The Naked Election – Sunday Times – Liam Fay Mar 15th 2011
The self-sabotaging consequences of the hard sell were further highlighted by The Naked Election, a behind-the-spiel look at six candidates in the general election. This deceptively low-key documentary revealed more about modern politics and politicians than any number of solemn election debates or manifesto deconstructions.
It’s a curious feature of electoral politics that parliamentary candidates appear at their most unelectable during campaigns. Electioneering, like all forms of conjuring, only works when the audience isn’t paying much attention. Once an election’s starting gun is fired, and politicians begin trying to win votes, most come across as bombastic, untrustworthy and often faintly deranged.
The blame lies with the candidates themselves. The public faces that most politicians offer at election time are obvious masks, idealised mock-ups of how they would like to be seen rather than who they are. Yet, as The Naked Election vividly demonstrated, most candidates appear infinitely more plausible when they drop the act and speak candidly.
One of the film’s earliest scenes brought us on a late-night car journey with Leo Varadkar, the brash Fine Gael wunderkind. It soon became a journey into the heart of darkness as Varadkar admitted to dreading the campaign. “I’m not a natural people person,” he said. Varadkar’s self-doubt was echoed by most of the participants, and it was this rare insight into the introspective side of the professional politician that made the documentary so compelling.
Ironically, the politician who came across as the most arrogant was Paul Gogarty of the Greens, who lost his seat in Dublin Mid West. Like many self-styled saviours of the world, Gogarty poses as a sensitive, high-minded soul propelled by the strength of his convictions into the grubby trade of electoral politics. Yet, in his attitude to voters and his election team, he oozed the wounded petulance that is invariably the hallmark of those who believe they were born to rule. Mr Touchy-Feely, it seems, is really Mr Touchy.
Happily, Gogarty does not intend retiring from public life. “I’d love to record an album,” the erstwhile new romantic declared when asked about his next move