Brexit day is a hugely important day for Fine Gael in the context of this general election campaign, because in many ways it’s a day of genuine triumph for the Government. Whether the fears of societal collapse and economic catastrophe on foot of Brexit were ever based in fact, or whether they were exaggerated, the fact remains that the vote to leave the European Union in 2016 was greeted by Irish politicians and the Irish media as if it heralded the coming of the seven plagues of Egypt. That the UK is leaving the EU today in an orderly and peaceful way, with no immediate danger of economic catastrophe, is therefore something Fine Gael views as a genuine accomplishment. And the party is desperate for you to know it, and desperate to highlight the argument that without Leo Varadkar’s steady leadership, today could very easily have been very different.

To mark the occasion, somebody in Fine Gael headquarters decided that the best thing to do would be to have all the journalists covering the party’s campaign assemble at 4am, in the winter blackness, to shiver and report on a very important political event.

Unfortunately, it does not seem to have been well planned:

What was the actual point of the event?

It seems that the intention was to get journalists to note that Lorries were arriving at Dublin Port as normal at 5.30AM:

But what’s the significance of that? The UK is still actually in the EU. If Lorries arriving into Dublin is some kind of miraculous event, then surely the miracle will take place tomorrow morning, not today?

Presumably, Fine Gael is very eager to highlight that things are proceeding as normal. But this is a historically weak argument. You may not remember it now, but in 2011, the Fianna Fáil campaign was based around the central argument that while the country was, indeed, a disaster zone, it would have been so much worse if Fianna Fáil had not been in office to keep it to just a disaster, and not a catastrophe. The voters, you might recall, did not react well.

In some ways, the absence of a Brexit crisis is actually bad news for Fine Gael. The fact that the whole thing, at this point in time, is going so smoothly actually reduces the risk for voters who want a change. If the country was facing into a hard border, and months of uncertainty, this election would be much harder for the opposition. They couldn’t make big spending promises, for example. And unlike 2011, voters would be much less likely to blame FG for the problem, having been well trained by the Irish media to blame every Brexit issue on the blonde boogeyman in London, Mr. Johnson.

In those circumstances, getting journalists out of bed at 4am to observe preparations for the looming problems would make lots of sense. It would send the message that the Government was prepared, was working hard, and had a plan to tackle the issue. It would drive home the message to the electorate that a change of Government was a risk.

Getting them out of bed at 4am, on the other hand, to show them that everything is normal and nothing is changing?

That’s not going to inspire either fear, or thanks. The message it sends is “all is well, vote whatever way you want”.

And if the polls are right, the way people want to vote is not for Fine Gael. No matter how many sausage rolls the Tánaiste eats.

 

 

 

Feature image credit: Richard Chambers, Virgin Media reporter, who had the misfortune to be an early riser.