herald

Tuesday 19 February 2019

Spin king says Enda must go on TV3 debate

CAMPBELL: Worse people than Browne

KING of the political spinners Alastair Campbell has warned Enda Kenny he "will have to deal with far worse people" than Vincent Browne if he becomes Taoiseach.

The Fine Gael leader today stuck to his risky refusal to attend the campaign's first televised debate even though TV3 has offered to replace Browne as chair.

But it seems to be a case of three strikes and Enda is definitely out of the showdown.

Revolver

At the third time of asking the Fine Gael leader has eventually settled on an excuse for not attending tomorrow night's TV3 showdown -- he'll be at a public rally in Leitrim.

After initially taking issue with the station's proposal that Browne act as moderator, Mr Kenny then said an empty chair would symbolise the thousands of young people forced to emigrate by the recession.

But now he has concluded that he's too busy to show up at TV3 studios and has accused the station "jumping the gun".

However, PR guru Alastair Campbell, who masterminded three election wins for Tony Blair, says Kenny would "do better to engage than retreat from debate".

He claims that TD should not be so sensitive about comments made by Browne last summer when he suggested Kenny should go into a dark room with a glass of scotch and a revolver.

"I have to say I have heard a lot worse from a lot of British journalists, and politicians have still gone out and engaged with them.

"If Kenny becomes Ireland's new PM, as many of the polls suggest he will, he will have to deal with far worse people than Browne," said Mr Campbell.

Mr Kenny confirmed that he had "an issue" with Browne "in respect of comments he made about suicide". "I've made my comments on it and that's it. I won't be there on Tuesday night," he said.

Fianna Fail has accused Mr Kenny of "running scared" and in a weekend blog former UK Labour Party strategist Campbell said "part of the purpose of an election is to see leaders being tested in circumstances they don't want to be in".

Diaries

"The election as a whole would benefit from him turning up to debate with his Fianna Fail and Labour counterparts."

The PR guru has been following the campaign since arriving in Ireland to promote the latest edition of his diaries, Power And The People 1997-1999. Speaking to the Herald, Mr Campbell said that he was not a huge fan of TV debates as was highlighted by Tony Blair's reluctance to participate in 1997.

kdoyle@herald.ie

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