For those who got the impression that BBC Politics expertise was a contradiction in terms when it came to countries outside the UK, and variable at best domestically, confirmation has now come running to their rescue in the shape of veteran pundit Andrew Neil. Brillo (for it is he) has decided that he knows everything there is to know about politics in the Irish Republic. The only problem is that he all too clearly doesn’t.
The Republic goes to the polls in a General Election next Saturday: because of the post-Good Friday Agreement political situation, it is of more than just passing interest who forms the Government in Dublin. As a result, opinion polls are being scrutinised carefully here in the UK. And it is in the wake of one of these, from Panelbase, held between the 24th and 30th of January with a sample size of 1,000, that Brillo has passed judgment.
Seeing a fall in support for Fine Gael, the party of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and senior partner in the outgoing Government, he declared “Varadkar’ s FG, campaigning on anti-British ‘small Country’ ticket down 7 points”. But for his characterisation of Fine Gael, there was, as Captain Blackadder might have observed, only one problem - it was bollocks.
This soon became evident from the responses to The Great Man, with that from Irish Times man Conor Gallagher typical: “One of the most striking things I've noticed since Brexit started was how badly the British people are served by their media”. Ouch!
Paul O’Kane, “Airport PR and Lapsed Journalist” put it more bluntly: “Any journalistic credibility you ever had in relation to Irish politics has just evaporated in a single tweet”. There was clearly some resistance to the Brillo product. Whatever could it be?
While Ross McCafferty responded “Literally what the fuck are you talking about?” in clear exasperation, others were pointing out that Sinn Féin, which really is anti-British, had increased its potential vote share by that same 7%. That might not have been the reason behind Fine Gael’s drop in support. Perhaps Irish elections are not just about Brexit?
Indeed, after Dara Ó Briain tried to let Neil down gently with “Oh honey, it’s not always about you”, one Tweeter mused “I’m surprised that Andrew is following this line but it is still slightly worrying that such an established, supposedly informed politically commentator tweets something like this. Does he believe there is a correlation in Ireland that FG stance on Brexit has lost them votes?”. Jonathan Mills put it more directly.
“For UK ppl reading this; FG are down in the polls for good domestic reasons to do with health waiting lists and homelessness (we'll get them on the economy next week). Their Brexit performance is about the only thing they have going for them. They are the pro-British party”. Brillo was plain flat wrong. Who knew? Well, it seems he didn’t.
And the disdain was then summed up in one Tweet: “Hey! You! Junior reporter Neil. There is this new concept in journalism called ‘being informed’. I suggest you start with the basics... a thing called ‘Google’”. Sometimes you just have to be not at all subtle.
Andrew Neil may not yet have thought about retirement. That may be about to change.
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