Monday, May 5, 2008

Don't bite me Biffo!

Get ready for the crocodile tears. Bertie's resignation will be accompanied by a final round of wailing and reminiscing. No doubt, on the six o'clock news, Anne Doyle will have her forlorn face on ; we'll have the usual soundbite where a microphone is stuck near the gob of some aul wan, and she'll babble 'Ah Bertie, we'll miss ya`. There'll be the photo-opportunity at Aras an Uachtarain with President McAleese. And who knows, it being Bertie's last day at the office, a miracle might actually happen ; fireworks may well shoot up to the sky.

And then it will all be over for Bertie. The number one contender - Mr Brian Cowen - will be crowned champion. It has been a long wait for Biffo. He's been Bertie's loyal Consiglieri, and now he's the Don. First of all, he has to pick his Ministerial Cabinet. All the hopefuls will have had their best suit dry-cleaned, and will be waiting for the call. They will be practicing their Ministerial smiles in front of the bathroom mirror. The ladies in waiting - Mary Hanafin, Mary Coughlan, and who knows Beverly Cooper Flynn - will be off to Peter Mark. The lads will be off to the local barber shop for a dry cut. No better way to impress the man from Offaly than a freshly cut short back and sides.

After that, it'll be down to business. The Irish public will finally get to make their mind up about the man from Clara. In his youth, Brian Cowen played Under 21 football for his native Offaly, lining out alongside Matt Connor and Brendan Lowry, during which no doubt he learnt a bit about fighting his corner. But when he first arrived on the political scene, Biffo was still fighting his corner - a little too much. There was the famous 1992 Ard Fheis elbow in the face for the Progressive Democrats when he bellowed 'If in doubt, leave them out`. He was like an over-pumped, young corner forward playing championship for the first time. Eager to please the selectors, Biffo typically engaged in a bit of rough and tumble with the opposition. He was the guy to dish it out to the opposition's best player, maybe engage in a bit of verbals, or a bit of skullduggery off the ball. Had there been a referee, Biffo would have picked up the odd red card for rough play. Perceived as being a bit of a rough diamond, the image boffins had to go to work on Biffo's persona.

Brian Cowen re-invented himself impressively. He suppressed his quick temper, and his tendency to get his retaliation in first. He learnt the art of political babble and verbal procrastination. This was quite a feat for a man whose true nature is to be blunt.

So far, he has shown the Teflon quality that is required for political survival. As Ministers for Health, Foreign Affairs, and Finance, nothing stuck to him. He even has turned potential negatives into positives. He admitted to smoking marijuana in college, adding that "Unlike Bill Clinton, I did inhale". He joked that he was indeed a Biffo, a 'Big Intelligent Fellow From Offaly'. He brushed off a personal insult from the Reverend Ian Paisley who said 'Someone told me the other day that the reason his lips were so thick was that when his mother was bringing him up he was a very disobedient young boy, so she used to put glue on his lips to keep him there and that has been recorded in his physical make-up. Away with him indeed and if he wants to use his lips to better effect, he should do it somewhere else, and go to people of like physical looks. '

Cowen responded : “Rather than me reacting in a personal way to it, which I don’t, those comments have been made and I am quite prepared to allow the discernment and the judgment of the Irish people to decide their merits or otherwise. But I do think genuinely that we have gone beyond the failed politics of insults and we have a far more substantive agenda to address. "

Game set and match to Cowen.

Of course, he was operating in economic Disneyland. As Minister for Finance, Brian Cowen kept the good times rolling. He benifited from benign world conditions of historically low interest rates, and price disinflation in consumer items. This allowed him to fill the Government coffers with the fruits of the Irish property and retail boom. At no point did he warn of a bubble. This may come back to haunt him.

His reputation even emerged unscathed from the 2007 general election, when his policy of not interfering in the Irish property market, was embarrassingly over-ruled at the halfway point. On Questions and Answers, Cowen barked 'I am the Minister for Finance. There will be no interference in the Irish property market'. A few days later, realising their policy was unpopular with the voter, Fianna Fail did a U-Turn, and unveiled their proposals to amend stamp duty for first time buyers. A muzzle was put on Cowen, and he was sent to ground for a week or two. The Bertie bandwagon got into full swing. One would have thought this would dent Cowen's reputation. But it didn't. A few weeks later, Biffo was out and about again.

So his time has come. The question is, which Brian Cowen will we see when the chips are down? The diplomat or the over-zealous young corner forward? When angered or backed into a corner, Brian Cowen tends to throw punches like there is no tomorrow. His recent attack on a bewildered Enda Kenny in the Dail is a case in point. Responding to a Dail question about Bertie's evidence to the Mahon Tribunal, Biffo put on his gloves and barked 'His evidence will be decided upon by judges, not by you. You're not qualified or able to evaluate the evidence'. Kenny seemed taken aback, but if he is cute, he will wind up Mr Cowen, and give Biffo ample rope to hang himself.

Oink Oink!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice article Paddy. Keep them coming!