Yet another confidence motion
If it wasn’t for the Fine Gael leadership challenge, few would even have paid much notice to today’s motion of confidence in Brian Cowen, which was going to pass in his favour one way or other, and certainly be next week, no one would have remembered anything bar perhaps the odd witty comment. This is why, despite the good story it makes, it’s not actually that much of an issue that Richard Bruton’s challenge to Enda Kenny has this unfortunate element of timing. What matters is that between now and the election, the public is periodically reminded of the findings of the Honohan and the Regling-Watson reports, and why Fianna Fáil has lost the moral authority to be re-elected and claim to be able to manage the economy.
I also don’t really get this obsession with persistent confidence motions, with the withdrawal of pairings, in some vain hope that a random Fianna Fáil backbencher will fail to go through the government lobbies. The government has far lost the effective support of only Joe Behan and Finian McGrath. Even those who have publicly claimed a lack of confidence in Brian Cowen like John McGuinness, and those who have resigned the government whip, like McDaid, Scanlon and Devins, consistently go through the lobbies to back the government. Enda Kenny tried the same stunt after the local and European elections, in an attempt to find faults in government cohesion, which resulted in greater unity and common purpose between the two government parties. If the government really looks like it could fall, if it clearly loses support of enough of those independents, then go ahead and test confidence.
This might also have been what forced Kenny’s hand in asking for Richard Bruton’s resignation. As he explained yesterday, he didn’t feel he could question the confidence in Cowen while he didn’t himself have confidence in the man sitting next to him. Enda Kenny’s decision in this regard made this a plain choice between Fine Gael led by Enda Kenny but without Bruton or those Ivan Yates yesterday on The Frontline described as the best and the brightest on the front bench, and Fine Gael led by Richard Bruton. If that’s the choice, there’s only one option.