Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. Brexit
26 October 2018

The Sun discovers that strong leadership in the national interest is bad

Take that, Leo Varadkar.

By Media Mole

Strong leadership in the national interest. A confrontational approach to Brexit negotiations. A willingness to tell the bigger partner where to go. Just what the Sun has been crying out for, right?

Not when it’s Leo Varadkar. Over the past year, the taoiseach has emerged the tabloid’s Brexit bete noire. “Gobby”, “patronising”, “pompous”, “an airhead”, and “a snivelling suck up” are just some of the thoughtful epithets it has used to raise, er, principled objections to the Irish upstart’s temerity throughout the Brexit process.

For “upstart”, by the way, read “head of government of an independent country”, and for “temerity”, read, “not letting the Brexiteers have their own way”.

The latest instalment in the Sun campaign to secure Varadkar’s re-election comes from Harry Cole, the paper’s Westminster correspondent and resident Oireachtas wonk.

Varadkar at his smug and insufferable best, grandstanding to the shinners. pic.twitter.com/WTGrn8kZ2b

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

— Harry Cole (@MrHarryCole) October 25, 2018

Content from our partners
How to create a responsible form of “buy now, pay later”
“Unions are helping improve conditions for drivers like me”
Transport is the core of levelling up


His “analysis” of Varadkar’s frankly pretty banal reflections on British attitudes to Ireland has, rather predictably, gone viral. And not because of its insightful take on the dynamics of the next election to the Dail Eireann.

The first problem is the most obvious: if Varadkar is grandstanding, it isn’t to “the Shinners”. Leo Varadkar is by Irish standards a very right-wing politician, and by European ones a boring centre-right Christian democrat.

Sinn Fein are, among what your mole will diplomatically call “other things”, left-wing populists. It’s like saying Peter Bone is grandstanding for the Corbynistas. They are not fishing in the same electoral pool. Nope, not a thing. Sorry. And on Brexit, they, like Varadkar’s Fine Gael and every other main party, are on the same page.

The second is more fundamental. What is it that the right don’t like about Varadkar? Your Mole suspects they don’t like it up ‘em, to borrow a Sun-ism. Far from grandstanding, the taoiseach is doing what any sane national leader in his position would: leveraging Ireland’s position of strength to prevent a damaging Brexit wrecking its economy. In other words: exactly what the UK hasn’t being doing.