The leader of Fine Gael Enda Kenny looks like he is on the way out with Richard Bruton finally plucking up the courage to stand against the bland one. Kenny's supporters are quick to say that Enda has been a wonderful party leader (arent they all until the end) and has led the party back from the brink of anilation. Sure, in the aftermath of Michael Noonan Fine Gael were in serious trouble but Kennys great feat of leadership was to restore Fine Gael the main party of opposition back to being the main party of opposition. While Fianna Fail were destroying all around them and leading the country into an economic melt down was Kenny really leading or was he a passenger on the Fine Gael boat as the tide turned and lifted all the opposition parties? The latter I suspect.
Fine Gael should have won the last election, Fianna Fail were on the ropes and on the way out until Kenny debated Ahern and the country realised that Kenny was as two dimensional as his Southpark namesake and somehow managed to say fewer meaningful words than that anoraked faceless mumbler, cartoon Kenny I mean, not Ahern. Fianna Fail won the election and in hindsight that saved Fine Gael from being in power during the economic crash that followed. That wasn't leadership either. Enda cant take credit for that as a piece of political strategy, unless his performance in the debates was one worthy of a life time achievement Oscar. He was in it to win it and he lost it. That was the time Bruton should have said, enough is enough lets get some leadership. Instead Enda managed to lead a triumphant return to opposition, the Irish tradition of glorious defeat lifting him to new heights of leadership.
His next big adventure was into celebrity management. George Lee, economic wonder kid of RTE showed up on the Fine Gael ticket and won a by-election. Lee was a man on a trajectory to political stardom so Kenny started Lees political apprenticeship with a stint cleaning boots in the dressing room of the Fine Gael finance team. After less than a year of Kenny management Lee was on his way out of the Dail and back to RTE. Of course that wasnt Kennys fault either, Lee should have stuck it out. Lee was being childish. Lee should have been happy to learn while others led. Maybe, but surely Enda could have put his arm around Georges shoulder on a couple of occassions and said "George my son, one day this will all be yours, but not just yet".
So I believe Kenny instead of providing the great leadership his supporters worship was just tagging along for the ride. Fine Gael should have had the courage to look for a strong innovative risk taking leader instead of one who kept the ship on course for a steady second place. But is Richard Bruton the best person for the job instead? Who knows, but one mark against him is the fact that he has waited this long to fix the biggest problem in Fine Gael. Did he think Kenny would come good, win over the public and smash Fianna Fail leaders one after another until Fine Gael could stroll into Government Buildings? Did he think Kenny would see the light and step aside? Run for President and hand Richard the reigns of power?Either way Bruton also damaged the Fine Gael cause by waiting so perhaps his chance has gone along with Enda.