments are in power. When Labour, her party of choice, do get into power, she curiously goes quiet on the issue, not resigning over the u-turn but telling anyone else also recently appointed to the National Bruised Knee Advisory Board that they must be “realistic” and support the party leadership. She rails against low pay, and can’t understand how anyone can get by on less than €75k a year, or indeed pay their own pension. She has never worked in the private sector, save for her sister’s angels, tarots and power crystals shop which surprisingly went bust six weeks after opening.

Interestingly, when she lived in Britain, working with the National Council for Balloonist Vertigo Sufferers, she would give out yards about the council tax, and eventually moved to a Tory council where the tax was lower, even if she had to step over drug addicts outside Waitrose.

An Occasional guide to Irish Politics: The Deputy “whose seat is gone.”

Sure, the politically astute dogs in the street know it!You’ll see him about 18 months before the expected election, fidgeting and wild-eyed. Questions about poster quantities to be ordered trigger a manic response: “ Posters? Sure why bother? The dogs in the streets know it. The. Seat. Is. Gone.”

“Everybody” knows that your man, that Shinner, is a dead cert to take the seat.

“A dead cert. Why are we even bothering to have the election? We might as well just award him the seat. Sure, I’m surprised he hasn’t got a running mate for a run at the last seat.”

The deputy can be seen slinking slope-shouldered into old folks homes, sighing and pondering as to how the constituency, whom he has loyally served for twenty years, could vote for a fella who used to blow up people. And what about his running mate? Sure what does he need two quotas for anyway? The old dears console him with a chocolate digestive and a nice sit-down.   

Of course, he runs a full campaign, but not to win, perish the thought, sure that’s impossible. He’s just running to keep the party flag flying, really. Only in Ireland does a candidate brag about how badly he’s doing, but not too badly.

He grudgingly accepts, without anyone actually asking him the question, that he supposes it could be possible that he might squeeze into the fifth seat on the nineteenth count without reaching the quota if it were a nice day, and all the people he’s helped through the years turned out, but that the Shinner probably “ has it all locked up, with military precision,” he says ominously.

The day after polling day, the deputy comfortably takes the second seat on the third count, but assures everyone that it is a dead cert that this is the last time he’ll hold the seat, no doubt about it. His “safe as houses” running mate’s vote collapses and he loses his seat.

 

An occasional guide to Irish Politics: The Amateur Opinion Poll Spinner.

I don't know anything about that but I feel strongly about it!

He’s the bore to beat all bores, the one who extrapolates election results down to the last seat in the Feckerstown ward even though the election is 17 years away.

But it gets worse. Not only is he a moron, he’s a partisan moron. If his party is up a fraction of a percent, he declares as fact that his party could run a rotting headless corpse in a given seat and still have a surplus quota. But if the party drops an iota, the poll is immediately dismissed as an abberation, not comparing like with like, obviously rigged by the pollsters who are of course in the pockets of the other crowd.

He’s on Twitter at the sniff of a poll, cheerleading for his crowd and finger-pointing at the others, racking up posts the way, well, proper political activists rack up first preferences for their candidate.

Still, could be worse. At least he’s at home out of harm’s way, rather than sitting on the bus beside you and overwhelming you with a toxic wave of body odour and Monster Munch as he flicks through Nealon’s Guide to the 1987 general election and sweats.

An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The Unknown Senator.

The Seanad: A deeply respected institution, especially by those in it or aspiring to be in it.It’s the title that gets him first, especially when he sees it on his passport for the first time. Senator! He can’t help but see himself in the great senatorial pantheon. Hello Senator Kennedy! Good to see you Senator McCain! That and the fact that he’s just fought the scruffiest, dirtiest, filthiest election this side of Palermo City Council, and somehow managed to scrape through on the 47th count with 1/47 of a preference electing him. For just one moment, he imagines himself going into oratorical battle on the floor of the house, in defence of The Republic.

Of course, once the elation dies down, reality comes roaring back in. Joe Public not only hasn’t a clue, but thinks he’s trying to sell him double glazing. And the party expects him to run for the Dail next time, which all looked great when they were talking nominations but now seems a bit stressful.

He thinks that after driving up and down every boreen in the country speaking to the greatest assembly of pathological liars ever assembled by Man he can now take it easy. Then he tries to have his tea in the members restaurant, and watches as the old hands practically stampede the door every time a county councillor darkens the door. Three weeks in he’s throwing his chocolate digestive over his shoulder as he runs for the restaurant door. He’s pretty sure that he’s just recognised a county councillor for Borris-in-Ossory. Either that or your man is just a fella delivering photocopying paper, but he can’t take the risk. His nerves won’t let him.