Is it catching? I’m beginning to think it might be. First there was the DUP practically self-combusting in the heat of Iris’s passion and the payment of £25,000 cheques to teenage boys, then Sinn Fein and the Liam Adams affair and strenuous efforts to make it seem as if Gerry Adams was going soft on sex-abusers, and now Fine Gael and the case of the crashing star George Lee. George, you’ll remember, was a stellar acquisition for Fine Gael and a supernova when he swept home as TD for Dublin South on the first count. And now George has quit both the Dail and Fine Gael, aiming a couple of pretty serious digs at FG leader Enda Kenny and the party’s economics man Richard Bruton as he left.
There are several lessons begging to be learnt from the Lee affair. Lesson One: people don’t appear to listen very closely when it comes to politics. I’ll bet the average punter in the south would be hard put to list one major economics proposal that George Lee thinks should be implemented. That’s because George doesn’t do specifics. What he does best is looking worried and being critical of the government of the twenty-six counties. If he presented FG with as few concrete ideas as he has the public, it’s no wonder they didn’t use him. Lesson Two is that co-opting media stars to run for your party is a dodgy business. There’s talk of this happening here with former UTV presenter Mike Nesbitt being sent in as Ulster Unionist candidate to challenge Peter Robinson’s seat at the next election. Not very smart. Broadcast presenters are really good at apparently being expert on a whole range of things, when in most cases their expertise extends to ten seconds after the programme ends. Listen when they talk about something you know something about yourself, and you’ll see what I mean. Lesson Three: the lines of division within political parties has to be seen to be believed (consider, if you will, the bruised hearts in the SDLP who voted for Alastair McDonnell last Sunday). There’s a good story told about Winston Churchill on his first day in the British House of Commons. ‘There’ said a more seasoned colleague, giving a wave to the benches behind them, ‘are your enemies’. Churchill was puzzled. ‘Surely you mean over there are the enemy’ he said, pointing towards the political party on the other side of the House. ‘No’ his mentor told him. ‘ I meant your own party’.