Varadkar best positioned in this anti-political age

Perhaps the most striking thing about the Fine Gael leadership campaign so far is the extent to which it has been entirely focused on the party’s interests, rather than the country’s.

Even if you don’t think this is surprising, it is surely remarkable that most Fine Gaelers haven’t even bothered to pretend that the move to dump Enda Kenny and replace him with a newer, less voter-repellent model, is actually in some way about a better government for the country. They seem quite cool with the fact that we all know it’s about maximising Fine Gael votes at the next election.

FG leadership tracker: Track the contest and check who your local TD, Senator, MEP and councillor is supporting.

I expect that over the weekend the candidates will seek to shape the narrative away from Fine Gael’s interests and towards the country’s. Expect policy documents and visions for the country, among other exotica.

But we should remember that this contest was triggered when Leo Varadkar rose at the parliamentary party in February (followed promptly by Simon Coveney) and told his colleagues that they needed to prepare for a general election – an observation understood by all present to mean: “We need to get rid of Enda Kenny, and replace him with me. Otherwise a gang of you may lose your seats.” That got their attention alright.

Television debate

The internal Fine Gael nature of the contest is also demonstrated by the party’s refusal to hold a television debate between the candidates that everyone could watch. RTÉ executives have been tearing their hair out for weeks trying to get the party to agree to a debate – the candidates themselves are amenable, I understand – without success.

Sure, the leadership hustings – managed by the party, framed by the party, controlled by the party – will be live-streamed on the internet and available to the parts of the country with broadband. But if they really wanted you to see your next taoiseach they’d put it on television.