IT’S every male politician’s nightmare. You’re looking across the breakfast table at the wife and lamenting a general election loss despite having spent serious hours and euro on the campaign.
That would be an ouch moment for any man, but if she who must be obeyed happens to be the party leader too, it could cue the withering torture of picture with no sound.
Therefore, Paul Bradford might get a male sympathy vote to ensure he gets a winning smile from his wife and Renua leader Lucinda Creighton.
Paul readily admits Lucinda is more driven than him but he’s making a serious effort to give the party a good showing in Cork East.
The bookies are offering punters a favourable 16/1 against Bradford crossing the line in the Cork East constituency, quite generous considering he knows the turf more than others, and commutes several days a week from the couple’s rented Dublin house to his home in Mourneabbey, near Mallow.
He has previously served one term in the Dáil and a number of terms in the Seanad as a Fine Gael representative.
Despite being well known, Bradford acknowledges it’s going to be an uphill struggle to get a seat for the fledgling party.
However, not long into the canvass, there’s a miracle moment. A man who the senator doesn’t immediately recognise comes up to him in Midleton and shakes his hand.
“Paul did a great job helping me [with entitlements] when I broke my back and neck 14 years ago,” said James Lane from Fermoy. “One good turn deserves another and I’ll give him a vote. I’m lucky to still be alive.”
The high doesn’t last long, though, as an elderly woman refuses to take his literature, but then there’s another surprise.
Nigerian-born Paul Oqbaini, who is naturalised Irish, seems genuinely interested in what the politician has to say and readily takes the literature offered.
Deirdre Savage declares that she’s a Fianna Fáil voter, but might consider Bradford for a number two.
Meanwhile, Lora Hourigan said that while she hadn’t made up her mind on all preferences, Sinn Féin candidate Pat Buckley is likely to top her list.
In the village of Castlelyons, oil tanker driver Martin Leo said his father is a Fine Gael stalwart, but nevertheless will give Bradford “some kind of vote”.
The 52-year-old senator is anxious to point out that he, Creighton, and others didn’t leave Fine Gael — they were expelled by the party when they rebelled against the Government’s bill which demarcated the circumstances by which abortion could be legally carried out in the State.
Tom Cavanagh, who runs a coach-hire business, said he had traditionally voted Fianna Fáil, but had not yet made up his mind on who he’d vote for this time. “Thank God,” said Bradford. “You might possibly think about giving me a vote then?”
Patrick Crowley, a retired civilian worker with the UN, said he was undecided as well, but was tinkering with voting for an Independent candidate and might swing some kind of preference Bradford’s way.
In Fermoy, the Bradford canvass ran into former town councillor Michael Hanley, who recalled that he had unsuccessfully gone up against the senator at a Fine Gael selection convention in 1987.
“I haven’t made up my mind. I was very disappointed with the TV leaders’ debates. I didn’t see a stand-out leader. At the moment I won’t be committing to anyone,” said Hanley.
Another undecided voter was unemployed Jason Coffey, 38. “In fact, I don’t think I’ll bother to vote at all. I don’t think any of them will do us any good,” he said.
Bradford then received a definite no from Sean Higgins. “I’m voting for Noel McCarthy (FG) because Fermoy needs a TD of its own,” he said.
Bradford then encountered three members of local band IV: Chris McGrath, Brendan Daly, and Ciaran Lavery, all 18. He was encouraged by them saying they would all be voting as many young people did not.
However, like many others that day, they said they were undecided.
“I watched the leaders’ debate. To me it seems very faked, very rehearsed, and not sincere. It will be tough to pick somebody you can trust,” said McGrath.
Unlike the days when he was representing Fine Gael, Bradford has the constituency to himself, in party terms, which he says is an advantage.
A distinct disadvantage is the loss of his backyard of Mourenabbey, transferred to Cork North Central. “I’m probably down 800 first preferences because of that.”
He also believes for the first time in history, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael combined will not secure 50% of the vote nationally. “It’s only politics, it’s not a matter of life and death, but I believe there is a mood for change.
“I haven’t requested any tours in this constituency from the leader as she’s busy too [canvassing]. Hopefully we’ll both win seats.”