Party at the Cross Roads

7th December, 2009

Had a weekend of family sickness. Amidst sick children over my shoulder I managed to read the new Kevin Rafter book on Fine Gael. I thought it was superb. I have been a member of Fine Gael since 1990. But my involvement intensified from 2002 onwards. During that time the party was on the verge of collapse and it’s difficult to overstate the degree of gloom at the time.

I’d never really heard of Enda when he was elected leader. His previous bid for the leadership hadn’t given me a glimpse of the man. All of that changed when I went to one of the regional meetings organised to review the election. The Dublin meeting was in the Green Isle. There must have been a thousand people at the meeting.

Enda turned up and was just brilliant. He worked the room like a demon and gave an ass kicking speach. Ever since then I have been a complete Enda loyalist. I have worked with business leaders, some of whom now run huge companies. Enda is up there with all of them in terms of his energy, direction and sense of leadership. This book gives a very accurate assessment of these strengths and, also, of his weaknesses.

The book argues that Enda has built up FG by turning it into FF. It details how a relentless focus on organisation, communication and building up the profile of the leader has developed the party’s statuture and election performance. All of this, it argues, is right out of the FF playbook.

I think this is a fair assesment of between 2002 and 2007 but not now. The sophistication and variety of party policy has stepchanges. New ERA, universal health insurance, our pre budget submission and stance on public sector pay give the party a policy depth that we need to make more of. Our focus is now on getting people to vote for us because we are different, not
just because we’re better organised. We’ve the policy material to do this. We now need to make more of these ideas and sell them better.

All of this was driven by the recognition by Enda that the policy end of our performance wasn’t strong enough. That said, this book is a great and fair analysis of all that he’s done.