Connacht Tribune - Opinion Piece
Luck will help you up the political ladder – but bad timing brings you crashing downSeptember 5, 2012 - 2:00pm
There are a raft of qualities and ingredients that are essential if you are to meet with success in the world of politics.
Generally you need to have an instinct for what the wider public wants; have strong ideas; have energy and motivation and a fire in the belly; have cleverality (be it intellectual or cunning); and have personal qualities that will impel people to vote for you (even if they don't really like you!).
On top of that you need have infinite patience – because you will spend most of your life listening to people complaining about something or other – and have enough ruthlessness to seize an opportune moment, even if it means some other poor divil gets shafted.
But then there are factors that have nothing to do with the skill or qualities of politician. They can make or break a career, decide if you are to go on to lead a nation or go down like a lead balloon.
In two words, they are luck and timing. In one word, it is fate. Or fortune. They are the events that are wholly outside your control, the unknown unknowns that you can never plot into the career graph.
Take the case of Michael Noonan. If a pile of naive rebels hadn't persuaded Richard Bruton to face down Enda Kenny in June 2010, Richard Bruton would be the Minister for Finance.
Michael Noonan would be a party grandee, writing the odd learned paper on financial matters, and known to posterity as a controversial Minister for Health and another of those Fine Gael leaders who never managed to become Taoiseach.
Let's look at another scenario provided by Greece. When the banking and economic catastrophe began to unfold there in 2009, the socialist Pasok swept to power. In a sense the party was untainted by the causes of the crisis. It did, however, promise that it could fix it.
Of course, events unfolded quite differently. And so badly that the party that branded itself as the saviour in 2009 was destroyed in this year's elections, allowing the centre-right party it ousted to step back in.
If Brian Cowen's advisers were knowing enough, cynical enough and vulpine enough back in 2008, they would have told Brian Cowen to hold a snap election in the autumn of 2008, take a beating, and look at a new government get splattered even though none of the problems was of its making. At the subsequent election, the party could have cruised back into power.
Instead, the party's senior ministers clung to the wreckage and also clunk to the delusional plan that somehow it would all be made right just in time for the next general elections.
At the time of the 2007 election, it didn't look great for either Fine Gael or Labour. Both parties had put in middling performances and looked condemned to seeing out a third long fallow period in opposition.
For more, read this week's Connacht Tribune.