herald

Thursday 19 July 2018

You can't enter race for a laugh. You have to win

I hope you don't mind my calling you that. It's not meant as an impertinence, it's just that we've always known you that way in our house. And you were always good to us -- to me, the odd time we met, and to my mother when she was alive. God, she was a great fan of yours, and she'd be thrilled to hear you're thinking of running for the Park.

But sure we're all great fans -- that recent interview you did with Christy Moore, for instance, showed us all that the old Gaybo magic is still there.

But seriously, Gay. The presidential election? Have you the faintest idea what it really means?



GOODWILL

Only because I've always been such an admirer of yours, I'm going to let you into a couple of secrets about elections and politics.

They're not secrets really, more golden rules. I suspect you know them already Gay -- but with all that goodwill floating about you might have forgotten them.

Rule number one. If you run for election, that makes you a politician. You might think the people love you because you're above politics, but don't kid yourself.

Do you remember that really tough interview Sean O'Rourke gave his friend and colleague George Lee the day George announced he was running for the Dail?

Well, Sean O'Rourke, and everyone else in RTE (and elsewhere) will feel professionally obliged to give you the same grilling the moment you announce.

You're going to be staggering out of studios, not knowing what hit you.



Strengths

Rule number two. You'll be up against some tough hombres in this election.

They might seem like mere politicians to you, but people like Michael D Higgins didn't develop a long and distinguished political career without knowing how to fight in the streets and at close quarters (believe me, I know!).

All of the already declared candidates have very significant organisations built up already -- canvassing and postering teams ready to go, internet sites ready to go live.

They know their strengths and weaknesses -- all you know is that everyone around you is very flattering. Trust me, that won't last long.

Rule number three. You can't avoid the fight. You might think this campaign involves smiling and joking for the cameras.

But actually, before it's over, you're going to have to debate real live issues, on an entirely equal basis, with skilled and knowledgeable practitioners. There may even be a Late Late Show debate -- irony of ironies. And going around telling everyone you're "delira and excira" to be in the race won't cut it for long.

Rule number four. The Irish people never elected anyone just because they deserved it.

Their first requirement is -- if you want my vote, you have to ask for it. You're going to have to find the people and the organisation to put up about 25,000 posters, print and distribute about two million leaflets, and fund about a quarter of a million euro worth of advertising.

And you're going to have to get in a bus and put in long days travelling the country, talking to everyone you meet and making it seem like you really want their votes.



risks

That might only last for the last month of the campaign, but if you don't do it -- if you wait for the votes to come to you -- you're going to start hearing the message "who does that arrogant so-and-so think he is?" before too long. If you hear siren voices telling you you don't need to campaign, they will destroy you.

I could go on -- there are lots more things you need to know. But there is one thing that makes you different from all the other candidates in this race. They've all taken personal risks to put themselves out there, and they've all put their reputations on the line.

But you can't afford to lose. You can't enter this race for a laugh, you have to win. You're going to have to give up broadcasting the minute you declare, and by the time it's over you'll be so associated with Fianna Fail you might never get it back. And just think of the ignominy of being beaten by some mere politician!

Anyway, you probably know already that as fond as we all are of you, I won't be voting for you, because Michael D is my man, and Mary Davis will be getting a strong second preference. They've both got a different kind of track record to yours, but really strong records just the same. But if you do decide to take the risk, the very best of luck. Just remember, there's no politics without risk.

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