Spin City

Alastair Campbell
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On my way to UCC yesterday to meet Alastair Campbell I had a most interesting chat with the taxi driver who brought me.

I was expecting serious political discussion and judgement of the political parties’ electoral prospects at the event, but not before it.

But like many of the voters I met on the campaign trail this week and last, this man had probably more of a sophisticated grasp of Irish politics than any imported spin-doctor.

Having left school at 14 and with no formal education, he told me what we needed is stability.

All of these empty promises are no good, he said.

Independents are out as far as I’m  concerned, they only want money to tar roads, he said.

His main point was the need for a stable government.

Even the most disillusioned voter wants nothing less than they want more turmoil.

Enda Kenny’s no-show at the debate on TV3 didn’t impress him one bit. “We want someone to fight for us and he’s choosing to meet 120 people in the Bog of Allen rather than go before the country? That’s not what I want.’’

He was voting for FF. (“Even though Billy Kelleher’s not my cup of tea, I’ll give him the vote because of Micheál on the debate”) for the stability.

His son is saving to go to Australia but he’d prefer an honest assessment of how bad things are going to get.

He told me Mick Barry had been in line to get his vote, until he heard Joe Higgins on Vincent Browne “pulling figures out of a magic hat”.

The expert knowledge of party policies, and acknowledgment that we need the truth was an eye opener, especially when put side by side with the views of Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former PR man, who has made a career from ‘spin’.

Speaking to Campbell after his well-attended talk at UCC, it was clear that he was sick to the teeth of being asked to pass judgment on our politicians.

(In case you didn’t see him on the numerous TV shows he appeared on this week, he’s been asked to comment on our elections at every turn since he arrived here promoting his book).

He had never met Micheál Martin, and said that our politics was “very different” to that in which he worked over the years. Interestingly, he doesn’t feel that modern politics consists of spin over substance, and

But, on one simple point, he and the taxi driver were in agreement.

I asked them both about the possibility of a Labour / Fine Gael coalition. The taxi driver said it wouldn’t be stable; they’d be fighting constantly; and it wouldn’t last more than 18 months.

Campbell was a bit more circumspect, but asked if the notion of the Tories (FG’s sister party in the UK) and Labour Party there going into coalition would be ridiculous, he said yes.

It taught me something. We have the old colonial habit of regarding other peoples’ opinions as more important than our own.

Why don’t we forget about the opinions of pundits who have nothing to lose or gain from Irish politics, and leave the judgement up to the unemployed, the short-time workers, those whose children are emigrating, and those of us lucky enough to still have jobs but cut and cut again? For it’s we who’ll have the say on polling day.

Everything else is just, well, spin.



  1. I do find the whole choosing along party vs leader vs candidate lines a bit of a quandary. EG maybe I find a particular candidate honest, hard working etc but disagree with his/her parties policies. Or have no time for the party leader. Or else I admire a leaders abilities but find his local man/woman totally objectionable. How to choose?!

    Was pondering all this at the very first political event of my life last night – a candidate debate for North Tipp/South Offaly constituency.

    Amongst the many lively interactions of the evening, one particlar interlude springs to mind, when reading your coalition comments above.
    Alan Kelly (Labour) and Noel Coonan (FG) were going at it hammer and tongs. Interrupting, contradicting, deriding each other non stop. Seated in between them was Maire Hoctor (FF). She did not put in a comfortable or confident performance herself, but as their squabbling went on around her, she interrupted with a perfectly timed ‘wouldn’t they make a fine coalition’.

    It would be funny if it wasn’t so important.

  2. ” what we want is stability ” deep and meaningful statement that can echo down to our rocky governments in Africa with flickering positions like puppits while they sway million of people behind them without any futur hope! a blind leading another blind i wish there’d be no pit before them, they’re driving people right to the pit of misery, of civilian war even too tribal conflict.

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