Friday, February 02, 2007


INSIDE POLITICS - Rabbittes and Hats
Michael McDowell's ubiquity on the airwaves has been challenged of late by Pat Rabbitte. If the Cameroonian Tories want people to hug hoodies, well then the Labour Party here want them to cuddle Rabbittes.
His Labour handlers have convinced him to ditch the Dail cocoon - where he can use fancy words like obsequies and gravamen to his heart's content - to venture into the dangerous uncharted waters of light entertainment and the peril of having to field silly questions.
Has it worked? Erm, the jury is still out. The problem with Pat is this - Rabbitte by name; hedgehog by instinct.

Bertie can blather away consummately about nothing in particular.

Enda can go through his gamut of impersonations from A to B.

Michael can do his weekly residency slot on Pat Kenny.

Trevor can just about escape drowning on Podge and Rodge.

But the problem with Rabbitte is this: He can't do small talk. Oratorially gifted yes, but you see him on Tubridy Tonight and doing the Mad Hatter thing in HotPress and you think of a guy a stratosphere outside his comfort zone.
He comported himself well (that's a real Pat Rabbitte phrase) on Ray Darcy, Today FM's thinking person's Tubridy. Still it all falls short on the loaves and five fishes department i.e. converting the masses to whatever your one true faith.
But parliament, debating, the cliched smoke-filled rooms are no longer where it's at. You have to be out there selling the message. You have to be seen selling the message. And increasingly the message is wrapped into the image. And image and leader have become increasingly indistinguishable.
We're seeing all the leaders gradually desert Leinster House now and hitting the roads and meeting the people. Kenny's first public rally is on Thursday in Cork. We're all bracing ourselves for the Bertie blitzkrieg. Rabbitte will be out meeting the electorate for half the week and Trevor will go so far and as fast as buses and trains will allow him.
There's a perception that Rabbitte has lost ground since becoming leader. And that's something Labour are trying to address with its 'meet the people' campaign. Frank Luntz's latest 'focus group' type exercise on RTE's Week in Politics on Sunday night will tell us a bit more about how that is going for him, and for others.

Respect not adoration is what Rabbitte needs. Electorally, he can't be sold as the guy next door. No magician would have the skill to pull that Rabbitte out of a hat.

No comments: