Monday, January 08, 2007

Enda Kenny learned how secure being a Fine Gael leader was this week.
But Bertie Ahern is already shaping out, longetivty wise, to be like one of those leaders of post-Soviet countries in Central Asia.
He was at his 'The Bert' best when being interviewed by Gerry Barry on RTÉ Radio's This Week .
Barry asked him when he was going to retire and The Bert came out with his usual spiel that he will be 60 just before the 2012 election is called, and God willing, he will continue until then... and no longer.
But did not Tony Blair who also wanted to see out a third term but was muscled out of office by Gordon Brown two years earlier.
Quite reasonably, Barry - who is still scalpel-sharp in questioning - put it to him that he couldn't expect to see out three terms and then hand it over to his successor just before a General Election. Sure, what could a new leader do with only a couple of months to go to an election.
Naturally, Ahern must know that he can't stay until the end but he probably very keen to avoid the mistake Blair made. By stating categorically that he would stand down, the questions kept coming at Blair like suitcases on a carousel.
There was no escape.
If Ahern wins a third term, the journalists will first report on his coronation and then quickly turn to his abdication, whenver that will be. It will dog him. Maybe not as much as it did Blair who had also Gordon Brown breathing down his neck.
And what of the possible FF successors. Well Brian Cowen looks like he's happy to wait until he's sixty before taking over the reins. Micheál Martin's chances have ebbed. Dermot Ahern is making more shapes than anybody else but will he get support, from his colleagues or have that populist appeal that is the sine qua non of FF leader? Ahern may falter on the electabilility test. The same doubts surround the stretchability of Mary Hanafin's appeal.
With that kind of inertia in the ranks below him, no wonder Ahern is so secure in his position. But if none of the indolent kids show any interest in taking over the family business, whatever about 2007, FF will get wallopped in 2012. Too far away? Not at all. Sinn Fein - the long term strategists par excellence - are already looking at 2017.
PS. Despite all his experience, The Bert still uses scripts for the more tricky questions in one-on-one interviews. Seasoned Bert watchers could hear the script talking it in the first answer he gave to Gerry Barry in that RTE interview until Barry interjected and did some real probing.

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