In a column many years ago, Kevin Myers analysed the unorthodox power structures of the UVF. By his reckoning, he said, about half the members of that organisation held the rank of O/C or higher. In other words, the average UVF Officer Commanding could only have commanded one volunteer.
In some respects, the Dublin rock community reminds me a little of the UVF. It’s a vibrant scene, with a large coterie of enthusiastic devotees. But from the outside at least, the movers and shakers – that is to say, the band members, promoters, journalists, bloggers, photographers and assorted hangers on – have always seemed vastly to outnumber the actual punters. It’s a quirk of geography, really. Dublin is large city in a very small country. Consequently, the music scene here tends to be self-contained, self-congratulatory and perpetually inward looking. In a roundabout way, this is why I was fascinated by the independent candidacy of 23-year-old Dylan Haskins in the election just past.
I’m probably the only journalist in Dublin who doesn’t know Dylan personally. In fact, until January 30th, I’d never even heard of the guy. But it was clear from his CV, and from the immediate avalanche of support he received on Twitter and elsewhere, that the momentum driving his candidacy came firmly from within the indie/arts fraternity.
One had to admire Dylan for having the balls to stand up and be counted in a race where it would have been far easier to sit on the sidelines grumbling like the rest of us. But I was intrigued to see how a member of such an insular subculture would go about relating, and making his case to, the ordinary constituents of Dublin South East.
My initial impressions were of Haskins were very favourable. He was clearly an energetic, ambitious and well spoken young man. And people I knew who had dealt with him personally all spoke of him in the highest terms. His policy platform was a tad naive, sure, but no more so than you would expect from someone of his tender years.
Considering Haskins’ age and inexperience, it was obvious from the outset that he and his supporters stood no real chance of taking a seat. But given the incredible campaign this group of political novices mounted, there was an expectation that they might at least have made it into the final shake up. When that didn’t happen, his supporters were understandably disappointed.
Without detracting from their efforts, and without any special insight beyond that of a casual observer, I humbly offer a few thoughts on where I think the campaign might have faltered:
1. Launching in the Andrew’s Lane Theatre. The hipster haunt probably seemed a natural fit for Haskins’s campaign. But in terms of reaching out to the wider electorate, this was equivalent to Dick Cheney launching a presidential bid from his undisclosed location. As Bill O’Reilly would say, it’s all about the folks.
2. An over-emphasis on the role of Haskins’ arty mates. Some of those who shilled for Dylan might draw a lot of water in the creative community, but their names won’t have meant much to the electors of Dublin South East. To give just one example, fully an entire minute of Haskins’ second campaign video was spent talking about the people who had helped him make his first campaign video. It was a decent presentation alright, but I imagine the electorate had more pressing concerns.
3. The top button issue. Sorry, I realise I’m the umpteenth person to bring this up. Maybe it’s my west of Ireland upbringing. But to my mind, the only fashion statement a male political candidate should ever try to make is that he is capable of dressing himself. Beyond that, why should the electorate waste time wondering why your candidate looks like a member of Seona Dancing, when they could be wondering whether he’s the man to fix their potholes and/or renegotiate our national debt?
4. Too much international media. The Guardian, The New York Times, Sky News, Al Jazeera et al are all very impressive. But how many votes were won or lost there?
As I said, none of this is to detract in any way from the remarkable achievements of the Haskin’s campaign in the 2011 general election campaign. Kudos to all involved. I mean only to suggest one or two ways in which this performance might be build upon in future local and general elections in the years to come.
Unless the whole campaign was a one-off stunt designed to facilitate the making of a fly-on-the-wall documentary about a hipster who stood for elected office… In which case, I’ve just wasted a couple of hours writing this and you can all go and shite.